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Alfred Russel Wallace vs. Charles Darwin on cruelty in nature

In World of Life, Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s co-theorist, directly addressed one of Darwin’s key reasons for rejecting design in nature, in a letter to American supporter Asa Gray:

With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me.— I am bewildered.— I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. Not believing this, I see no necessity in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe & especially the nature of man, & to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.— Let each man hope & believe what he can.— (Letter 2814 — Darwin, C. R. to Gray, Asa, 22 May [1860])

Now, Darwin was a slippery character, as biographers have acknowledged, and he had been a materialist atheist long before he had any theory of evolution to propose, so his pretense of coming to these conclusions reluctantly was just that – a pretense. (See Flannery on this.)

However, Wallace addresses both examples in The World of Life. With respect to insects, he notes,

There is, of course, a large body of facts which indicate that whole classes of animals, though very highly organized, suffer nothing which can be called pain, as in the insects; and similar facts show us that even the highest warm-blooded animals suffer very much less than we do. (P. 185)

Now, re insects, Wallace is surely right, and I have never been much impressed by Darwin’s example of the Ichneumon wasp laying its larvae in caterpillars. There is little evidence that the caterpillar knows or cares that it simultaneously gorges and is gorged. Whether a given caterpillar pupates or dies is not an instance of any great evil in the world, provided no ecology is upset.

About “the highest, warm-blooded” animals, I am not so sure. However, one source of human suffering that animals don’t have is a “metacognitive” understanding of their condition. That is, the old dog Rover may think, ”I feel sick. I have no appetite, no energy. I just want to sleep all the time.” His people know, “Rover has an inoperable cancer. Sedatives and painkillers for now. Later, we must make a decision …” Rover is forever barred from knowing the nature of his condition, in the human, metacognitive sense, so there are many sources of suffering he simply cannot experience.

With respect to cats, Wallace notes, “It must be remembered that in a state of nature the Carnivora hunt and kill to satisfy hunger, not for amusement; and all conclusions derived from the house-fed cat and mouse are fallacious.” (p. 181)

One might add that the biggest worry for a wild cat or other small carnivore that its catch might be stolen by a bigger animal. Swallowing the prey whole is a common preventive tactic. (The prey may be disgorged later, of course, for offspring – but meanwhile, it is secure down the hatch.)

See Michael A. Flannery’s Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution (Erasmus, 2009) for more.

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51 Responses to Alfred Russel Wallace vs. Charles Darwin on cruelty in nature

  1. You kick a dog, it is hurt, it yelps. Yelping is a display of pain. That is why people go to prison for animal cruelty.

    Animals in nature feel pain. If they did not, they would not survive. The sensation of pain helps animals survive. Pain = Fight or Flight Instinct.

    The conclusion that God let animals be without pain is a real Croc’. Step on a cat next time you’re around one.

    I’m afraid this argument could lead to a slippery slope of animal cruelty. “If God made animals unable to feel pain, then it doesn’t matter how we kill them.” (the state of industrial farming can attest to this.)

    Animals feel pain and can suffer. Just like humans can. They do so because the sensation of pain has allowed for the survival of the species.

  2. I’m afraid this argument could lead to a slippery slope of animal cruelty. “If God made animals unable to feel pain, then it doesn’t matter how we kill them.” (the state of industrial farming can attest to this.)

    I’m going to have to agree with the_napkin here, and to an extent Darwin(!). There really is a lot of cruelty in nature, whether it inovlves humans or not. And we are responsible for a great deal of animal suffering. Factory farms, veal and foie gras production, and so forth are immoral and should be eliminated. I really think that it won’t be long until substantial numbers of people turn away from using “higher, warm-blooded” animals as food.

  3. “the_napkin” (#1) wrote: “Animals feel pain and can suffer. Just like humans can. They do so because the sensation of pain has allowed for the survival of the species.

    Even animals as primitive as flatworms, which barely have a brain and nervous system, can be observed to avoid electric shock…most likely because it is painful. (Can you hypothesize other reasons for an animal to avoid electric shock?)

  4. Thanks herb,

    I want to add on to some of that that too.

    Is the premise here that since God created all animals in nature, He would not let them suffer?

    You want to talk about suffering in nature? Watch a video of an antelope being eaten by an Anaconda. Every time the antelope breathes out, it is constricted more, forcing air out of its lungs. The death is long, and most definitely painful.

    To look at nature and say it is without cruelty is to only look at its best half.

    For every beautiful act of nature there is an equally cruel one. Every miraculous and awe-inspiring birth there is an equally gruesome death.

    Do not sell your God short by attempting to show there’s no suffering that he “designed.” It is everywhere.

  5. 5

    I have a feeling the conclusion is supposed to be that there’s less pain in nature than is supposed by some; not that there’s literally NO pain below the human level…

  6. “There is, of course, a large body of facts which indicate that whole “classes of animals, though very highly organized, suffer nothing which can be called pain”

    I think it’s trying to say that since animals don’t know the nature of their pain (metacognition), it’s less for them.

    It’s false though, obviously. The whole argument is. Just because humans know the causes of pain, does not make that feeling any less intense (or painful).

  7. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bashing Darwin when it’s appropriate, but the OP just looks to be searching for some way, however weak or convoluted, to explain how Wallace was right and Darwin was wrong on the issue of suffering. At least Darwin shows some humility and compassion in his letter; I’m not going comment on Wallace’s quote since I haven’t seen the context, but if you compare the two passages, the difference is quite striking.

  8. Why is it that Russel Wallace and the like do not consider the other angle by which to interpret what Darwin saw (change in species)?

    The darwinist worldview (particularly when used to explain origins) has an implied direction. All the arguments against that assertion are utter nonsense with regard to origins (abiogenesis).

    Maybe things did not start out this way (or to such violent extremes) and have fallen in nature. That is what the Bible clearly enunciates, especially with regard to the nature of man.

    If God is taken from the picture, we are left only with what is. In that case, it seems to me that all the talk of pain is irrelevant. The universe is full of violence from cataclysmic black holes devouring entire solar systems, to mosquitos feeding on the blood of their host.

