Can we just leave it at the idiot part and leave off the bimbo stuff?

February 1, 2010

I’ve been keeping an eye on the situation in which the OSU President quashed the funding of an imminent NIH research award because it was “controversial” and “not in the best interest of OSU”. The project featured the use of baboon subjects in anthrax research for which the University had invested in biocontainment infrastructure.
Academic scientists are annoyed for all kinds of reasons ranging from academic freedom to the issue of investing in new projects only to pull the plug arbitrarily.
They are also annoyed by the sneaking suspicion, denied by the offical OSU pronouncements, that OSU was influenced heavily by a wealthy donor who has Animal Rights motivations. I have this suspicion as well and I was happy to convey these suspicions when I first heard of the situation. It is objectionable when a wealthy ideologue donor can arbitrarily interfere with the type of research that goes on at a University and we are right to call OSU out for this.
But here is what we* should not do.

There’s a strongly worded Editorial in the FASEB Journal which addresses the OSU case. Gerald Weissman, M.D., Editor in Chief opines on the science:

The “pros” of the issue are on record. The research proposed was a multi-institutional study of anthrax pathophysiology and its prevention by vaccines in a primate model. The investigators are a team of well-regarded scientists, including Boston University’s Shinichiro Kurosawa and K. Mark Coggeshall of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. The baboon model they proposed has already resulted in a major new treatment option (protein C) for Escherichia coli infection (5 , 6 ). Indeed, Kurosawa’s earlier studies of anthrax in primates had documented changes in vascular permeability, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and systemic inflammation, which closely mimicked those found in human patients. Studies in lower species were not as informative.


The conflict has been ongoing since scientists in the 1830s first started poking into the live bodies of four-legged creatures. When Francois Magendie (1783-1855) opened the first lab of experimental physiology in Paris, his work immediately aroused both scientific and lay opposition…

the arts:

Shaw played with these issues in “The Doctor’s Dilemma.” In the play, a capable clinical investigator, Sir Colenso Ridgeon, has discovered a kind of BCG vaccine that will work, even on active tuberculosis. However, his supply is limited, and the doctor’s dilemma is whether to give the last remaining doses to an aging, dull-but-honest fellow practitioner, a Dr. Blenkinsop, or to a thoroughly unscrupulous, if talented, young artist, Louis Dubedat.

Mrs. Dubedat’s lack of understanding was Shaw’s as well. By definition, anti-vivisectionists, or those who oppose euthanization, are choosing to keep future generations off of a raft on which they are already safe. The “raft” is that safety zone of public health, of vaccines, of antisepsis, antibiotics, insulin, cortisone, and all the rest–a zone in which life expectancy has doubled from age 40 in 1840 to approximately 80 by 1980. The raft has been constructed by generations of biomedical researchers, lately many of them members of FASEB. Many of us owe our place on that raft to the humane use of animals, including primates, in biological research.

It is really quite excellent so I recommend you go read the whole thing.
I was troubled, however, because Weissmann in his outrage chose a tack that I think unnecessary and distracting when discussing the problem of the wealthy donor.

You don’t cross the wife of a donor whose name is on the football stadium (7) . The president of OSU had it right, the research was certainly not in the best interest of the university. A few months before OSU canceled the anthrax project, Madeleine Pickens, a passionate animal rights activist and the fourth wife of investment mogul T. Boone Pickens, [emphasis added-DM]

Ugh. Right off the bat with the wife-as-appendage stuff. She’s not the donor, she’s the wife of the donor. And not only that, she’s the fourth wife you know…must be some younger bimbo who ol’ T Boone benevolently lets spend his money right?
It gets worse:

Mr. Pickens had given $165 million to the athletic department of his alma mater, and it surprised no one that the comely Mrs. Pickens, a former model, flight attendant, and horse breeder, would host the pre-game activities and halftime show

Opposition to animal experimentation has by no means been limited to the ranks of wealthy socialites or aging Brigitte Bardots
[emphasis added-DM]

