Fakename’s Lab Animal Planet: Part 2

Two years after the baby chick experiment, I entered college, and like most Freshmen, started taking the required courses, to get them out of the way, before I started taking the courses I really wanted to take, whatever the hell those were. 

One of those courses was Zoology 101, and after class #1, I knew I was in trouble.  I loved zoology, it was lab I was going to have a problem with.  So I went to the professor and said, What can I do?  I will not kill an animal.  I will not dissect an animal.  I have to have this course, but I can’t do it. 

So we reached a compromise.  The compromise was, they created a lab just for me.  It was me and one teaching assistant.  You have to think this was extraordinary in a school of 19,000 students.  I would never have to kill anything or watch it be killed.  I would, however, still have to dissect things that were already dead.  I did that for a couple of sessions, then one day the TA came in and I was weeping my eyes out over an oyster or something, and that was the end of that. 

From then on, the TA just showed me pictures.  Because the point of the whole dissection thing was to be able to identify the internal body parts of the organism in question.  I made an A. 

My second semester, I took Botany 101 , also required, and I was prepared to be bored to death.  And here is the beauty of good teachers.  She took us out to see a gingko tree on campus.  She explained why it was different.  Before I knew it I was taking walks and pressing the leaves of trees between the pages of books.  I did that as a child with flowers, but suddenly I grasped the importance of things that were…just green. 

I made an A in Botany too.


31 responses to “Fakename’s Lab Animal Planet: Part 2

  1. Good for you for refusing to kill any animals for a class.

    Since I was in a college that had almost no general requirements, I didn’t take science classes.

  2. masteroftheuniverse

    I remember in an invertevrate morphology class, we used to have protozoa wars under the stereoscope, which were pretty cool. Hydra’s always ruled(although a hydra is borderline). In a biochemistry class, we would trap ants and boil them to get the formic acid from them. Which brings me to the question, would you have problems killing and experimenting with insects? If the answer is no, where do you draw the line?

  3. I think Fakename is fairly anti- mosquito and fire ant! But I don’t speak for her in this, or any other, matter.

  4. Fakesister, I think you could do an excellent job of speaking for me on any subject! Don’t forget fleas! And cockroaches. And since they have been much in the news lately, I am adding bedbugs to my list of creatures that need to become extinct. But Jeff brings up a very important point. In general I say that I draw the line at insects which serve no useful purpose. (See the above list.) Other insects which people hate or fear, and which I may not be crazy about, serve a useful purpose, such as spiders and dragonflies. Even bees and wasps are useful. On the other hand, butterflies serve no useful purpose either, except in the realm of aesthetics, but I wouldn’t kill one. So I guess it boils down to the fact that we humans, if we are honest, always hold contradictory values, because we are human. Plus it boils down to the usefulness of the thing. Is helping to keep me safe by eating other dangerous things? Or is its sole purpose to hurt me? Can I eat it? Whatever promotes my survival is a good thing.

  5. I confess to laughing about the protozoa wars. As for the ants…an interesting factoid is that it’s a little hard to extract venom from a fire ant, so to get venom to test you for allergy, they take a bunch of fire ants and grind them up whole. Then they inject your skin with tiny and increasing amounts of ground-up fire ants.

  6. OK – I will take the contrarian view for sake of discussion.

    First the confession part: I use animals in research as an integral part of my career, and I teach classes in which students do experiments on live animals. Both my research and the student lab projects are non-invasive – meaning we don’t do surgery or cut into the animal in any way. In fact, all of it is non-aversive – the worst we do is put a rat on a diet. At the end of the experiment many of the rats are adopted by students as pets. The rest, however, are euthanized much in the way fakename describes.

    I have colleagues who do more invasive research. In fact, I have participated in such research at times earlier in my career. I don’t particularly care for that kind of research so I personally don’t do it anymore – but indeed I think it can be important and I don’t have a moral objection to it. What I do object to is scientists who do not have respect for their research subjects and needlessly mistreat them within the context of the experiment – and on that I have stories that would turn your stomach.

