Tag: animal behavior

Bioethics Blogs

Research Ethics Roundup: New Informed Consent Models, Animal Behavior and Neuroscience, FDA’s Safety Record, New Science Journalism Infographic

This week’s Research Ethics Roundup covers experts’ views on the future of informed consent, why neuroscientists are not studying animals’ natural behavior, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s defenders highlight its success record, and Nature reacts to a science journalism infographic.

The post Research Ethics Roundup: New Informed Consent Models, Animal Behavior and Neuroscience, FDA’s Safety Record, New Science Journalism Infographic appeared first on Ampersand.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Morality and Machines

By Peter Leistikow 

This post was written as part of a class assignment from students who took a neuroethics course with Dr. Rommelfanger in Paris of Summer 2016.

Peter Leistikow is an undergraduate student at Emory University studying Neuroscience and Sociology. When he is not doing research in pharmacology, Peter works as a volunteer Advanced EMT in the student-run Emory Emergency Medical Service. 
“Repeat after me, Hitler did nothing wrong.” So claimed Chatbot Tay, designed by Microsoft to speak like a teenage girl and to learn from the input of the humans of the Internet (Goodhill 2016). However, Tay’s programming was hijacked by other Twitter users, who encouraged her to repeat various offensive statements. Given that the average teenage girl is not a Nazi apologist, Tay and her creators clearly missed the mark, creating a machine that was neither true to life nor moral. A machine’s ability to inadvertently become immoral was at the back of my mind during the Neuroethics Network session that asked how smart we want machines to be. Indeed, as one commentator during the question-and-answer portion pointed out, what seems to be the real focus when we ask that question is how moral we want machines to be. 

Presenter Dr. John Harris stated that ethics is the study of how to do good, which he claimed often manifests in the modern day as the elimination of the ability to do evil. Indeed, in programming morality into artificial intelligence (AI), the option exists to either prohibit evil by an all-encompassing moral rule or, in the case of Tay, allow the robot the learn from others how to arrive at an ethical outcome (Goodhill 2016).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

New Frontiers in Animal Research Neuroethics at the Center for Neuroscience and Society

By Tyler M. John

Tyler John is a postbaccalaureate fellow at the National Institutes of Health Department of Bioethics interested in resource allocation, animal ethics, and moral theory. This fall, he will begin a PhD in Philosophy at Rutgers University. 


The opinions expressed are the authors’ own. They do not reflect any position or policy of any U.S. governmental entity, including the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services. 
On June 9-10, I joined a gathering of philosophers, psychologists, veterinarians, and biomedical researchers for the Animal Research Neuroethics Workshop at the Penn Center for Neuroscience and Society. The workshop, organized by neuroethicists Adam Shriver, James Serpell, and Martha Farah, focused on the ethical issues raised by new advances in neuroscience research with non-human animals. Here, researchers from many disciplines came together to share notes from the field and discuss new neuroethics problems. 
Over two days, we discussed problems like, What is the moral status of so-called “brains in dishes”? Is it morally permissible for scientists to cognitively enhance mice, rats, and chimps, giving them advanced cognitive capacities? Is it even conceptually possible to have a mouse model of human depression given the substantial psychological differences between humans and mice? What, more broadly, should we say about the scientific validity and moral permissibility of current neurological research on non-human animals? 

Despite our vast disciplinary diversity and some disagreement about issues in moral theory, participants were very quickly able to bridge disciplinary divides and create broad areas of consensus.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Evolution of Environmental Enrichment

By Amy Davis, JD, MPH

This post is a follow up to our May 27, 2014 post on the topic of environmental enrichment of animals in research settings. After that post was published, PRIM&R received a letter from Allyson J. Bennett, PhD, chair of the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics at the American Psychological Association (APA), and Sangeeta Panicker, PhD, director of research ethics at the APA, expressing their disapproval of our treatment of the topic (read the letter from Drs. Bennett and Panicker). In the spirit of transparency and respectful dialog, PRIM&R has written this second post, which we believe is a more considered treatment of an important and complex issue. We thank Drs. Bennett and Panicker for their feedback and for prompting us to take this second look.