Right? All this detail about Mrs. Pickens’ person and history which is trying to tilt the field. To persuade you with the dominent society memes that she is a lightweight, a bimbo, a shallow thinker. Therefore, what she wants is idiotic.
Look, I get the power of framing. Really I do. But do we really need to go there when it comes to fighting back against the forces of anti-science? Is it really necessary to bring up anti-vaccine woonaut Jenny McCarthy’s original claim to fame?
Can’t we just stick to how stupid and hypocritical the ideas are? Focus on the issues of using arbitrary personal belief system rather than extant facts to dictate to the US or the world? Isn’t that enough?
*Yeah, me too. I have little doubt my first instinct is to play the bimbo card. Anything to help make the case, right? Well, I shouldn’t.

No Responses Yet to “Can we just leave it at the idiot part and leave off the bimbo stuff?”

  1. Isis the Scientist Says:

    That was exactly what made me uncomfortable about the mommyblogger talk at ScienceOnline.


  2. wolfwalker Says:

    Can’t we just stick to how stupid and hypocritical the ideas are?
    Quoted at the top of your left-hand column: ‘Sarah Palin is a moron and her target audience, also being morons, will appreciate that. – Ed Brayton’
    Houses. Glass. Stones. ~Throw.


  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    It says “moron” not bimbo and I tend to agree that in the colloquial and political sense she is indeed a moron regardless of her or the MSM or her handler’s use of her physical appearance and/or personal characteristics to create a slant.
    If you are trying to launch the idea that terms such as ‘moron’, ‘cretin’, ‘imbecile’ and the like when applied to those of presumptively normal actual intellect are discriminatory against the intellectually incapable…. I’m listening. Note that I used ‘idiot’ liberally here. I’d especially be looking for you to identify alternate terms that convey the low esteem one holds for the bad ideas.


  4. I concur, Brother Drug, after seeing you tweet this the other day. I actually love Weissman’s editorials – he’s incredibly well-read and insightful. This is what makes me even more disappointed because of all people, he could have made the points just as more effectively without the bimbo crap.


  5. DrugMonkey Says:

    umm, Abel, you did check the links I inserted, right 🙂 no worries, many of us are blind on this issue..


  6. feralboy12 Says:

    The problem with terms like “moron,” “idiot,” and “imbecile” is that they are technical terms relating to the actual IQ. We learned this from “Family Ties” after Alex scored very low on an intelligence test.
    “You’re telling me my son is an idiot?”
    “Well, no, technically he’s a moron.”


  7. becca Says:

    Internalizing the need to check your biases against the dominant (and often oppressive) socio-cultural milieu = reason #2018 DM rocks
    I usually go with
    “recklessly, willfully, ignorant”
    if I’m avoiding “idiot”
    For McCarthy, you could go with something like
    “recklessly peddles ignorance and fear out of her own foolish obtuseness or maliciously selfish attention seeking” (depending on whether you classify her as a fool or a knave; I lean toward the former, because I always want to believe the best of people)
    And because the mental/emotional-health mockery also comes up sometimes, if you’re looking for a comparatively PC substitute for “that bitch be crazy”, may I recommend:
    “a seemingly ergot-poisoned zealot with a penchant for pernicious proclamations”


  8. Isabel Says:

    Becca, how does calling someone a “fool” solve anything??? Although I do like to say “you foolish child!” when addressing errant young children.:) You know, like in story books.
    Why not focus on the idea instead of the person. A stupid idea instead of a stupid person.
    Too simple maybe.
    As fas as JM, I watched one of her videos during one of these anti-vax discussions and commented that she really does appear to be rather dim, yet she is surrounded by smart people who are promoting and encouraging her. The gleeful mockery of her for being an airhead seemed to be missing the point but was fun I guess.


  9. Ouch, Brother Drug – you are so correct. I am guilty as charged. Blind. D’oh.


  10. Lethe Says:

    An absolute conviction to animal rights is arbitrary in the same sense that an absolute conviction to human rights is, as near as I can tell. I think there *are* complex moral issues here. Surely it would be more ethical to test on human beings who are capable of volunteering than on animals who are not, even if that meant euthanasia for the humans. But we don’t, because we value human life more than we value the human right to choose death, and more than we value other species’ rights, which themselves seem hard to define. We don’t often kill humans for “the greater good”, but we do kill animals for the same. That’s based on an arbitrary personal belief system that just happens to be dominant, not on any objective facts.


