Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thinking critically about AR terminology Part 1

In some recent comments, an anonymous commenter noted the use of "loaded words" in rhetoric from ARAs. I agreed with this person and threw out some examples. While on a hunting trip, I got thinking more about that issue while spending contemplative time in my tree stand, so I though I'd explore it a little more in depth.

First, I think it is helpful to determine what "loaded words" or "loaded terminology" is and why it is used. "Loaded terminology" is terminology that generally contains biased and/or emotionally charged words. The purpose of it is to to use said biased or emotionally charged words to bend people's opinions. "Loaded terminology" is often used in argumentum ad nauseam fallacies. This simply means that someone repeats an argument or term so often, that those listening eventually no longer question or think critically about the argument or term's validity. We see ARAs do this with the terms I'm going to take a look at. By using these terms, they hope that those who hear or read their rhetoric simply accept these terms at face value without questioning them. However, much to their chagrin, not everyone is that stupid or easily lead.

"Loaded term" Number 1: "Vivisection"

"Vivisection" is perhaps the loaded AR term that one encounters most often. ARAs often use this as a blanket or umbrella term to refer to scientific research utilizing animals. But is that fair or intellectually honest? The word "vivisection" comes from Latin and it literally means cutting up a living thing. The emotional charge of this word is pretty self-evident. What we need to ask is whether its use is accurate in most cases. Does all, or even most, scientific research using animals involve procedures that are gruesome enough to justify the use of such a graphic term? Hardly it would seem. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture ( this is the federal agency that oversees animal research ) data, 60% of animal tests only involve slight, momentary, or minor distress such as injections, blood draws, change of diet, etc. . With 3 out of 5 procedures utilizing animals requiring only minor invasiveness, or none at all, the blanket or generalized use, as well as plain overuse of a "loaded term" like vivisection is dishonest and misleading at best.

In part two of this post, I'll analyze some more common AR terminology.

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