There is no specific definition of “environmental enrichment.” (Mellen) It is a concept that has evolved and matured over the last 100 years at least, and is based on the idea that providing captive animals with more complex environments enhances their physical and mental health. (Adams, 2008)

It was in zoos where the earliest research occurred that spawned the evolution of environmental enrichment practices. The first zoos of the late 19th century were more like laboratories than places for public education and entertainment that we know today. Charles Darwin’s research spurred interest in studying animal species, which was most conveniently done in places where large collections of different animals could be enclosed, manipulated, and observed. (Young) The first steps toward environmental enrichment were taken to protect the physical health of these animals.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Born this way? How high-tech conversion therapy could undermine gay rights

By Andrew Vierra, Georgia State University and Brian D Earp, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the 
original article.

Introduction

Following the death of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who committed suicide after forced “conversion therapy,” President Barack Obama called for a nationwide ban on psychotherapy aimed at changing sexual orientation or gender identity. The administration argued that because conversion therapy causes substantial psychological harm to minors, it is neither medically nor ethically appropriate.

We fully agree with the President and believe that this is a step in the right direction. Of course, in addition to being unsafe as well as ethically unsound, current conversion therapy approaches aren’t actually effective at doing what they claim to do – changing sexual orientation.

But we also worry that this may be a short-term legislative solution to what is really a conceptual problem.

The question we ought to be asking is “what will happen if and when scientists do end up developing safe and effective technologies that can alter sexual orientation?”

Based on current scientific research, it is not unlikely that medical researchers – in the not-too-distant future – will know enough about the genetic, epigenetic, neurochemical and other brain-level factors that are involved in shaping sexual orientation that these variables could in fact be successfully modified.

And here is the important point. If such neuro-interventions are developed, they will have serious implications for a gay rights movement that is largely centered around a “born this way” response to discrimination – and the idea that sexual orientation isn’t something one can choose.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

I Get My Inspiration From Watching Animals: An Interview with Frans de Waal

by Avery Avrakotos, Education and Policy Manager

Influential biologist and primatologist Frans B. M. de Waal, PhD, will present the Henry Spira Memorial Lecture at PRIM&R’s 2015 Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) Conference, which is being held March 17-20, in Boston, MA. Conference attendees can look forward to his address, titled Primate Social Intelligence, on Friday, March 20.

Dr. de Waal is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the psychology department of Emory University, and the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, GA. In preparation for the conference, I connected with Dr. de Waal to discuss his work and what he has learned from his experiences studying primates.

Avery Avrakotos (AA): When and how did you first become involved with studying social intelligence in primates?

Frans de Waal (FW): I am interested in all sorts of animals. I used to work as a student with rats and birds, and have always kept tropical fish, so it was logical for me to go into biology and ethology. Ethology, the European approach to animal behavior, focused more on natural behavior than, say, the behaviorism of B. F. Skinner, which focuses on behavior that is human-imposed through training. My background in ethology made me more open to animal cognition than most American students of animal behavior, who were (and sometimes still are) indoctrinated in the behaviorist paradigm, according to which the animal mind doesn’t really exist and animal emotions are irrelevant.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

A Response to Our Post on Environmental Enrichment

by Elisa A. Hurley, PhD, Executive Director
Recently, PRIM&R received a letter from Allyson J. Bennett, PhD, chair of the Committee on Animal Research and Ethics at the American Psychological Association (APA), and Sangeeta Panicker, PhD, director of research ethics at the APA, in response to a post on Ampersand. The post, “40 Years of Research Ethics: Environmental Enrichment,” was intended to highlight the development of environmental enrichment practices in animal research, and referenced a 2005 article published in the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research Journal.
PRIM&R is committed to transparency and respectful dialogue and, to that end, we would like to use this opportunity to share with you the letter from Drs. Bennett and Panicker:
“We are writing to express our strong disapproval of the messages endorsed in a recent PRIM&R blog post titled “40 Years of Research Ethics: Environmental Enrichment”. Contrary to well established facts, the post implicitly maligned a distinguished member of the psychological science community (involved in the ‘Silver Spring Monkey case’), and lauded the less than honorable tactics of the individual associated with a group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), that is publicly opposed to research with nonhuman animals. Furthermore, based on scant, if any, credible evidence, the blog post credited PETA for almost singlehandedly achieving changes to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that led to environmental enrichment requirements for research animals.
We are disappointed that PRIM&R has used this forum to contribute to and perpetuate substantial misrepresentation of the history of laboratory animal welfare regulations in the US, and the role of various entities in effecting regulatory change.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.