Predation (continued)

Sept 17, 1999 Note: I got a very upsetting letter back (which I only got to read part of today)  from the friend who sent this response in, accusing me of inexcusable misunderstanding, trying to trap her into an argument that she wasn't making, and many other sorts of things that I personally consider morally culpable. So, even though I protect the anonymity of my questioners diligently (often changing gender, locations, regional idiomatic expressions and spelling, and sometimes age), the understanding below is not his/her/theirs. That being said, although I have considered pulling this piece, I feel the piece has enough 'random' data and argumentation to be of general use, even though it is off the mark as far as my friend's intent. I do attempt my very best to understand questions, in the context of whatever discussion is going on, and try to answer those points as thoroughly and honestly as I can. I have no interest in 'winning arguments' or 'trapping people' or misrepresenting anything--this fits neither my ethics, my style, my overly sensitive conscience, nor is a good use of my scarce resources to tackle difficult questions. And besides, accusations like that hurt deeply (maybe like  feeling one's question  is slandered or twisted or misrepresented)...


One of the questioners wrote back:

I would like to identify one most basic and fundamental problem with your line of argumentation.

You write:

Do all creatures have some kind of 'right' to live forever?

This is not the issue; this is not where the discrepancy lies between God's existence and predatory suffering/death.

The issue is one of contradiction between God's essence and creatures' volition. If one is constructed so that one wants something which one does not, nevertheless, deserve or have a right to, then one suffers from one's deprivation of that which is desired.

Here is the true discrepancy:

God does not want God's creatures to suffer.

Dying, and the idea of death cause creatures to suffer.

  God respects free will.

Creatures don't want to die, but they do.

Thus, if God does not want creatures to suffer, then God must not allow them to suffer.

Thus, if god exists, then no creatures can exist if the only way for creatures to exist is a universe in which your statement applies:

with recycling of the nutrients through death, the biosphere can support an endless number of individual lives and experiences, as well as maximum biodiversity. No single individual in the system would have the 'right' to hog a patch of resources for eternity, depriving the next generation of individuals of even existence. This is why we cannot escape a discussion on evolution. What we know, as a fact, is that evolution is true, i.e., it is a fact. (see my pertinent email on the existence of the issue of fact vs. theory regarding evolution; let me just say in anticipation of possible objections, that a fact of a proposition does not depend on knowledge of its process; thus it does not matter whether or not biologists disagree on the Dawkins or Gould paradigms of evolutionary *process*).

What we know is that we live in a universe of space/time.

We cannot have individuals other than in space/time (an individual needs its own space plus its own history/memories).

Space/time is inseparably connected with entropy (Paul Davies: The Mind of God; Paul Davies: God and the New Physics; please ask me for page references if such references are required).

Entropy causes scarcity of resources.

Individuals are driven by the need to survive, which is a biologically reducible element to the level of "the selfish gene" which is crucial to the very *existence* of individuals.

I.e., the individual has wishes which are fundamental to its essence but which can only be refused in the universe which we know has existed since a small period of time (minutes, I think; as per Davies and Stephen Hawking's, A Brief History of Time) before the big bang.

Therefore, suffering is inherent in this universe. The "rights" of creatures is not even an issue. Volition is. It exists and it contradicts the claims regarding god's essence. He is loving, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable and righteous/just. This universe and God's allowance of conscious creatures (and therefore suffering) in it contradict the first four essence characteristics. This contradiction violates the righteousness/justice characteristic because it violates the perfect standard, god's own self. (Hebrews: "...for he cannot deny Himself").

Suffering may well be reduced or, ideally (and hypothetically) abolished through a type of alignment of creature-volition, as per the Budhist-Taoist-Hinduist fundamentals (which are, in truth, a *particular* type of nihilism; this particular type being the only consistent volition-alignment system)

However, creatures are still known to have been constructed essentially selfish (if the "individual" is to have any meaning, and as our knowledge of genetics demands) and therefore are essentially in opposition to the proposition of such volition-alignment.

Even if they were to submit to the alignment, the alignment in question would still cause suffering which is fundamentally undesirable to creatures. Neither does the possibility of our even greater happiness in "heaven" through the process of life in this universe solve the contradiction which God's essence is facing by the existence of suffering and curtailment of creature-will.

In both the above cases, then, an omniscient, loving God's only option (consistent with such a God's essence-characteristics) is to abort the creation of creatures, indeed, not even to have conceived it to begin with (space/time verbs which, admittedly, are meaningless to transcendence).

We exist, thus God cannot.

The above, if true, show two things. First, there is a fallacious

objection, usually raised by Christians but also by most Judeaisers and Muslims: "Would you rather God did not create you at all, then?" This, of course, is not only irrelevant and an obvious fallacy but also a case of emotional blackmail.

Secondly, the only conceivable situation of no suffering is one of totality: total control, total absence of danger, total absence of loneliness, total absence of ignorance, total absence of need, total absence of disappointment, total absence of deprivation.

The above preclude space/time *as well as consciousness/personhood*. The above, furthermore, can only be described as GOD. As you can see, the fact that this universe, and we, exist, shows that God cannot. Or, if God does, then the *fundamental* elements of oriental worldviews stand the only chance possible of being true. But, even then, they are mere assertions in an ocean of scientific (publicly demonstrated and demonstrable on demand) evidence of a space/time universe. I.e., no, I cannot prove that Nirvana does not exist (as I hope to have proven that Christianity cannot be true) but, such an assertion has no objective reason to be even suspected as true. On the other hand, space/time is irrefutable.


Before I start the analysis of this I need to point out one confusion I have. I am not sure I understand what the 'suffering' actually is in this case. It seems that it is different from the experienced suffering of predation. I can understand your words in one of two radically different ways:

Understanding One: The animal actually experiences significant emotional pain/distress/agony/suffering from the fact of deprivation of some natural want. This emotional agony would be the same kind of agony experienced by the animal at death, but be due not to deprivation of air (as in suffocation), which is the normal suffering of predation, but rather to some kind of deprivation of "wanted life" (like perhaps disappointment or frustration or intense despair). That is, the suffering is a conscious consequence of the awareness of deprivation of some higher-order concept ('life').

Understanding Two: The animal does not actually 'feel' suffering due to this second type of deprivation (no physiological or mental anguish due specifically to unmet wants), but somehow is nonetheless 'suffering' some lack that it was expecting. That is, the "suffering" is defined as a state of deprivation.