    How can we call anything painful (in the negative sense) without invoking some metaphysical notion of what reality was meant to be? If it is painful only because we perceive it as such, then we might as well say it isn’t really painful.

    Without some form of moral judgement, there is simply no such thing as pain.

    Now, on the other hand, if there is a Biblical God, by giving man free will to some degree, He inevitably allowed for all of this and is ultimately responsible.

    That line of reasoning came up in a conversation I once had. A man was appalled at the notion that any real God would condemn him. “I have a real problem with any God who would condemn me for the way he made me”, were his exact words.

    He had a point. We are definitely products of our DNA and environment. And all of it preceded us. We did not get to choose what reality to be born into.

    Not knowing how to reply we went back to work. A few minutes later(and after much prayer and thought) I asked him, “So, are you saying that a real God would take responsibility for all of our sins?”

    It was Richard Dawkins who said, “there is no such thing as good and bad, we are all just dancing to our DNA”.

    In response, Ravi Zacharius asks, “How much more relevant then, are the words of Jesus that we must be born again?”

    For every legitimate question, there is a legitimate answer by God. For every illegitimate question and assertion God has a question of his own to define the legitimate context which has been missed.

    The problem of pain is a real theological issue. Let us endeavor to take it seriously if we wish to analyse it.

    The Bible says we live in a decaying world (universe, cosmos et al). And God knows full well the pain involved as he bore the shear weight of His responsibility on the cross.

    I can understand why people look at such a inigma as the corss with confusion. I certainly do not fully understand it. But what I do not understand is a total lack of respect and discounting of something so epic and mysterious which just happens to make sense in ways I once never took the time to investigate.

    As someone once said, ‘it is not the things I do not understand about the Bible that concern me. It is the things I do’.

    If you really want to think seriously about, start with C.S. Lewis’ book, ‘The problem of pain’. It’s a nice start for the layman like myself.

  9. –How can we call anything painful (in the negative sense) without invoking some metaphysical notion of what reality was meant to be? If it is painful only because we perceive it as such, then we might as well say it isn’t really painful.

    I think you’re searching too deep on this.

    Pain is a sensation. Just like touch, sight, smell, etc. Pain is a biological/chemical action that tells your brain to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing and focus on pain.

    Pain is REAL. You don’t need to dip into metaphysics to explain it or feel it. Pain means something bad is happening.

    –If God is taken from the picture, we are left only with what is. In that case, it seems to me that all the talk of pain is irrelevant. The universe is full of violence from cataclysmic black holes devouring entire solar systems, to mosquitos feeding on the blood of their host.

    WHY? Why is pain irrelevant if God is taken from the picture? As an atheist, I feel a burning hot stove the same way a fundamental Christian or Muslim.

    I think you’ve really turned this post around into something it needn’t be. Animals feel pain. Just like humans. God or no God. It’s the same pain telling us to move our burnt hand.

  10. I’d just like to jump in here, if I may. I did my Ph.D. thesis on animal minds. You can view it online at http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....natomy.pdf if you wish. For a discussion of which animals possess subjective awareness and are capable of experiencing pain, I suggest you have a look at pages 93 to 109 of my thesis. Although it was a philosophy thesis, I corresponded with many scientists who were doing research on animal learning and animal consciousness. I also did a lot of reading on animal pain.

    Here’s the skinny. Nociception – an averse reaction to noxious stimuli – is very widespread in the animal kingdom. Practically all animals have it. (Sharks and sponges are among the few exceptions.) However, there is a ton of neurological research showing that nociception and the subjective experience of pain are two entirely separate things.

    There’s some pretty solid evidence that a certain level of interconnectivity in the brain is a prerequisite for being able to have a subjective experience of anything. Rose’s article below, “The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes,” is worth reading on this point.

    There’s good neurological evidence for pain in mammals. The article that gets cited a lot here is one by Stoerig and Cowey on blindsight in humans and monkeys, which is in the bibliography below. There’s good behavioral evidence for subjective awareness in mammals, too. Jaak Panksepp has done a lot of research showing how similar emotional responses are across mammals. His articles on laughter in rats and on the pain of social loss in mammals are definitely worth reading.

    Once we start talking about animals other than mammals, the case for consciousness gets a lot weaker, as their brains are much less complex. Recently the case for awareness in birds has been firming up, as evidence mounts that their neural organization, while very different from that of mammals, is comparable in complexity. The articles by Seth and by Edelman are very informative on the current state of play.

    A few researchers, like Cabanac, think that reptiles are capable of a primitive form of consciousness, and recently there has been speculation of consciousness in octopuses and lobsters. this is still very contentious, and Rose’s article deserves to be read very carefully, as well as the articles by neurologists in the bibliography below.

    As regards the theological problem of animal suffering, I think the case of the wasps is unpersuasive, but I am troubled by suffering experienced by mammals and birds. A good God would not have made the world like that, in my opinion. I think the possibility of Satanic interference needs to be taken more seriously by ID researchers. We also have to clarify which parts of the creation would be immune from such interference – e.g. laws of physics and chemistry, biochemistry of DNA.

    Gotta go now. Here’s a bibliography on animal consciousness. I’ve tried to ensure that the links are up-to-date.

    Baars, B. 2001. “There are no known differences in fundamental brain structures between humans and other animals.” In Animal Welfare, 2000. Web address: http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac......2_2000.txt

    Baars, B. 2003a. “Unconscious states cast light on consciousness: Evidence from persistent vegetative states (PVS).” In Science and Consciousness Review, 2003, January, No. 3. Web address: http://brainmeta.com/forum/ind.....topic=5973

    Butler A., Manger P., Lindahl B. and Arhem P. 2005. “Evolution of the neural basis of consciousness: a bird-mammal comparison.” In Bioessays (September 2005), 27(9): 923-36. Web address of abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/en.....t=Abstract

    Butler A. and Cotterill R. 2006. “Mammalian and Avian Neuroanatomy and the Question of Consciousness in Birds.” In The Biological Bulletin 211: 106-127. (October 2006). Web address: http://www.biolbull.org/cgi/reprint/211/2/106

    Cabanac, M. 1996. “On the Origin of Consciousness, a Postulate and its Corollary.” In Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol. 20, Issue 1, Spring 1996, pp. 33-40. Web address of abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu.....t=Abstract

