There’s really no excuse for someone who has earned a PhD to be offended at the concept of defending their theses and being held to a standard of evidenced based argumentation and unbiased interpretation of data. Sadly, PhDs are fallible and prone to the same illogical self-serving rationalizations and breed biases as anyone else in the greater dog debate. To simply cede to their assumed authority or expertise is a logical fallacy and it’s actually quite telling when someone who should have the experience and fluency in a subject fails to form a cogent defense of their position.
This blog is no stranger to calling out PhDs on their bullshit, especially when it’s obvious that breed bias has fuelled motivated reasoning and deceptive arguments. Any argument needs to stand on its own merits, not any fallacy appeal to education, experience, or expertise. You’ll notice a pattern among all the PhDs covered here: they allow their bias to aggrandize their own breeds to supersede their integrity as intellectuals. Here are some examples of PhDs that have been subjected to the Border-Wars logic hammer:
Dr. Carmen Battaglia, BA Psychology, MS Social Welfare, PhD Criminology Corrections and Sociology from Florida State University
Dr. Battaglia wants you to believe that tickling a newborn puppy’s toes with a Q-tip for only a few seconds per day for only a few days after its birth is going to result in amazing and profound health and performance benefits throughout the dogs life. He co-opted the name of a failed military program that had dismal results and sells his overly-exact method on cruise ship conferences to eager but naive breeders looking for amazing results with little effort. It’s complete quackery and the only saving grace is that it’s likely entirely benign to the puppies who are subjected to it.
In only 15-25 seconds a day for only 14 days in a dog’s life you will realize “life long lasting effects:” “improve performance,” “respond maximally,” “attain sexual maturity sooner,” “resist cancer and infectious disease,” “withstand terminal starvation,” achieve “psychological superiority,” “stronger heart beats,” “stronger adrenal glands,” and “improved cardio vascular performance!”
Carmen Battaglia’s criminal misrepresentation of the defunct military Super Dog (which he calls Bio-Sensor) program is covered in four posts:
|Bio-Sensor is Bad Science: Quackery||Bio-Sensor is Bad Science: True Biosensor||Bio-Sensor is Bad Science: Superdogs Are Made, Not Born||Bio-Sensor is Bad Science: Super Dog Failed|
Battaglia likely came across the Military Working Dog Program (dubbed “Super Dog”) while researching his own breed, German Shepherds who were the breed of choice for that program and others looking to develop military dogs. It’s not a stretch to believe that part of his infatuation with the junk science of “Bio-Sensor” stems from the branding of German Shepherds as ideal working, protection, and police/military dogs and the opportunity to increase their image in this regard. This same German Shepherd breed bias is behind Battaglia’s other major educational initiative: to push Brackett’s Formula as an ideal inbreeding scheme to produce perfect German Shepherds. Lloyd Brackett was a “father of the German Shepherd” in the USA.
The claims Battaglia makes in support of Brackett’s formula are critiqued in these two posts:
|Brackett’s Formula for Failure||Brackett’s Formula: Nothing Special|
There is no magical amount of inbreeding that will maximize benefits and minimize detriments, and the entire Brackett’s Formula sales pitch is a logical fallacy appeal to Brackett’s supposed success in the breed ring after using his “formula.” You’ll notice a pattern in Battaglia’s promotion of both Bio-Sensor and Brackett: they both offer supposedly amazing success for very little thought or action. Bio-Sensor is like “Puppy raising for Dummies” and Brackett’s Formula is like “Inbreeding for Dummies.” Both are supposedly proven by how amazing German Shepherds are.
Battaglia exploits his position within the AKC and the Dog Writers Association of America to promote these pseudo-science pamphlets to eager but ignorant dog breeders who want easy answers to complex questions. It’s alarming to me how popular both of these protocols are within hobby breeders and I know numerous breeders who use and swear by both despite the obvious conclusion that they hold little value and are unethically being pitched as best practices for dog breeders.
Battaglia’s bias toward German Shepherd supremacy and fondness for a notable GSD breeder have corrupted his exercise of basic reason and ethics.
Dr. Melanie Chang, BA Communications, PhDs in Anthropology and Biology from the University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Chang has a deep interest in promoting the “working” faction of Border Collies over the show faction. She has Border Collies herself and even acquired an imported working dog that she intended to trial with–this is sort of a status symbol within the trialist culture: newbies train their own pet dogs and both handler and dog being novices usually fails to produce great results, so more serious hobbyists will get a started dog off of someone more experienced, followed by getting a dog from a top winning trialist in the US, and for those with the money an imported dog from the UK with ISDS papers is the luxury model.
