Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


The reader of Animal Sentience may surmise that because the weight of the commentaries on my target article, “Why fish do not feel pain,” is leaning towards not supporting my argument, it follows that the premise "fish do not feel pain" is incorrect. However, science does not prevail by popular opinion. History is plagued with numerous (and often widely accepted) examples of biological phenomena being explained by mysterious forces. In the absence of a mechanistic understanding, the many different guises of vitalism (the principle that life involves a vital energy) are often invoked to explain the unknown. Spurious assumptions tend to exist when there is ignorance and misunderstanding of mechanisms. The most effective way to argue against contrived explanations is to discover fundamental causal mechanisms. Likewise, the best way to falsify the null hypothesis that "fish do not feel pain" is to investigate the underlying neural mechanisms generating pain.

Author Biography

Brian Key brian.key@uq.edu.au is Head of the Brain Growth and Regeneration Lab at University of Queensland. He is dedicated to understanding the principles of stem cell biology, differentiation, axon guidance, plasticity, regeneration and development of the brain. http://www.uq.edu.au/sbms/staff/brian-key