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    PETA Versus Greenpeace: The Looming War Over Kittens
    By Hank Campbell | March 27th 2012 10:05 AM | 35 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    Could the big split among anti-science hippies occur over a cute little cat?

    PETA loves animals.  Greenpeace hates genetic modification and science in general because changes are only 'natural' if high-energy cosmic rays mutate things at random. What about when scientists use unnatural science to help save an endangered species?

    An African Black-footed Cat was born February 6, 2012, at the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans. The cool science aspect, or the creepy FrankenKitten aspect if you are a progressive, is that it was born to an ordinary domestic cat - the first of its kind to be born from inter-species embryo transfer.

    That means we may never have animals go extinct again, which would mean the World Wildlife Federation would have to start kneecapping scientists; without a crisis to raise money for, a whole bunch of people have to get jobs.  The story is actually eight years old, involving a male from the Henry Doorly Zoo Center for Conservation and Research in Omaha, Nebraska circa 2003 and his preserved sperm. IVF was performed using the the eggs from a female black-footed cat living at the Audubon research center two years later.  Then the fertilized embryos were frozen until 2011 when they were placed inside a different species.


    The world ended with a  65-gram ball of fur. Credit: Audobon Institute.

    Did you get all that?  Inter-species embryo transfer from frozen/thawed embryo transfer using cryopreserved sperm.  Pretty awesome, right? Audobon called it a breakthrough in genetic engineering of endangered cats. Maybe.  Or maybe it is the precursor to our doom.

    Here's the adorable little abomination of nature in action:



    Researchers are not stopping there.  “The next step for us will be to clone the black-footed cat to ensure we will always have enough genetic material to bolster the species,” said Dr. Martha Gomez,  co-investigator on the current project. (insert maniacal laugh)

    It will be interesting to see who on the anti-science front attacks first. Good thing the right wing will be staying out of this one.  They never have any concerns about biology.  Oh wait...

    Comments

    What the hell is "unnatural"? There is no such thing.

    Hank
    ha ha Well, you are never going to get a job at Whole Foods thinking that way.
    No kidding. Maybe this will help?

    because changes are only 'natural' if high-energy cosmic rays mutate things at random.

    So anything that isn't "random" is un-natural.... oh brother.

    @RRyals:

    Don't confuse what is possible according to the principals that govern material and force with the products of a natural system. Plastics are possible, yes they are. Though they do not get produced as a result of 'natural' synthesis. Man needs to intervene by creating an environment where the certain possibilites can be realized. Such possibilities may not realizable in the environments that are created by the system that is in place as a result of 'naturally' (ie without the intervention of man's technology) occurring states-of-affairs.

    You people crack me up.

    George Carlin: The Universe Wanted Plastic
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBRquiS1pis

    MikeCrow
    I had a almost all black footed(1 or 2 pink toes??) tabby, and here i could have sold her eggs.......
    Never is a long time.
    "because changes are only 'natural' if high-energy cosmic rays mutate things at random."

    So everything that isn't "random" isn't natural.... oh brother.

    Excellent project - as a repro. scientist working with threatened species, this is something I've wanted for a long time - better get my shotgun out to protect myself.

    Hank
    The only thing more head-exploding for those anti-science people would be if GMO tobacco cured global warming.
    MikeCrow
    I don't know, I think nukes as a cure for GW is pretty high up the list.
    Never is a long time.
    Pretty unfair to Greenpeace, given their primary concerns are around environmental damage. How on earth do you consider Greenpeace 'anti science'? A portion of them have raised concerns about the economics of monopolies in GM seed in agriculture and the dangers of unknown repercussions for hybridisation of wild species with GM species. Neither scientifically invalid. Even PETA are primarily concerned with the ethics of our relationships with animals, hardly intrinsically anti-science.
    .

