Saturday, December 17, 2011

NIH recognizes chimps can waive rights

The decision by the National Institute of Health to nearly completely eliminate invasive medical experimentation on chimps has received a medium amount of attention.  Good news, overall, except the advisory committee had no consensus on testing vaccines on chimps.  The testing could accelerate vaccine development but requires infecting chimps with potentially horrible diseases.  The lack of a consensus doesn't mean testing should go forward, but leaves a vacuum.


One intriguing development is that research can continue where chimps voluntarily subject themselves to it.  The chimps are trained to receive treats in return for allowing researchers to take blood samples, and it's up to the chimp to decide whether the research will proceed.  I suppose it's not impossible to do something similar with less intelligent animals, but it would be extremely difficult and not considered ethically important.

The other interesting development was the emphasis on testing on other animals instead of chimps - in other words, there's a moral scale and other animals rank below chimps.  These two developments inch toward the sapientist position I support - not animal rights, but rights based on intelligence.  A long way forward before we get there, though.

7 comments:

Jeffrey Davis said...

There's a border collie, Chaser, that has a vocabulary of around 1000 words. It can perform complex abstractions: shown a picture of an object it can then retrieve a different, though similar, object.

There's another experiment which involves a human pointing to a hidden reward. Dogs can understand that pointing provides helpful information and find the reward. Chimps can't.

Chimps have interior lives, but they're not the only animals that do, and they're not obviously the top of the heap.

Brian said...

Dogs are pretty smart and have developed some specializations like the pointing thing, but overall they're no comparison to chimps.

Whether chimps are at the top, I don't know. Other apes and cetaceans have a lot of grey matter.

Russell said...

I tried reading WUWT , but my laptop started disgorging monkey chow pellets when I clicked the links.

David B. Benson said...

Central chimpos are our closet genetic relatives. Closer to H. sapiens than to either the northern or southern branches of chimps.

Russell said...

In another zoological development, North Korea's lepicidal dictator died of delayed indigestion yesterday, five years after consuming a 23 1/2 pound rabbit as a birthday party hors d'ouevre:

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/bunny_boiler_ki.html

Brian said...

David - chimps are normally separated along an east-west gradient, and their complete geographic isolation from each other is a function of modern history. South of the Congo River is where the bonobos are located. All of the chimps, and the closely related bonobos, are equally related to us AFAIK.

Tenney Naumer said...

And what if they had similar studies on humans of like intelligence?