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Reinventing Biology

Respect for Life and the Creation of Knowledge

by Lynda Birkeand and Ruth Hubbard (editors)

291 pages, paperback, Indiana University Press, 1995

The essays in Reinventing Biology urge the creation of a new science based on regard for other organisms as rational and capable of intelligent thought. The essays are by historians, sociologists, biologists, anthropologists and political activists.

Quotes from Reinventing Biology

"The dominant paradigm of biology is in urgent need of reinvention and democratization because it is inherently undemocratic. . . . The dominant paradigm of biology has been an imperialist one. Biological difference between human and nonhuman species, between white and colored peoples, and between men and women has been seen as reason and justification for the rule of the white man over nature, women, and all nonwhite races. Not only is the dominant biology based on these three exclusions; the exclusions themselves are interwoven and interlinked. And the exclusions are shaped by and in turn shape the mode of knowing and thinking about the world. It is these multiple and complex relationships between science, gender, and ecological survival that I want to explore."--Vandana Shiva, from Democratizing Biology: Reinventing Biology from a Feminist, Ecological, and Third World Perspective

. . .

"It is well known that the Nazis treated human beings with extreme cruelty. . . . Less well known are the extensive measures taken by Nazis to ensure humane care and protection of animals. Of course other societies have also exhibited a disdain for humans while also showing marked concern for animals, but the extent to which humans were brutalized and animals were idolized in Nazi Germany makes other cases pale by comparison. In short, Nazi Germany presents a particularly marked inversion of conventional morality in modern Western societies."

"Around the end of the nineteenth century, kosher butchering and vivisection were the foremost concerns of the animal protection movement in Germany. These interests continued during the Third Reich and became formalized as laws. Before taking power, the Nazis had begun to prepare laws to address these issues. In 1927, a Nazi representative to the Reichstag called for measures against cruelty to animals and against kosher butchering. In 1932 a ban on vivisection was proposed by the Nazi party, and at the start of 1933, the Nazi representatives to the Prussian parliament met to enact this ban. On April 23, 1933, almost immediately after the Nazis came to power, they passed a set of laws regulating the slaughter of animals. In August 1933, Hermann Goring announced an end to the 'unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments' and threatened to 'commit to concentration camps those who still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property.' . . . The Nazi animal protection laws of November 1933 permitted experiments on animals in some circumstances but subject to a set of eight conditions and only with the explicit permission of the minister of the interior, supported by the recommendation of local authorities. The conditions were designed to eliminate pain and prevent unnecessary experiments. Horses, dogs, cats, and apes were singled out for special protection."

"In addition to the laws against vivisection and kosher slaughter, other legal documents regulating the treatment of animals were enacted from 1933 through 1943, probably several times the number in the previous half century. These documents covered in excruciating detail a vast array of concerns, from the shoeing of horses to the use of anesthesia. One law passed in 1936 showed 'particular solicitude' about the suffering of lobsters and crabs, stipulating that restaurants were to kill crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans by throwing them one at a time into rapidly boiling water. Several 'high officials' had debated the question of the most humane death for lobsters before this regulation was passed, and two officials in the Interior Ministry had prepared a scholarly treatise on the subject.

"The Nazis also sought to protect wildlife. In 1934 and 1935, the focus of Nazi legislation on animals shifted from farm animals and pets to creatures of the wild. The preface to the hunting laws of March 27, 1935, announced a eugenic purpose behind the legislation, stating, 'The duty of a true hunter is not only to hunt but also to nurture and protect wild animals, in order that a more varied, stronger and healthier breed shall emerge and be preserved.' Nazi veterinary journals often featured reports on endangered species. Goring in particular was concerned about the near extinction in Germany of the bear, bison, and wild horse and sought to establish conservation and breeding programs for dwindling species and to pass new and more uniform hunting laws and taxes. His game laws are still operative today." --Arthur Arluke and Boria Sax, The Nazi Treatment of Animals and People.

. . .

"The following experience with a robin happened in 1987, eight years after I had stopped working with animals in the lab. In the seventh year of the garden my husband Roland and I had planted in the foothills of Colorado, a robin befriended us. I think the robin had observed us for years, nesting close enough to hear us daily. One day two robins flew over my head a couple of times, almost touching me. I spoke to them, saying, 'Hello, oh you want to get to know me.' I was excited. A few minutes later a robin came back to where I was weeding in the garden and landed on the garden bed next to me, just about a foot away. It watched me as I was weeding, and within a couple of minutes I had dug up some earthworms. I placed an earthworm in my palm and said to the robin, 'I bet you know what this is.' The robin immediately jumped onto my hand and plucked the earth worm into its beak and swallowed the worm. After this, the robin continued to sit on my hand for a few minutes until I told it I wanted to continue weeding but would like for it to stay. So it sat on my shoulder and watched me weed the garden. I spent the rest of the day weeding with the robin on my shoulder. . . .

"The robin was curious about everything we did. That first night, as I was walking from our cabin to the shower house, the robin was walking along with me. I told the robin I was about to take a bath and that it could not come in with me. Well, after I finished by bath and got back to the porch, up comes the robin, all wet and hops up to the porch to start shaking and drying itself. . . .

I was willing to be with that robin as much as possible. In the mornings, I exercised and meditated in the garden. The robin would fly to the closest tree and sit on a branch within a foot of me. After I finished my meditation it would come sit on my hand, shoulder, or hat, and would accompany me around the place. . .

The robin was curious about what we ate and wanted to taste our sandwiches, so I gave it a sample. It wanted to see what we did inside the cabin, and looked in every drawer, every pan, even when we were cooking. It watched me prepare food. . . .Can you imaging the fun of sharing our life with a curious robin?"-- Betty J. Wall, More than the Sum of Our Parts.

Table of Contents of Reinventing Biology

  1. Learning from the New Priesthood and the Shrieking Sisterhood: Debating the Life Sciences in Victorian England, Hilary Rose
  2. "The Rat Couldn't Speak, But We Can": Inhumanity in Occupational Health Research, Karen Messing and Donna Mergler
  3. Democratizing Biology: Reinventing Biology from a Feminist, Ecological, and Third World Perspective, Vandana Shiva
  4. On Keeping a Respectful Distance, Lynda Birke
  5. The Logos of Life, Ruth Hubbard
  6. More Than the Sum of Our Parts, Betty J. Wall
  7. "Nature is the Human Heart Made Tangible", Anne Fausto- Sterling
  8. The Liberation of the Female Rodent, Marianne van den Wijngaard
  9. They Are Only Animals, Lesley J. Rogers
  10. rEvolutionary Theory: Reinventing Our Origin Myths, Judith C. Masters
  11. Carnal Boundaries: The Commingling of Flesh in Theory and Practice, Stuart A. Newman
  12. The Nazi Treatment of Animals and People, Arnold Arluke and Boria Sax
  13. Working across the Human-Other Divide, Emily Martin

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