Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/808

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

784

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

every attempt to cure disease or alleviate suffering must have been, in the nature of the case, an act of human vivisection. A large proportion of modern medicine at present is equally in essence nothing more nor less than human vivisection, and it is only gradually, as elements of experiment and uncertainty are eliminated from remedial measures by more exact knowledge, that the practice of medicine becomes anything more than human vivisection.[1]

A further argument against the utility of animal experimentation is based on differences between animals and men, which make it unsafe to apply results directly from the animal to man. A logical error is here involved; for, while there are physiological differences between different animals, to one point of difference there are many points of close similarity. A difference in physiological function is technically known as an idiosyncrasy. These differences exist between individual men as well as between different species of animals. A man who has had smallpox or measles acquires an idiosyncrasy which protects him from having them again. In some cases this difference exists from birth; in others it is impossible to acquire it. Man himself begins life as a microscopical speck of living matter, and in his physical development passes through and beyond the lower stages of organic life. Hence the fundamental physiological processes and functions he has in common with the great body of living things beneath him. On this wider view physiological idiosyncrasy becomes the strongest possible incentive to experiment. How is it that certain species have become wholly immune from certain diseases? With the secret of this immunity discovered, it may be easy to induce a similar immunity in another species or in man.

The conclusion which follows from the foregoing chapters bears directly upon a topic of considerable present importance, viz., that of legislative interference with scientific work.[2] With due appreciation of scientific achievements in the past, we must keep ever before us the fact that the hardest labors and richest harvests in science are still in the future. And every consideration of religion, morality, altruism, humanity, and utility urge to


    far as I have been able to ascertain, is an individual matter, and can not be taken to represent in the slightest degree the tendency of experimental medicine or the attitude of experimental physiologists in this country.

  1. The Zend-Avesta permitted a doctor to practice his art upon three heretics. If these all died or were made worse by his treatment, he was forbidden, on penalty of death, to follow his profession further. If they recovered, he might begin practice upon the faithful.—Sprengel. Geschichte der Arzneykunde, vol. i, p. 126. (Refers to Zend-Avesta, Part III, p. 336.)
  2. For fuller discussion of this topic see Bowditch, he. cit., pp. 8-16, and appendix.