The US trial community has a breed split deep within their culture and this war plays out constantly within. Donald McCaig’s book, “The Dog Wars,” documents this political war over registry politics, mostly between the ABCA and the AKC over splitting the BC gene pool but it also touches on the previous registry wars within the US Border Collie world (between now defunct registries that each focused on a certain philosophical ideal of dog, trial vs. actual farm work, imported vs. home grown, etc.).
So it’s not particularly surprising that while she was working on a study involving neurotic behaviors in dogs, of which Border Collies are of interest because they popularly display several neurotic behaviors (notice that this isn’t really a good thing for most owners and speaks poorly to the compromises people have made in the breed for working performance), Dr. Chang expanded the scope of the study to inquire if there was a genetic split within the Border Collie breed (this can’t be of much interest to science, especially the sort being looked at by this study, but it is clearly of interest to people with an agenda to politically split the breed).
The thinly supported argument presented by Chang that there is “a genetic split within the breed between working and show Border Collies that is probably as large as the genetic distances between some breeds” is questioned in these two posts:
|A Breed Apart I||A Breed Apart II|
Dr. Chang uses biased sampling and scant sample size to make a point that her data is insufficient to make, that there is a breed split in Border Collies. Notice how much diversity is shown in the Australian Shepherd chart, several dogs are easily at a greater distance from each other than the few Australasian Barbie Collies are from US trial dogs, but the conclusion is presented in that manner by Chang. A SPLIT AS LARGE AS SOME BREEDS! Well, which breeds and what are the size of these splits? Are we talking 13 inch beagles from 15 inch beagles here or Chihuahuas vs. Great Danes? Is the split more impressive than the one we might expect to see forming between the Groenendael, Laekenois, Tervuren, and Malinois?
Notice too that the split is presented as not only an extant fact but it’s not questioned as a negative thing. With a larger sample size and a wider spectrum of genetic analysis, Chang and her colleagues could put together an analysis of the genetic health of the Border Collie in terms of the number of alleles they have per locus and how those alleles are spread within the population. We could then assess what the cost of that “breed” split really is and what we’d be sacrificing by placing political barriers between those populations and discouraging people from breeding them together.
Dr. Chang et al didn’t find the genes for noise phobia or any other neurotic behaviors in Border Collies, but they did get around to publishing a more complete summary of their work before their lab shut down entirely.
In the supplemental materials to that publication, you can see that the “Barbie Collies” in pink actually cluster with several “Working Border Collies” in red. So the “split,” much like what defines a breed in general, is what we make of it, and Dr. Chang made a bigger deal of it than the scant data supported.
Another PhD who has allowed their breed-bias for trial-bred Border Collies to taint their analysis is Dr. C. Denise Wall.
C. Denise Wall, BS Medical Technology, PhD BioChemistry from the University of Tennessee Memphis
Like Dr. Chang, Dr. Wall participates in sheep dog trials as a hobby and is supportive of both institutional separation and genetic separation of trial dogs from show dogs (as well as sport dogs). Unlike Dr. Chang, Dr. Wall has a long history within the breed and the ABCA (like being a long time member of the Health and Genetics Committee) and is not an active research scientist. But this has not prevented her from putting her name behind an essay which seeks to rationalize an extant fault within Border Collies (their hips aren’t particularly impressive) and justifying the purging of not only show dogs, but dual purpose and “versatile” bred dogs as well.
Dr. Wall’s arguments are put to the test in these two posts:
|Hip Dysplasia an Advantage?||Versatility “Dangerous” to the ABCA?|
Both Melanie Chang and C. Denise Wall are biased in favor of trialing border collies and against the rest of the border collie population, namely sport dogs and show dogs. They are both interested in a religious/philosophical division of the breed and thus they push interpretations of data and administrative registry policies that support a physical, genetic, and conceptual split to become more of a reality. They both also participate in apologia for trial dogs by attempting to recast negative aspects of the breed–neurotic behaviors in the case of Chang and hip laxity/hip dysplasia in the case of Wall–as either positives or sine qua non features that are necessary evils to maintain working ability. Our dogs are neurotic and have blah hips, but FUCK THOSE SHOW DOGS! That is all that’s really important.