    Cabanac, M. 1999. “Emotion and Phylogeny.” In Japanese Journal of Physiology, 1999 Feb., 49(1):1-10. Web address of abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu.....t=Abstract

    Cabanac, M. 2002. “What is emotion?” In Behavioral Processes, Vol. 60, No. 2, November-December 2002, pp. 69-83. Web address of abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu.....t=Abstract

    Cabanac, M. 2003. “Pleasure of Taste and Phylogeny.” Presentation given at Columbia University Seminar on Appetitive Behavior (#529) on Thursday, May 8, 2003. Web address: http://www.nyorc.org/may_2003.html

    Carruthers, P. 2001. Article: “Consciousness, Higher-Order Theories of.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web address of current article: http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....ss-higher/ . Web address of original article: http://plato.stanford.edu/arch.....ss-higher/

    Carruthers, P. 2004. “On being simple minded”. In American Philosophical Quarterly, 2004, 41(33):205-220. Also in Carruthers, P. 2005. Consciousness: Essays from a Higher-Order Perspective. OUP. (Chapter 12, pp. 215-248). Web address: http://www.philosophy.umd.edu/.....-minds.pdf

    Carruthers, P. 2004. “Why the question of animal consciousness might not matter very much.” In Philosophical Psychology 17 (2004). Web address: http://www.philosophy.umd.edu/.....matter.pdf

    Crick F., Koch, C. 1998. “Consciousness and Neuroscience.” In Cerebral Cortex, 8:97-107, 1998. Web address: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~k.....cc-97.html

    Crick F., Koch C. 2003. “A Framework for Consciousness.” In Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 6, No. 2, February 2003, pp. 119-126. Web address:
    http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~k.....och-03.pdf

    Edelman D., Baars B. and Seth A. 2005. “Identifying Hallmarks of Consciousness in Non-Mammalian Species.” In Consciousness and Cognition 2005 Mar;14(1):169-87. Web address: http://tgpummer.googlepages.co.....ammals.pdf

    Koch C., Crick F. 2001. “The neural basis of consciousness.” In: The International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Smelser, N. and Baltes, P., eds., Vol. 4, pp. 2600-2604. Elsevier, Oxford, United Kingdom. Web address: http://www.klab.caltech.edu/~k.....r-NCC.html

    Koch, C. 2003. “The Quest for Consciousness – A Neurobiological Approach”. 2003. Englewood (Colorado): Roberts and Company Publishers. Web address: http://www.questforconsciousness.com/

    Laureys S., Owen A. M. and Schiff N. D. 2004. “Brain function in coma, vegetative state, and related disorders.” In The Lancet, Neurology, Vol. 3, pp. 537-546, September 2004. Web address of abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu.....t=Citation

    Laureys S. 2005. “The neural correlate of (un)awareness: lessons from the vegative state.” In Trends in Cognitive Science, Vol. 9, No. 12, pp. 556-559, December 2005. Web address of abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu.....t=Citation

    Miller, G. 1999. “Does the savagery of predation in nature show that God either isn’t, or at least isn’t good-hearted?” Web address: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/pred2.html (The article contains an interesting, well-researched discussion of animal sentience.)

    Myers P. Z. 2005. Online blog: “Bird Brains.” 9 September, 2005. Web address: http://pharyngula.org/index/we.....rd_brains/

    Panksepp J., Burgdorf J. 2003. “‘Laughing’ rats and the evolutionary antecedents of human joy?” In Physiology and Behavior, 79 (2003), pp. 533-547. Web address: http://caspar.bgsu.edu/~course.....PanBur.pdf

    Panksepp, J. 2003. “Feeling the Pain of Social Loss.” In Science, Volume 302, 10 October 2003, pp. 237-239. Web address: http://www.scn.ucla.edu/pdf/Pa.....ective.pdf

    Panksepp, J. 2003. “At the interface of the affective, behavioral, and cognitive neurosciences: Decoding the emotional feelings of the brain.” In Brain and Cognition, 52(2003):4-14. Elsevier Science (USA). Web address: http://www.psychomedia.it/rapa.....ect_03.pdf

    Panksepp, J. 2003. “The Peri-Conscious Substrates of Affective Consciousness.” In Psyche, vol. 9 no. 15, December 2003. Web address: http://psyche.cs.monash.edu.au.....ksepp.html

    Rose, J. D. 2002. “The Neurobehavioural Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain.” In Reviews in Fisheries Science, vol. 10, issue 1, pp. 1-38. Web address: http://www.animal-health-onlin.....sefish.pdf or http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/p.....e/Rose.pdf

    Rose, J. D. 2002. “Do Fish Feel Pain?” Online article. Web address: http://www.g-feuerstein.com/Presse/fishpain.htm

    Rose, J. D. 2003a. “A critique of the paper: ‘Do fish have nociceptors: Evidence for the evolution of a vertebrate sensory system’ published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, 2003 by Sneddon, Braithwaite and Gentle.” Reprinted online by United States Department of Agriculture, in its list of publications on fish welfare. Web address: http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/p...../RoseC.pdf

    Rose, J. D. 2003b. “A rebuttal to the paper: ‘Do fish have nociceptors: Evidence for the evolution of a vertebrate sensory system’ published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, 2003 by Sneddon, Braithwaite and Gentle.” Published online in In Depth, second quarter, 2003. In Depth is the official newsletter of the Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the Northern Territory. Web address: http://www.afant.com.au/newsle.....202003.pdf

    Seth A., Baars B. and Edelman D. 2005. Criteria for consciousness in humans and other mammals. In Consciousness and Cognition, March 2005; 14(1):119-39. Web address: http://pissaro.soc.huji.ac.il/.....iteria.pdf

    Shewmon D., Holmes G. and Byrne P. 1999. “Consciousness in congenitally decorticate children: developmental vegetative state as self-fulfilling prophecy?” In Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology (1999), vol. 41, pp. 364-374. Web address: http://hydranencephaly.com/researchresults.htm

    Sneddon L., Braithwaite V. & Gentle M. (2003) “Do fish have nociceptors? Evidence for the evolution of a vertebrate sensory system.” In Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, (June 7, 2003), vol. 1270 (no. 1520): 1115-1121. Web address: http://www.animalliberationfro.....elpain.pdf

    Stoerig, P. and Cowey, A. 1997. “Blind-sight in man and monkey.” In Brain (1997), 120(3), pp. 535-559. Web address: http://brain.oxfordjournals.or...../120/3/535

    Tononi, G. 2004. “Consciousness and the brain: theoretical aspects.” In Encyclopedia of Neuroscience (on-line), 2004. Web address: http://www.jsmf.org/meetings/2.....a_2003.pdf

    Van Gulick. 2004. Article: “Consciousness”. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Web address of original article: http://plato.stanford.edu/arch.....ciousness/

    Update since 2007, when I submitted my thesis.

