No matter how you look at it, animal testing is a troubling ethical subject. Animal testing has advanced modern medicine. On the other hand, there's no doubt that the creatures being used for testing -- even if treated in the most humane ways possible -- are still frightened, uncomfortable, and sometimes in real pain.
As this Discovery News article notes:
Treatments for diseases such as diabetes and polio were made possible through animal research, the researchers said, and animals are currently being used in hepatitis-, HIV- and stem cell-related research, among others.
It is with complete awareness of this ethical paradox that I bring you the following bit of video. The science is, without a doubt, absolutely incredible. The idea that a monkey can control a robotic arm, simply through his thoughts, is something that seemed ripped out of those terrible SciFi channel made-for-TV movies my husband and I like so much.
On one hand, the potential for easing human suffering (okay, and giving Nintendo a new gimmick for game input) is profound. As the video shows, there's a tetraplegic patient who's able to manipulate a computer interface just by thought. Imagine what that man could do, the freedoms he'd be offered, if he could control his own limbs just by thinking about it.
It brings back visions of Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man, not the wrestler) and a real, possible future for amazing bionics.
And yet, on the other hand, my heart goes out to that cute little monkey with the yellow hat. I know that under that hat must be electrodes, that he can't really move in that little box, his head might itch and he can't scratch, and just to get a tiny sip of water, he has to control a giant robotic arm.
I just want to give him a hug.