Unit 3: “The Case for Leaving City Rats Alone’

Get the discussion on this article started by posting your reading response here. Please remember that you will need to post your response and then read other students' responses and post  a reply.

The academic world can often seem quite convoluted.  Anti-intellectual groups take issue with the specificity of some scientific research as a waste of money and resources.  And yet Becca Cudmore reveals in this  essay  brings light to a topic that many find unimportant, and not worth the time.

Using the  Classical Rhetoric Resource  identify the Ethos, Pathos and Logos for this article and write it into your response.   Then, answer the question: are there any stupid scientific questions?  Is there an aspect of scientific research that goes beyond the scope of useful information and discovery?

Write your response in a comment to this page.

24 thoughts on “Unit 3: “The Case for Leaving City Rats Alone’

  1. Scott Chaddon Jr

    One of the first things that Cudmore does is establish Chelsa Himsworth’s experience and traits that make her worth listening too. We are shown that Himsworth has a good sense of her subject by listing her academic achievements. Her good moral character and sense of good will are both shown by the author pointing out that the Vancouver Rat Project was started to address public health concerns. This all together develops ethos for Hemsworth.
    Throughout the main body of the article, Cudmore shows logos by explaining a string of related facts, all leading to a central point: that they should leave rat populations alone to reduce the spread of disease. This is an example of the logical appeal method of logos.
    What I found to be the strongest source of pathos in the article was at the very end. Cudmore informs the reader that some of the rats that were found were of the same species that carried the bubonic plague. This section seemed rather out of place, and the article would have been just as informative without it, suggesting that the paragraph had an alternative purpose. Cudmore also specifically used the “Black Death” when describing the disease. This, with some statistics on recent bubonic plague outbreaks, show that Cudmore is aiming to stir up the fear of plague in order to get the reader to back Himsworth’s efforts.

    “[Vancouver is] not taking the rat disease risk seriously because they haven’t seen it in humans yet — but that’s not where the diseases start.” (p.64)

    The sciences are full of near infinite fields of research, each asking different questions and using different methods. Can we say for sure that any scientific field is more important than another? I don’t believe so. Every question asked in the sciences is important, and should be researched. Even if the methods of the research are wrong, or the questions need rewording as research continues, we never know what we will find. The long-reaching impacts of the studies may be well outside of our comprehension, but this does not make them invalid.
    Research into things that do seem invalid and useless can, at very least, help us thoroughly record and check off an otherwise unresearched topic, preventing people from wasting time in the future trying to determine the same thing. This also allows people to look at the methods used and try and find different ways of going about it, moving the research forward instead of holding it stagnant.
    If we hinder research because we currently view it as useless, we hold back any future studies and discoveries that could be made. In the case of Vancouver, by dismissing Himsworth’s research, they run the risk that she may be right. They run the risk that their efforts to ‘fix the rat problem’ could lead to increased disease rates amongst their citizens.

    1. James W.

      “But that’s not where the disease start.” Is exactly the point where I realized why the research they are doing is important. Throughout this whole paper I was having trouble finding a reason for why this paper, or the research was being done in the first place. Clearly along with everyone else, we had failed to see the error or our thought process. The current thinking is, well there’s never seen these diseases in humans, so why are we worried. Cudmore bringing in the black death feeds on our fear, exactly as you say. Bringing in a disease that every person on earth is aware of, with the destruction it brought in the past. Using Pathos to build our fear to help us buy in to the paper is what makes Cudmor’s work successful.

  2. James W.

    Becca Cudmore writes about Kaylee Byers and her research on rats living in a section of Vancouver. Cudmore uses all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals throughout her paper. Strait away she uses Ethos to develop Kaylee Byers credibility by detailing her position in regards to the research being done. Not only describing her title, but affiliating her with another (likely) reputable researcher as well as the university for whom they both work. Cudmore also explains to us, “the sum total knowledge of Canada’s wild rats could be boiled down to a single study of 43 rats.” Proving that Byers is the most qualified for providing the information we were to be presented through the paper. Pathos exists within the paper, but it is a little bit more difficult to pin down. I believe that the descriptions about the family groups rats form, and the way they react when family members are killed, is designed to create empathy between the readers and the rats. Making it easier later in the paper to sell the idea that these rats should be allowed to live in peace.
    Where I get the most interest is in Cudmore’s use of Logos; or what I see more specifically deductive enthymeme. By using deductive enthymeme, Byers uses a series of easy assumptions to push her final hypothesis. She starts with; rats living in family groups, then moves through, explaining family groups have their own territory, which contains its own set of bacteria and diseases. Then, that these diseases are only spreading when rats move into another territory. It continues to extrapolate that the family groups of rats living closest to the ports, are actually preventing new diseases from spreading into the city, by killing any foreign rats that come off the ships. All of these facts work toward her hypothesis in that it may just be better for the health of the city if we just allow the rat population to self regulate, instead of killing them.
    At the end of this reading we were to ask ourselves if there are any stupid scientific questions. I believe that there are no stupid scientific question. I see this question coming from two directions. A young person asking smaller questions already discovered by the rest of mankind, but unknown to them, and scientists asking questions at the very edge of human knowledge. In either situation, the scientist is asking questions searching for knowledge that they don’t know. This search for knowledge is never stupid. A gain in knowledge, for a single person, or for the whole of mankind is always positive; no matter how large or small. We then move to the question of; is there an aspect of research that goes beyond the scope of useful information and discovery. I would also say no, there is not an aspect of research that is not useful in some way. Countless times humanity has discovered something through research, that at the time we had no idea what to do with the information. Only later do we find a way to use that information or discovery for our benefit.

