GroupThink on All Sides

8 11 2010

. . .of animal rights and how that affects the Meaning of Life to us humans.

“Ironically, it is at just this point of their agreement—about monkeys and companion animals not being special—where both groups’ values differ most from those of the general population. . .apes and monkeys and dogs and cats are being confined, vivisected, and killed while animal advocates are ignored as a lunatic fringe.”

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
November 7, 2010
Animal Research: Groupthink in Both Camps

Lawrence A. Hansen, M.D., is a professor of neuroscience and pathology at the University of California at San Diego, where he also leads the neuropathology core of the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Professors like me, with established research credentials at animal-research-intensive universities who are also members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are rare. But a dual identity as a research faculty member and an animal advocate affords a unique perspective on both camps.

A striking similarity between the two is that animal researchers and defenders of animals both employ groupthink, a mode of thought that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, where members striving for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

We faculty members with deep concerns for animal welfare are often viewed by our groupthink scientific colleagues as untrustworthy or even treasonous agents provocateurs, since we are inclined to raise both ethical and scientific objections to invasive and lethal animal experimentation, especially when it involves primates and companion animals—that is, dogs and cats.

Meanwhile, our animal-rights associates suspect us of insufficient ardor for animal welfare, since we acknowledge that not all research involving animals is torture, and many of us do not object when transgenic mice are painlessly euthanized after being well cared for during their short lives.

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17 responses

8 11 2010
JJ

Some of us haven’t advanced that much beyond the animal:

“Animal Research: Activists’ Wishful Thinking, Primitive Reasoning”
By Earle Holland, assistant vice president for research communications, Ohio State University.

Advertising experts know that if you repeat a message often enough, people will believe it, regardless of whether it’s truthful or not. Repetition, we’re told, is much more important than accuracy.

Given that, looking back at weeks of being the target of a campaign this summer by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), I could easily have started believing that I am a satanic monster, lacking any soul, a torturer of helpless creatures, a waster of taxpayer money, and a life form slightly above pond scum on the evolutionary tree.

. . . And herein lies the first of several failures of logic driving those opposed to animal use in research.

. . .These advocates want simple answers in a complex world. They see things as black or white: All animal use is wrong. Scientists are sadists. It’s like wanting old Chevy carburetors to work in modern-day Volkswagens.

But today’s cars don’t necessarily even have carburetors—modern automobiles are more complex than that. So are biological systems, and our understanding of that complexity seems to be growing exponentially by the week.

The core problem may just lie in the conflict between beliefs and logic. The former is built on commitments of faith, while the latter is rooted in fact. The lure of simple answers, based on strong beliefs, requires no facts and is enticingly addictive. Logic and facts only muddy the waters of belief.

And that applies way beyond animal issues.

8 11 2010
Lynn

How did I not remember Cat Stevens’ public statements about Salman Rushdie during Stevens’ appearance at Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity”? It was 1989 when I was pretty clueless about current events, but still. Well, this morning I’ve been playing catch-up here – and cringing in horror at the insane “logic” being used by other Daily Show fans to justify Stevens’ inclusion at the event. [grimace] Talk about groupthink as an enemy of reason.

A few quick examples:

Yusef Islam did not make any remarks regarding “Fatwah” or Salman Rushdie at any point in time at the rally. Part of SANITY is being able to forgive and forget.

Part of Sanity is not requiring everyone around you to hold the same beliefs as you.

John Stewart didn’t have him up their to spout his political views but to play a song. Don’t make it bigger then it was.

8 11 2010
JJ

Thanks for the reminder, I was a bit busy in ’89 myself and missed it even though I was professionally steeping in policy and politics, what with getting married and my mom dying of cancer and getting pregnant with my first child and all . . .

So my thought is that it’s similar to President Obama’s inauguration including Rick Warren.

8 11 2010
JJ

I’m not sure what’s “sane” about being a useful idiot!