    Barr S., Laming P., Dick J. and Elwood R. 2008. “Nociception or pain in a decapod crustacean?” In Animal Behavior, Volume 75, issue 3, March 2008, Pages 745-751.
    Web address: http://www.sciencedirect.com/s.....26526fa709

    MSNBC report. “Lobsters and crabs feel pain, study shows” by Jennifer Viegas. Web address: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29915025/

  11. The vast majority of suffering by man is inflicted by his fellows, and without the bit that occurs via nature, the cruelty of man would be unbearable.

  12. the-napkin writes: “Why is pain irrelevant if God is taken from the picture? As an atheist, I feel a burning hot stove the same way a fundamental Christian or Muslim.

    I think you’ve really turned this post around into something it needn’t be. Animals feel pain. Just like humans. God or no God. It’s the same pain telling us to move our burnt hand.

    Pain is a sensation. Just like touch, sight, smell, etc. Pain is a biological/chemical action that tells your brain to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing and focus on pain.”

    Oh yes, I am familiar…

    And your brain? Is that just chemicals also? Doing what chemicals do?

    Is the intellectual discontinuity you sense, when I talk about God being needed to address pain consistently, not really pain? Is it is just chemicals?

    Perhaps it is. Let us suppose it is. Then what ‘real’ reason do we have to consider causing pain to animals to be wrong?

    If I am understanding you, that sort of judgement would simply be our brains (made up of chemicals) doing what chemicals do, albeit a continuously evolving architechture of social constructs and feelings.
    And what a puzzling mess it is no? I once loved (nay- cherished) the puzzling beauty of it all.

    Furthermore, if that is so, then my belief that God is needed is just as natural and valid, since that is what my chemicals do. All of this reasoning is automatic. We are really not conscious of each other the way we so foolishly suppose. It is atom meet atom, not Adam meet Adam. Of course, no, even that is just my chemicals dancing with Dawkinian glee. You might as well not read this at all. Except that you must because you are. And you are because of the chemical cascade that you are.

    Well napkin, perhaps I am thinking too deep. I personally believe that you are thinking much too conveniently shallow. But my chemicals and yours are just different I guess.

    I mean… that is what my chemicals told me to think.

    Of course don’t be offended by the logic. I know you are not suggesting all that. You just see no need to reconcile things in contradiction like consciousness and matter. You accept both as realities and their resolution is simply a mystery too deeply twisted between sociology and physics to worry much about.

    Animals feel pain. That’s it! I do too. And Hitler killed Jews. Some people love their neighbors. Others eat them. Comets fly past earth now and then. And it is July 23rd.

    Or so they say…

  13. Now, Darwin was a slippery character, as biographers have acknowledged, and he had been a materialist atheist long before he had any theory of evolution to propose, so his pretense of coming to these conclusions reluctantly was just that – a pretense. (See Flannery on this.)

    Not as “slippery” as journalists on whom, as mentioned previously, it would be unwise to place sole reliance as accurate reporters of ‘truth’, scientific or otherwise.

    Compare the above with this excerpt from a longer passage from Darwin’s Autobiography to be found here

    Another source of conviction in the existance of God connected with the reason and not the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capability of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look at a first cause having an intelliegent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a theist.

    This conclusion[6] was strong in my mind about the time, as far I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of species; and it is since that time that it has very gradually with many fluctuations become weaker. But then arises the doubt — can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as the possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such a grand conclusions? May not these be the result of the connection between cause and effect which strikes us as a necessary one, but probably depends merely on inherited experience? Nor must we overlook the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children producing so strong and perhaps an inherited effect on their brains not yet fully developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.[7]

    I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble to us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.

  14. Seversky, I find myself in the privilaged position of having to thank you once again for a confirmation. :D

    After reading that, I have to say that Darwin was a more consistent philosopher than many of the pop-darwinists of today.

    The problem is not new. And cannot be so.

    “For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true… And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” (J.B.S. Haldane / When I am Dead)

    “…Unless human reasoning is valid, no science can be true. It follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe our thinking was valid, would be utterly out of court. For that theory itself would have been arrived at by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved no argument was sound -a proof that there are no such things as proofs- which is nonsense.” ( C.S. Lewis / Miracles / Chap 3 The Cardinal difficulty of Naturalism pgs 21,22 )

  15. if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true.

    The existence, or lack of existence of God doesn’t help much here. You can re-write is as follows:

    if my mental processes are determined partly by the motions of atoms in my brain and partly by some unknown entity I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true.

    Or as:

    if my mental processes are determined wholly by some unknown entity I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true.

    The basic problem of ‘how do I know I’m not deluded’ applies to theists and atheists, materialists and non-materialists equally.

  16. Lock,

    –And your brain? Is that just chemicals also? Doing what chemicals do?

    More like electrical signals, I guess. Which makes your brain move your hand off the stove. This is an instinct, to avoid pain, not some journey into consciousness.

    I acknowledge humans have that over animals, but pain is pain.

    –Perhaps it is. Let us suppose it is. Then what ‘real’ reason do we have to consider causing pain to animals to be wrong?

    Because it hurts them!

  17. BillB

    You wrote:

    The basic problem of ‘how do I know I’m not deluded’ applies to theists and atheists, materialists and non-materialists equally.