    Hank
    It depends on your definition of anti-science.  When Pres. Bush had an ethical issue with human embryonic stem cell research, was he anti-science?  Many claimed so, including Greenpeace and Union of Concerned Scientists.  If you say anti-science positions are not anti-science if they are simply considered 'moral objections', well, okay, but science has now become a subjective a la carte enterprise. There is no science at that point.  

    Greenpeace is anti-science because they insist scientists are out to save us when it comes to global warming but out to kill us when it comes to food.  Endorsing science only when it matches a political or economic worldview is the definition of anti-science.
    I certainly don't accept that viewpoint or that statement of Greenpeace's position. Anti-science isn't defined by criticising the actions of some technologists or even the scientific community, it's defined by a rejection of rational thought and scientific method. And you seem to be confusing technology and science.

    Science doesn't operate outside moral concerns, as an example it would take a sadist or a sociopath to argue that experiments on animals should be blind to any suffering caused and carried out without any ethical consideration at all. It's not de facto anti-science to say 'we should not be doing this'.

    It's not a football club where it's all about supporting your team. Greenpeace (and no I'm not a member, but I once was) is primarily an ethical association which is trying to preserve the health of our environment, so it's entirely logical and scientific for them to be concerned about the scientific findings on climate AND concerned at the possible environmental and economic impacts of GM modification.

    Say there are a group of scientists out there trying to devise a virus which has the highest possible mortality and infection rates and which is untreatable (there probably are, actually), there's nothing anti-science about saying that they should consider the consequences of that on moral grounds and oppose it.

    Bush's views on stem cells is a bit of a red herring, He and his administration were generally anti-science because they hated any logic, argument or evidence that countered what they WANTED to believe, and his view on stem cells simply had no valid argument of any type, and certainly not ethical, going for it. It was pure superstition and playing to the gallery.

    Hank
    Bush's views on stem cells is a bit of a red herring, He and his administration were generally anti-science because they hated any logic, argument or evidence that countered what they WANTED to believe
    Their actions said otherwise.  Bush and a Republican Congress doubled funding for the NIH and boosted NASA after declines during the Clinton years.

    Regardless, hating any evidence that counters what they WANT to believe is exactly what Greenpeace does.  You dismiss that as an ethical stance, which seeks to make their anti-science beliefs exculpatory - but only for them.
    Until NASA started talking climate change Bush et al had no reason to see them as opponents. I don;t know enough about their dealing with the NIH to comments.

    As far as" hating any evidence that counters what they WANT to believe is exactly what Greenpeace does" what mainstream non-contentious stances does it oppose? I'm not aware of any. What are they? Because if there are cases where they are doing that then they are probably in the wrong. If.

    And you've misunderstood me, I at no point said that rejecting valid science on ethical grounds is right (rejecting factual evidence and strongest arguments is almost self-definingly not ethical)> I was explaining that undertaking technological projects may well not be ethical, and you can't excuse immoral projects on the basis that they have something to do with science.

    Hank
    James Hansen of NASA started talking about global warming in 1988. To give you pop culture reference points, in 1996 Civilization II, the wildly popular video game, had global warming built into it.  It was pretty well known.  Bush never saw them as opponents, he boosted NASA to such an extent he signed off on the Constellation program - Obama killed that one off.  I think you have the wrong anti-science president in mind.

    I cannot debunk Greenpeace as effectively as has been done for 40 years - go to greenpeace.org and look at their positions on oil, fishing, nuclear power (well, all energy) and forestry and show me where their hysterical claims are grounded in science. 
    I've been an interested reader for your blog for some time now, but do I detect here a certain pro-right and anti-conservationist bias?

    I looked at the website, nothing especially ant-science jumped out at me. Or do you consider conservationism to be intrinsically anti-science in some way? Conserving fish stocks and the integrity of the oceans and biosphere against over use and over destructive pollution, driving for the safest possible and least polluting forms of energy productions (with the proviso that what those would be is not clear to anyone), preserving natural habitats and bio-diversity, being circumspect about the GM hybridization risks and economic monopolies, wanting to discourage overly risky economic enterprises, campaigning on climate change issues...sorry, I don't see the anti-science stance in any of that.

