Donegal v Cork in Debating Science Issues Final

“Science is ever evolving and adapting” was the closing remark of the Debating Science Issues final yesterday. A remark that reflects the understanding of science and breadth of knowledge that was evident on both teams. Animal testing was the issue of the afternoon in the magnificent Albert Lecture Theatre in the RCSI. Two teams had gotten this far, winning against five other schools with issues such as environmental sustainability, GM foods and self-testing on their journey to the final.

The house proposes that animal testing is necessary for the advancement of disease treatment

St. Catherine’s Vocational School, Killybegs were for the motion. Gráinne opened with her dislike of animal testing and argued “science will advance someday and we will be able to cease the majority of animal testing, if not all. However, we are not there yet”. Diane raised the point that testing on animals was necessary as “a living body is an extraordinary complex system”. Toxicity and side effects on the entire body cannot be seen when using tissue and cell cultures. 

Judges Dr. Marion Boland (SFI), Dr. Dónal O’Mathúna (DCU) and Sylvia Leatham (Scibernia)

Against the motion were Clonakilty Community College with strong points about alternatives to animal testing. Connor cited peer-reviewed articles stating human models are the better option. He continued, “we must look at more precise, more safe and more suitable methods”. Philip dropped the “bombshell” that only 8% of drugs that pass the animal testing stage are effective. He went on to list a number of drugs that had been deemed safe and effective in animals, e.g. thalidimide, but resulted in fatalities in humans. With new technologies and tissue cultures, we are “now able to break free of our past”.

With very strong arguments on both sides, the judges took some time to put challenging questions to the teams. Sent off the deliberate the judges, Dr. Marion Boland (SFI), Dr. Dónal O’Mathúna (DCU) and Sylvia Leatham (Scibernia), had a tough decision to make.

And the winner is…

Connor & Philip from Clonakilty Community College admire their glassware

Clonakilty Community College

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went along to the debate but the standard was a lot higher than I had anticipated. The research included many peer-reviewed articles and the teams had an adept understanding of the issues. One of the objectives of Debating Science Issues is to stimulate young people to think differently about biomedical science, as they discover the immense impact it has on society. This was evident in abundance yesterday. Well done to all involved!

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