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← Toward a Science of Morality

SteveN's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by SteveN

...I do disagree with this new additon to his thesis: Do monkeys suffer more than mice from medical experiments? (The answer is almost surely "yes.") --Sam Harris With respect to suffering of physical pain, I do not see any basis for how that could be determined. In fact, who is to say the mouse does not suffer more? It seems to me the mouse and monkey must be equally capable of experiencing physical pain. How about pyschological pain? Because of the cognitive differences that exist  between monkeys and mice, we might expect a difference, but I would not use the word "surely" as Harris has done. Terror and panic seem to be basic responses that even a mouse can experience.

Although I agree that Sam cannot know whether a monkey suffers more than a mouse, I expect that he is just generalising with regard to brain complexity. If I say that a mouse will suffer more than an amoeba, no-one will object (I assume). This is to accept that suffering is more or less dependent on the complexity of the organism. There is continuous sliding scale of complexity from amoeba to mouse, so where do we draw the line?

Of course, there may be something about the particular make-up of a mouse brain that renders it exquisitely sensitive to suffering despite being less complex than the primate brain, and Sam's comment would therefore be absolutely wrong. However, it seems to me that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, his point is justified.

Sat, 08 May 2010 06:35:39 UTC | #467707