8 11 2010
Lynn

Rick Warren at the inauguration: great example.

“I’m not sure what’s “sane” about being a useful idiot!”

And it’s usually counter-productive – not just for the insane argument makers, but for all of us. Who has time to become expert enough to make proper sense of competing views on important, yet complex topics (like animal experimentation, climate change, abiogenesis…)? it’d be so much easier if everybody would just bravely acknowledge the weak points in their positions. (Yes, I woke up on the naive side of the bed this morning.)

8 11 2010
Lynn

Counterproductive is not hyphenated? Why don’t I spellcheck before I hit “submit”?

8 11 2010
JJ

I often hyphenate for emphasis and puns — did it earlier today with the word “psycho-logical” in fact — so you could go with that. 😉

You really hit the mark with your comment that it’s counter to everyone’s interest not to do our best, most honest thinking.

If we mean our constitution’s overarching goals (union, justice, general welfare, common defense, preserve liberty now and for posterity) then we have to mean collaborating to advance knowledge and work out new solutions that work. If we don’t mean it, then our country would look, well, pretty much exactly as it does! Crumbling infrastructure, gridlocked government, funding for moronic candidates waving guns and baseball bats, a stacked ideological court and hysterical, sensationalistic “news” media, not to mention anti-vaccine, anti-evolution and climate denial science, Kenyan birth certificates, rigged public polls and Wall Street fraud destroying every economic sector, geographic region and income level of both worker and consumer —

8 11 2010
Lynn

Crumbling infrastructure, gridlocked government, funding for moronic candidates waving guns and baseball bats, a stacked ideological court and hysterical, sensationalistic “news” media, not to mention anti-vaccine, anti-evolution and climate denial science, Kenyan birth certificates, rigged public polls and Wall Street fraud destroying every economic sector, geographic region and income level of both worker and consumer…..

OMG – it’s so depressing over here 😦 At least I post pictures of puppies sometimes.

8 11 2010
JJ

Just in time for the holidays! 😉
Lol, sorry Lynn.

And let us all be mindful that in real life, I am the Ghost of Christmas Present this year, whose job according to the script I’m struggling to memorize by tonight, is supposed to be “to spread some happiness and removing as many as we can, of the causes of human misery” — but otoh, it *IS* a Dickensian play.

Speaking of spreading cheer, did you read this new miscarriage of (conservative?) justice yet?
5th Circuit Rules That High School Cheerleader Is Required To Cheer For
Her Alleged Rapist

9 11 2010
COD

As much as I hate to side with the judges in this one…I think they are right. Rightly or wrongly, the law decided that the kid was not guilty of rape. In her “official” position as a representative of the school, it’s her job to cheer all the players. If she doesn’t want to do that, she can quit and not cheer for him from the stands as a private citizen. But as a representative of the school, she does not have a right to pick and choose. She has a job, she failed to do it, so the school fired her.

9 11 2010
JJ

Interesting, good, a fresh angle! — I haven’t read anything else or talked about this case, so I can take that from scratch and throw out thoughts, sift them together into a coherent cake later.

Let’s take COD’s premise, that these students had jobs in the same workplace, representing the school to its publics (need to think more about that separately) — so one analogy might be drawn to Juan Williams not doing the NPR job as required by the institution, because he didn’t want to cheer for not-guilty Muslims who he feared understandably but not actionably. And Anita Hill refusing to cheer for Clarence Thomas, because whatever he did to her that felt like sex power games, she wasn’t believed, he was never indicted or convicted for it and in fact he reaped rewards; she paid the price, if not with money as in paying his costs, in being victimized a second time by a male-dominated system refusing to take her feelings and fears as legitimate factors in their hiring him for an even better job.