Since the concept of "God doesn't want suffering" is almost always dealing with real experiences of pain and anguish, I must assume for the purposes of my response that you mean Understanding One--real suffering. [Understanding Two, by the way, is virtually indistinguishable from the 'rights' position ("suffers violation of its semi-legitimate expectation"), which you affirm is NOT the issue at all.] So, although I will touch on Understanding Two here and there, my main focus will be on Understanding One.


This is a rather terse and somewhat unusual argument (i.e. God cannot create conscious beings without contradicting His essence), but as I understand it, you seem to be arguing thus:

1. Suffering includes the emotional distress (i.e., the actual experiencing of suffering) of the animal, when it realizes that its legitimate (i.e., 'part of its nature') desire is not going to be granted or is being denied (e.g., disappointment, frustration). [the emotional consequences of deprivation of natural desires]

2. Such suffering contradicts:

(A) one of God's principles of goodness ["God does not want God's creatures to suffer"] or
(B) one of God's principles of governance ["God respects free will"].


3. This contradiction entails that the reality of this suffering and the existence of God are mutually exclusive.

4. Since this suffering by animals is known to be real, therefore God cannot exist.

Apart from the non-standard definition of suffering in #1, and the odd use of the principle of governance in #2B, this is simply the standard logical form of the POE. As such, it is as weak as the logical form of the POE. As I have pointed out numerous times on the Tank, philosophers have essentially given up on proving 2A. [In fact, in cases of moral evil--as opposed to physical evil which we are discussing in non-human predation--2B is often used to counteract 2A! In other words, in human settings, one can 'chose freely' to suffer.]

Part of the reasons philosophers have given up on the 'contradiction' form of the POE (its logical formulation) is related to the weakness of 2A:

2A in itself is the weak link in the argument, because of what we know about (1) God's principles of goodness; and (2) the time interval of measurement problem.

(1) To assume that God's highest priority is the prevention of suffering in an animal is without warrant whatsoever. The blanket statement "God does not want God's creatures to suffer" is simply not true, when taken by itself. God has a number of goals for the creature ("God wants God's creatures to enjoy eating", "God wants God's creatures to experience conspecific interactions of give/take", "God wants the higher animals to experience community by sharing", etc.), and any attempts to prioritize a specific goal (i.e., absence of suffering) to an absolute is exceptionally difficult to defend. We know, for example, that physical pain is constructive for creatures as an 'early warning' mechanism, in the vast majority of cases, and the health of the creature is more important (in that case) than the suffering associated with the pain/suffering. What this means is that 2A is false, and so the argument fails--God is free to create conscious beings capable of experiencing suffering.

(2) The time interval problem has to do with how we 'sample' the experience of a creature. If, our sampling interval is 5 years for a zebra, for example, we would 'add up' all the suffering and add up all the pleasure and add up the values associated with other aspects of experience (e.g., community experience, growth/development of the individual, preservation of species biodiversity) and then see what the 'average' was [Bentham would have been really pleased with this line of]. If we take the statistically normal experience of a zebra in the savanna, with a life span measured in decades, we will get a "pleasure/pain" average that is vastly pleasurable. If we use a sample size of 2 minutes, on the other hand, at any one sample period the life of a zebra could be quite painful or quite ecstatic. If we use the 'overall' experience as the final measure (i.e. an entire lifetime), it does end up looking like God "desires that God's creatures do not suffer pain chronically or long-term in a significant portion of their experience")

All in all, as far as 2A goes, the data of animal life does seem to support the belief that God architects lives of "considerably more pleasure than pain" and does that without sacrificing other goals such as community development, biodiversity, avoidance of massive irregularities in the system. [We will see later that 2B is subject to the same problems.]

Now, in normal cases of what is considered suffering, the problem is solved, and we could stop here.


The experience of suffering as understood by 'experts' in these areas are all more or less easily seen to occur in 'active' contexts. In other words, suffering is understood to be something actively inflicted by an agent or event, not by a 'deprivation' (with the possible exceptions of biological necessities such as air, water, and calories.) A quick glance at the literature will show the difference between standard understandings of suffering and the one proposed in your question:

1. First, from Medical science:
  "The second point derives from my interpretation of clinical observations: Suffering occurs when an impending destruction of the person is perceived; it continues until the threat of disintegration has passed or until the integrity of the person can be restored in some other manner. It follows, then, that although it often occurs in the presence of acute pain, shortness of breath or other bodily symptoms, suffering extends beyond the physical. Most generally, suffering can be defined as the state of severe distress associated with events that threaten the intactness of the person." [X01:NSTGM:33   This is considerably narrower that your definition, and with the (possible) exception of awareness of being killed (to be addressed later), would not allow your definition to be included in the category of 'suffering'.

2. Second, from the area of Animal Studies:

"To say that an animal suffers implies that it is aware of its suffering...From now on, 'suffering' will be taken to mean a wide range of unpleasant emotional states...fear, pain, frustration and exhaustion are examples of states of suffering...not acute enough to deserve the word 'pain'... [X01:ASSAW:24-26]   This has more promise. We might could get your definition in here, if we could show that deprivation always led to an 'unpleasant emotional state' on a par with fear, pain, frustration, exhaustion. Unfortunately, this connection is highly doubtful in most cases of deprivation--even a predator who misses its prey shows little or no sign of frustration in the wild, and a mother wildebeest shows no agitation at all after the mutilation of her calf at the fangs of hyenas--she just resumes grazing [X01:IK:170] . But remember, the actual suffering would be the "suffering"--not the actual 'deprivation'.

3. From the area of Philosophy (1):

"The evils of life traditionally have been classified by philosophers into 'physical' and 'moral' ones...Physical Evil, we shall say, denotes the terrible pain, suffering, and untimely death caused by events like fire, flood, landslide, hurricane, earthquake, tidal wave, and famine and by diseases like cancer, leprosy, and tetanus--as well as the crippling defects and deformities like blindness, deafness, dumbness, shrivelled limbs, and insanity by which so many sentient beings are cheated of the full benefits of life." [X01:ECG:6]
At first glance, the 'defects' clause might fit (with the 'cheated of the full benefits of life' at the end, which certainly sounds like deprivation), but it becomes immediately apparent that "normal" animals (as in your argument) are thereby excluded from the problem...Since they have an unimpeded opportunity for the 'full benefits of life'--which doesn't apparently include eternal life--they are not considered to be 'suffering', until they show up in the "pain" category of the first clause.

4. From the area of Philosophy (2):

"Consider the typical projects of ordinary life that one strives to accomplish. What must usually be overcome is boredom, conflicting desires, mental fatigue, and external and internal distractions. Not all these obstacles should be considered instances of suffering, let alone of pain." [PH:APJ:427]   Now this is considerably unfavorable to your definition, for it would exclude a large number of mental states (that the Animal science writer would include) from the definition of "suffering". "Deprivation" would certainly not be included here.