  11. becca Says:

    When someone takes a stance that strikes me as ridiculous, it is indeed pertinent to describe them as “foolish”. Given the cultural context, this brings into sharp focus two possible implications:
    1) I can see some humor in the situation, and/or I wish to imply this stance is worthy of ridicule
    2) I allow for the possibility the person may not be in earnest (but are instead “playing the fool”, a long and venerable tradition). Therefore, describing someone as ‘foolish’ is, in my ideolect at least, saying that you are laughing. Either at them or with them, depending. It says nothing about whether you are laughing at them because of who they are (which gets into iffy territory, sometimes), or because of silly antic they are pulling.
    Also, exclusively applying the term ‘foolish’ exclusively to young children strikes me as ageist at best, cruel at worst. With children, perhaps more than with adults who use bluster to cover up their feelings on the matter, it is quite obvious that laughing at someone can be taken as very devastating and harsh criticism. It’s not categorically wrong to use the term with children, but it can be done in a very mean fashion.


  12. ginger Says:

    You raise a really good point, DM. I am certainly guilty of this particular ad hominem (possibly more aptly “ad feminam”, or “ad bimbam”) fallacy.


  13. Isabel Says:

    Becca I was just kidding about the kids! See the smiley face. Though the expression does make me laugh for some reason, and I do say it as a sort of in-joke teasing with a couple of special kid friends but I always strive to be as sensitive as possible with kids especially and I totally agree with everything you just said.
    Anyway you could still say “you are being foolish” not “You are a fool” right, although the second has more punch it is less accurate. And it covers your second possibility while avoiding labeling the victim of the first possibility.


  14. Pascale Says:

    I agree that the bimbo card is generally uncalled for in any argument; however, there are certain aspects of Ms. Picken’s “background” that should be addressed, as I have with others’ animal activism (is Pamela Anderson in the room?).
    I doubt that Madeleine Pickens could successfully deny her plastic surgery procedures. At a minimum she has been treated with Botox, fillers, and lasers (hard to know exactly what these days). She is really riding the raft of animal research. In a major way.
    She may be a whacky blonde bimbo, but that’s not why her ideas are problematic. It’s the hypocrisy.


  15. anon Says:

    You make a great point DM. Personally, I could have done without the “Uranian dandies” non sequitur as well.


  16. Paul Browne Says:

    When I read Gerald Weissmann’s piece what struck me was not so much the attack on Madeleine Pickens but the following sentence.
    “You don’t cross the wife of a donor whose name is on the football stadium (7) . The president of OSU had it right, the research was certainly not in the best interest of the university.”
    Surely keeping major donors sweet is not the highest priority for a research-lead university? There has to be a point where the best interests of a University might be served by telling the donor whose name is on the football stadium to take a hike, after all a university which looses its reputation for fostering academic freedom and supporting research is likely to founder no matter how many wealthy donors it attracts. Hargis decision may turn out to have been very short sighted.


  17. Proponents of anthrax research using primates don’t get it. The primates targeted were orangutangs – of which less than 10,000 are currently known to live in an Indonesian reservation which is threatened by illegal logging.

    Moreover, the problems of maintaining containment of anthrax spores was not fully addressed. As with prior USAMRIID tests at Ft. Detrick, all exposed animals would have to be destroyed. None would be preserved because even vaccinated, healthy, animals can deliver potent anthrax spores up to 100-days after inhalation exposure.

    No data extends beyond that point – because USAMRIID was forced to incinerate vaccinated animals to avoid laboratory contamination.

    So, a population of orangutangs exposed to anthrax spores would be 100% dead as a result of exposure test safety protocols.

    Which should call into question just why OSU should be involved with a program to turn humans into anthrax delivery systems which would continue to contravene existing international treaties against the development and deployment of bioweapons?

