Adventures in Reddit/Things I Wish I Could Un-Read: the Pit of Despair experiments on baby monkeys by vivisectionist extraordinaire/all-round-depressed-mad-scientist fuckup Dr. Harry Harlow in the 1970s, supposedly into the nature of love.
I strongly urge you not to look this up. And I know you're going to now, but really, don't.
Disclaimer: I happen to really like monkeys. However, if you have any human feeling at all, I don't see how you couldn't be affected. I am fairly desensitized to what the internet can throw at me, but this made me cry, made me furious, and gave me nightmares. I want to scrub my brain of the knowledge that this happened. Just take my word for it that it is a vile, vile example of what we as a species are capable of in the name of science. Absolutely reprehensible. All adjectives. Christ.
"Oh, but this was the 1970s! We don't do barbaric experiments on primates any more, for they are our primate cousins! Only 1% difference in DNA, you know! We have Ethics now, and Morals!"
Now, before stumbling upon this episode on Reddit, I knew that we still experiment on primates. And of course I see the objective scientific logic in that. After all, we are only separated by 1% of our DNA, and while as a scientist you are hamstrung by our pesky ethics laws when experimenting on human beings, you pretty much have free reign when it comes to animals, if you just keep your head down and stay out of the line of fire of PETA and other such organizations. However, and I may have had my head in the sand, but I believed actual vivisection was largely prohibited by law. What is vivisection, you ask (and I think that's a fair question - I believe many people are not entirely clear what vivisection actually entails)?
Vivisection is "The act or practice of cutting into or otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research."
OK. That perhaps doesn't sound too bad. After all, how are we supposed to make scientific progress if we have nothing to experiment on? I have to admit that I was guilty of thinking this until I began reading into it. I think part of me thought that even if we still do vivisection, we would try to do it "humanely", whatever that means. And then I began finding some of the studies that have been published in the past ten years.
Dr. Sally Mendoza, at the University of California, published a study in 2005 from an NIH grant research paper entitled "Somatosensory Cortex in Affective Social Relationships". OK, dry title, you don't know what it means - I didn't.
Here's what it means.
"The propensity to seek contact with individuals with which a strong relationship has been established is exemplified in the extreme by the South American titi monkey. These monogamous primates spend up to 90% of their day in physical contact with other members of their family group.... We will selectively lesion, using aspiration techniques, different cortical fields in animals from well-established social groups. We will then monitor changes in social behavior and social motivation associated with the loss of a specific field or body part representation therein." (Underlining mine.)
So here's what we're going to do: we're going to take a monkey that's bonded with its familial group; we're going to cut into part of its brain, damaging it; then we're going to put the monkey that we've brain-damaged back in its social group and see what happens.
Change the word "monkey" for "child" - and no, I am not saying the two are equal - and you have a concept horror film that no studio would even touch, it's so utterly repellent. You know what? As an experiment, it's still fucking repellent.
One of Harlow's graduate students, William Mason, who supposedly had ethical objections to his teacher's research in the 70s, published a paper in 2004 entitled "Behavioral and Physiological Adaptation to Repeated Chair Restraint in Rhesus Macaques". Again, get past the reassuringly dry scientific language in the title and imagine what they did to get those results.
To borrow a Redditism: It's things like this, humanity.
Here's a link on why we should stop vivisection, and a link to the International Association Against Painful Experiments on Animals, both of which are a lot better-informed than I am. Right now I'm just angry. And like I said, I really like monkeys.