    Not so. This problem applies to those who believe either that (i) our thoughts are produced by processes which have no inherent tendency to generate truthful results, or that (ii) our thoughts are generated by a super-human Entity who is capable of deceiving us.

    The problem does not apply to people who believe in libertarian free will. Nor does it apply to people who believe in a God who is by nature incapable of deceiving His creatures about the great existential questions: Who are we? Whence came we? Whither go we?

    The problem you cited does not totally invalidate reason for Darwinistic atheists. However, it does narrow its scope of guaranteed reliability to mundane matters related to survival. Only here could we be fairly sure of arriving at conclusions which corresponded with the facts.

  18. The problem does not apply to people who believe in libertarian free will. Nor does it apply to people who believe in a God who is by nature incapable of deceiving His creatures about the great existential questions: Who are we? Whence came we? Whither go we?

    How do I know you’re not deluded when you make those claims?

    Simply claiming “I believe in a certain type of deity” or “I believe in libertarian free will” does not suddenly remove any delusional blinkers you might have. The problem applies to all and is insoluble – even if God announced that it exists and does not deceive, you are still left with the possibility that this was a lie or that you are hallucinating.

    The problem does not apply to people who believe in X

    Simply believing in something does not make it true.

  19. I should just clarify – the FACT of the existence of a deity that does not deceive and made us with trustworthy minds would mean that we can trust our minds, we are just stuck with the problem of how we can really know if this is the case.

  20. BillB

    You wrote:

    I should just clarify – the FACT of the existence of a deity that does not deceive and made us with trustworthy minds would mean that we can trust our minds, we are just stuck with the problem of how we can really know if this is the case.

    Thanks for your clarifying remark. If you are asking me whether I can logically demonstrate the impossibility of the alternatives (which would lead to skepticism), let me say up front that I cannot. What tips the balance for me are three things.

    First, on a personal level, we do need to grapple with the big questions. We cannot ignore them. We have to make up our minds where we stand on the issues.

    Second, science is predicated on the assumption that we can think straight when investigating the cosmos, and that the cosmos is the sort of thing that is amenable to straight thinking (i.e. scientific investigation). The only thing that can systematically guarantee that our minds won’t go wonky when investigating the universe, and that the universe will “behave itself” when we try to understand it, is a Deity Who is by nature loving (and hence friendly to inquiring minds), and Who made the cosmos for us to understand.

    Third, the universe is not the sort of thing that looks like it can explain itself. Everything about it screams: contingent! It seems reasonable to ask where the cosmos came from.

    If I believe in a God Who made it all, I don’t have to worry about answering 100 skeptical questions before I eat breakfast.

  21. vjtorley
    Fair enough. I have to ask though, (puts on Tina Turner costume) what’s love got to do with it?

    A deity could be entirely devoid of emotion, they just need to have created a universe that is consistent and which produced reliable human thinkers. Loving them is just a bonus.

  22. There is, of course, a large body of facts which indicate that whole classes of animals, though very highly organized, suffer nothing which can be called pain, as in the insects; and similar facts show us that even the highest warm-blooded animals suffer very much less than we do.

    Anyone know what this large body of facts is?

  23. 23

    Asserting that animals don’t feel pain supports theology, not ID.

  24. 24

    Except that it contradicts a big chunk of theology too.

  25. Briefly, Mere reaction does not signify pain in the sense we humans know it, which is why I doubt that insects feel pain. (That doesn’t justify cruelty, which can be opposed on other adequate grounds.)

    Surely no one doubts that higher animals feel pain, in the sense that humans do. The higher animals not only testify that they do by their behaviour, BUT their mental organization is such that we can see their feelings as analogous to our own.

    But, all that said, there are many sources of pain that old Rover simply cannot experience because – as I pointed out above – he cannot know certain things that would give him much more pain if he did know them. (= that he has an inoperable cancer and is not long for this world) In the same way, he has probably long forgotten his mother, so he will not learn that she died years ago and will not mourn her. He most likely never knew his sire and will not mourn him, nor his siblings either. Nor will he wonder about death or ask what might lie beyond it.

    I expect that the greater the mental capacity, the greater the capacity to apprehend sources of pain.

    Human life is full of pain and sorrow that animal life has been spared.

  26. Pain
    1. It has a clear purpose. It’s not there by accident. It is an alarm system to the organism that something is wrong.
    If there were no pain every living thing would die in very short time. Ex. If a simple flesh wound is not felt, and thus ignored. It becomes infected – still ignored… death is inevitable. Leprosy has demonstrated rather vividly the results of not have a “pain” system at work.

    2. Nature; blind, unguided, purposeless… ‘couldn’t care less’ about either pain or no pain as it were.
    The very concept of a physical damage alarm system is non existent without a foreseeing mind. Thus the fact of its existence is inexplicable without purpose for without a nerve-damage-bio-reaction system nothing would survive. So when did this system ‘evolve’? It had to be there from the start.

    So pain itself is yet another evidence of intelligent design. It exists for very important reasons.

    3. Animals and insects? Of course animals feel pain. I think most insects do as well in some form.
    But death will have us all in the end.
    So arguing against ID from the existence of pain is not only foolish – seeing as without out it nothing would survive. It’s no better than arguing from death or any other aspect of life that entails ‘suffering’.

    I suggest anyone concerned with the ages old argument against God from suffering and evil read, as Lock mentioned above, CS Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain”. It is a very deep and insightful work on the whole subject.

    4. Conscience is the nervous system of the soul. A wounded conscience is the pain of the soul – we call it “feeling guilt”. The more one offends conscience the deeper and more infect the wound becomes and eventually causes numbness – indifference.

    Of course, evil men are always either complaining of, denying the existence of or trying to explain away that too.

    5. The best explanation for ‘suffering’ and death still appears to be that of scripture:

    Wherefore, as by one man evil entered into the world, and death by evil; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have done evil

    Life in a fallen world entails pain and suffering for all – including God.

  27. Darwin’s obsession with suffering is a sign of the Unhappy Consciousness, as Hegel called it. These are sensitive souls who transfer their own unhappiness onto nature or “being,” causing them to want to negate it. Others in the category would include Plato, Calvin, and Nietzsche.

