Dr. John Gluck, Faculty Affiliate of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and author of Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals: A Primate Scientist’s Ethical Journey, is profiled in a recent edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The long-form piece recounts Gluck’s personal journey from primate scientist to respected bioethicist and dedicated advocate for animal rights, as well as offering an overview of the work that Gluck and colleagues like former KIE Senior Research Scholar Tom Beauchamp have done over the years to create policy-level change at the US National Institutes of Health and other agencies.
John Gluck still remembers the meeting, nearly a half-century ago, of his academic-journal club at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Gluck was a graduate student in the laboratory of Harry Harlow, the psychologist whose research on maternal deprivation in rhesus macaque monkeys would be celebrated for insights into human development and vilified for the suffering those monkeys endured. That afternoon Gluck’s club discussed a hot new paper from the lab of the psychologists Allen and Beatrix Gardner, who had taught a chimpanzee named Washoe to use American Sign Language.
The students debated whether or not sign language was, in fact, a real language. They dug into the nature of response and reinforcement, whether the chimp truly communicated with intent or just went through the motions. And then a student posed a different sort of question. What would happen if Washoe signed, “Let me out of here?”
“There was dead silence in the room,” recalls Gluck…
Gluck had no answer, but the seed planted that day would grow as he watched his own monkeys, the infants kept alone in soundproof, permanently illuminated rooms at a time when they’d normally be nestled into their mothers’ warmth. He’d previously been able to dispel his qualms by focusing on the potential benefits of that research to people, and on the researchers’ efforts to provide the best care possible within the parameters of their work. Though he continued his experiments, his conscience started to nag him.