5. For sake of historical completeness, let me point out that the attempt of Bentham to quantify suffering, omitted deprivation (of the type we are discussing):

"Bentham proposed a 'hedonic calculus.' For each alternative action or policy, we can quantify the pleasure involved in terms of its intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, propinquity or remoteness, fecundity, purity (no admixture of pain) and extent (the number of persons affected). Then we can likewise quantify the pain..." [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions. Arthur F. Holmes. IVP:1984, p.43]   To speak of the 'intensity' of a 'deprivation' requires it to be physiologically sensible, and hence, we are back to 'normal' pain.
What this means for us, is that the situation you describe as being 'suffering' might not even count as suffering, resulting in a mismatch between #1 and #2, causing another failure in the argument.

So, it looks like there are already fatal flaws in the argument...but might there be a way to salvage it? Let's look at where your #1 might open up a weakness in the counter arguments to 2A mentioned above.

First, this failure of #2A to create a problem only holds if the suffering in #1 is 'less than majority'. In other words, if every experience of an animal includes some (much?) suffering, then 2A, while still being "logically" incorrect, would be not very evidentially compelling. In other words, even if we could believe that amelioration of suffering was a goal subordinate to (or parallel with) multiple other goals of God, if suffering were nonetheless ubiquitous, then we would have trouble believing that 'less suffering' were a goal at all. [Of course, if we somehow became convinced it wasn't a goal to begin with, the dilemma would evaporate as well!]

This is where the definition in #1 is critical to the advancement of your argument. If it can be maintained that the 'awareness of deprivation' suffering of #1 is indeed (1) suffering, intense enough to be a 'problem'; and (2) present in every waking moment of an animal's life (or even in a simple 'majority' of its experience, for the argument to work); and (3) not overridden by some simultaneous pleasure or value, then we have a "problem" adequate to open the "2A issue" up again.

But we will have to find some example better than the case of 'deprivation of life' at the point of predation. Suffering in predation is normally used (in POE discussions) as the physical pain (and sometimes also a mental component) invoked by the death/predation event. It generally has nothing to do with the prey being aware that it's natural 'want' to live is being violated by the predator! What it consciously experiences at death would not be in any way related to some 'deprivation idea'. (At a purely practical level, the real suffering of the moment would easily drown out any 'semi-reflective' thought such as this. The animal would not have any experience of "being deprived of life"--it would only be experiencing the actual pain of the physiological processes and concomitant emotional states)

So, now let's turn to #1 and ask some basic questions of it:

1. To what extent do animals have a conscious experience of "deprivation of natural wants"?

2. To what extent is it warranted to call this conscious experience "suffering"?

3. Is this type/extent of suffering "adequate" to fuel a "problem of natural evil"?

Let's look briefly at these...

Here we have several issues related to "natural wants": What are 'natural wants' (in the author's sense)? How are they different from 'acquired wants' or 'non-natural wants'? To what extent is animal behavior reducible to these natural wants? What would constitute 'deprivation' of such a want? Would this deprivation be experienced at a conscious level? To what extent are animals conscious at all, and specifically conscious of these issues?

A. First, 'natural wants' is particularly loose of a term, and I am not sure we are going to get enough clarity in it to even start the argument.

A "want" could apply to a wide range of possible concepts: urge, need, desire, impulse, reflex, wish, drive, instinct, goal, appetite, preference. If we try to stick to 'wants' that are more likely to spring from the natural level (i.e., drives), we will run into cases like the following:

1. A plant, under the influence of a phototropism, "tries to move" its leaves toward the sunlight, but the way is blocked by a wire mesh fence. Is this really suffering? Has its 'free will' been violated.

2. A paramecium is 'constructed' so it tries to travel from Point A to Point B in a straight line. If there is an obstacle between A and B, the paramecium must go around it (which it didn't 'want to be forced to do') or abandon the journey (not its "intent" either). Is this real suffering? It would be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will' been violated?

3. A beetle senses that its stomach is empty, trigging a search reflex to find food. The food-want is immediate, yet the beetle is 'deprived' until suitable food is found, some 5 minutes later. Is this real suffering? It would be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will' been violated?

4. A trout "wants" to get upstream to spawn as quickly as possible, but it is denied instantaneous access to the site, by virtue of the fact that it has to actually swim upstream to get there. Is this really suffering? It would be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will' been violated?

5. Foxes have a 'constructed' sweet tooth--they like to eat berries and fruits. But, fruits are not in season early in the year, and so the fox is deprived of the sweet morsels--it is forced to eat something less enjoyable. Is this real suffering? It would be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will' been violated?

6. A male rhino, operating under a constructed biological need, seeks to mate with an intelligent, attractive, articulate (i.e., bleats well) and self-assured female rhino, who promptly rebuffs him (smile). He is deprived of achievement of his biological goal. Is this real suffering? It would be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will' been violated?

7. A chimp is "constructed" in such a way as to want to be able to lift objects irrespective of their size and weight. It cannot do so, since its strength and grip is limited. Is this real suffering? It would be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will' been violated?

In none of the above cases, is the deprivation in anyway linked to anything remotely similar to 'pain' (or what philosophers deal with under the "problem of natural evil" or "the problem of suffering", but these would fall into your definition.

B. Secondly, we need to watch out for over-anthropomorphizing the animal's experience. Animals are driven by needs, instincts, impulses--not "ideas" or even "wishes" (conscious ones). [There is even a HUGE issue with animals having 'volition' in the sense you use it (of free-will, or self-determination)]. If I list the phrases in which this anthropomorphism seems to occur, they run throughout your small note:

"creature's volition"..."one wants something"..."that which is desired"..."the idea of death"..."creatures don't want to die"..."individual has wishes"..."volition is"..."creature-volition"..."essentially selfish"..."essentially in opposition to the proposition of"..."fundamentally undesirable"..."creature-will".

I spent an inordinate amount of detail in earlier pieces of this showing that the vast majority of creatures could not possibly feel 'agony', and it would be even more true that many, many more of them cannot feel any 'disappointment' that the berries weren't ripe, or that the obstacle was between Point A and Point B--this just doesn't constitute a problem of 'suffering', friend...

