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August 04, 2008

Suspected anti-science terror attacks at UC Santa Cruz

The homes of two researchers at UC Santa Cruz have been firebombed. Preliminary clues suggest the attacks may have been acts of anti-science terrorism:

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — The police and federal authorities are investigating firebombings at the homes of two researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The attacks, which the university described as “antiscience violence,” occurred nearly simultaneously before dawn on Saturday, just days after the police in Santa Cruz discovered pamphlets in a coffee shop warning of attacks against “animal abusers everywhere.” The pamphlets included the names, addresses and other personal information of several researchers at the university, according to a news release put out on Friday by the university. [NYT]

Only one minor injury was reported, but one explosion forced a researcher to flee through an upstairs window with his wife and two children.

We should wait until all the facts are in before drawing conclusions about the culprits or their motives. Incidents like these can easily be used as an excuse to target innocent but unpopular groups as well as real culprits.


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Even with the label of "suspected," I wonder why you would use "anti-science terror attacks" to describe the firebombings. If it does prove to be the case that the arson was committed by activists who oppose biomedical research using animals, "anti-science" doesn't seem to me to be a particularly useful term to describe their motivation. Were you merely following the lead of the article you quoted, or is the label you've chosen a result of your independent consideration of the best way to describe the behavior of a certain segment of the animal rights movement?

I agree. The term, 'anti-science', seems out of place.

"A certain segment of the animal rights movement"? These people are willing to commit murder in order to save the lives of mice.

"One scientist and his family, including two small children, were forced to flee from a second-story window Saturday after a firebomb was lit on their front porch, filling the off-campus house with smoke...

...Feldheim's lab uses mice to study the development of brain functions involved in eyesight...

... A spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation press office ... issued a statement Sunday...

'It's regrettable that certain scientists are willing to put their families at risk by choosing to do wasteful animal experiments,' press office spokesman Jerry Vlasak said in the statement."

I don't see what's wrong with labeling these people "anti-science". Firstly, they [i]threw firebombs at scientists[/i]!!!!! Secondly, their motive for doing so was stopping these scientists' research. Thirdly, these criminals and their ideological ilk at PETA and ALF flat out lie about the necessity (or in their mind, lack thereof) of animal research. How is "anti-science" an incorrect label?

John Cain,

Anti-science is a more general and inclusive term. It is similar to the concept of anti-modernity and is characteristic of religious fundamentalism around the world. In fact it is a defining term of fundamentalism.

The anti-[fill in the blank] element of the bombers' motivation is probably highly circumscribed rather than being opposed to all science. Most animal rights advocates are in favor of using science to find alternate research procedures to obviate the need for animal testing.

ALF and PETA are anti-science. Without proof they state that there ore other methods for doing the research. The one fantasy uses computer models. Hate to tell the fantasy crowd, models fail. Oh, you also have to use assumptions in setting up the model. Some of which do not occur in nature.
However, they usually target the research lab or other facility where the work occurs. Methinks this is camouflage.

Calling these types of terrorists "animal rights activists" is misleading. Scientists are humans and humans are animals. What animal rights activist would blow up a family of humans in the name of animal welfare?

Terrorism to protest research is anti-science. Trying to influence the conduct of research through violence and intimidation is anti-science. Science affirms the value of evidence and mutual persuasion. Disagreements are supposed to be resolved by dialog, not arson. Taking a research ethics issue into the arena of political violence is anti-science, period.

Activism for more and better science to reduce our reliance on living subjects is animal rights activism.

Norman, since animal research is responsible for much of modern medicine, I certainly think these terrorists' motive is antimodernism. Furthermore, as Mold notes, these "alternative research procedures" you speak of don't exist, and it's highly likely they ever will exist. The ALF (and PETA) deny that this is true, purely for ideological reasons. That's anti-science.

Or, everything Lindsay said.

The most disturbing thing I have read, so far, is from Jerry Vlasak, press office spokesman for North American Animal Liberation. [Thank you, Bloix.]

'It's regrettable that certain scientists are willing to put their families at risk by choosing to do wasteful animal experiments...'.

This statement virtually defines terrorism, and is saying, very clearly, that it is your own fault if you or your family is murdered by animal rights terrorists. Either because the terrorists are blindly loyal to a dogma, or are simple sociopaths, they cannot assume responsibility for their actions nor consider the consequences to those whom they harm.