    The greatest chance of exposure to anthrax spores, at this time, will be from vaccinated government personnel, who show no symptoms, but can deliver with a single sneeze, or cough, a lethal dose of anthrax spores.

    The existing human anthrax vaccine exposes healthy humans to the cell penetration exo-toxin that anthrax uses to kill living tissue and digest it. It targets the mechanism – not the killer.

    Unfortunately, that exo-toxin is activated by the FURIN convertase protein, and in the process of activation, FURIN can become the target of the human immune system.

    If it does, then antibodies will be created that will sequester FURIN and prevent the activation of para-thyroid hormone, neural growth factor, transforming growth factor beta-1, gonaditropin, von Willebrand factor, and beta secretase. Chronic fatigue syndrome, severe depression, rheumatoid arthritis, sex organ failures, and skin diseases are characteristic symptoms grouped as the Gulf War Syndrome.

    These antibodies have shown an ability to interfere with the development of unborn children resulting in severe birth defects, such as stunted legs, arms, and learning deficits.

    Moreover, lack of FURIN will reduce effector T-cell and regulator T-cell populations, leading to runaway malignant tumors in multiple cell tissues.

    The human anthrax vaccine has never demonstrated an ability to kill anthrax bacteria. It only interferes with the disease process – and it interferes with the health of humans, which is why it only provides a one-year temporary tolerance to anthrax disease.

    The body eventually kills off the unsafe memory B-cells that make antibodies as a response to receiving the human anthrax vaccine.

    Lifetime immunity was never a goal of the human anthrax vaccine projects of any nation, since any good weapon must eventually be usable against any human in order to maintain social order, and economic dependency on the distributors of the vaccine.

    Unfortunately for USAMRIID’s test primates, they never lived long enough for their biologists to evaluate the long-term adverse side effects of the human anthrax vaccine.

    So, a new generation human anthrax vaccine has to demonstrate an ability to stop anthrax spores from germinating. Any new human anthrax vaccine has to help the body identify and kill dormant spores and live anthrax bacteria. For a lifetime.

    Would primate testing of first and second generation human anthrax vaccines demonstrate these capabilities?

    The answer is a resounding “No.” None of the second generation vaccines have demonstrated the ability to provide lifetime immunity – or the ability to kill anthrax bacteria in either dormant or live stages.

    When a third or fourth generation human anthrax vaccine is properly demonstrated in labs, then it might be time to engage in longitudinal primate tests.

    OSU made the right decision to table this research at this time. This decision may have given more time for the orangutang population to reach proper biodiversity levels to be self-sustaining again.

    What we must do now, is support H.R. Bill 1478, the Sgt. Carmelo Rodriguez Memorial Bill, which will provide military with the right to sue the US government for medical malpractice received under direct orders. Over 685,000 injured veterans, and their birth-defect children, demand your support for this bill.

    Sgt. Rodriguez died in 2008 on CBS TV from Stage IV skin cancer unleashed by the human anthrax vaccine he received before deploying to Iraq in 2007.

    H.R. 1478 is currently stuck in committee after the Congressional Budget Office issued its cost estimates for implementing it.

    For more information, see Scott Miller’s searing documentary about the human anthrax vaccine program in the US and UK, “A CALL TO ARMS 2009 EDITION.”


  18. JohnV Says:

    “The greatest chance of exposure to anthrax spores, at this time, will be from vaccinated government personnel, who show no symptoms, but can deliver with a single sneeze, or cough, a lethal dose of anthrax spores.”
    Citation needed for person to person transmission of anthrax.


  19. R u nutz Says:

    Yo rantypants! *baboons* != orangutans. Baboons are monkeys not apes and they are not endangered.


  20. Paul Browne Says:

    LOL Gotch looking, that’s a nice theory but do you have any evidence to back it up? I couldn’t find any in pubmed, despite there being many papers on the AVA vaccine and the role of furin in anthrax pathogenesis.
    The idea of vaccinating soldiers to turn them into anthrax-carrying biological weapond is quite funny though, even if it worked it would be just about the least efficient weapon ever (apart perhaps from the anti-tank dogs idea that the Soviets tried in WWII).


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