You might be being misled by some of the popular works your refer to on occasion, esp. the works of Richard Dawkins. You refer to the 'selfish' character of individuals, and even once to the 'selfish gene'. You need to understand that this usage of his is significantly misleading and is a constant source of criticism for him from his academic colleagues. The metaphor of the 'selfish gene' is well-known to be inaccurate to the point of culpability. Dawkins is a vivid writer, creating powerful images, but unfortunately, these images are often (1) out of touch with the actual scientific data; and (2) misleading to the general reader. Let me document this from the literature of his peers:

First, let's look at the 'misleading metaphor' issue:

1. From a fellow zoologist and ethologist, Frans de Waal:
  "To describe such genetic self-promotion, Richard Dawkins introduced a psychological term in the title of his book, The Selfish Gene. Accordingly, what may be a generous act in common language, such as bringing home food, may be selfish from the gene's perspective. With time, the important addition 'from the gene's perspective' was often forgotten and was eventually left out. All behavior was selfish, period.

"Since genes have neither a self nor the emotions to make them selfish, one would think this phrase is just a metaphor. True, but when repeated often enough, metaphors tend to assume an aura of literal truth. Even though Dawkins cautioned against his own anthropomorphism of the gene, with the passage of time, carriers of selfish genes became selfish by association. Statements such as 'we are born selfish' show how some sociobiologists have made the nonexistent emotions of genes into the archetype of true emotional nature. A critical article by Mary Midgley compared the sociobiologists' warnings against their own metaphor to the paternosters of the Mafiosi.

"Pushed into a corner by a witty philosopher, Dawkins defended his metaphor by arguing that it was not a metaphor. He really meant that genes are selfish, and claimed the right to define selfishness any way he wanted. (tn: was Humpty Dumpty a sociobiologist?) Still, he borrowed a term from one domain, redefined it in a very narrow sense, then applied it in another domain to which it is completely alien. Such a procedure would be acceptable if the two meanings were kept separate at all times; unfortunately, they merge to the extent that some authors of this genre now imply that if people occasionally think of themselves as unselfish, the poor souls must be deceiving themselves.

"It is important to clear up this confusion, and to emphasize once and for all that the selfish gene metaphor says nothing, either directly or indirectly, about motivation, emotion, or intention." [PH:GN:14-15]

and further,

"Apparently Dawkins is not convinced that we are born selfish, in the vernacular sense. In response to Midgley he admits that selfish-gene rhetoric may well be out of touch with actual human motives: 'To the extent that I know about human psychology (a rather small extent), I doubt if our emotional nature is, as a matter of fact, fundamentally selfish.'

"This is a message to bear in mind, for it certainly is not evident in the author's writings. A general problem with pop sociobiology is that complex issues are compressed to such a degree that even if the author is fully aware of what is left out, the reader has no way of knowing. The simplifications are then perpetuated ad nauseam by less-informed writers until they haunt the field in general and must be counted as if they represent serious ideas." [PH:GN:220]

2. From ecologist Georg Breuer:
  "Can an ant have 'intentions' anyway? And if not, on which evolutionary level can one assume such a capability? Does an ape have 'intentions'?...Biologists do not always answer such questions very clearly. Sometimes it is not easy to recognize whether they really think in a teleological way or, rather, use a confusing 'simplifying' language...Words like 'egoism' and 'altruism' too have their special connotations as sociobiological technical terms. When they are used in everyday language one thinks of the intentions of the actor. Sociobiologists, on the other hand, look solely at the results and thus they can speak about 'unselfish' corals of amoebae, 'altruistic' viruses and devise a book title like Richard Dawkins' well known Selfish Gene...Yet this gene to which Dawkins imputes selfishness is not the gene of molecular biologists either. It is not a recipe for the production of an enzyme, nor an individual regulating gene, but, as Dawkins puts it, paraphrasing G.C. Williams, 'any portion of chromosomal material which potentially lasts for enough generations to serve as a unit of natural selection'. Gunther Stent (tn: molecular geneticist) quite appropriately sneers that Dawkins' selfish gene 'is neither selfish, in the context of morality, nor is it a gene, in the context of genetics.'" [X01:SHD:228]

"Critics of sociobiology argue that using terms of everyday language with special, technical connotations is particularly questionable when comparing animals with man. 'Slavery' in ants is something other than slavery in man, and one should not simply 'omit the quotation marks' without checking whether the two phenomena are in any way comparable...Konrad Lorenz repeatedly has been put down as an anthropomorphizing romantic for imputing 'motives' and 'intentions' to his geese and sticklebacks. Sociobiologists try to avoid this reproach by looking solely at the results and not at the intention of an act when speaking about the 'altruistic' behaviour of an animal. [X01:SHD:229]

"Of course, Dawkins knows that the behaviour of an animal is the result of the concerted action of inborn tendencies, environmental influences and learning processes. Maybe one can find a paragraph in his book where he expressly says so. But the idea is superseded by a brilliantly written popular presentation which gives the main emphasis on depicting organisms as 'gene machines'. Dawkins' presentation is not balanced. It is not a mere coincidence that it creates misunderstandings in the head of the reader." [X01:SHD:252]


Secondly, the general facts of the situation (from both behavior and molecular biology--the two areas combined in the 'selfish gene' metaphor) do not support his general theories either--brilliant metaphors, but misleading myths:

From the behavioral side:

1. From ecologist Georg Breuer:
  "At first glance this idea of Hamilton's (about shared genes between kin, the theory behind Dawkin's popular works) looks very fascinating. A problem hovering over evolutionary theory since Darwin's days is solved in an elegant and very simple way. The Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins calls this 'one of the most spectacular triumphs of the selfish-gene theory'...Actually, however, Hamilton's idea so far is no more than a startling hypothesis. Whether it really can explain the observed facts remains to be proved." [X01:SHD:59]

"As to the first question there is a large body of solid evidence showing that polygyny is by no means confined to 'some' human societies as Dawkins claims; even Wilson's three-fourths seems to be an understatement. According to the well-known ethnographer George Peter Murdock who compiled data on 849 societies, a male may have more than one wife in 708 of them, whereas there are only four societies with institutionalized polyandry." [X01:SHD:178f]

2. From psychologists Baldwin and Baldwin (specialists in behavior):
  "When sociobiologists describe behavior in terms of strategies' for maximizing fitness and optimizing adaptiveness, they draw attention to idealized, formal models to the point that suboptimal variation becomes invisible. In fact, variation is often described as merely 'noise' that is superimposed on finely tuned survival strategies, a nuisance that clutters or confounds otherwise lovely mathematical equations. In his valedictory as president of the International Congress of Genetics, Curt Stern captured the leitmotif of genetic idealism succinctly: 'The eggs or sperm of a lion are the lions themselves, stripped of all ephemeral attributes.' This form of genetic idealism allows one to forget all the 'noise' and imperfections that are encountered in the real world when the developing lion has suboptimal nutrition, a serious infection that retards development, an injured paw, or unique learning experiences. Genetic idealism is attractive to those who wish to believe that genetic causes will explain everything important about behavior. The suboptimal variations are dismissed as unimportant, ephemeral imperfections; the Platonic essence is explained by the genes. The "selfish gene" (to use Dawkins's term) can be seen as the designer, director, and choreographer of the great pageant of life. However, when the variation that is not accounted for by genetic factors is substantial, disregarding it may be unwise. The Platonic lion, even if it were to be "realized" under conditions of optimal nutrition and exercise, along with minimal injury and disease, would not be able to survive in its natural habitat. The genetic code does not provide it with the ability to stalk prey, kill, and coordinate with conspecifics, for these skills are dependent in large part on learning."  