    Unfortunately the “being” that Darwin wanted to negate was God himself. Darwin is the one forcing this discussion, not Denyse. His glib dismissal of God is based on the claim that there is too much suffering in the world for it to have been the product of a benevolent creator.

    Is there really as much suffering as Darwin claims? Count us dubious. Of course there is pain in the animal kingdom. Pain is necessary to protect life. But pain is not “suffering,” which requires consciousness. This is why Lewis described the notion of animal suffering as a pathetic fallacy.

    Nor are we convinced that unreflecting creatures spend as much of their existence in pain as Darwin and his supporters would have us believe. Just how much of our own lives is spent in pain? A miniscule proportion. And what there is is generally magnified out of all proportion by consciousness, which animals do not share.

    Normally we wouldn’t mind Darwin and his fellow sensitive plants wallowing in their exquisite refinement and superiority to nature. Every age has its Jacques. But it seems a bit outlandish to negate God in order to satisfy one’s moral vanity.

  28. O’Leary,

    Are you jerkin’ us around?

    –Surely no one doubts that higher animals feel pain, in the sense that humans do. The higher animals not only testify that they do by their behaviour, BUT their mental organization is such that we can see their feelings as analogous to our own.

    –Quote from post….duh
    There is, of course, a large body of facts which indicate that whole classes of animals, though very highly organized, suffer nothing which can be called pain, as in the insects; and similar facts show us that even the highest warm-blooded animals suffer very much less than we do. (P. 185)

    C’mon now. You’re posting one thing and saying another.

    Borne,

    –Thus the fact of its existence is inexplicable without purpose for without a nerve-damage-bio-reaction system nothing would survive. So when did this system ‘evolve’? It had to be there from the start.

    So pain itself is yet another evidence of intelligent design. It exists for very important reasons.

    How?
    Why couldn’t the sensation of pain evolve? It’s not irreducibly complex. Single cells have a way in which to move away from things that can damage them, as do shrimp, elephants and puppies. Just like us humans. You cannot say with any scientific backing that pain is irreducibly complex.

    –Nature; blind, unguided, purposeless… ‘couldn’t care less’ about either pain or no pain as it were.

    Are you lost as to what evolution entails?
    Animals who feel pain are much more likely to fight or flee. This, in turn, means they are much more likely to survive and procreate. Bing, bang, boom, nature HAS a purpose for pain, it’s called survival.

    –So arguing against ID from the existence of pain is not only foolish – seeing as without out it nothing would survive. It’s no better than arguing from death or any other aspect of life that entails ’suffering’.

    You’ve really lost me on this one. No clue how you made that jump in logic. Here’s what I’m saying and it’s pretty simple:

    Pain = more able to survive = procreation = evolution

    There is not an iota of ID in pain. It is about as concrete as you can get in biological terms to support the theory of evolution.

  29. 29

    the_napkin,

    ——”Animals feel pain and can suffer. Just like humans can. They do so because the sensation of pain has allowed for the survival of the species.”

    You might be interested in this essay about vivisection:

    http://www.irishantivivisection.org/cslewis.html

    On the theory of evolution, there is no reason to refrain from hurting animals, and by extension, men.

  30. allanius,

    Is there really as much suffering as Darwin claims? Count us dubious. Of course there is pain in the animal kingdom. Pain is necessary to protect life. But pain is not “suffering,” which requires consciousness. This is why Lewis described the notion of animal suffering as a pathetic fallacy.

    Lewis, meaning C S Lewis? Does this square with the link that Clive just gave?

  31. The Napkin writes at 28,

    - 0 -

    O’Leary,

    Are you jerkin’ us around?

    –Surely no one doubts that higher animals feel pain, in the sense that humans do. The higher animals not only testify that they do by their behaviour, BUT their mental organization is such that we can see their feelings as analogous to our own.

    –Quote from post….duh
    There is, of course, a large body of facts which indicate that whole classes of animals, though very highly organized, suffer nothing which can be called pain, as in the insects; and similar facts show us that even the highest warm-blooded animals suffer very much less than we do. (P. 185)

    C’mon now. You’re posting one thing and saying another.

    - 0 -

    No, Napkin, read the terminology closely.

    Wallace calls insects “highly organized”, and rightly so, especially if you count the social organization of the social insects.

    However, it is far from clear that insects – with their highly distributed systems – feel pain in the sense that, say, primates can.

    With respect to the higher warm-blooded animals (I take it that Wallace here means primates, dogs, cats. horses, etc.), from reading the relevant passages in his book, The World of Life, I gather that he meant somethng like the point I had made earlier at 25:

    Many sources of pain to humans cannot be apprehended by an animal, even a “higher, warm-blooded” one.

    In my sad experience, the sick animal just wants to feel better. He does not know that he is dying, let alone worry what might come afterward, or what will become of those he must leave. His sufferings are limited and local, and can be adequately addressed by sedatives, painkillers, and eventually an overdose.

    Life is not like that for humans, because we cannot escape what we know.

    - 0 -

  32. 32

    O’Leary,
    Do animals have an afterlife?

    Do they have “souls” whatever you understand souls to mean?

    Clive,

    On the theory of evolution, there is no reason to refrain from hurting animals, and by extension, men.

    Why’s that then? The odd thing is, you see, that a large % of people believe in evolution. And they happily refrain from hurting both men and animals. Which would seem at odds with your statement.

  33. Denyse @ 25:

    Surely no one doubts that higher animals feel pain, in the sense that humans do.

    One of your brightest and most thoughtful ID sympathetic commenters disagrees. Or at least disagreed:

    VJtorley @

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-292357

    Insects and fish are certainly capable of learning. Indeed, honeybees (which appear to be capable of abstracting simple rules) and fish (which have excellent memories and can recognize up to 100 individuals) are quite smart. Nevertheless, the available scientific evidence indicates pretty strongly that these creatures do not feel pain.

    BTW, there VJ inks to his dissertation, which I will be very interested to read.

  34. Clive Hayden @ 29

    On the theory of evolution, there is no reason to refrain from hurting animals, and by extension, men.

    Neither, based on the theory of evolution, is there any reason to hurt animals or human beings. To argue either case would be to commit the naturalistic fallacy. The theory itself makes no moral prescriptions either way.