    As for the NASA stance, one scientist in NASA is not the same as an official stance. remember all the attempts of the Bush administration to express scientific studies that contradicted republican stances on the environment and gloabl warming? And the current GOP presidential runners are more anti-science that Galileo's persecutors.

    Hank
    A good question.  I am anti-anti-science but pro-conservation and, in a sense, pro-environmentalist.  When Greenpeace got together with guitar manufacturers to promote responsible wood usage, I applauded it.  I endorsed the Lacey Act.  But I am not subscribing to a raft of their kookier issues, I am endorsing or criticizing each of them on the merits of each instance - just like everyone says people should do.
    Gerhard Adam
    Yeah, I get the political angle, but let's also be a little more specific and clear about this.

    "Natural" doesn't mean random.  It means NOT man-made.  There's a strong reason for adopting this position, since "nature" has managed to run by itself for billions of years, and despite the fact that we may not like all the outcomes that occur, has done it pretty well.  Humans, on the other hand, have managed to pollute their environment, stretch the boundaries of their population [at the expense of nearly everything else] and managed to create an unsustainable lifestyle and society.

    So, there is some merit to considering what is "natural" versus what is "man-made".

    More to the point, while the birth of this kitten may be novel, it is fundamentally stupid, since extinction isn't simply about a particular organism.  What's the point in preserving any species if it doesn't actually have a place to live?  Are we to assume that this becomes another cost to society, simply so that we feel better about having avoided an extinction [which we probably caused in the first place]?

    Species diversity is about the environment.  Not merely having a genetic member of a species in a cage.

    Natural selection gave us a diversity of life, including diseases.  Human gave us antibiotic resistance diseases.  Certainly there are horrific diseases that exist, but then there are horrific actions precipitated by humans too.  Nature gave us the "black death"; humans gave us the Holocaust.

    I'm not arbitrarily down on what humans do, but the thing that is the most disappointing is that we never seem to realize when we have a good thing going.  Instead we have to keep tinkering with it until we screw it up and then it becomes another problem to solve and another drain on our society.  Just like antibiotics were great, we couldn't be prudent about it.  We had to abuse it until we created antibiotic resistant bacteria.

    So I don't view all these things from the "science" versus "anti-science" perspective.  It's about people and how they employ the knowledge that science has given them.  So far, we haven't done nearly as well as we should.

    Perhaps I'm being more cynical  because I have to fly tomorrow and I'm reminded of the "Bataan Death March"-like quality of air travel these days.  We've managed to take something that people enjoyed and thought of as a luxury and transformed it into an experience that herded cattle would find disheartening.  In general, I'm concerned that despite all our efforts and all our plans, the future isn't going to be better than it is today.  In fact, I have a growing sense that it will be worse, and that doesn't bode well for the concept of "progress".
    Mundus vult decipi
    The assumption that we aren't a part of the natural process is bogus liberal hype.

    Gerhard Adam
    The statement is meaningless and conflates two separate concepts.  No one said or claimed that humans aren't part of the "natural process".  That's precisely why I distinguished "natural" from "man-made".

    I think that most individuals are capable of recognizing that "natural" or "nature" refers to the world as it exists without human intervention, while "man-made" represents those things that are of human origin or manipulation.  If you want to argue that the latter is "natural" then you're simply rendering the terms indistinguishable for no better reason except to make a distinction impossible.  However, I suspect you'd simply have a different choice of words with which to render the difference, so your position adds no meaning.

    Ironically the same people that advance that argument aren't actually inclined to extend it to all human activity, because they recognize the fallacy of it.  Would you argue that murder is natural?  That theft is natural?  Drunk driving?  Child molestation?  Spousal abuse?  Are these also all "natural"?  If so, then why punish them?  If you are prepared to recognize that regardless of whether they may have "natural" origins, there is a distinction in what these behaviors represent, then you must also be prepared to acknowledge that there is a distinction in the world between those things that originate in "nature" versus those that originate with humans.

