Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A-hole of the decade?

Tripp Isenhour is off the hook. KPC has found the a-hole of this year and the last several years as well in the form of Richard Davidson, a psychologist and medical researcher at the University of Wisconsin. Davidson is big on "compassion" and is pals with the Dalai Lama. He's been featured in Oprah's magazine and been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Wikipedia sez that,

Dr. Davidson hopes to help get out the message that based on what we know about the plasticity of the brain, we can think of things like happiness and compassion as skills that are no different from learning to play a musical instrument or learning golf or tennis. Like any skill, it requires practice and time but because we know that the brain is built to change in response to experience, it is possible to train a mind to be happy.

Davidson has long maintained his own daily meditation practice, and continues to communicate regularly with the Dalai Lama.

A longtime friend of the Dalai Lama, some of his work involves research on the brain as it relates to meditation. Davidson is one of the most important scientists in the Dalai Lama's quest to validate Buddhism with science.

Well I am not a Buddhist, but I'd say Doc Davidson needs to teach himself a bit of compassion and that the Lama, Oprah and Time need to do some serious retracting.

Here are some tidbits from a paper published in 2007 by Davidson and others:

“Role of the primate orbitofrontal cortex in mediating anxious temperament.” (Kalin N. H., Shelton S. E., & Davidson R. J. Biological Psychiatry):

Experimental Subjects Twelve experimentally naïve adolescent colony-born rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) were the subjects. Animal housing and experimental procedures were in accordance with institutional guidelines. The animals were housed as pairs; each experimental animal lived with a control animal. At the beginning of the study, subjects were, on average, 34.4 months of age. Six randomly selected males underwent surgery at an average age of 35.6 months. Six nonoperated male control animals were used for comparison, since we previously demonstrated that the nonspecific effects of the surgery do not significantly affect the behavioral and physiological measures of interest.

Surgical Procedure Prior to surgery, atropine sulfate was given to depress salivary secretion, and dexamethasone was given to reduce potential brain swelling. Animals were pre anesthetized with ketamine hydrochloride, fitted with an endotracheal tube, and maintained on isoflurane anesthesia. An experienced surgeon made an opening in the frontal bone posterior to the brow ridge to expose the frontal cortex. Both hemispheres were lesioned in a single procedure by lifting the brain to expose its ventral surface. Using microscopic guidance, electro-cautery and suction were applied to the targeted brain area.

Oh my goodness people. He's a straight up animal torturer! And, lest you give me the "if it saves one human life" speech, let me tell you the experiment and the results. Davidson proceeds to show a snake to each of the monkeys and see whether or not the ones where he induced brain damage are less afraid. Really. I am not making this up. And the big scientific payoff for this horrific exercise?

The monkeys with the induced brain damage exhibited a less "fearful" response to snakes. Wow. I take it back. He's right at the doorstep of curing anxiety in humans!! Induce brain damage.

People, aren't monkeys SUPPOSED to be afraid of snakes? Is a monkey being afraid of a snake in any way similar to anxieties that people seek to overcome or get rid of? Isn't sticking snakes in front of a captive monkey cruel and heartless even when they haven't been surgically tortured?
Don't you think these brain damaged monkeys quite likely display less of a response to EVERYTHING and not just what the good Doctor stuck in front of them.

Shame on you sir and on the University of Wisconsin for condoning this crap. Shame on the Dalai Lama for lending his name to this creep.


Tom said...

I start by agreeing that this Davidson is a bigger A-hole than your previous candidate ;-) Are you sure this is not an April Fool story?

Assuming it's not, the deliberate, thoughtful way he went about the torture is what's really creepy.

I still think Mugabe, Putin, and their many brethern are bigger A-holes, every year.

Angus said...

This is NOT an April fools story and previous winners are not eligible for this years prize!!

Zach said...

animal torture in the guise of science has been ignored too long. Rock on, Angus.

John said...

Kinda like the old, 'A frog with no legs is deaf' joke, only for real.

Anonymous said...

If you are diagnosed with an inoperable cancer, please feel free not to take the (extensively animal tested) chemotherapy.

Likewise, if someone you loved or cared for was diagnosed with a resectable brain tumor, I suspect that you would prefer the surgeons be ignorant about which neuronal tracts to leave behind in order for the patient to maintain some vestige of normal function.

You overly sentimental hypocrite.

Angus said...

Anon 4:41. thanks for the anonymous insults.

I do think some animal testing is/has been justifiable on a cost benefit level, and my post does not condemn all animal testing.

Not this one however. no way no how. read the freaking article.

and then to hide behind buddhism and the lama? now THATS hypocracy.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but A-Hole of the year seems to me to be an award we ought to reserve to folks who mess with people, or am I being species-centric?


Robert S. Porter said...

Are you being species-centric? Yes, but that's a good thing.

Anyone who has harmed a human is a better candidate.

I'm a big defender of the "if it saves one human life" speech. I'm also willing to believe that this research has greater implications than Angus gives it.