    My moral outlook on animals and animal research comes straight out of my belief in Darwinism. Humans are animals – highly involved and sophisticated animals – yet animals nonetheless. In nature there is a food chain. We might not like it, but animals kill and eat other animals. The lion has no moral objection to killing and eating the wildebeest – and if it did it would starve. In our own evolutionary past we hunted and killed animals or we died.

    Our civilization has advanced to the point that animals play less of a day-to-day role in our survival. People can choose and animal-free diet and still survive. Still, our use of animals plays a continuing role in our survival – particularly as seen in medicine.

    Now I fear I have outed myself and fakename will never speak to me again and will drop me as her facebook friend…..


  7. Au contraire, HP! I am just getting into stride with our FB friendship 🙂 As for confessions, recall that I confessed to personally euthanizing a baby chick (Out! Out! Damned spot!) You may also recall that throughout the last 3 years of college I was the girlfriend of a psych professor who did experiments using rabbits. The experiments involved implanting electrodes in their brains and then administering electric shock for some reason or another. This was at the height of Skinnerianism. Art (his name) put the rabbits’ heads into a contraption of his own devising, which was basically a wooden board that fit around their heads…like stocks. Then he learned that when the shock was administered, the rabbits would kick out with their powerful back legs and break their own necks. So he put another wooden block behind them to prevent kicking. So one day, I was visiting in the lab and they administered a shock to a rabbit and the rabbit screamed. Until that moment, I didn’t know rabbits could do that. You’ll have to imagine the meltdown. After that, I was banned from the lab. But I didn’t stop seeing Art. Moral relativism, I guess you would call that. You can also only imagine the arguments. Somehow he eventually became disenchanted with Skinner and stopped. One of the arguments was, we can’t know that animals feel pain, because they can’t tell us so. If we assume they do, then we are anthropomorphizing. If we can’t measure it, it either isn’t happening, or it’s irrelevant. My response was…animals have nerves don’t they?

    • The experiments involved implanting electrodes in their brains and then administering electric shock for some reason or another.

      FN – you are apparently quite a bit older than I had thought you to be….. not only do Art’s experimental methods sound pretty archaic by modern standards, you were apparently in college at a time when professors got away with having relationships with undergraduates…. 😉

      Besides, there are not too many Skinnerians around anymore – though there indeed is an enclave in Florida. I consider myself a Skinnerian – though I am at the liberal end of the scale. I never have had much time for the fundamentalist Skinnerians – who can (no exaggeration) come up with a Skinner quote for any occasion just as a fundamentalist Christian can come up with a bible quote.

      Professionally my biggest passion these days is Philosophy of Mind – and you probably shouldn’t get me started on that. Oh – but you already have… so instead of saying “we don’t know that they don’t” when it comes to dogs dreaming, I would have said: “We have no more evidence and no less evidence that dogs dream than we do that coffee cups dream. Hence, there is no more place in science for dog dreaming than there is for coffee cup dreaming. ” I probably shouldn’t go on or you very well might start calling me a philosophy troll….

  8. I knew I had won one day when Art and I were at the beach, and my dog was twitching in his sleep. (My grandmother used to say “chasing rabbits”). So I said to Art, do you think that dogs dream? And Art replied, “We don’t know that they don’t.”

  9. As for the use of animals in experiments involving medicine, that is indeed a moral decision. Is it okay to deliberately give an animal cancer in order to hopefully learn something that will prevent or treat cancer in humans? I think the answer is increasingly, no. Probably because there are new and better ways…but suppose there weren’t. Would it be okay? The first inkling of a sea change was when cosmetic companies started printing on their labels “Never Tested On Animals”.

    • I actually don’t have a problem with using painful techniques in animal research. I don’t deny that animals feel pain – it just isn’t an issue for me. It shouldn’t be done needlessly (as in the case of cosmetics) and it should certainly be minimized – but I don’t have moral issues.