    1. Scott Chaddon Jr

      Cudmore referring to the rat groups as families definitely evokes some empathy in the reader, though I wasn’t sure if that was just coincidence of terminology or not, as the term is used when describing groups of a number of different species.
      I agree with you that there are no pointless scientific studies, but, for the sake of conversation, can you think of anything that might be considered a pointless field of study?
      Perhaps the study of Byzantine Fire (also called Greek Fire) could be considered useless. Our technology is way beyond the use of that ancient weapon, yet we have people dedicating their lives to trying to figure out how it was made. (Note: I studied Byzantine fire in high school, and actually find it really fascinating, I’m just using it as an example.)

      1. James W.

        I would still say that there are no pointless fields of study, any information gained may one day be used for further advancement. However, there is no question that some fields are more deserving. Should the study of Byzantine Fire receive as much funding and man hours of research as say, the elimination of cancer, or world hunger? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean that its pointless.

    2. Ryan Hoskins-Chaddon

      This was a nice response and it actually showed me a few instances where my writing can be improved. As I’m sure you’ll find if you read my response we have very similar views on the subject of scientific questions.

      I wonder what your views are on the the subject. City rats are without doubt filled with bacteria that can be very harmful to people. While it may get worse as we cause disruptions to their communities, we are still at risk of having those bacterium cause health problems to humans in their area as well as to the people that they go and visit or encounter at work. How would you hypothetically provide a solution to this issue?

  3. Kaleigh Sparks

    Becca Cudmore talks about kaylee Byers rats traps in vancouver and discusses further about the research she is doing on the rats. Cudmore is discussing this when she talks about Kaylee’s scientific achievements and she continues to tells us that she is a bit of a celebrity for those achievements. Cudmore is using ethos to gain the essay credibility.
    throughout the article the author uses lots of logos to explain to us that we should just leave the rats alone because the rats, unbothered don’t spread disease whereas when they are bothered they go and spread diseases “the current pest control approach of killing one rat per concerned homeowner call could be backfiring, and spreading disease rather than preventing it.” In the last 2 paragraphs of the essay the author uses pathos to show their concern on the rat population spreading diseases that will eventually be spread to humans.
    In science there are never any stupid questions only curiosity and learning. There is also no such thing as going beyond discovery. There is always more to uncover and going deeper into subjects could ultimately uncover discoveries and other questions.

    1. Christian Williams

      I totally agree with how there aren’t any stupid questions because saying there are stymies creativity and curiosity. Children and even adults could be pressured into avoiding things they want to learn about in order to avoid sounding unintelligent or foolish. That effectively could put an end to going deeper into subjects and finding the next breakthrough. I thought about it more where it could become non-utilitarian if it becomes wasteful, but sometimes waste has to be created to go deeper into a field where nobody has gone or wanted to go before.