3. From psychologist Daniel G. Freedman (specialist in Development):

"Dawkins talks about genes for coyness and genes for fastness entering the population at different rates, depending upon the gene's relative success. I simply do not think in this way. Such traits are obviously not determined by single genes, and the model is wrong at its inception." [X01:HSHA:16]  

4. From the interdisciplinary critique (chapter entitled: "Scientific Bandwagon or Traveling Medicine Show?"):

"Richard Dawkins, in his highly readable book on sociobiology, expresses the essentialist position on the nature of theories with remarkable candor: 'When we say that all biologists nowadays believe in Darwin's theory, we do not mean that every biologist has, graven in his brain, an identical copy of the exact words of Charles Darwin himself. Each individual has his own way of interpreting Darwin's ideas. He probably learned them not from Darwin's own writings, but from more recent authors. Much of what Darwin said is, in detail, wrong. Darwin, if he read this book, would scarcely recognize his own original theory in it, though I hope he would like the way I put it. Yet, in spite of all this, there is something, some essence of Darwinism, which is present in the head of every individual who understands the theory.'...Nothing could be farther from the truth. Darwin changed his mind on a variety of issues as he continued to develop this theory. He always maintained that species evolve gradually and that natural selection is the chief directive force, but he wavered on nearly every other issue. And no two Darwinians totally agreed with Darwin or with each other about the basic features of evolution. The evolutionary theory that became widely accepted in the nineteenth century was not any of the versions Darwin himself set out." [X01:SHN:143]  

From the molecular biology/genetics side, we see the same problem of lack of correspondence to the detailed data:

1. From Arthur L. Caplan, in molecular/cellular engineering and bioethics:
  "Yet, despite this obeisance to the complex etiological story underlying overt behavior, there is a frustrating tendency on the part of some sociobiologists to lay these qualifications aside in analyzing human social behavior. Rather than utilizing the important notions of genotypic unity, gene complex, or even phenotypic features when they analyze the power of selective forces on human social evolution, these sociobiologists talk about single genes as controlling behaviors, or about the effects of selection upon a single genetic variant in a population (gives reference to Dawkins here)--situations that simply do not square with known biological reality. It may be true that genetic commonality and coefficients of genetic relationship play key roles in understanding the evolution and persistence of various forms of social behavior. But it is wrong to portray natural selection as consisting of forces that can 'see through' phenotypes to act directly upon the genotypic variants present in a population (ref to Dawkins again here)." [X01:SBNN:102]
2. We already cited above the remark by molecular scientist Gunther Stent "quite appropriately sneers that Dawkins' selfish gene 'is neither selfish, in the context of morality, nor is it a gene, in the context of genetics.'" [X01:SHD:228]

3. From Michel Denton, molecular geneticist:

"Dawkins's claim in the concluding paragraph of The Blind Watchmaker--'provided we postulate a sufficiently large series of sufficiently finely graded intermediates, we shall be able to derive anything from anything else'--is unrealistic not only because of the functional constraints problem, but also because there are several cases where there are biophysical barriers to particular transformations, and in such cases, no matter how many intermediates we might like to propose, there is simply no gradual route across.

'For example, all viral capsids are either cylinders or icosahedrons. The reason is purely biophysical. These are the only two stable forms that can be built up by stacking together a single subunit--the icosahedron and the cylinder. There is no intermediate series of stable forms leading from the cylindrical-shaped viral capsid to the icosahedron. Physics forbids it. Another quite different example regards the two alternative positions of the nervous system within the animal phyla. In invertebrates the nervous system is ventral--situated along the underside of the organism--while in the vertebrates, it is dorsal--situated along the back. No group of organisms exist which have their nervous system on the side, midway between the front and back. It was always hard to imagine how an asymmetric intermediate arrangement with the nervous system on the right or left sides could be adaptive. The developmental genetic evidence now suggests there never were such organisms. Recent discoveries have revealed, for example, that the gene specifying which part of the embryo will be dorsal and which ventral is the same in both vertebrates and invertebrates. This in turn suggests that the gene may have suddenly switched its meaning during evolution, causing what was previously ventral to become dorsal. Intermediacy between dorsal and ventral may in effect be excluded, because of the Boolean logic of developmental genetic systems." [NS:ND:331f]


  "Among the most persistent challenges to the Darwinian (tn: randomness) model of evolution are those many types of complex and unusual adaptations whose evolution is very difficult to account for in terms of a gradual accumulation of successively advantageous changes. The literature of biology is full of examples. The challenge arises because evolution by natural selection can only occur via functional intermediates. Consequently, to get from A to Z by natural selection each step on the path--A to B, B to C, etc.--must be advantageous, and this imposes very stringent constraints on permissible evolutionary paths. Darwin himself spent two chapters of the Origin attempting to explain how the origin and evolution of what he called 'organs of extreme perfection' may be plausibly accounted for by a gradual accumulation of minor undirected changes. Richard Dawkins has attempted the same in his recent book Climbing Mount Improbable. However, despite this 'Darwinian apologetic,' many biologists have remained unconvinced, finding the 'explanations' offered either implausible to some degree or too vague and general to be subjected to critical detailed scrutiny. [NS:ND:354]
4. From biochemist Michael Behe:
  "The arguments of Dawkins and Hitching fail because they never discuss what is contained in the systems over which they are arguing. Not only is the eye exceedingly complex, but the 'light-sensitive spot' with which Dawkins begins his case is itself a multicelled organ, each of whose cells makes the complexity of a motorcycle or television set look paltry in comparison. Not only does the defensive apparatus of the bombardier beetle depend on a number of interacting components, but the cells that produce hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide depend on a very large number of components to do so; the cells that secrete catalase are very complex; and the sphincter muscle separating the collection vesicle from the explosion chamber is a system of systems. Because of this, Hitching's arguments about the splendid complexity of the bombardier beetle are easily blurred into irrelevance, and Dawkin's reply satisfies us only until we ask for more details...I apologize in advance for the complexity of the material, but it is inherent in the point I wish to make. Richard Dawkins can simplify to his heart's content, because he wants to convince his readers that Darwinian evolution is 'a breeze.' In order to understand the barriers to evolution, however, we have to bite the bullet of complexity." [NS:DBB:46-48]  

There are three main points I want to make from the data in these quotes (other than that you had better read Dawkins very critically, and check his details):

1. The 'selfish gene' metaphor (and related 'intentionality' images) is very misleading, especially for our discussion about the 'intentions' of animals.

