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“Animals Are Funny” Journalism Comes to ABC News

By Matthew Yglesias on August 4, 2010 at 3:14 pm

"“Animals Are Funny” Journalism Comes to ABC News"

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As I noted yesterday it’s both the case that scientific experiments involving animals also sound funny, and also the case that scientific research into important subjects often involves animals. There’s a case to be made that it’s a bad idea for the government to fund scientific research in general, but most people shy away from making that case because the arguments in favor of it are extraordinarily weak and exploring the issue would generally highlight that libertarian dogmatism is dumb. Instead, many in congress and the media seem inclined to simply apply an “Animals Are Funny” standard and decide that any American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects that involve animals are per se wasteful.

The latest comes from ABC News’ Jonathan Karl who apparently thinks it’s none of the government’s business to ascertain threats to local agriculture:

ABC’s Jonathan Karl, who cited “among the highlights” of the McCain/Coburn press release not only the monkey study but also “nearly $1 million for the California Academy of Sciences to study exotic ants.” That’s doubly funny because they’re bugs and they’re “exotic.” But the reason you would want to study exotic insects (meaning non-native) is that they’re a threat to agriculture, either current or potential. Agriculture is a $36 billion-a-year industry in California–but this crucial context was ignored by ABC.

This seems important to me. More broadly, increasing the stock of human knowledge is important. You do that by funding scientific research. Including, yes, research on animals. Even “exotic” ones. It would be interesting to have a real debate about the merits of scientific research in general, but this business of trying to pick out individual “funny-sounding” projects and denouncing them is really shameful and pathetic.

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