  4. Ryan Hoskins-Chaddon

    After a brief description of the environment, the essay began explaining in detail on how Kaylee Byers was performing her research; “…the rat will be put under anesthesia and will then be photographed, brushed for fleas, tested for disease, fixed with an ear tag, and released back into V6A within 45 minutes.” The author then goes into how Byers is a PhD student under Chelsea Himsworth, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and what Himsworth, and Byers, are currently studying. This is a great example of ethos as it explains not only the credentials to Himsworth and Byers, but also shows the method on how they are performing their research thus granting instantaneous credibility. As the essay goes on, the credibility of new interviewed individuals is established.
    The last paragraph on page 61 goes into detail on the possible detriment that scattering rat populations can have on the people who share the environment. By explaining how rats attain new pathogens in the previous paragraph, the author gives an example of a number of different Staphylococcus species mix and intermingle to produce some potentially powerful antibiotic-resistant species that can “…potentially spread back to people via the rats’ droppings and saliva.” While this could be construed as pathos, I argue that it is the primary logos of the essay. Taking the “Artistic Proof” of logos in the article that we read in conjunction with this essay, these two paragraphs make a case that if rats are forced to move due to disruption in the environment, and they fight for new territory, then the bacteria in one group of rats will mix with those of another group of rats and can possibly spread to the humans that live alongside them.
    The ending paragraph in this essay was largely unnecessary. After a fairly solid conclusion the author decided to talk about rats that carry the so called bubonic plague. They specifically used the terminology “the Black Death,” evoking an emotion of primal fear present throughout the world since the early 1300’s. Adding to that the author states a number of outbreaks that occurred between 2009 and 2013. They curb that fear when stating that prairie dogs are the primary carriers in North America, but it still emphasizes the necessity to study rats all the same. The paragraph is, however, attempting to persuade using emotion and that fits with pathos argumentation.
    There are no stupid scientific questions, assuming the question is in fact scientific. Curiosity and questioning is how we, as a species, has been able to develop and advance so far. If any question makes it to the researching stage, it will no doubt be useful at some point even if that point in time is not immediate. I hold a powerful belief that the pursuit of education and knowledge is an end in itself and education for education’s sake is a worthwhile endeavor. So I do not think that there is any aspect of scientific research that is not, or cannot be, useful.

  5. Alex

    Ethos: The author included quotes and evidence from professional scientists. The author primarily focused on Ph.D. student Byes, who works with veterinary pathologist Himsworth. Brief summary of 1984 study. Quotes from Aplin, biologist, and Combs, doctoral student working on genetic history of rats.
    Logos: The author how buffer of rats is good and rats moving around are bad.
    Pathos: Most people consider rats pests. The author personified the rats by explaining how they live in families and will flee when a family member is killed. Mentions the connection between rats and bubonic plague.
    One part that got me was “… she will begin to euthanize individual rats, and see how their family responds.” That’s pretty horrible if you think about it. While they are ‘just rats’, people would not be okay if someone started killing family members to see how they would react.

    “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.” — Carl Sagan.
    I would say there is almost no such thing as a stupid question. Like the quote says, I think there are ignorant questions. However even if the question is ignorant, answering it or the question the questioner should have asked will hopefully help the questioner to learn and ask better questions.
    I would not say there is an aspect of aspect of scientific research that is useless. All scientific research is useful in some way and helps use understand the world better. Knowledge is power and all that. There may be some areas of science that do not appear to be very useful at first. The article from last week is an example of this. People thought the gravitational waves did not exist and now they are discovering new things.

    One possible conclusion from this article, and what the author is arguing, is that it is better to leave the rats alone. Trying to control them just causes more problems. I can’t help but think another possibility is instead of killing a few rats in the family we need to learn how to get them all. Not just the whole family but also deal with the new rats moving in. Although if we could do that we would have. Byers research other research into “pests” may help lead use to the solution.

    1. Chelsea Barnett

      I agree with you that some questions may be ignorant and that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I also agree with you that asking questions that are ignorant can help the questioner learn how to ask better questions but I also believe that there is no stupid question because there is so much that we don’t understand about our world that there is no telling what information can be discovered by a seemingly stupid question.

  6. Marissa King

    It starts off with PhD student Kaylee Byers performing her research on rats working under Dr. Himsworth. The author then starts talking about their research about how rats invade when ecosystems get disrupted. “It comes down to where rats have found a way to access resources, which often depends on how humans maintain their own environment” (60). Becca uses ethos at the very beginning by developing Kaylees credibility by not only describing her but also another important researcher who has been doing this for years, Himsworth. It explains both of their credentials well along with actually explaining their research. Pathos was a little bit harder to find because I really hate rats and have no sympathy for them, but they do talk about how rats form families and when one of them is killed and how they react was the main part. They are trying to have you feel what the rats are feeling for example if losing a family member, which I do have to agree is sad. Lastly, Becca starts talking about “stranger” rats. “They urinate out of fear and they draw blood” (61). Its during territorial brawls where rats bacteria can mix together to create new diseases. A strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcusaureus. It included a piece of genetic material which is associated with domestic animals. Rats pick up this disease from sewers or streets and then mixes in their guts. This human-rat bug could be spread to people due to their droppings and alive. I believe this to be logos because they have knowledge about rats from a long period of time and supported their argument with actual facts.
    I believe there are no stupid scientific questions because we wouldn’t be as advanced as we are today if their was. Questions and knowledge is how we have come so far and even if your question isn’t helping today that doesn’t mean it won’t help in the near future. Their is so much to still learn and we won’t gain knowledge about this unless questions are asked.