2. The 'selfish gene' theory is neither proven, nor is it in general harmony with the facts of biology and behavior.

3. Whatever behavior an animal exhibits will be from a complex interaction of "inborn tendencies, environmental influences and learning processes" (and I think we could add 'individual preferences' to this list, in light of eating habits of animals)...This makes it very, very difficult to make sense of a "(genetically) constructed want", by the way.

With this being said, though, I want to be sure to point out that I do believe that various levels and types of conscious processes occur in mammals, esp. the higher primates. We have data that indicates that they can experience frustration and surprise over failed expectations of food reward [CS:AM:121], and even have a problem with "boredom", often seeking out dangerous situations or even selecting to watch 'horror' films [X01:ASSAW:49-50, 64].

But their awareness of the meaning of death--even in chimps--is very, very vague at best:

"Seeing the termination of a familiar individual's life, chimpanzees may respond emotionally as if realizing, however vaguely, what death means--or at least that something terrible has befallen the other." [PH:GN:55]   And the non-primate mammals only show a curiosity about it (remember the wildebeest mother that resumed grazing, above):

"Studying hyenas in the Serengeti, Hans Kruuk was struck by the frequency with which hyenas or other predators at a kill were closely observed by wildebeest or gazelle who had drifted over to watch. This has been called 'behavior of fascination' or 'the bystander phenomenon.' Such onlookers are attracted even when the victim is not of their own species." [CS:WEW:48]   It would be strange indeed if an animal species could not recognize death, especially in the social animals in which each member has some role, status, and kin-relationships, so we should expect definite responses to death. But there is no evidence whatsoever that animals have any "concept" of their future death. [In fact, as we have noted before, they often react quite passively to their own death when it comes.] They eat when they are hungry, they run when chased by a predator, and they fight aggressors when they are forced to. But apart from the "cognitive processing" required to carry out these operational tasks, there is no evidence of simultaneous 'awareness' of more complex conceptual issues and/or ideas (e.g., their future, death as finality, death as deprivation, death as violation of its free will).

One writer points out the 'now' character of animal experience: "There does seem to be evidence that many animals have a very 'practical' perception of the world, that they are confronted not by continuing objects but by occasions for specific actions, marking out routes through immensity." [PH:ATMS:150]

At the end of the day, our estimates of animal experience of life are not much different than that given in John Hick's Evil and the God of Love (Collins:1966, p.349f):

"The animal kingdom forms a vast self-sustaining organism in which every part becomes, directly or indirectly, food for another part. And if we project ourselves imaginatively into this process, and see each creature as a self-conscious individual, its situation must seem agonizing indeed. But to do this is to miss the animal's proper good whilst feeling evils of which it is not conscious. Each individual--or at least each healthy individual--has its own fulfillment in the natural activity of its species, uncomplicated by knowledge of the future or a sense of the passage of time; and its momentary appreciations of its own physical impressions and activities are totally unaffected by the fact that after this thin thread of consciousness has snapped some other creature will devour the carcase. Death is not a problem to the animals, as it is to us...Not only is the animal's experience not shadowed by any anticipation of death or by any sense of its awesome finality; it is likewise simplified, in comparison with human consciousness, by a happy blindness to the dangers and pains that may lie between the present moment and this inevitable termination; and again by a similar oblivion to the past. Although possibly not total at every level of animal life, these restrictions must render all but the occasional animal genius immune to the distinctively human forms of suffering, which depend upon our capacity imaginatively to anticipate the future. The animal's goods and evils are exclusively those of the present moment, and in general it lives from instant to instant either in healthy and presumably pleasurable activity, or in a pleasant state of torpor. The picture, then, of animal life as a dark ocean of agonizing fear and pain is quite gratuitous, and arises from the mistake of projecting our distinctively human quality of experience into creatures of a much lower and simpler order."

[This is, of course, in line with the ecological and naturalist observations we noted in our analysis of Question Two.]

C. "Deprivation of a natural want" is even 'less suffering' of a concept than "suppression of instinctive drives," and even this last phrase is not generally assumed to be "real suffering". Animal welfare advocates have used this argument to argue that captive animals are suffering (relative to wild animals), referring to "the degree to which behavioural urges of the animal are frustrated under the particular conditions of the confinement" and "The greatest suffering, he argued, is caused by the suppression of those actions which the animal would perform most frequently under more natural conditions" [X01:ASSAW:40].

Even Marion Dawkins, who argues for a wide range of (practical) suffering on the part of animals, considers this very questionable:

"A second and perhaps more questionable assumption behind the idea of using wild animals as standards for welfare is that animals suffer in they are not able to do everything that is in the repertoire of their species. Such is the power of words that if we talk about 'suppression of instinctive drives', we give a vivid picture of a thwarted animal prevented from doing what it desperately wants to. There are overtones of suffering in the very words that are used...Lack of opportunity for behaving in certain ways may sometimes result in extreme suffering but in other cases it might be positively pleasurable." [X01:ASSAW:49,51]   If it is questionable that actual suppression of a drive constitutes suffering, it is even more questionable to believe that "deprivation of a want" constitutes suffering.

All in all, it looks like the issue of 'natural want' is either (1) not going to be precise enough a term to generate a problem; or (2) not going to be 'severe' enough of a need to generate a 'suffering problem'.


But let's go back to philosophy again for a moment--your original problem was a theological-philosophical one...

Let's explore this 'natural want' a bit more abstractly for a second.

Animals would certainly have many, many of these natural wants, and any of these could be "being deprived" while several others might be being met (e.g., mating instead of feeding).

