One of the questioners wrote back:
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:
Dying, and the idea of death cause creatures to suffer.
Creatures don't want to die, but they do.
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:
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 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
as a state of deprivation.
This is rather terse and somewhatt unusual argument (i.e. God cannot create conscious beings without contradicting His essence), but as I understand it, you seem to be arguing thus:
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
Part of the reasons philosopher's have given up on the 'contradiction'
form of the POE (its logical formulation) is related to the weakness of
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.
(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 reasoning...smile]. 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-termor in
a significant portion of their experience")
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:
2. Second, from the area of Animal Studies:
3. From the area of Philosophy (1):
4. From the area of Philosophy (2):
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):
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:
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
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
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:
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?
be by your definition (depending on how much 'consciousness' you gave
the creature), but wouldn't be by most definitions. Has its 'free will'
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:
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:
"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]
"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]
"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]
From the behavioral side:
"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."
3. From Michel Denton, molecular geneticist:
'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]
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.
But their awareness of the meaning of death--even in chimps--is very, very vague at best:
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."
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):
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:
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:
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'?!]
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)?
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.).
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:
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 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.
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]. It's purpose is not a 'will to live' in any sense of the word.
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 resist...smile)
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
[Works cited above, but not in my personal library: