Thursday, 29 January 2009

Life and Suffering

The issue of animal suffering was recently front and center among comments on this blog. Now without in any way condoning or being unsympathetic to the issue, I do want to say that I believe there is a difference between humans and the rest of the animal kindgom. And I believe it to be a difference in kind, rather than in degree. In other words, I don't see human beings as merely an animal similar to all others, simply further developed, but an entirely different kind of animal, the one who alone was created in God's image.

It should be obvious to anyone with eyes to see that there is a vast gulf between the human race and any other species. This includes our abilities to create and appreciate art, music, literature, beauty, architecture, airplanes and classic cars (I had the Barrett-Jackson auction on in the background as I wrote this). One may argue that some higher species have a great deal of intelligence, but who made this discovery? Who devised the tests to determine intelligence? Humans. Not dolphins or great apes. As Chesterton wrote, a bird may construct the most elaborate nest, but that is all it can do. It cannot build a front porch or put curtains in windows. That may sound flippant, but it really does reflect a deeper truth -- that it cannot even imagine them. That is the difference between humans ans any other animal.

All that is to say that there are two ways of looking at the issue of life and suffering. If one is of the opinion that all life is descended from a single source -- a first microscopic cell that somehow formed out of some primordial soup, then one has no real objective basis for thinking any particular life is more valuable than any other. Any heirarchy or relative value one might assign can only be arbitrary and subjective. Now most of us would consider murder or assault or torture of other humans to be wrong. Others extend that sense of protection to animals, to some extent or other; the great apes, chimpanzees, whales and dolphins, their pets, or to some other extent down the chain. But any one of these people have probably swatted a mosquito without considering it an act of evil, for instance. What, must be asked, is the difference between killing a bug and killing anything else, according to the purely naturalistic worldview? There is no objective difference -- only an individual opinion.

I don't mean to devalue life itself in all its many forms, but if all life has equal value, then it is also equally valueless.

Take Care

3 comments:

David said...

I think there is a good biblical basis for treating animals humanely (Deut. 25:4 among others), but one should not lose sight of the fact that humanity is unique in that we have been made in God's image.

At the same time, I am a soppy dog person - but I still eat other animals.

Canadian Pragmatist said...

This doesn't actually refute the argument from evil (animals suffering). That's all I wanted to say.

Animals don't have free will/redemption and yet they suffer. That's a problem.

Mosquitos vs. apes is not a problem. There is objective basis for differentiating between how one feels pain and how another does. If pain is bad, and badness is something that we wish to be done away with (as much as possible), there's your basis for not torturing animals.

This doesn't devalue humans in any way and anyone who would argue that way should be ashamed of themselves.

Even if animals are 'equal' to humans as far as moral desert is concerned it doesn't mean they feel pain and suffering in the same way and the same extent. That's the basis for treeating them differently not some sort of crack-pot design bs.

Canadian Pragmatist said...
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