Science, Humanity, and Atrocity:
A Lawyerly Examination
The Song Sparrow and the Child: Claims of Science and Humanity. By Joseph Vining. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 2004. Pp. ix, 198. $25.
Just over half a century ago, researchers in occupied Manchuria conducted experiments on “logs”: this was their term for the human beings on whom they were experimenting. The term arose, possibly, from research on frostbite. “[T]hose seized for medical experiments,” a later report explained,
were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water, until a guard decided that frostbite had set in. . . . [T]his was determined after the “frozen arms, when struck with a short stick, emitted a sound resembling that which a board gives when it is struck.”
In one experiment, the “log” was a three-day-old baby. The researchers reported on how they overcame one obstacle in this case: “Usually a hand of a three-day-old infant is clenched into a fist . . . but by sticking the needle in [the baby’s finger], the middle finger could be kept straight to make the experiment easier.”