A New Methodology and An Ironic Situation …
In this conference, I shall focus on a single subject –
one, however, of very topical importance: that is, a new methodology
used by researchers who, presumably unintentionally (and in
fact most ironically), are strengthening the fundamental principle
of our movement, which maintains that no animal species can
be considered an experimental model for any other animal species,
HUMANS INCLUDED. Note especially, please, that phrase HUMANS
INCLUDED: it will recur frequently as a theme in my speech.
This elementary obvious concept has been denigrated and derided
constantly by our opponents.
What is the present situation?
As might have been anticipated, this same concept has now
not only apparently been adopted by them, but, again ironically,
it is even boasted of with pride. For it is with pride that
they announce the new Gospel: “By genetic engineering
we have conferred on rats and mice some of the most important
human characteristics” (Nature, 28 April 1994) –
again I stress, “human”.
I would now like to remind you that the aim of working on
human characteristics may be achieved either by experimenting
directly on humans – which we call human clinical experimentation
– or by conferring on animals “human characteristics”
– which latter is what these researchers in transgenics
are now announcing so triumphantly.
The significance of this, from our standpoint, is that researchers
have finally recognised that we were right when we tried (in
vain) to warn them that all research performed on species
other than man (in case of human medicine) is doomed to inevitable
failure. This is because a biological quality – any
biological quality – characteristic of humans cannot
be dealt with unless the same quality is present in the humans
themselves. However, despite the obviousness of this statement,
our detractors still seek to cover us with discredit and derision.
But now the situation is turned upside down, and derision
and discredit have become a boomerang – a boomerang
against themselves, of course.
An Astonish and Reckless Promise
My motivation in treating this very up-to-date subject was
prompted by an editorial in the Italian Corriere della Sera
of 8 May 1994, which opened with the following announcement:
“It is, once again, mice which offer to mankind a discovery
which is going to revolutionise the entire field of immunology;
and, in the very near future,” – take note of
that last phrase – “will allow scientists to find
an appropriate therapy for many pathological conditions, such
as cancers, leukaemias and infectious diseases, including
most of the viruses such as viral hepatitis and AIDS and,
furthermore, diseases caused by the production of toxins.”
The history of this astonishing and reckless promise of such
a discovery can be summarised as follows: Robert M Kay and
Nils Lonberg have “created” transgenically modified
mice, capable not only of producing HUMAN antibodies but also
of transmitting them to their progeny.
However, researchers are carefully concealing two
1. The intervention of an immunological mechanism has never
been demonstrated in the struggle of the human organism against
cancers, leukaemias, viral hepatitis and, more recently, AIDS
– that is, the diseases for which the researchers’
so called discovery, to quote them, “opens up vistas
of enormous importance”.
2. Another point – another uncomfortable truth that
researchers prefer to pass over in silence – is that
the value of human antibodies produced by trangenically modified
mice against cancers, leukaemias AIDS and so on is, in practice,
irrelevant to the above-mentioned diseases and to the needs
of those who are afflicted with them at this very moment.
Should we, then, conclude that scientists are seemingly so
sensitive that they don’t want to disappoint the expectations
of an audience eager for immediate scientific miracles?
Homeopathy – A Past Warning Ignored
There is a further aspect to the argument. We tried –
again in vain – to warn our opponents that they were
following a wrong path when they cast discredit and even derision
upon homeopathy, a medical science which tackles medicine
by taking an holistic approach, aimed at the welfare of man
but never against or exploiting any other living creature.
We tried to warn them – and what has, in fact, happened?
Homeopathy is now recognised in many countries as a bona fide
medical science (not only for humans but for other species
as well), just as we had repeatedly foretold.
Axenics – a Historical Antecedent for Transgenics?
And now, let us come to yet another point, closely connected
with that of transgenic animals – has the story of such
animals any significant historical antecedent? In other words,
is there anything comparable to genetic engineering in the
history of vivisection or in the history of experimental medicine
in general? Well, such an antecedent does indeed exist, and
I shall now recall it for you.
Some forty years ago, a new (at the time) approach to vivisection
was devised – then, as today, with the purpose of making
vivisection scientifically more credible (as evidently this
was not!). This approach consisted of the ‘creation’
(or rather, the production) of so-called axenic or germ-free
animals (or “animals without guests” – guest
being bacteria, fungi, viruses and other parasites, mostly
microscopic). This harebrained idea was announced, supported
and thus rapidly spread, with that same triumphalism and enthusiasm,
but also with that same thoughtlessness, which nowadays endorses
the ‘creation’ of transgenic mice and rats.
In order to keep animals born sterilely by caesarean delivery
in conditions of the strictest sterility, industry invented,
amongst other contraptions, the Reyniers isolator, the Gustafsson
isolator, the Trexler isolator and the Lev isolator. Meanwhile,
the food industry offered sterilised food for feeding these
germ-free animals in germ-free conditions – an enormous
and widespread example of business enterprise!
Antivivisectionists, animal rightist and animal lovers tried
vainly to call attention to the absurdity of the whole unsavoury
affair and foretold its complete and ignominious failure.
On that occasion, too, we had to put up with charges of being
“enemies of Science”, “prophets of misfortune”,
“Cassandras” and the like – the same charges
laid against us by today’s inventors of transgenic animals.
However, now – after forty years or more – researchers
are illustrating what John Stuart Mill predicted more than
a century and a half ago, when he said: “Every great
movement knows three phases: first, derision; second, discussion;
finally, adoption.” In fact, researchers, in accordance
with our warning, have recognised that the method of using
germ-free animals has been a scientific failure – as
we could easily foretell.
To Be, or Not to Be, Sceptical?
Returning to the main subject of this speech – transgenic
animals – I should like to pose the following question:
do we not have good reason today to be sceptical about the
triumphalism, the expectations and the promises implied by
today’s new methodology of transgenic animals –
just as, some forty yeas ago, we were sceptical about the
hype attaching to axenic animals?
To be sceptical, however, does not mean that we wish a new
failure on researchers. It simply means that we do not share
an optimism which carries with it, amongst other factors,
a dramatic impact – and one which is calculated once
again to concentrate the attention of orthodox medicine upon
a newfangled methodology per se.
Improbable Promises, but No Certainties …
Furthermore, this is indeed a methodology which offers only
improbable promises to a humanity which is crying out for
concrete certainties. One of these would be the certainty
of being welcomed promptly and kindly (I stress kindly) into
the public-health system (with the stress now on public),
there to be cured with that skill and efficiency which (as
I am led to understand) you have in this county by which we
certainly do not have in Italy; nor do they in many other
countries of the so-called civilised world, including the
… and Yet Another False and Unscientific Method
This is, moreover, a situation which, in my country, is deteriorating
daily – mostly because it has not yet been recognised
by our scientific community in general – so that we
are now being even more greatly exposed to the dangers of
yet another false and unscientific method of medical research
– GENETIC MANIPULATION.
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