    Basically such arguments are simple political rhetoric, because you know that in any other context you wouldn't classify the Grand Canyon and the Empire State Building as two natural phenomenon, so don't do it now. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    LOL... no, I'm A-political if anything.

    And I would argue that there is more to the process than you are willing to recognize that makes us a valuable asset to it, rather than the rampant destructive force that you get from face value.

    In this respect, we are no different than any other part of nature that contributes to the enhancement evolution of the ecobalance, so no, in this context it is your attempts to segregate man from the rest of nature that are derived from ideological dis-positioning, and I contend that my position is the only natural one to take without making assumptions that aren't established.

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, you're the one that introduced the political concept of "liberal", so that's hardly apolitical.

    However, I submit that your position simply renders discussion meaningless since there's no way to distinguish anything since, by your definition, everything is simply natural.  Therefore, there's nothing to discuss.
    Mundus vult decipi
    vongehr
    Species diversity is about the environment.  Not merely having a genetic member of a species in a cage.
    This is very true. If it were about having just somehow the genes preserved, the article just shows that it is enough to have it somewhere frozen in a box - better than having always some suffer in cages.
    rholley
    Is this how it will end?


    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Stellare
    I had no idea squirrels were so skillful! :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Stellare
    Very cute science. But heartbreaking to see.

    From a scientific view, this is very interesting. No doubt. Whether this is a smart way of managing and using our knowledge is another question. I was stunned by the look in that kitten's eyes. So truly wild compared to normal domestic kittens (I've seen a few :-)). It immediately made me think of how lonely (lacking comrades from his/her species and be able to live a natural life) this individual will be.  I've never been a fan of zoo's simply because I hate to see wild animals in cages. It is so sad.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    I feel a certain pity when i contemplate the British Royal Family for the same reasons.

    Stellare
    You see the Royal family as wild animals in cages?!
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Hank
    Or he thinks social self selection has made them genetically limited - either one makes me nod my head in agreement.
    oh yeh .. i forgot about the genetic cage they put themselves into! Their Lady Diana attempt to wander a little from that cage didn't work out too well.

    well .. isolated from the humanizing social reality which the rest of us exist in. Caged by their own wealth, privilege and status.

    I found this article in my Google Alerts on the Bataan Death March. I think you need to read a little about what these men suffered through before you compare ANY issue we face in our comfortable lives to such an atrocity. You are comparing some long wait lines while you enjoy the freedom to get on a plane and fly anywhere you want to the horrors of the Bataan Death March. It's offensive to the thousands of Americans and Filipinos who died on the Death March. You should be ashamed!

    My gratitude for all who have honorably served this country and those who have laid the highest sacrifice upon the Altar of Freedom is boundless; but, the expression "Death March" just sounds so dang mean!!!! When innocent people are captured and forcibly relocated, on foot and at gunpoint, by cruel soldiers ( Jus' Follerin' Orders - LOL ); and several thousand die during captivity, a more romantic, historically accurate catch phrase should be used. In the past when the US Government has committed such atrocities they have preferred to use terms like "TRAIL OF TEARS".

    More info for you here:
    http://theformofmoney.blogharbor.com/blog/_archives/2008/11/1/3947532.html

    There are many descendents of the survivors of the Cherokee Death March if your paper should become interested in honoring them also.

    That means we may never have animals go extinct again, which would mean the World Wildlife Federation would have to start kneecapping scientists; without a crisis to raise money for, a whole bunch of people have to get jobs.

    You're being a little too cavalier in this statement. The goal of the WWF and of similar organizations is not just the cold, mechanical preservation of species. They mainly want to preserve the places where they live! And at least give them a fighting chance at survival. Just keeping a species around for the sake of it -- without giving them a place to live and thrive (and to escape us) is pointless.