As with the other PhDs covered here, they have allowed their breed bias to supersede their basic reason and ethics.
Dr. Bruce Cattanach, BSc Agriculture, PhD and DSc Mutagenesis & Mammalian Genetics
Dr. Cattanach is both a geneticist and a breeder and exhibitor of purebred Boxers. BorderWars first covered his work on this excellent article on inbreeding, that still contained a small but important fault as described in the Inbred Mistakes VI post. Any proactive health focused breeder should support Dr. Cattanach’s conclusion “there is no need to inbreed/linebreed these days and the price we will pay for continuing to do so, whether as standard procedure or otherwise, will be far too high.” But his bias toward pure-bred dogs has tainted his argument that deleterious recessives are not rampant in dog breeds. Evidence keeps mounting that genetic diseases are more numerous and more prevalent in all purebred dogs. To say they are not is simply an argument from ignorance, specifically our own ignorance as to the genetic causes behind many (if not most) of the afflictions that plague our dogs.
For example, before there was a name and a DNA test, “Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome” wasn’t even on the radar in Border Collies. It was a disease that typically killed puppies before they’d go to their new homes so there weren’t outraged owners demanding answers and the breeder code of omerta ensured that it just wasn’t talked about openly, if at all. Heck, even after it had a name and a test the working community insisted it was just an Australian show problem and nothing of the sort was known about in the UK and US working dogs, but then testing showed that even ISDS dogs have the gene.
This one observation completely destroys Cattanach’s assertation that “were deleterious recessives to be so common in dogs, every one of us who breeds dogs would be finding abnormal pups in most litters, and this is patently not the case.” The TNS case shows that breeders aren’t even good at identifying deleterious recessive diseases when they appear early when breeders have a lot of puppies in their sample. How are breeders really to make the same sorts of assessments on all the dogs they sell and don’t see often or at all for the rest of their lives? And how many causes of death work out to be a named and known recessive disease? Plenty of dogs die of “kidney failure” or “infection” or unspecified disease path that NEVER gets linked to some underlying genetic condition or reported back to the breeder. So the contention that we have a good handle on deleterious diseases in purebred dogs and that breeders are in a good position to take note of all of them is just not credible. We should err on the side of caution and appreciation of our ignorance.
Another serious criticism of Dr. Cattanach’s work stems from using his position to denounce a Toller outcross for genetic health reasons as well as his clearly biased assessment of the negative health consequences of the bobtail gene. These arguments are presented over several posts including a good back-and-forth with Dr. Cattanach:
|Without a Tail to Sit On||Like a Bobtail Without an Anus||A Long Tail Cut Short||Inbred Mistakes VI|
Similar to the other PhDs, it’s clear that Dr. Cattanach’s bias for his own dogs has tainted his interpretations. He downplays recessive disease in purebred dogs because he has a major investment in purebred dogs. He downplays the negative health effects of the bobtail gene because he structured an entire breeding program around bringing that gene into Boxers to keep the look of a docked tail after legislation banned the manual docking of tails in UK dogs as cruel. Although the rest of his work and research is decidedly against known health disorders in Boxers, it’s telling that he has never outcrossed to work against health issues, only for the shallow reasons of aesthetics, and in doing so, introduced a gene that has negative side effects which he is not forthright about into his breed.
He even went so far as to call into question a study which documented ill effects of the bobtail gene even though those scientists used the genetic test for the allele that Cattanach developed!
So while I don’t doubt that he wants healthier dogs, he has in effect created less healthy dogs by outcrossing and failed to use outcrossing to create healthier dogs. On top of that he has slandered a breeder who HAS done that, to outcross to promote health. That’s very counter productive and a horrible precedent to set for the rest of the fancy who lacks Cattanach’s genetic expertise: Hey, if there’s some really shallow and unnecessary conformation issue in your breed, go right ahead and outcross, and do it now! But if there are fundamental and insurmountable genetic issues that can only be solved with outcrossing, let’s talk more about it, we need more research, and anyone who does outcross just to bring in new genes (like DLA immune system alleles) needs to be disparaged and shunned.
It’s ironic that before his inclusion in Pedigree Dogs Exposed 3 Years On, Dr. Cattanach published a critique of Jemima Harrison concluding that “I think you have done more good than harm.” Unfortunately I think that his outcross project has done more harm than good to Boxers and his attack on a breeder looking to combat a genetically bereft breed via an outcross has certainly done more harm than good.