    1. Isabella Darrah

      i think your take on pathos is very interesting. i agree that if the reader is persuaded to take pity on the rats in some way then they are more likely to agree with Byers.

    2. Justin Baugh

      I like your take on this passage, I think if we lived in a bigger city that faced rats on a more frequent basis that this article would be more effective. but they did a good job and you did a good job of pointing out where they did use pathos, logos, and ethos in this passage.

  7. Isabella Darrah

    This week I first read “The Case for Leaving City Rats Alone” and then right after read the Classic Rhetoric bit. As I read through the second piece, it was very apparent to me who/what the pathos, ethos, and logos were. Byers is the ethos. She know the good and the bad of what she is trying to accomplish. She can explain it in way that lays out the benefits of leaving rats alone while still familiarizing the reader with the legitimate downsides. Pathos is the argument that the diseases the rats carry may reach humans in a major way. It frightens the reader thinking that if we don’t listen to Byers, something bad will happen to us and our families and friends. A very emotional thought. Finally the logos comes at the end when the issues management communications coordinator for the City of Vancouver essentially says that the city’s government won’t spend the taxpayer’s money on something so seemingly small like tracking rats (64).

    1. Ruby

      I totally agree with your findings of pathos, ethos, and logos. They were fairly simple to spot, using fear is a very emotional approach. . . nearly feels manipulative to me. That might be the strongest pathos approach in my opinion.

  8. Chelsea Barnett

    Cudmore develops logos throughout the essay through referencing research throughout the essay. Cudmore develops ethos by quoting people who have a lot of education and experience to back up her essay like Byers, Himsworth, and Lindsay. Pathos is showed in Cudmore’s effort to create fear and/or disgust in the readers to persuade them.

    “A significant finding from. The project’s original phase, Byers tells me. Is that not every rat in V6A carried the same disease. Rat families are generally confined to a single city block, and while one block might be wholly infected with a given bacteria, adjacent blocks were completely disease free” (pg. 62)
    I chose this quote because it illustrates the information that can be discovered from a seeming useless question.
    There are not any stupid scientific questions because while it may seem that answering that question does not lead to any great understanding of the world, we won’t know whether the answer to that question solves a problem or not until we research it and look further into it. In this example, the information gained from a seeming stupid scientific question was very useful in protecting human health and being applied into the real world.

    1. Jasmine Reich

      I totally agree with you. Her facts were very straight forward and credible, and the fact that she’s a great writer kind of added to her established ethos in my opinion. However, she didn’t really create a reaction of fear or disgust in me, it was more guilt. The negative stigma surrounding rats is the product of the human race, all of their diseases and downfalls come from our trash and waste. But I did get a little scared when they talked about the potential diseases that rats could spread to humans and the lack of action authorities are taking. Great writing, straight forward and clear!

  9. Jasmine Reich

    This was a very eye opening article. When I first started reading, just the word ‘rat’ made my skin crawl. I thought, “There is no way she can convince me that they are good.” but she did a great job using classical rhetoric to do just that.
    Ethos- Her credibility was established to me when I read the job title and education of the individuals she was interviewing. Also, her writing style and vernacular were truly impressive and established her credibility. At the end of the article, we saw, “Becca Cudmore is a science journalist.” So that sold me on her credibility as well.
    I wasn’t skeptical of her and didn’t find myself disagreeing or wondering if she was telling the truth.
    Logos- The statistics that the experiment Kaylee Byers is conducting yields was a great use of logos. Becca Cudmore writes, “The Rat Project hypothesized that when a rat is ousted from its family by pest control, its family might flee its single-block territory, spreading diseases that are usually effectively quarantined to that family. In other words, the current pest control approach of killing one rat per concerned homeowner call could be backfiring, and spreading disease rather than preventing it.” (Side note-this is just an hypothesis of the Rat Project, not a proven theory, but still interesting none the less.) With that logic, it almost seems more ethical and practical to leave the rats where they’re at and potentially avoid widespread diseases.
    Pathos-I had a harder time finding the Pathos in this essay. To me, when they talked about rats diseases basically being the product of our trash and waste, was the use of pathos. Cudmore said, “Their garbage-based diets allow them to absorb a diverse collection of bacteria that live throughout their city, in human waste and in our homes. “So it’s not like the presence of harmful bacteria are characteristic of the rats themselves,” she says. They get that bacteria from their environment, and when they move, they take these place-specific pathogens with them.” The negative stigma around rats and the bad qualities that they have quite possibly are caused by the human race. “It’s not that rats have become parasitic to human cities; it’s more correct to say they have become parasitic to the disturbance, waste, construction, and destruction that we humans have long produced.”