So, if I substitute your more specific idea of 'deprivation of anything they want (springing from the multiple wants of their nature)' into the original premise (for the word suffer), we get:

"God does not want God's creatures to be deprived of anything they want (springing from their nature)"

But, since their "wants" are for immediate gratification (remember our trout, beetle, and rhino above), we need to expand this to:

"God does not want God's creatures to be deprived of anything they want (springing from their nature), at the moment they want it (no waiting)."

And this is not at all simple to defend, and indeed, is quite easily shown to be doubtful (probably obviously incorrect to most of us). For example:

a. A creature often "wants" mutually exclusive things at the same time (e.g., eat, sleep, mate).

b. Some character traits (e.g., self-control, evaluating alternative values) and some tasks (e.g., searching) are only accomplished by means of deprivation (and/or suffering, btw).

c. "Lack of a pleasure" is not the same as "presence of a pain"

d. The clause about the "no wait" condition makes the principle absurd (requiring telekinesis and super-luminal travel combined!)

e. Some things animals 'want' are impossible within the basic laws of physics (e.g., the chimp and the 'rock so big God couldn't pick it up'). This is due to the structure of the universe, and would require a 'massively irregular' universe (which is difficult to even conceive of--imagine neural processes in a chimp that would 'block'--with perfect accuracy--the "want" to lift objects just a smidgen heavier than they could pick up, but no less!)

f. Some things animals choose are actually destructive to them! "Animals do not always choose what is best for their own long-term physical well-being." [NS:ASSAW:94]

g. Some choices animals make require the possibility of suffering for them to 'work'. The case of animal boredom is illustrative. Animals will literally court danger, take risks, do extra work to avoid 'boredom'. If the danger of approaching a predator too closely were not 'real' (and the risk, therefore real), the situation would not 'meet the boredom' need.

h. And, at the cellular level, we know that some cells are "programmed to die" after so many divisions or in specific conditions (i.e., apoptosis, cf. EBE:s.v. "Cell death"), by specific genes [The Cell--A Molecular Approach, Geoffrey M. Cooper, ASM Press:1997, pp. 592] so at the same level of 'drives' for cells to reproduce and breathe, many of them will have 'drives to die' as well. [Would this mean that 'eternal life' for a squirrel would be deprivation of its 'constructed wants'?!]

By the time you add the appropriate qualifications to the original concept (e.g., "a need when it became the dominant need among many, and in which the fulfillment of it did not compromise other structures and etc."), you would begin to approximate the very structures that likely 'govern' God's management of the situation too! The biblical position is that God is "good" to His creatures and architects a system that allows the highest overall well-being and fulfillment and contribution for them. This creates a "complex of conditions" in which individual cases must be seen. The original blanket statement "God doesn't want God's creatures to suffer" lacks the fine granularity necessary to describe the robustness of God's relationship to His creatures, and the complexity of His position on 'suffering'.

In short, there is every reason to avoid expanding the concept of "suffering" from its standard meaning of "pain, agony" to include "deprivations" of the sort defined above.


Okay, where are we in this (the 2A question)?

1. With 'normal' definitions of animal suffering (physical pain and intense emotional 'anguish') and under 'normal' frequencies of suffering (episodic), the POE (and the formulation of it that your argument boils down to) fails, and this is recognized in philosophical thought today.

2. One of the reasons it fails (in this formulation) is that 2A (the principle of God's goodness) is false, in the over-simplified way it is used in the argument.

3. It also fails due to the 'time interval' measurement problem--over longer periods of measurement, the 'more good than bad' principle (reflective of God's goodness) becomes obvious and compelling. [It actually does look like God achieves a minimization of suffering in the lives of most animals in this category.]

4. The novel definition of suffering you offer does not square with most of the understandings of 'suffering', and hence would not supply an initial 'suffering' to the argument.

5. Upon examining the proposed definition of 'suffering', we found many/most cases of 'deprivation' to not generate 'real' suffering, constitutive of an adequately 'sized' problem.

6. We pointed out the over-anthropomorphizing and misleading metaphor problems associated with ascribing pervasive conscious and reflective intentionality to animals (illustrating this from the scholarly critiques of Dawkins).

7. The observational data on higher mammals and primates indicated some curiosity and some distress over the death of familiar individuals, but nothing to give us some reason to believe an animal 'feels deprived' at the event of death.

8. In fact, the general moment-by-moment experience of life on the part of animals generally shields them from these 'projected human problems with death'.

9. Even those more 'liberal' in their definitions of what constitutes animal suffering, do not agree that 'suppression of natural urges' is necessarily a case of suffering, and a majori ad minori, simple 'deprivation' falls even less into that category.

10. We unpacked the 'deprivation' phrase a bit more, and determined that it was unusable in the argument (due to internal contradictions, physical impossibilities, etc.).

Where this leaves us is at the rejection of the problem of 2A...There is no contradiction between the actual suffering of actual animals (in the patterns we see today) and the actual God (as described in the Bible); and the suggested expansion of 'suffering' to include some element of 'deprivation' does not accord well with the facts of biology, contemporary understandings of the POE, or what we know about animal behavior and cognition. In addition, the notion of 'deprivation of constructed wants' was found to be too problematic a term upon which to expand the problem.


But there's still 2B--the "free will" issue...

This issue is a bit simpler than the first, because BOTH components of it are problematic:

1. "God respects free-will" is (A) never asserted of animals (and is even highly-qualified when applied to humans!), and (B) never asserted relative to death of any creature.

2. "Creatures do not choose to die, implying(?) that they choose/will to live" is a simple anthropomorphism that cannot be supported by an appeal to the "instinct to survive."

The first of these should be obvious--God nowhere describes this alleged principle of governance, relative to animals. Accordingly, the "contradiction" between it and the second component (even if the second component is true) doesn't exist, and so 2B fails--God is free to create conscious animals that are capable of suffering against their wills without contradicting His essence.

The second component of these has an air of plausibility to it (all anthropomorphisms do--that is part of their power), but a couple of observations will easily show that this 'will' or 'choice' is not at the level of 'moral choice' which is the general area of God's respect for free-will.

1. All organisms are constructed to perform the basic process of growth, maintenance, and reproduction. Plants and single-celled lifeforms have this, but there would not be anything remotely akin to 'volition' in this!

2. The vast majority of basic life processes of higher animals are carried on by the autonomic nervous system (among life forms that even have nervous systems), and these processes are definitely unconscious ones (and therefore not a function of 'will' or 'choice').

3. Organisms do not "choose" to carry out the processes of life--they just do. There is no 'will' or 'free choice' involved in breathing, in foraging for food when one is hungry, or in fleeing from or fighting predators.

