Are Danish School Kids Being Tested like Guinea Pigs?
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Denmark eased its coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday by reopening schools and day care centres, but concerns they might become breeding grounds for a second wave of cases convinced thousands of parents to keep their children at home. The rate of new cases is falling, but the government’s decision has led to a heated debate over how to balance the needs of the economy and the safety of the population – in this case its youngest citizens.(1)
For example, in Denmark, some parents opine that their children are safer at home than at the schoolhouse.
“I won’t be sending my children off no matter what,” said Sandra Andersen, the founder of a Facebook group called ‘My kid is not going to be a Guinea Pig’ that has more than 40,000 followers. “I think a lot of parents are thinking, ‘Why should my little child go outside first’,” said the mother of two girls aged five and nine.(1)
Parental choices—about health, safety, and whatever else is best for children—are part of what parenting is all about. But comparing children to “guinea pigs” is quite a jarring notion. In the minds of most folks, “guinea pigs” are the equivalent of “lab rats”.
Whenever rats are used for scientific experiments, in laboratories (or elsewhere) they are nicknamed “lab rats” – with some serving as the “control” group, to be compared with the “experimental” group, the latter being subjected so some kind of experimental event or condition, similar to the controlled experiment devised by the prophet Daniel, in Babylon.(2)
Traditionally the rat most often employed, for laboratory experiments, has been the albino variety of Norwegian Rat (Rattus norvegicus).
Oddly, the Norwegian Rat played a providential role in ending the “Black Death” Plague—the Bubonic Plague transmitted by the Black Rat (Rattus rattus)—which repeatedly wreaked pandemic havoc. Until displaced by the more ecologically competitive Norwegian Rat, the Black Rat’s transmitted the Black Death plague (in conjunction with certain co-vector fleas and bacteria) during the late Dark Ages and again during the early Reformation era.(3)
Regardless of how heroic some rats have been, historically, surely no caring parent wants his or her child to be treated as a “lab rat”—or a “guinea pig”!
But, biologically speaking, what are “guinea pigs”? The name is misleading—they are not pigs; also, they did not originate from Guinea.
Like rats, mice, squirrels, voles, and prairie dogs, the “guinea pig” (Cavia porcellus) is a relatively small rodent, not at all belonging to the swine family (just as “hot dog” is food hopefully having no canine ingredients!).
Larger than mice, rats, or voles, the guinea pigs of today often weigh between 1½ and 2½ pounds (i.e., between 700 and 1200 grams), but otherwise resemble a plump furry rat.(4)
Nowadays, this rodent–also called a “cavy” (or “domestic guinea pig”)—usually grows no bigger than a rabbit, but in earlier times much larger versions once lived and died—and sometimes became fossilized.(4)
These rodents, in the wild, thrive in grassland habitats, such as the pampas of South America. Guinea pigs are not known (so far) as burrow-builders, yet they have been observed to “borrow” the burrows built by other animals, or to take shelter in rock crevices that may be conveniently available.(4)
Unlike small mammal stockpilers—such as the “haypile”-hoarding pika, who accumulate vegetation for winter food needs—guinea pigs acquire and eat grass (and other plant material) like hunter-gatherers, migrating (in “herds”) to find available food, in reaction to changing environmental conditions.(4)
For many, however, guinea pigs are just cute little pets!
Biblical creationists should have a special appreciation for guinea pigs—and not just for their usage as experimental animals. The first scholarly research, on guinea pigs, was published by Dr. Konrad Gessner, a Swiss young-earth creationist.(5)
Dr. Gessner provided an enormous foundation for the intertwined sciences of creation ecology and creation biology (including their sub-disciplines, creation zoölogy and creation botany), back in the mid-1500s—descriptively documenting the guinea pig’s biology in 1554.(5)
But appreciating the experimental role and reputation of the guinea pig is one thing—yet having one’s child treated like a guinea pig (or a “lab rat”) is quite another. So it is easy to sympathize with the Danish parents who are among the more than 40,000 followers of the ‘My kid is not going to be a Guinea Pig’ Facebook group.
And yet the healthcare-vs.-recovery dilemma is really not that simple. Are the children who return to school the experimental “lab rats”, with the stay-at-home kids serving as the “control group”? Or is vice versa the case, with the staying-at-home children serving as the real “guinea pigs”, while the returning-to-school kids are restored as the real “normal” standard?
Now as always—in Denmark and everywhere else—parents need God-provided wisdom to best care for their children.