And that leads me to the last two PhDs who have gotten the Border-Wars treatment. The breeder that Dr. Cattanach criticized was looking to bring in more diversity to the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. This is a breed that has some of the fewest founding dogs and smallest gene pool of any breed and their life expectancy suffers greatly for it. The final two PhDs are both owners and breeders of Tollers and their judgement and analysis of their breed suffers for it.
Dr. Claire Wade, BSc from MIT and PhD from the University of New South Wales
Given that Tollers are a rare breed with both a small founding population and small extant population around the globe, which suffer from both severe inbreeding and a number of inbred diseases, you’d think that they would be lucky to have any traction at all with canine genetic researchers let alone having two PhDs who own, show, breed and study them.
But that’s not the case. Tollers are being ill served by Dr. Claire Wade because she has drunk the purebred koolaid and believes that the artificial concept of breed purity is more important than genetic health. She’s gone so far as to publish apologia for Tollers that states “Any claims that this breed requires urgent out-crossing are ridiculous and I truly hope that such claims will be ignored.”
In the same open-letter she also claims that Tollers are only being targeted by evil bloggers like Border-Wars because the Toller community is so open with sharing their dogs’ problems to assist with research: “We need to be exceptionally careful not to confuse breeds that assist research with genetically unhealthy breeds.”
She doubles down on the delusion that Tollers are so healthy that out-cross supporters are worthy of being ignored (is that how the Scientific Method works?), she makes bold claims about Toller health:
My observations are that the occurrences of genetic disorders in this breed are well below the norm for high population size breeds, let alone rare breeds. I am appalled that this breed is being targeted simply because the breeders have been open and interactive with scientists.
This is utter bullshit.
For a breed that is not afflicted with a pronounced conformational dysfunction (like dwarfism or brachycephaly) that is written into its breed description, Tollers are rife with genetic disorders. Tollers are frequently affected by a Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE) related disease, so much so that it has been dubbed as “Toller Disease.” Forty percent of Tollers are carriers for Progressive Retinal Atrophy and 7% are affected with the recessive disease. One in 6 Tollers have Autoimmune Thyroiditis. Only one in a thousand other dogs are affected with Addison’s Disease but 1% of Tollers suffer from it and 18% are carriers. An estimated 2.5% of the Tollers studied in Norway have Aseptic Meningitis, and Steroid Responsive Meningitis-Arteritis (SRMA) is common enough in the breed to be dubbed “the other variant of Toller disease.”
Add to this list growing concern and awareness of Pulmonic Stenosis, Subaortic Stenosis, Auto-immune Hemolytic Anemia, Pemphigus, Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis, Hypothyroidism, Collie Eye Anomaly, Congential Deafness, Epilepsy, Hip Dysplasia, Herniated Spinal Discs, Hydrocephalus, Megaesophagus, Chondrodysplasia, and undiagnosed but present disease paths.
Beyond this list of disorders in the bred, health surveys indicate that the average age of death for Tollers is a mere 6.4 years. Another study found that One in Three Tollers surveyed died of cancer and the median age at death was 8 years.
There is NO SUPPORT for Dr. Wade’s bogus assertion that Tollers are healthier than large breeds or even better than other rare breeds. But that letter isn’t Wade’s only distortion, she has even committed academic fraud in the design of her published papers in order to downplay Toller shortcomings as I have documented in these six posts:
|For Whom the Dog Tolls||Academic Fraud in Toller Research
||As the Toller Burns|
|Pedigree Collapse||COI: How Many Generations are Enough?||Monitoring the Chatter|
Dr. Claire Wade’s partner in crime in Toller Apologia through Academia is Dr. Danika Bannasch.
Dr. Danika Bannasch, BS Genetics from UC Davis, PhD Molecular Biology from Princeton, and DVM from UC Davis
Just like her Best Friend Forever Claire Wade and Dr. Cattanach, Dr. Bannasch is disgusted by the notion that Tollers need to be outcrossed to combat the numerous health issues manifest in the breed.
“This ‘need’ for an outcross is ridiculous. I have no issues with outcrossing when there is a clear purpose and scientific reasons for doing – ie the Dalmatian backcross. Tollers are in very good shape from a population genetics standpoint.”
