Irina Mikhalevich and Russell Powell, Minds without spines: Evolutionarily inclusive animal ethics


The actions of sentient vertebrates command our attention and inform our morality. Mikhalevich & Powell (2020) (M&P) argue that similar activities in a wide range of invertebrates with central nervous systems should do likewise. However, humans most readily empathize with creatures we recognize as similar in behavior, physiology, or appearance to ourselves. Helping humanity overcome this bias is a significant challenge for those who study invertebrates. Until this empathy gap is bridged, I believe few people and the policies they craft will afford invertebrates the moral standing that M&P argue they deserve. Therefore, I suggest those interested in raising appreciation for invertebrate minds should broaden the impact of their research findings. They should consider informing the lay public, especially children, through writing, speaking, and seeking non-traditional collaborations with artists, filmmakers, musicians, game developers, and others that affect popular culture.

Author Biography

John Marzluff is the James W. Ridgeway Professor of Forest Resources. He is a wildlife scientist who studies the impacts of human actions on birds in urban, agricultural, and wildland areas. His research on crows, ravens, and other birds also asks how these creatures affect human culture. Website