    Nor should we forget Genesis 1:26:

    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

    Couple this with the doctrine that animals have no souls and, on the face of it, this reads like a license to do with nature whatever we choose, which would include being allowed to inflict pain on other animals with impunity.

    Let me say at once that I believe most if not all Christians would be horrified at the prospect of casual and thoughtless cruelty to other living creatures but the fact remains that the Biblical verse and the doctrine do bear that interpretation just as some passages from Darwin’s works could be interpreted as racist.

  35. Seversky, that passage is one that I was going to bring up to the-napkin.

    I do not interpret that passage in the way taken by poular culture at all.

    In that passage, God told us the purpose He created us for; To take dominion over nature.

    Far from a license to harm, it is actually telling us part of the meaning of life before the fall.

    It appears we would all agree that man has done a horrible job with his dominion. Far from having dominion over nature, nature controls him.

    He is out of control, not in control. If he were not, we would have nothing to moralize about.

    Yet, somehow we turn that passage around to mean a license to do what we please?

    How in the name of reason would that be consistent with the rest of the Bible?

  36. 36

    Lock @ 34

    Indeed. And further in Revelations 11:18 states:

    And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

  37. Revelation 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

  38. Seversky (#34)

    You wrote:

    Nor should we forget Genesis 1:26:

    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

    Couple this with the doctrine that animals have no souls and, on the face of it, this reads like a license to do with nature whatever we choose, which would include being allowed to inflict pain on other animals with impunity.

    Before you go citing Biblical verses as proof of the cruelty of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, you might want to examine how they were understood and interpreted by the people to whom they were originally given: the Jews.

    I’d like to quote from The complete idiot’s guide to the Talmud by Rabbi Aaron Perry, 2004. (Lest anyone laugh at the title, I should add that this book was recommended by no less an authority than Rabbi Noson Weisz, senior lecturer, Yeshiva Aish Ha Torah, Jerusalem.)

    In Chapter 19: Talmudic Behavior and Conduct, p. 223, Rabbi Parry writes:

    God gave Adam, the first man, vegetation for food. It is written, “And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of the whole Earth, and every tree upon which there is fruit of a tree bearing seed, to you these shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29). Though Adam was not forbidden to use meat as a food source, he was not allowed to kill animals. If the animal had died naturally, it could be eaten as food.

    But there’s more. As it turns out, the entire Rabbinic tradition is vehemently opposed to any kind of cruelty to animals, and the Rabbis used Scripture itself to justify their position. I’ll cite the evidence in my next post.

  39. Seversky (#34)

    (Continued)

    Next, I’d like to quote from The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions by Ronald Eisenberg, Jewish Publication Society, 2004.

    In the chapter, Cruelty to Animals (p. 705), Eisenberg writes:

    The prohibition against cruelty to animals (tza’ar ba’alei hayim, lit. “pain of living things”) is a fundamental Jewish value, based on the concept that human beings are responsible for all God’s creatures. Not only is cruelty to animals forbidden, it is a positive commandment for human beings to show compassion and mercy towards them. The eating of meat was permitted only after the Flood (Gen. 9:3) and then only in moderation and tightly regulated by the dietary laws. One of the seven Noahide laws, which apply to all humanity, is the prohibition against eating the flesh of a living animal, or blood drawn from it (Sanh. 56a-b).

    Although the Rabbis agreed that human needs took priority, they opposed the cruelty inherent in the hunting of animals, even for a living. Indeed, the Talmud prohibits associating with hunters, based on the verse in Psalms (1:1), “Happy is the man who does not stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful” (Av. Zar. 18b). In the 18th century, Rabbi Ezekiel Landau noted that the only Biblical hunters were fierce characters such as Nimrod and Esau, and that this activity is not appropriate for the children of the Patriarchs. He said that when animals are killed merely for the pleasure of hunting, it is cruelty. This antipathy toward cruelty to animals is strikingly illustrated in the rabbinic prohibition against reciting the festive benediction Shehecheyanu (see p. 479) before the act of ritual slaughter or before putting on new shoes, because human enjoyment is achieved only through the death of the animal.

    As explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments, animals as well as human beings must be allowed to rest on the Sabbath (Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:14). For Rashi, this meant that animals must be free to wander about, take in their surroundings, and enjoy the beauty of nature. Similarly, animals are to be provided for during the sabbatical year, when the fields lie fallow, and whatever grows in them is to be enjoyed by “the poor of your people and the beast of the field” (Lev. 25:6-7). The angel rebuked Balaam for smiting his donkey (Num. 22:32; see p. 716), which Maimonides considered as the proof text which forbids causing pain to any animal, and God himself admonished Jonah (4:11), “And should I not care about Nineveh, that great city of more than 120,000 persons … and many beasts as well!” In the book of Psalms, God is praised as the one whose “mercy is upon all His works” (Ps. 145:9), “feeding every creature to its heart’s content” (Ps. 145:16), and who “gives the beasts their food” (Ps. 147:9). Based on the verse, “I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and [then] you shall eat and be satisfied” (Deut. 11:15), the Rabbis decided that a person is forbidden to eat before feeding his animal because the animal is mentioned first (Ber. 40a). (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Is this proof enough for you?

    By the way, whoever said that “animals have no souls”? Where did you get that idea? The Judeo-Christian teaching has always been that they lack rational souls, not that they lack souls. Anything that is alive has some sort of soul, as any Aristotelian will tell you.

    I hope this prompts you to reexamine your opinions.

  40. -vjtorley

    Your responses in this thread are very nicely done.

    I think that this is one of the many misunderstandings concerning a Biblical worldview.

    The treatment and value of women is most surely another good example. When seen in context, nothing gives women the value that the Bible does.

    In both cases, when we patiently use our full faculties to read the verses in context, it it becomes clear rather easily.

    What is also interesting, is that this problem of misapplying scripture is not new. Jesus continually corrected the culture by interpreting scripture in context. One of the things that offended the Pharisees was that He acted as though it should be obvious. And it is… but we are often very short sided creatures.

    The myths regarding the frame of reference by which to read these works are numerous.

    It is that kind of pop culture and ‘looking only on the surface of things’ that all of us must gaurd against.