  10. Justin Baugh

    Are there any stupid scientific questions? There is no stupid scientific question, but there are redundant questions like if I blow this balloon up with half helium and half room air what will happen. This passage had a very interesting question that it proposed, are diseases carried by an entire species or is it much more local than we think, like a rat family.
    “A significant finding from. The project’s original phase, Byers tells me. Is that not every rat in V6A carried the same disease. Rat families are generally confined to a single city block, and while one block might be wholly infected with a given bacteria, adjacent blocks were completely disease free” (pg. 62)
    This quote shows just how one question can tell us a lot about a species that the average person would think that it had no effect on how diseases spread. The author of this passage used pathos, logos, and ethos to persuade the readers by quoting Byers, Himsworth, and Lindsay, three scientists that study rats and are renowned for it. they use pathos to cause emotions in the reader so that they are interested in the passage and the author uses this emotion to try and persuade the reader to save the rats because they might be helping the environment, and not carrying diseases.. And they use research quotes to have logos in this passage.

  11. Christian Williams

    To begin, let’s look at how I think Ethos, Logos, and Pathos are integrated into Cudmore’s essay. First off, the strongest of either form I thought was how the bubonic plague was used towards the end of the essay. Even though nobody alive today lived through the plague, mentioning it still causes many people to shudder or for their skin to crawl. People are still fearful of the bubonic plague. The thing I thought was weird was where it was mentioned. To leave it for the end doesn’t make the most sense to me because of how strong the fear response to it is. If an author is going to allude to it, then it doesn’t make sense to me to just throw it in at the end. Ethos I think is very clear in the author’s inclusion of photographs in the essay. People see what they believe and giving your audience an image of what you’re writing about helps them see and believe more in what you present. Not only did you write about this but you can show the audience what you wrote about which could help your audience believe and respect you more. Then like every paper, logos is presented in just how your argument is construed. Presenting your argument clearly, and supporting it is the basis of every paper.

    Now looking at whether or not there are stupid scientific questions leads me to believe no. I don’t think there are stupid questions in general. If you don’t understand or know something, ask someone who might. There are probably stupid ways to ask questions, no matter how simple or complex the subject matter of a question might be. But, is there a point where research goes too far and isn’t useful anymore, for sure. Anytime that money is wasted, usefulness goes out the window. I believe in being fiscally responsible and as long as money isn’t wasted during the scope of an experiment I think that the experiment was useful. But if there is the purposeful waste or misuse of the privilege to research, then we lose a lot of usefulness.

    1. Kimberly Ulery

      I completely agree with your mention of the bubonic plague. It was odd in how it was placed, and was a bit of a shock as well. I think it brought a surprising twist to the story though, and a “Wow, I didn’t think about it like that…” moment, but was definitely bold.

  12. Kimberly Ulery

    Cudmore brought much life and light to the topic of leaving the city rats within the city, alone. She went to a level that I had never thought of, with the diseases the rats carrying being transmitted due to a rat in the family dying, thus causing the family to become fearful and run away to a new area, thus spreading disease further. I feel it’s common for us to view rats as dirty, out of place, and diseased. However the story itself pointed out how rats have adapted so well to living among us humans, and are a specie that shouldn’t be taken for granted and looked upon as any less than any other specie. While they live in the gutters, and are still in my eyes grotesque, I do have a newfound respect for them after reading Cudmore’s story. I don’t think there were any stupid scientific questions within her story. The story was informative, intriguing, and did spur empathy more than anything, but nothing about it seemed stupid. It’s a topic I, living in Alaska for my entire life, never had a second-thought about due to never running into it or thinking of it as a problem. The ethos of the story came across when she was describing the actual process of catching a rat, some of the diseases they carried, and also how some were transmitted. The pathos came out when she discussed how rat families would up and leave when a family member died, thus furthering the spread of disease and also the response the rats make to one dying, is sad. Lastly, her logic was very clear, especially when discussing the diseases the rats carried and how they transmitted.

  13. Ruby

    The ethos in this essay can be found in Beyers description of why the rats should be left alone but still ethically describing the negative effects that may be. While the pathos is that humans may be affected by the rats diseases, thus frightening readers to the point of view of Beyers. The logos is found when the government won’t pay for the tracking of rats.

    Is there any dumb questions? I don’t think so. Any bit of curiosity is legitimate in a sense of helping understanding and learning. But finding the answer to some questions might not be so simple and may be better off left alone if it may hurt others or be more negative than beneficial through the process of discovery

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