Jerry Vlasak is saying, in effect, that he would not mourn the deaths of the next victims; more deaths are expected; the victims themselves (or those close to the victims) are the ones to blame for their own suffering; and the perpetrators of the murderous violence are morally blameless, if not morally superior.

John Cain and Lindsay,

I understand your points about anti-science. If I go further in this aspect I would only be pursuing a discussion on semantics.

Now, terrorism and killing innocent people are explicit evils and should be denounced in no uncertain terms.

Norman, Vlasak is basically the ALF's spokesman. He never has knowledge of any of the attacks, but is always there to claim responsibility for them and talk about how violence in "defense" of animals is ok. He's a real bastard. Orac likes to call him Col. Klink (as in "I know nuthing, nuthing!)

The reason I questioned the label "anti-science" is, as Norman suggested, a semantic one. As I understand the term "science," it refers to a method for systemtizing and testing knowledge. There are people who are opposed to science, so defined, per se. They believe that the scientific method does not yield accurate information, or that it induces people to abandon belief in divine revelation as the ultimate source of truth. I think it's worthwhile to reserve the term "anti-science" for people who hold such beliefs.

I don't think anti-vivisectionists fall under that definition. If the people who firebombed these homes did so to protest the use of animals in biomedical research, I suspect they would also condemn the use of animal sacrifice in religious rituals. That wouldn't make it particularly useful to describe them as "anti-religious terrorists.

In questioning the use of the term, I didn't mean to indicate support for the fires.

John Cain, it was Sgt. Schultz who used the refrain "I know nothing, nothing."

It is beyond absurd to label this "anti-science" terrorism. You are well aware that it is nothing of the sort. You may or may not agree with the motives of the perpetrators, but it is clear as day that they have nothing against science per se; their beef is with certain experiments practiced by scientists that they believe to be unethical. Again, you may not agree, but surely you agree with the general proposition that there are ethical limits to what scientists may do. This does not make you "anti-science."

Look at it this way: if the Allies in WWII had known about Dr. Mengele and had dropped a bomb on his house, would you describe such an act as "anti-science"?

I know, I know - animals aren't people. That's a separate issue - and *that* is the crux of your disagreement with ALF and the like. Pretending otherwise is extremely disingenuous bordering on Orwellian; I am reminded of the White House/Fox News term "homicide bomber" and other such nonsense. This kind of propaganda is beneath you.

I didn't want to go further with a discussion about what is anti-science and what is not. I thought it might dilute a focus on the evil that people do in the name of belief, ideology, and political activism. However, there seems to be some interest in being clear on the matter.

So I am offering an original piece of mine on the subject of science:

Haiku of Science
Norman Costa, 2008

Science is one of
many ways to understand
nature and ourselves.

Science is two-fold:
It is methodology,
and it is content.

Science is method –
Observe nature carefully.
Record the data.

Science is content –
Gather data into a
body of knowledge.

Understand nature –
Observe, record data, create
a trove of knowledge.

Scientists observe,
collect data, and preserve
knowledge for others.

The basic function
of science is to describe
properties of things.

Parse, d'oh. My Hogan's Heroes knowledge is not what it should be.

"Vlasak is basically the ALF's spokesman. He never has knowledge of any of the attacks, but is always there to claim responsibility for them and talk about how violence in "defense" of animals is ok"

Why is this nutter at large? Shouldn't he be in custody or at the very least tailed? With all the surveillance of harmless citizens going on, you'd think this guy would qualify for a wire tap and monitoring.

Norman, your Haiku of Science is really well done. Thanks for sharing that.

Although I disagree intently with Vlasak's opinons, I uphold the First Amendment. Banning is the recourse of cowards and fools. Far better it is, to hold his views to the light of day.

So jason believes that people who keep cats are morally on the same plane as Dr Mengele and deserve to have their houses bombed.


I may have missed something in going from Jason's comments to your restatement of his belief: "...[P]eople who keep cats are morally on the same plane as Dr Mengele and deserve to have their houses bombed."

I don't understand how you made that transition. Would you please make the connection more explicit, or explain it better, so I can follow your line of reasoning.

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