A thought occurred to me the other day: anyone that believes in creationism — that a god or gods created the universe, including humans — should be absolutely appalled by animal testing.
That might sound nonsensical at first, but think about it. Creationism is the antithesis to evolution, the scientific fact that species have evolved through natural selection. If humans did not evolve from non-human animals, then experimenting on such animals as a means of gaining insight into how a food item or therapeutic treatment might affect humans is just needlessly cruel since it will not work.
Of course, evolution is a fact and it’s the reason animal testing is relied upon: if we test a new ingredient on rats, we have some idea of what it will do to humans. If it causes the rats to explode, probably don’t give it to humans. If it doesn’t, you get permission to try it on some humans, and if nothing too bad happens then, it’s likely to be accepted. We don’t know for sure how it’s going to affect humans — since humans and rats are quite different — but it’s better than useless.
Animal experimentation has a poor reputation in the animal advocacy community because it is often needlessly cruel. Peter Singer’s landmark book Animal Liberation discusses some of the cruel experiments performed on animals that produce little to nothing of practical value.
Maybe creationists ought to be just as appalled, not just at the plainly obvious suffering animal testing can cause, but at all animal testing. If they truly believe we don’t share any ancestors with any other species, then we cannot learn anything from the experiments whatsoever; they’re just an exercise in needless cruelty.
Perhaps there are creationist groups that are vocal opponents of animal testing, but I suspect there aren’t, partly because religious doctrine often prevents people from considering the suffering of animals. The Bible, for example, expressly claims that humans may use animals as they wish. On the other hand, there are Christians who advocate for a vegan lifestyle based in part on their religion.
It is with this context that we turn to the Roman Catholic church’s position on animal testing: it’s a “morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives.” At the same time, the church has apparently made some milquetoast concessions regarding evolution, though clearly still preferring the creationist account.
Some Christians offer a hybrid approach, claiming that God created the universe and set evolution in motion, but then they are tasked with explaining why the universe existed for billions of years before humans — the only species capable of considering the existence of gods — popped up. It doesn’t make much sense.
They want to have their cake and eat it, too: animal testing is okay if it works, but creationism is probably the way the universe came into being. They don’t consider that animal testing works because evolution is true, they just know that some nice things have come of it.
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