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Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

  • Gotta Keep Reading
  • Animal Experimentation and Simulation
    Let's start at the beginning: just what is a simulation? It's a model of a real system, which attempts to reproduce the effects and/or behavior of the system that it models. In the case of computer simulations, which is really what we're talking about, we produce a mathematical model and algorithmically describe how the model evolves over time. In other words, we write a computer program that runs a mathematical model of a process. And right there is the problem. We produce the model, and we implement the model. It does exactly what we tell it to. We programmers have a saying which applies particularly well to simulations: garbage in, garbage out. Computers do exactly what you tell them to; if what you tell them to do isn't right, then no amount of computer power is going to change the fact that you didn't tell them to do the right thing.
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  • Furious Backlas From Simon Singh Libel Case
    As the British Chiropractic Association's battle with Simon Singh continues to work its way through the legal system, chiropractors are counting the financial costs of a major backlash resulting from a libel action that has left the Lord Chief Justice "baffled". What was originally a dispute between the BCA and one science writer over free speech has become a brutally effective campaign to reform an entire industry. A staggering one in four chiropractors in Britain are now under investigation for allegedly making misleading claims in advertisements, according to figures from the General Chiropractic Council.



That "bad math" blog always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think that guy gets blustery about some issue, and then culls a bunch of information from wikipedia to write a roughly C+ 10th grade english essay. He has a few essays on the blog about mathematical constructivism (something a 'math blog' should be able to talk about competently or at least pass over in silence without attacking adherents as cranks), and they are simply embarassing. (To give one stinging example, he claims that sqrt(2) and other irrationals are excluded from the theory and they are not.)

More to the point, the whole post you linked to is one rather lengthy straw man argument. (Maybe you're linking to it as a demonstration?) He ends his essay by making the claim:

"So simulation absolutely has a role. And hopefully, it can reduce the number of animals that are used in medical experimentation. But it can never replace them. There really is no substitute for reality."

There is no major (perhaps even minor, I don't know) animal rights group that makes the claim that computer simulations can functionally replace animal testing. Not even the poster he quotes at the beginning of this essay makes anything more than the claim that "informing people about the alternatives to animal testing [such as computer simulation]" is important.

As for animal testing itself, surely one has to admit it is a complicated issue depending perhaps more on moral impulse than scientific fact. Certainly whatever scientific facts are presented have to be interpreted morally in order to make a moral decision about the vivesection. If you attribute the same rights to animals as you do humans, you have to ask yourself whether it would be justified to torture one human against his or her will in order to possibly cure a disease for thousands of people. Primates are still used for experimentation, and there are scant safeguards in place to ensure as little pain as possible for the animals -- or even transparency about what is being done to them.

None of this, of course, is to defend the animal rights vigilantes who have taken to threatening someone's children. Indeed, such actions are perhaps a major reason for a lack of transparency in animal experimentation.

I don't have the math background to address your claim about mathematical constructivism, nor do you state what your qualifications are to speak on that topic.

As to the argument

There is no major (perhaps even minor, I don't know) animal rights group that makes the claim that computer simulations can functionally replace animal testing.

My reading of the site was quick perhaps I missed something, but I don't see where they think animal testing is ever okay.

This FAQ from the PETA comes close.

“If we didn’t test on animals, how would we conduct medical research?”

Human clinical and epidemiological studies, studies on cadavers, and computer simulations are faster, more reliable, less expensive, and more humane than animal tests.

Isn't PETA a major animal rights group?

That's fair about PETA. I hadn't seen it, and I am a bit surprised about it. Knowing some animal rights activists, however, I have to say that it is not the dominant view.

is a reference about constructivist theories of irrational numbers. On the third page he makes the claim that 'e' fits in the theory, and sqrt(2) and pi are the same way. I am not sure how convincing it would be to anonymously brag about qualifications. A more thorough reference is Bishop and Bridges "Constructive Analysis," although I'm not sure it will contain a reference specifically to sqrt(2).



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