      That probably makes me sound cruel – but that would be the wrong conclusion. I adore animals and own far too many of them for my own good – and for the good of my furniture. But, I still have this basic evolution-based ethical system and thus I don’t have a moral reaction to it. Explaining my moral system is probably a book-length endeavor – and I may actually write it one of these days.

      Interestingly, one of the hardest elements of that project is developing an evolution-based morality without sounding like Ayn Rand – and now we have come full circle back to the topic over which we first met.

  10. Sigh,HP. I don’t know whether to be pleased or offended that you thought I was younger:) On one hand, there is “young at heart”, on the other there is…do I sound that immature? Lol…don’t answer that. For the record, I am 60. Your analysis of Art’s experimental methods and ability to get away with having a relationship with an undergraduate were spot-on. Those were the days, huh?
    I’m surprised to hear there are ANY Skinnerians left. I thought they had all died/been discredited. As for dogs dreaming, I think Art pretty much meant the same thing you do. But for him, that was a step up. I can think of very plausible methods to infer whether or not dogs are dreaming, and plausible reasons to want to know.
    Your “evolution-based morality” is an interesting concept. I’m not sure how you can support it without claiming a “right” to be at the top of the food chain. I’ll find that hard to agree with. I can accept that that’s how it is, but not that it’s “right”. It’s just how it is. We make of it what we will 🙂

    • Oh – don’t be offended – you have a certain youthful exuberance in your writing style that made me think you younger – but it is certainly not immaturity. You look younger than 60 in your facebook picture too. Besides – I could hardly call you old since you are only slightly older than I am 😉

      I have to go fix dinner right now and don’t have time for a long comment – but as far as evolutionary ethics, the first step is to deny rights exist at all – at least in any sense we normally think of them. I will leave you with that intriguing thought…..

  11. I would say that I don’t kill animals, but that would be false. I don’t hunt and never have, I don’t even fish, although I have done that. But I’ve euthanized sick dogs and cats. I eat animals, I just let other people do the killing for me. For the past few years, I’ve made a conscious effort not to eat chicken, but I’ve failed. I have drastically cut back though. Picture how hard it is to buy fast food without it involving chcken. I thought I would try to at least try to wean myself from one food animal which I consider to be the most egregiously abused one. Cows and pigs and sheep have fans. Chickens have none. So I’m just saying, speaking of moral relativity, I don’t kid myself that I’m “right”, but I don’t try to justify it either.

  12. HP, that photo is only 4 years old, ergo, taken when I was 56. I have always looked younger than I am, which is sort of a good thing now, but got in the way big time when I was in my 30’s or so and trying to act important. I felt all grown up, but most people were like, Who You Trying To Kid?
    I’m starting to feel a bit better about your evolutionary ethics thing since it apparently involves the absence of “rights”.

  13. masteroftheuniverse

    Fakename2, you had me rooting for you until you mentioned fast food. Fast food is a karmic reaction of the higher powers to put us in our place for all our misdeeds and hubris. That shit will kill you and there is actually a lower level in Dante’s hell that is comprised of purveyors of fast food:)

    Funny thing(or not so funny), I got bitten a couple of weeks ago by a fire ant and had to do the old Epi-Pen thing and a trip to the ER. That’s 12 times in the past 10 years. They need to develop a better and more humane treatment for us suffers.

  14. I have to agree with you on the fast food issue, Jeff. Nine times out of ten I go to the grocery store and pick up something. The last couple of weeks I was on a kick of making my own prosciutto rolls, or I have pita chips with cream of Brie or hummus or both, and maybe some fruit. And always…milk. But there are those days….