Going on with the workplace frame, what about the football player’s “job” as a representative of the school? Did his behavior fulfill all the school’s expectations for exemplary behavior, just because he wasn’t indicted until after she expressed her feelings publicly in a way that seemed to be a firing offense? I don’t see how he isn’t part of this serious interpersonal conflict in the workplace that needs to be addressed by management. Just because neither employee is indicted for a felony, doesn’t mean the conflict doesn’t exist at all and the workplace should ignore it and demand those involved ignore it too. Isn’t that why gay students commit suicide, because the system won’t take their feelings and facts seriously, and then take responsibility for resolving the conflict constructively? Did the school investigate the charges internally too, or wash its hands and let the grand jury not indict, then blame the victim for making an embarrassing fuss and slam the door on it, like Duke and many other universities historically have done to insulate its star athletes, I mean employees?

I was the last-stage grievance hearing officer for the superintendent of schools in our large K-12 system, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of conflicts in the workplace we had to handle fairly. Mostly between adults, mostly not felony indictable but still taken very seriously and addressed. Did the school take an employee assistance approach instead of just being authoritarian dicks, I wonder? — offering transfers of one or both away from each other, mental health interventions such as counseling, anger management, date-rape prevention sessions, etc?

9 11 2010
JJ

On a completely different tack, how hard would it have been for the school to change the cheer that singled out players by name? Then the cheerleader would not have balked; it’s not as if she were demanding he be kicked off the team or expelled (like I would have done, if I’d been her mother!)

That’s not taking sides or hurting either employee, if both kids keep their “jobs” and self-respect. Arguably it hurts no one — it would be better for the whole student body and even the players themselves , not to make individual celebrity hero worship the focus of school sports. It could only help, not hurt, when it comes to their sense of entitlement to gang up and take what they want. Which would be good for us all.

9 11 2010
JJ

Now I’m thinking about all the court cases regarding school freedom of speech including freedom not to speak, particularly to “cheer” for God and Jesus as in the pledge of allegiance and public prayer.

The Friendly Atheist had a post just the other day, about whether his job included cheering for God with the Pledge.

10 11 2010
COD

The reality is if the cheerleader had just got distracted for a moment when he was shooting, bent down to tie her shoe or something, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. She made an issue of it, drawing attention to the fact that she had accused him of rape and that in her opinion, justice has not been served. So she was serving a little justice in her own way. She doesn’t get to do that as a representative of the school. And if she does it as a private citizen, she potentially gets into libel or slander territory. We don’t know what really happened, but in the eyes of the law, he is not guilty. It may be because he is a star FB in a Texas town, or it may be because she made the whole thing up. In the absence of any other information, she doesn’t automatically get the moral high ground. (See Duke, Lacrosse team).

What if what an opposing player that had been accused (but not charged) of rape, and the cheerleaders were all chanting “Rapist” while he was shooting? It’s the exact same thing, albeit a more extreme example.

10 11 2010
JJ

So we seem to have different questions? And then of course different answers!

How I see the question: The law wasn’t deciding if he was a rapist or not, but whether a 16-year-old girl could act against the school after it punished her with no compassion or help, for bringing serious charges against another student and then expressing her own feelings about him in the way she found appropriate and available, while the school did not. And the school won, not the boy (who was btw in fact later indicted for the crime she said he committed.)

I don’t disagree that your argument carried the day in court. It’s plausible. Accurate even, which beats most arguments these days! At the point in time the contestable events happened, he had not yet been indicted for sexual assault.

But there’s so much more to “School” than the law and this is a good example of why. Was this the public’s highest, fullest understanding of justice and human relations and treating each other better instead of badly? I can’t agree that it is. Moral sway is not on the school’s side in this matter imo, no matter whose side it takes (with the public’s) tax money spent on lawyers. Justice would have been better served had the boneheaded adults at this school who took this tack in the first place been the ones fired or at least disciplined, not the cheerleader.

10 11 2010
COD

I think you might be expecting way too much from school 🙂

10 11 2010
JJ

Now that, I can completely (but sadly) agree with!

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