4. There are definite choices that animals make at the higher levels--they choose mates, they choose diet, they choose territories to compete for--but rebuffing by a female rhino, berries being out of season, and a successfully defended turf wouldn't fall into the category of a 'violation of their free will'...The latter concept just doesn't make sense in most of their higher-level choices.

5. And even these higher level choices are often at odds with their more basic life processes--they don't always "choose correctly, to live". Examples abound in domesticated animals (e.g., cattle who bloat themselves with clover) and in wild animals (e.g., birds that incubate eggs that are not theirs) [NS:ASSAW:95f].

6. Biologists just don't use this notion of 'free will' or 'will' in discussing biological drives. Ruth Garrett Millikan, philosopher who specializes in biological categories, distinguishes between "biological purposes" and "intentional purposes". Most of the life-maintaining systems in animals would be in the category of 'biological purpose' without any cognition, and focus on a specific task. She uses the example of the heart, whose biological purpose is to pump blood. [NS:AAA:189f]. Its purpose is not a 'will to live' in any sense of the word.

I hope this is enough detail to show you that the notion of 'free will' is simply out of context in discussions of animal behavior, and in our case, in discussions of God and free will.

So, 2B fails in both components of the dilemma, and the argument that God cannot create conscious beings fails.

Accordingly, we can answer the age old question of "2B or not 2B?" with a decisive "NOT 2B"....(sorry, but it was just too easy and I am just too tired to


Let's me make a few more miscellaneous observations and then conclude.

1. The original argument fails, basically, because it can't get started. Each horn of each dilemma is either (1) false in how it is worded, or (2) too imprecise to generate a 'forceful' enough proposition to create a 'horn'.

2. This is largely due to the (1) lack of accuracy and precision in the theological statements about God; and (2) questionable anthropomorphic ascriptions made of animal life (perhaps created by the metaphorical arguments of Dawkins).

3. Accordingly, the contradiction never can come up, and God can create conscious creatures who can and do experience episodic suffering.

4. This actually has nothing to do with evolution, since under any biogenesis understanding (e.g. random evolution of Gould/Dawkins, emergent evolution of Stuart Kaufman (At Home in the Universe, The Origins of Order), the directed evolution of Denton (NS:ND), theistic evolution of various flavors--Christian Richard Wright (NS:BTEF) and Jewish Gerald Schroeder (Genesis and the Big Bang), the Intelligent design of Behe, and the flavors of special creation (CRS, Lambert Dolphin, Hugh Ross)), all animals have drives that are sometimes disappointed, and experience episodic and terminal suffering at one time or another. If the dilemma had worked, it would have worked for all of these systems.

5. This also has nothing to do with entropy. Entropy does NOT cause 'scarcity' of resources. Creation of the universe created finite resources (which need to be recycled), not scarce resources, but entropy hasn't made even a dent in these...Plants on earth only convert 1% of available sunlight to stored energy, and 90% of this energy falls to the ground uneaten by herbivores. All the rampant beauty and robust biodiversity, all the teeming life in sea and island, all the robustness of creatures "multiplying and filling the earth" are based on that tiny sliver of used energy! Entropy hasn't made even a dent in this biotic world, and actually, is even necessary for some biological processes. The finitude of resources does NOT create 'suffering'--it creates 'sharing'.

6. This has nothing to do with space/time issues. Even if the dilemma had worked for the higher primates (those closest to some kind of awareness of 'death'?), God could have created all life forms below that without the dilemma coming up. An a-biotic world (rocks and water) is the most obviously 'non-contradictory' world, but we could begin adding plants, paramecia, and so on up to the primates--without this problem.

7. The individual animal drives to eat, find shelter, reproduce, raise offspring, build social units (some), etc. are NOT "refused" at all. As we have seen in the biological data piece, the higher animals generally 'see these drives fulfilled' in their lifetimes. They are not 'refused'--but they are not granted eternal life either! At most, they are "refused" (in dying) one time per life...It is simply inaccurate to characterize animal experience by focusing only on one event of 'refusal'.

8. As you point out, the Buddhist solution of desire-denial wouldn't resolve the issue (and would also contradict your assertion that their "desires" were fundamentally real and part of their 'essence'!). In fact, if animals had the level of consciousness needed to support the anthropomorphisms present in the argument (i.e., the "idea of death"), they would be subject to the second level of suffering in Buddhism (viparinama-dukkha): "And yet the very fact that men are aware of being happy and at the same time are aware that happiness does not last for ever is in itself a source of grief." [Problems of Suffering in Religions of the World, John Bowker, Cambridge:1970, p.240-250].

9. Anthropomorphism is not always wrong. Philosophers and researchers in this area use adjectives like categorical, critical, generic, global, inaccurate, innate, methodological, mock, pragmatic, reflective, situational, subjective, uncritical in discussing the use/abuse of it in animal cognition studies [see NS:AAA]. There would be few indeed that would ascribe the consciousness required to sustain this objection, to the daily life of even the higher primates. One simply cannot base a dilemma on such a dubitable scenario.


I can conclude here, I think, by pointing out that not only was God 'unencumbered by contradiction' to make creatures with a capacity for episodic suffering, but that He chose (in the biblical version) to produce creatures that could and would experience pleasure, fulfillment, and development, as they lived out their 'time in the sun'. There is nothing contradictory here with God's character or heart, but rather something that reveals His "goodness to all He has made".

Now...on to Questions Four and Five...(and thanks for presenting the above argument!--I definitely think there were important issues in there that we needed to explore.)


Glenn Miller [July 29, 1999]

[Back to the Table of Contents for the Predation series]

[Works cited above, but not in my personal library:

[X01:ECG] Evil and the Concept of God. Edward H. Madden and Peter H. Hare. Charles C. Thomas Publisher:1968.
[X01:NSGM] The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine. Eric J. Cassell. Oxford:1991.
[X01:ASSAW] Animal Suffering: The Science of Animal Welfare. Marian Stamp Dawkins. Chapman and Hall:1980.
[X01:SBNN] Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture? George W. Barlow and James Silverberg (eds). Westview/AAAS:1980.
[X01:SHN] Sociobiology and Human Nature: An Interdisciplinary Critique and Defense. Michael S. Gregory, Anita Silvers, and Diane Sutch (eds). Jossey-Bass:1978.
[X01:HSHA] Human Sociobiology: A Holistic Approach. Daniel G. Freedman. Free Press:1979.
[X01:BYS] Beyond Sociobiology. John D. Baldwin and Janice I. Baldwin. Elsevier:1981.
[X01:SHD] Sociobiology and the Human Dimension. Georg Breuer. Cambridge:1981.]

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