WHAT DO ANIMALS WANT?

Marian Stamp Dawkins in Edge:

Bk_444_dawkinsm630The questions I'm asking myself are really about how much we really know about animal consciousness. A lot of people think we do, or think that we don't need scientific evidence. It really began to worry me that people were basing their arguments on something that we really can't know about at all. One of the questions I asked myself was: how much do we really know? And is what we know the best basis for arguing for animal welfare? I've been thinking hard about that, and I came to the conclusion that the hard problem of consciousness is actually very hard. It's still there, and we kid ourselves if we think we've solved it. Therefore, to base the whole argument of animal welfare and the ethical way we treat animals on something as nebulous as having solved the hard problem of consciousness seemed to be a really bad thing. Not at all a good thing for animals. I was interested in trying to find other arguments to support animal welfare; reasons why people should take notice of animals that didn't rest on having solved the hard problem of consciousness.

It seemed to me that if you think about human beings, the way to get them to change their behavior is to show them that their own self-interest lies in doing something. For example, if you argue that animal welfare improves human health, improves the health of their children, it gives them better food, it gives them better quality of life. Those arguments may actually be much more powerful for people who aren't already convinced about animal welfare than trying to use an argument based on animal consciousness, when really we haven't got the good basis for it that some people would like to think we have.

More here.

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