Given that the average Toller has a COI of over 25% (as if they were the product of a father-daughter or sibling mating, even when they are not) the level of consanguinity in the breed is a touchy subject to Toller apologists who have bought into the “pure” hype of pedigree breeds and desire to keep the stud book closed. Not only is Bannasch a Toller apologist and a strident believer in breed purity (she states that the ONLY reason you should outcross is if that is the ONLY option available to you), she’s also an apologist for severe inbreeding of closed populations such as dog breeds and lab mice.
In a response to Jemima Harrison over her coverage of Tollers, Danika claims that strains of lab mice are highly inbred and are quite healthy and fertile! This, of course, is also bullshit and is refuted in the following post. Those lab mice are quite inbred but they are also atrociously unhealthy and prone to numerous devastating diseases and many of the lines are so infertile that they can only produce more by cutting the ovaries out of the sick inbred lines and putting them into healthy outcrossed females.
|Those Inbred Lab Mice|
You have the published works and responses of the PhDs above and you have my analysis of where they’ve gone wrong. Every single one of them has distorted the truth or violated the standard of impartial and unconflicted analysis in their arguments in a manner that benefits the public perception of their breed or their breeding programs.
Dr. Battaglia wants you to buy his books, attend his lectures, and respect him as a purveyor of classified military techniques to create super dogs and breed winning German Shepherds. He wants you to believe that both programs are time-tested and highly vetted by experts and guaranteed to produce profound results when his schemes are actually impotent (Bio-Sensor) and fraught with unintended dangers (Brackett’s Formula).
Dr. Chang wants you to believe that her aversion to show bred Border Collies has manifested itself into a genetic split in Border Collies that is remarkable for being as large as splits between other breeds. This genetic observation would support her desire to continue the political ostracism the trial community exerts against sport and show bred Border Collies using registry policy. To make the argument Dr. Chang is want to present, she really needs to expand the sample to compare Australasian show dogs vs. Australasian working dogs and UK show dogs versus working dogs to rule out the effects of geographical isolation. It’s also imperative to define what genetic distances we’re really talking about and how those compare to distances between other breeds, this needs to be a specific and objective measure, not subjective and vague.
Dr. Wall wants you to rethink Hip Dysplasia as a necessary evil because working Border Collies supposedly need hip laxity for performance when the truth is that she wants to explain away the inability of selection for trial success to purge the breed of HD.
Dr. Cattanach wants you to think highly of his outcross program where he introduced a disease gene into Boxers to circumvent a humane treatment law, so he’s not forthcoming on the potential hazards of the gene he decided to use. He also places the unscientific concept of breed purity above genetic health in dogs such that he is skeptical of any outcross that is not a last resort to replace a disease allele that is saturated in a breed.
Dr. Wade wants people to think well of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers and thus she wants to downplay the disease levels in the breed, their small founding population, the genetic loss since their founding, and the level of inbreeding present in the current population. She too wants to place the concept of breed purity above actual genetic health and so she wants to slander anyone who supports outcrossing Tollers save the last-resort case of a 100% saturated disease gene (like we’ve seen in Dalmatians). And she thinks this extremist stance against outcrossing makes her circumspect and open to outcrossing, because she’s not against any and all outcrossing by being supportive of the one rare and extreme case.
Dr. Bannach also wants people to think well of Tollers and thus she downplays the dangers of inbred strains, misrepresenting the actual state of health of inbred lab mice. This serves as supposed evidence that you can inbreed with abandon and still have healthy stock, so that the already highly inbred Tollers can be claimed to be healthy when they are not. The mice are not healthy and neither are Tollers and Bannach knows this but distorts the truth to attempt to win an argument.
ALL of these PhDs have used motivated-reasoning to lie to you and make you believe things which are not true and which make them all look better for their particular biases towards their breeds of choice. The numerous posts linked above have outed both these conflicts of interest as well as the specious reasoning and evidence these PhDs have used. None of these arguments presented on BorderWars stands on an appeal to this author’s education, authority, or original scientific research. They all stand only on the quality of the arguments themselves.
While we should expect more from people who are professional scientists and supposedly ethical and supposedly working with the expertise, experience, and standards to present only facts and unbiased analysis, it’s crystal clear all of these scholars have failed in that regard. In this case, an appeal to a PhD is more apt to invoke images of bullshit piled higher and deeper than it is to confirm a superlative standard of quality.
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