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Bruns, R. & Davies, J. (2022). Moral weights of six animals, considering viewpoint uncertainty. Seeds of Science. (21 pages) https://doi.org/10.53975/k36y-md1m

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  doi = {10.53975/k36y-md1m},
  url = {https://doi.org/10.53975/k36y-md1m},
  year = {2022},
  month = {07},
  publisher = {Seeds of Science},
  author = {Richard Bruns, Jim	Davies},
  title = {Moral Weights of Animals, Considering Viewpoint Uncertainty},
  journal = {Seeds of Science}

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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.

JimDavies ( jim@jimdavies.org )