New article published at Seeds of Science:
Moral Weights of Animals, Considering Viewpoint Uncertainty
Authors: Richard Bruns, Jim Davies
Date: July, 2022
Areas: Biology, Scientific Ethics
Many utilitarians would like a number to use to evaluate the moral impact of actions that affect animals. However, there is a great disagreement among scholars involved with animal ethics, both about how much different animals can suffer and how much that suffering morally matters. To illustrate this uncertainty, while showing as a proof of concept that it may be possible to produce useful estimates in spite of it, we ran a Monte Carlo simulation that samples the ranges of major viewpoints scholars hold in the field, to show a spread of uncertainty for how we should treat six representative animals: crickets, salmon, chickens, pigs, cows, and elephants. The results show that the uncertainty is very large, with a 90% confidence interval ranging between an animal having no value and being valued as much as a human being. More research, in the form of expert surveys and a thorough and rigorous literature review, would be required to produce better estimates, but as an illustration, we present 20% and 40% confidence intervals, as well as the median and geometric mean, based on weighting the theories according to our informal estimate of their prevalence in the literature.
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