Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When good data gets over-hyped

State Library of New South Wales collection / Foter
I love this study which showed:
1) You can train conscious dogs to cooperate with an MRI
2) As with humans, the dogs caudate nucleus lights up when they sense something or someone they like.

But does this mean:
1) Dogs are "like humans"
2) Therefore dogs should not be property
3) Dogs should be legal persons.

Um, no.  It has no really baring on this issues because:
1) We already knew dogs were sentient and had likes and dislikes
2) Thus animals can be, and are, sentient property, and
3) Domesticated dogs will continue to need legal guardians preventing them from being full persons under the law.

We can debate how the legal status of all animals could be changed. But this particular studies contributed approximately nothing to this debate as even the most strict of animal laws does not deny that animals have emotions and feel likes and dislikes.  That is not the issue here.

I really wish both the academic literature and the popular media would just let research data be what it is, and not make wild claims about its earth-shattering higher meaning.  Dogs like stuff, we can tell which stuff by doing MRIs.  Is that not cool enough?

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