AR-FAQ - #35

#35 Animals are just machines; why worry about them?

Centuries ago, the philosopher Rene Descartes developed the idea that all nonhuman animals are automatons that cannot feel pain. Followers of Descartes believed that if an animal cried out this was just a reflex, the sort of reaction one might get from a mechanical doll. Consequently, they saw no reason not to experiment on animals without anesthetics. Horrified observers were admonished to pay no attention to the screams of the animal subjects. This idea is now refuted by modern science. Animals are no more "mere machines" than are human beings. Everything science has learned about other species points out the biological similarities between humans and nonhumans. As Charles Darwin wrote, the differences between humans and other animals are differences of degree, not differences of kind. Since both humans and nonhumans evolved over millions of years and share similar nervous systems and other organs, there is no reason to think we do not share a similar mental and emotional life with other animal species (especially mammals). LK