]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]       HOMO PHOTOSYNTHETICUS        [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
         By Daniel E. Koshland, Jr., Editor of SCIENCE      (9/23/88)
             From SCIENCE, 29 January 1988, p. 449
             [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   In a  recent television commercial  for a  computer company, a
young student stated that she was morally opposed to dissecting a
frog in her high school class  and suggested that an equally good
alternative to  such animal  experiments was  a computer program.
At  first glance  one might  scoff  at such  an approach,  but on
consideration   it  raises   a   number  of   intriguing  issues.
Aristotle, many years ago, emphasized deductions about science at
the  cerebral  level,  devoid  of  the  unpleasantness  of actual
experiments.   This  television  advertisement  is  probably  the
logical evolution of  such thought, and reveals  a type of Utopia
that is worth pondering.
   Frogs  are  of course  one  of  the more  obvious  species for
application  of such  a strategy.   There are  a number  of clues
about  the insides  of  a frog,  such as  that  it arises  from a
tadpole, that it causes warts, and that it may turn into a Prince
Charming when kissed by a  beautiful princess.  From such data, a
moderately well-trained student  should easily be  able to deduce
what the interior of a frog looks like.  On the other hand, there
are  many  other  species  for  which  an  equivalent  amount  of
information is not available.  Those  species could be studied at
more advanced levels, after students have been exposed to life by
watching daytime television.
   Even if the pedagogical problem  is solved by computers, there
is  the   annoying  problem   of  getting   the  Food   and  Drug
Administration approval  of new  drugs.  There  seems to  be some
silly  congressional  requirements  mandating  animal  testing in
order to show whether  chemicals are carcinogenic or teratogenic.
Replacement of  costly and  time-consuming animal  experiments by
computer programs is  likely to be  greeted with great enthusiasm
by industry.   If the  FDA should  take the  stodgy position that
research is required on animals, the FDA itself could be replaced
by appropriate computers,  and any computer  expert who could not
devise a better software program  than the U.S. Congress would be
fired on the spot.
   The  computer  encroachment  need  not  stop  at  these simple
levels.  There  are a number  of instruments of  torture far more
inhumane than dissecting an anesthetized frog -- for example, the
mousetrap and flyswatter.  These devices have no redeeming social
value,  such  as  advancing  teaching  and  research,  but merely
represent  domination  of  one  species  over  another.   A  good
software  program should  eliminate the  need for  mousetraps and
thus prevent the  maiming of many  mice.  In regard  to flies the
problem is more difficult because  flies have few neurons and may
not be diverted by a simple  algorithm.  One could at least enact
legislation requiring that flies  be anesthetized before they are
   Even if animal experiments have to be done for research, it is
questionable whether students should be  asked to repeat them.  A
good clean  simulation is superior  to a  bloody real experiment.
Consider, for example,  the moral shock of  the young student who
finds that the stomach of  a real frog contains mosquitos, flies,
and small grasshoppers.  Far from  being the beloved and harmless
frog  that she  imagined, she  finds  a predator  actually eating
other  species  with  no  regard  whatsoever  for  their  rights.
Letting that frog live condemns  many mosquitos, flies, and other
insects to their  deaths.  The moral  trauma is inappropriate for
an immature student who  may then conclude that  the world is not
nearly  as simple  as she  had  imagined.  A  computer simulation
could replace the stomach contents  with materials such as potato
chips, soda,  and other  emotionally neutral  nutrients.  At some
point the advanced  high school student, however,  is going to be
concerned by the  large number of  fish, cows, and  pigs that are
sacrificed for mere food, and  the large number of abandoned dogs
and cats  killed simply because  they are too  expensive to keep.
People who  talk to plants  will insist that  the biochemistry of
animals and plants  is so similar  that eating plants undoubtedly
induces pain at the molecular level.
   The obvious answer is  to develop genetically engineered human
beings who photosynthesize  their own food.   There might be some
minor life-style inconveniences, such as  the need to sit under a
lamp for several hours  on foggy days, but  there is little doubt
of the moral superiority of  this solution.  Whether such a human
can  be  engineered  from  computers  alone  is  a  problem,  but
fortunately there  are lots of  flotsam and jetsam  of society --
lawyers, homeless people,  and stockbrokers, for  instance -- who
are less likable  or less protectable  than fogs and  can be used
experimentally  in  this  good  cause.   The  only  moral problem
remaining  is  to  prevent  insiders  from  taking  money  out of
restaurants  and  investing  in   sweetened  CO2.

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