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Do Animals Matter (Page 3)

New challenges ahead

We’ve said that when we make decisions we are influenced by our values (what matters to us) and also by our beliefs (our knowledge of what is true).

These ideas are important because they help to explain why sometimes people make different decisions about the best path to take even if they are working with the same facts.

Sometimes when faced with a tricky question you hear someone say, “There are no right answers – we can all believe what we want.” Is that what you think? When there’s no agreed ‘right’ answer, are all answers equally good?

When we don’t know for sure…

If there’s no agreed answer, are all the ideas people come up with equally good? What do you think?

How can you tell which answers are better?

Even though humans often do not agree about which answer is best when faced with a tricky question, it is always the case that some answers are better than others. A good answer to a tricky question is one that is well researched and carefully considered.

One way to get a feel for why research is so important is to imagine you are defending your decision once you’ve made it in a court of law. It wouldn’t sound good if half way through the case you hear yourself saying, “Hmm, that’s a good point and I didn’t look into that!”


What sorts of thing might this research include?

The trickiest decisions to make are the ones that are made for a whole group of people. Suppose for example it is for you to decide what the laws should apply to dog owners to ensure their dogs are well cared for.  The challenge is that people with different values are likely to want the decision to go a different way.

At school in RS lessons you practice thinking about how you would approach this kind of problem.

So here is a very difficult question to consider so that you can practice exactly this. How would you go about trying to answer this question on behalf of society:

If we humans have the means to do so, should we change farm animals genetically so that they are incapable of feeling pain?

It may sound like an impossible question but as you will discover in this video, it’s one that society will soon need to make.

A Tricky Question

How can you go about finding an answer to this question? Here’s the question again, “If we humans have the means to do so, should we change farm animals genetically so that they are incapable of feeling pain?”
It’s clear that – as the question stands – we cannot whiz to the lab to run a practical to give us the answer. Instead the researcher’s first step is to decide what sorts of things will need to be considered and come up with a plan to research each aspect. For a complicated issue, many researchers are likely to work together in a team.


Research, Research and More Research

Researchers often know they probably will not find an answer that will please everyone but it is important to produce the best answer they can. The goal is to construct a case which is good enough to write up as an article for publication in a Journal (a scholarly magazine). Having an article accepted for publication in a good Journal is a proud and exciting moment for any researcher as it means that the case the researcher has produced is considered important and will be made available to other researchers who are also considering this question.

The more formal term for an article is a ‘Paper‘.

If you look up Professor on the Internet and visit the pages of a few, you will see that many of them list their Papers on their webpages.  What’s more, you will notice that this is true for Professors in many different fields, from Physics to Philosophy and from History to Biology. For researchers in every field, this step of writing your ideas in a Paper for other researchers to see – is an important part of your work … it’s often how you become a Professor!


© 2011 LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion)