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Restrictions during the pandemic have tested people’s obedience and resolve. It has resulted when groups with opposing value systems have clashed. When people are forced to adopt values against their beliefs, they feel dishonest and fearful, especially when their views are ignored.

Individuals relate their views to others’. Those who believe in a religion have often have a ready-made morality but there has been a decline in divine faith. With belief in the rational laws of physics growing, the philosopher Kant was torn between religion and rationality. He compromised, wanted people to do only what they would allow others to do, calling it the ‘categorical imperative’. The philosopher John Stuart Mill wanted personal liberty to be constrained by laws that had been agreed.. Rousseau propagated a social contract of liberte’, egalite’ and fratenite’ to control individual behaviour. All this made ‘the right thing’ harder for individuals to do.

Doing the right thing and benefitting others does not come to animals naturally. Charles Darwin had individuals seeking to survive in nature, helping kin sometimes, by selfish actions and by exploiting others. In evolution theory, altruism with individuals sacrificing their genetic inheritance to benefit others’ genes and volunteering to make sacrifices for others’ benefit, was confined to group selection, or kin. Our concern here is with ‘doing the right thing’ by strangers. 

Humans have used politics to compromise and reconcile differences with strangers. Where one group is requested to help another, some individuals in both groups may regard the help proffered as a social control, causing frustration, passive resistance, protests, anger, civil disobedience and even insurrection. Venting does little to appease differences in core beliefs and rebels may strive to overthrow the system by force.

Large groups of humans exhibit The Matthew Effect, with individuals trying to join the most numerous groups. When a herd is spooked, it may be intolerant of those who don’t do what to them is the right thing. There is a sizeable industry of media trying to instigate groups to  lemming-like rushes, inevitably towards cliffs with unpleasant outcomes. 

A difficulty is to distinguish the voices of reason from false prophecy. There may be differences of principle that can only be solved by debating. Instead of productive discourse, the sides may engage in identity politics, which increases hostility. Some groups may think they know best and if they can get the upper hand, they will impose their solution on everyone. It could be that those people who extol the virtue of ‘doing the right thing’, without saying what it is, nor why everyone has to do it, are the problem. 

I have applied the above in adopting a moral position on climate science in my satirical novel Animal Farm 2


Hands off wild animals

I watched a news item on TV about golden eagles in Scotland being pursued to their eyries where their chicks were needled to extract tissue samples for DNA testing by scientists.

I want the people who carry out, or condone, activities such as this to know I vehemently oppose them.

We already know why Golden Eagles and other species are declining and endangered: human interference. Measuring their DNA can’t save them and sampling like this will hasten their destruction.

Intrusion into their territories, homes and bodies, using privileges granted to scientists, is stressful for wild creatures. It can cause psychological trauma, habitat damage, chick abandonment and reduced reproduction.

Animal capturing, enclosure, translocation, banding, radio-attachment, veterinary procedures and vaccination are also harmful.

The hypothesis is propounded that such treatment benefits the species, if not the sampled individuals. It is wishful thinking and because it can never be refuted, it is dishonest.

Vaccination of wild koalas and Tasmanian Devils is wrong. Humans do not have a mandate to intervene in evolution. Some species will rise and others will decline with change. What humans should do is minimise the effects of human change that intrudes on wild animals’ living. For example, to protect them from human infections.

Treatment by vaccination of species’ endemic infections, such as chlamydial and papilloma viruses, is a domestication strategy okay in zoos but wrong with wild animals. It is misguided to attempt to freeze the current inventories and populations of species.

Humans should not let their dealing with wild animals be corrupted by the cruelty common in their treatment of domesticated animals and other humans. They must respect animals’ sovereignty in their territories and their rights to privacy.

I call on scientists to stop using wild animals, which is bringing them into disrepute.

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