Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Argument From Animal Suffering

Hello my smart friends out there in virtual reality land!

It's so good to be back home with family and friends. Not that I didn't love being with all the philosophical, theological and scientific brainiacs out in Quincy. But, like the great philosopher Dorthey once said while holding her trustworthy dog Toto:

"There's no place like home."

Amen to that!

Now, I've gotten a lot of e-mails in response to my science and theological conference blogging. It was really quite amazing. I was really impressed with some of the input I received. We've got some pretty high level scientists and philosophers checking in on this site! Wonderful!

The most discussed topic - and undoubtedly the most controversial - was my contention that natural evil can only be adequately explained if we accept that fallen spirits have to some degree corrupted nature. Some bloggers really liked the idea, but many did not. So, in the next couple of blogs I thought I’d briefly summarize my reasons for holding to this position.

I will call my first argument The Argument From Animal Suffering.

I contend that animal suffering is an evil that needs to be accounted for by theists who believe that God is all good and all powerful. Many have tried to argue that animals don’t really suffer, but their arguments are simply unconvincing. (For a SUPERB refutation of these arguments, as well as an eye-opening account of how animals suffer in our Industrial Farms, see Matthew Scully’s book, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. It’s brilliant.)

Consider this: All developed societies punish people when they inflict unnecessary pain on animals. This practice only makes sense if we share a fundamental conviction that animal suffering is an evil that should be avoided and remedied when possible. So, if we accept that God is the Creator of nature, and if it's true that nature sometimes (often!) makes animals suffer, then it seems we have to either:

a) hold that God is responsible for animal suffering, hence not all good;

b) hold that God is all good, but animal suffering is necessary; or

c) hold that free agents are responsible for animal suffering.

Option (a) obviously isn't viable for people who believe God is all good. Option (b) is a possibility, but I've frankly never found it argued convincingly. (This denial will of course have to be further developed). So, we're left with option (c). This is the option we presuppose when we hold humans culpable for inflicting suffering on animals. But when no human is involved, who are we to hold responsible?

The only logically possible answer is non-human free agents.

More to come. Stay tuned. And have a great day!