    It is so natural to take the easy road, but the big picture is what we all really strive for.

    It is that spirit of truth we all must bend our knee to if we are to find the strength to endure the temptation to take shortcuts.

    For the record, I am not preaching or speaking from a position of righteousness. I only know how hard this is, and how easily we fall for lame simplistic argumentation, because I know how shallow a man I can be.

  41. vjtorley,

    I don’t mean to go all PETA on you, but what are your feelings on the kosher slaughter of cattle?

  42. Please ignore the superfluous blockquote in my post above.

  43. vjtorley @ 38 & 39

    Is this proof enough for you?

    First, let me say that I appreciate the effort that went into such a detailed response. I am happy to concede that your knowledge of Rabbinic scholarship is far more extensive than mine and I am not surprised that there is such firm opposition to unnecessary cruelty to animals in that tradition. That would be consistent with the belief expressed in my final paragraph.

    That said, we both know that Biblical texts are capable of different interpretations. The passage I quoted can be interpreted in the way I suggested – and is so understood by some – and is arguably reinforced by Genesis 9:3:

    Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things

    Is it likely that divine permission would have been given to use as meat any creature that was equivalent to man in respect of a soul?

    By the way, whoever said that “animals have no souls”? Where did you get that idea? The Judeo-Christian teaching has always been that they lack rational souls, not that they lack souls. Anything that is alive has some sort of soul, as any Aristotelian will tell you.

    I hope this prompts you to reexamine your opinions.

    It is a long time ago now but, if I remember correctly, the Christian tradition in which I was raised held that animals do not have immortal souls like those believed to be a part of human beings. This discussion of the question comes closest to my understanding especially as summarized in the final paragraph:

    But do animals have souls? Animals may be said to have souls—if the word “soul” is used as the Bible employs it in discussing members of the animal kingdom (i.e., to describe only the physical life force found within all living creatures). But if the word “soul” is used to refer to an immortal soul that one day will inhabit heaven or hell, then no, animals may not be said to possess a soul. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn, respecting the instruction on the subject found within the Word of God.

  44. herb

    You wrote (#41):

    I don’t mean to go all PETA on you, but what are your feelings on the kosher slaughter of cattle?

    Thanks for your question. Actually, I haven’t eaten meat since 1987. I stopped eating fish and seafood as well, but took up eating them again a couple of years ago, for health-related reasons.

    As regards the kosher slaughter of cattle, I suppose it was the most humane way of slaughtering cattle in an age when a totally vegetarian diet would have led to nutritional deficiencies for many people (they didn’t know about amino acids, trace minerals and vitamin B12 back then). In this day and age, I prefer to avoid inflicting any kind of suffering on mammals and birds, as I can enjoy a healthy diet without killing these creatures. That’s my own choice; I don’t wish to impose my ideas on anyone.

    Lock

    You made a very good point (#40) about the value of women in the Bible. On a personal level, I have learned a lot about the Bible’s attitude to women from Glenn Miller’s Christian Think Tank .

    Seversky (#43)

    Thank you for your post. Now I see what you were getting at when you wrote about animal souls.

    As you correctly pointed out, Christians have traditionally taught that only humans have immortal souls. In recent times, a few Christian apologists, such as C. S. Lewis, have tentatively proposed that some animals may be granted a kind of afterlife. However, even these writers do not claim that such an afterlife would include the Beatific Vision of God (i.e. Heaven). That is something of which only humans are held to be capable, because they are capable of knowing God (in a limited fashion), whereas other animals, lacking reason, are not able to speculate about realities which lie beyond the empirical realm of the senses.

    God has not revealed to us how He rights the undeserved suffering inflicted on dumb animals, but as Lewis pointed out, there are so many “unknowns” on this issue that it cannot be invoked as a valid argument against the goodness of God.

  45. vjtorely,

    Vegetarian since 1979…

  46. Mr Charrington:

    The odd thing is, you see, that a large % of people believe in evolution.

    An even larger % do not.

  47. vjtorley,

    Thanks for your question. Actually, I haven’t eaten meat since 1987. I stopped eating fish and seafood as well, but took up eating them again a couple of years ago, for health-related reasons.

    (snip)

    Thanks for your thoughtful answer. Do you think that kosher slaughter in particular should now be abandoned given that there exist methods which apparently cause the animals to suffer less?

  48. IMO it is a mistake to view the activity of the ‘lower’ animals in anthropomorphic terms i.e the wasp is being ‘cruel’ to the catepillar or the lion is being ‘cruel’ to the young antelope.

    If you haven’t noticed, each and every animal except Man provides a portion of its population to feed another member of the animal kingdom.

    The rabbit produces several to keep a few and ‘donates’ the rest to other members of the animal kingdom. Snakes produce hundreds to keep several. Insects produces thousands to keep hundreds.

    However, humans being the ‘master link’ (we are the only animals that are not predator AND prey), having dominion over the rest of the animal kingdom, and having rational souls (see vjtorley above) we are not subject to this requirement.

    Our rational souls provide us the capability to exert self-control over our reproductive behavior. I.e. only humans can regulate population by ‘choice’. Whether we exercise that choice is another matter. But the fact remains.

    There is great irony in that Man, not being subject to the natural ‘sword’, would forego prudent voluntary reproductive restraint, but rather reproduce with abandon, then slashes the fruit of its own loins with equal abandon.

    Truly, there is no cruelty in nature except in Man.

  49. Oramus,

    The rabbit produces several to keep a few and ‘donates’ the rest to other members of the animal kingdom. Snakes produce hundreds to keep several. Insects produces thousands to keep hundreds.

    I agree that it’s often a mistake to view animal interactions in anthropomorphic terms, and your use of the word “donates” here is an excellent example.

  50. 50

    Herb,

    Perhaps that is why Oramus placed quotation marks around the offending word.

  51. 51

    In the Hebrew text, the word for “soul” is the same whether referring to a man or an animal. When Adam died he returned to the dust from which he was made. Solomon wrote that man, despite all that he does in his life, dies just as an animal does.
    The superiority of man over animal is that man was created in God’s image, and the animals were given for man to dominate.

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