  15. Speaking of prosciutto (lol) hows that for a clumsy holiday segue? I have a great recipe for a very different breakfast/brunch dish. It’s called baked eggs. You need ramekins, butter, prosciutto (sliced thin) , tomato slice, fresh basil leafs and eggs. Butter the ramekins and layer as follows, prosciutto, tomato, basil and egg. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or so depending how runny you like your yolks. Haven’t served them to anyone who didn’t want two yet:)

  16. pt, it never ceases to amaze me at the things I learn we have in common 🙂 I’ve been eating baked eggs and cooking them for most of my life. My father, who was my first cooking teacher, taught me to make them when I was a wee pup. His version was straight eggs with a dusting of paprika on top for color. I later modified that by placing a partially cooked piece of bacon on the bottom. Your version sounds heavenly. My first reaction was, wonder what it might be like to sprinkle the tomato with a bit of Parmesan before adding the basil leaf? I guess because broiled tomatoes is another of my favorite simple dishes. I’ve always just used muffin tins, because we rednecks can’t spell “ramekins”.

    • I think I am going to drop in here for a few minutes and take a breather from the firestorm over on my blog. You guys are talking about cooking and recipes. That is refreshing. When I started blogging I promised I would occasionally post a recipe. It hasn’t happened yet. Upwards of 90 percent of my posts have been about politics. I need to loosen up… so I think I am going to go find a recipe….

      • Excellent decision HP 🙂 Your “friend”–I use that term very, very loosely–Tex said on Rutherford’s blog that he had perused mine and found it to have boring and strange topics. I’m flattered 🙂

      • Yes – I saw Tex’s comment and left a comment of my own. He is pretty predictable. His first reaction to anything he doesn’t agree with is to claim it is boring. It really is if he believes we all write blogs for his personal entertainment.

        You should see him on conservative blogs, where he just gushes with praise. He comes off as a clueless fanboy.

        Tex, I think, has some issues. In fact, I KNOW he has some issues. There are buttons I know how to push that are sure to set him off.

        The only thing he has ever done that has really upset me is chase off some of my regular readers/commentators with his rudeness. I am pretty thick skinned – but I can’t necessarily expect people visiting my blog to be. I do have this “no censorship” policy – but Tex does push those limits.

  17. “I’ve always just used muffin tins, because we rednecks can’t spell “ramekins”.”

    OK me too until last Thanksgiving when I discovered the baked eggs. We didn’t have a ramekin in the house. Then, when they were such a hit a bought a set………and got 2 more sets for Xmas………so I hid the set I bought and used the Christmas sets for family get togethers. I think 1 even ended up in the flower garden under the heading of killing ants (lol…..back to the original discussion thread) We kill all ants around here.

  18. Will one of you please drop by and kill the spider living on the latch of my horse trailer? A wolf spider, no less.

    Meaning arachnophobic lil ol’ me can’t get close enough to it to encourage it to go live somewhere else. A spider that jumps .

  19. The “swoon thud” part got left off the end of that last post.

  20. I was about to ask how you found it, then I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know. Jumping spiders are the worst, except for GIANT jumping spiders.

  21. This particular wolf spider isn’t huge. Yet.

    I “found” it when it leaped out onto the underside of the latch as I was closing it. For someone who can’t even touch pictures of spiders, that is way too close! And the whole jumping thing exacerbates the phobia.

    A little history for those not in the know: as a wee little thing a brown recluse leaped onto me as I was playing on the floor of a closet at my grandmother’s house. I remember it leaping out and Fakename remembers that I nearly died. I still have a scar. And have had a mortal fear of spiders and other things that jump, like crickets, since.

  22. Wee=she was five. It was Sunday, after church. Her arm swelled so badly and so rapidly that my mother cut the sleeve of her dress with scissors to relieve the pressure. Not something that was done lightly in a poor family when you only had one “Sunday dress”. Then they went to the ER.
    I don’t like things that jump or fly 🙂 Not counting bats. When I used to have them, they would fly so close to my head that I could hear their wings whirring, and that was sooo cool. I didn’t fear them because I knew they wouldn’t fly into me (sonar, you know).

  23. Sonar. Echolocation. One’s technological; one’s biological. Same physics – bounce a sound off something and figure out it’s distance from you by differential timing.

  24. There’s an extra apostrophe in my last post. It should be “its” not “it’s”.
    grumblegrumblegrumble more coffee grumblegrumble

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