The Instigator
Kinesis
Pro (for)
Winning
20 Points
The Contender
KRFournier
Con (against)
Losing
19 Points

The Problem of Animal Suffering (Round II)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/9/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,626 times Debate No: 12214
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (49)
Votes (10)

 

Kinesis

Pro

This is a retry of this debate: (http://www.debate.org...) which ended up with both sides feeling the topic wasn't properly explored. Thanks to KRF, hopefully this debate will be more fruitful.

For clarification, this argument aims at the internal consistency of the Christian world view.

:: Intro ::

In this debate, I shall argue that the existence of vast amounts of animal suffering is a compelling reason to reject the existence of a theistic, omni-benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God. This debate is targeted specifically at Christians, and Christian responses to the argument. For those who are interested, the inspiration for this debate comes from the chapter ' The Darwinian Problem of Evil' in the recent atheistic anthology 'the Christian Delusion' [1]

:: The Argument ::

'During the minute it takes to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease...' - Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden. [2]

It is accepted by the vast majority of scientists in the world that evolution is the process by which the enormous variety of species inhabiting the world today have arisen. But even without accepting this fact, along with the terrible process of natural selection, we can still see how the extraordinary amount of pain and suffering undergone by animals in the world is a serious problem for theists promoting the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God.

The problem is not exclusively within nature. Ever since humans have arrived on the scene, animals have been hunted, killed and experimented on in horrific ways. We have abused them for our own entertainment. We have crammed them in tiny cages for intensive farming. Some fish we like to eat fresh, so we cook and eat their bodies while they are still alive (and gasping for oxygen). [3] [4]

So the question to theists is: why does God allow such terrible suffering to happen? The typical Christian answers to this question simply don't apply. Animals do not suffer because they sinfully use their free-will to commit evil acts against one another. Animals cannot learn any moral lessons from their suffering, and they cannot be spiritually benefited by the vast amounts of pain they go through.

If God is perfectly good, it is crystal clear that we should expect all animal suffering to be kept to a minimum, that God would give humans clear and specific instructions to be kind and gentle to the lower species, even if killing and eating them is necessary (which it is not). Instead, we find that the bible regards animals as mere tools for humans to use as they will, and that the world in groaning with amounts of animal suffering beyond reasonable contemplation.

It seems that the vast majority of animals are brought into existence merely (and briefly) so they can suffer and die terribly, either at the hands of other animals or by the hands of humans indifferent to their pain. How is this to be reconciled with the proposition that an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent God created and maintains the natural world? I do not believe it can.

[1] http://www.amazon.com...
[2] http://www.amazon.com...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://funkydowntown.com...
KRFournier

Con

Thank you, Kinesis, for reopening this argument.

As indicated in Kinesis' opening round, this is a second attempt at this debate. He has made it clear that the problem of animal suffering, in so far as he is concerned, is a problem of inconsistency within the Christian Worldview. It follows, then, that if the Christian Worldview cannot maintain rational coherency within its presuppositions, then it ought to be rejected as a philosophy.

Here are the three premises that Kinesis and I agree upon:

1. God is all powerful.
2. God is all good.
3. Animal suffering exists.

From here, Kinesis concludes that there is a logical contradiction. His error is when he states, "If God is perfectly good, it is crystal clear that we should expect all animal suffering to be kept to a minimum." Nowhere is this biblically stated or implied. Indeed, such a statement is far from crystal clear. His only support for this statement is that Christians cannot appeal to "typical Christian answers," whatever they are. In other words, there is no support whatsoever for this claim. Injecting an unsupported and more easily defeated premise into the worldview he hopes to dismantle is a "crystal clear" straw man fallacy.

My rebuttal is simple. Kinesis is overlooking an entirely valid fourth premise that removes the logical problem altogether.

4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the animal suffering which exists.

This fourth premise is completely compatible with Christian presuppositions. The bible is clear that God never does anything evil. This is part and parcel of the Christian worldview which, I remind the readers, is where Kinesis is attempting to show inconsistency. This worldview already presupposes that God only does that which is morally right. Thus, there is no internal inconsistency.

If anything, Kinesis is presenting--not a logical problem--but a psychological problem. The real problem is that critics of the Christian worldview (and let's face it, humans in general) want God to give us a good reason for the suffering in our world. To not have that reason is, to the critic, intolerable. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God." [1] God has a morally righteous reason for including animal suffering as a part of his plan, which he is not required to explain to us in detail.

To conclude, Kinesis is attempting to show the Christian worldview as logically contradictory within its own premises. He has done this by adding a premise that is not upheld by the bible, meaning he is injecting non-Christian presuppositions in a straw man attempt to discredit Christianity. Unless Kinesis can show that Christianity, as a philosophical worldview, presupposes God MUST minimize animal suffering in order to qualify as Good, he has failed to uphold his resolution.

In the meantime, I have shown that there is no logical contradiction at play here when all Christian presuppositions are accounted for.

I think the readers for their time and await Kinesis' cross examination.

SOURCES
1. Deuteronomy 29:29
Debate Round No. 1
Kinesis

Pro

Unfortunately, KRF has once again misinterpreted the original argument - although I have less sympathy this time, since I explicitly addressed this point in the last debate.

The argument is an inductive one, attempting to show that animal suffering is improbable given Christian theism (and obviously not surprising give naturalism - he can argue this point if he wishes). I explicitly pointed this out, even going as far as to provide a syllogistic form of the argument when it was requested. That KRF still harbours the belief that the argument I am presenting aims at logical incompatibility between animal suffering and Christian presumptions is therefore strange indeed.

For clarity's sake, here is the syllogism I presented:

P1. If God has the property of omni-benevolence, he would keep animal suffering to the absolute minimum.
P2. If God is omnipotent, he has the ability to keep animal suffering to the absolute minimum.
P3. It is probable from the vast amounts of suffering in the animal world that animal suffering is not kept to an absolute minimum.
:. Such a God probably does not exist

Why am I pressing this point? The answer is simple - KRF attempts to avoid the force of the argument by claiming that it is possible that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing animal suffering. This is irrelevant. This objection would only be valid if he were addressing the logical argument. By its very nature, a probabilistic argument allows for the possibility that it is false.

Throughout his round, he also makes what could be a valid argument - although this attempt is poisoned by his belief that all he has to do is show that it is possible animal suffering and a tri-omni God are compatible. He claims that the premise that an all-good God would wish to minimise suffering is unsupported. In other words - perhaps God doesn't care about the suffering of creatures other than humans!

Well, most Christians would presumably disagree, citing his loving nature and the fact that he created them as part of his maximally perfect plan as reason for why he would care about them. But it goes even deeper than that. Does a perfectly loving God seriously not give a damn about near-sentient or even sentient animals suffering terribly as they die? Most modern people recognise that animal suffering; for instance in experimentation or farming, should be minimised as far as feasible. Sane, rational people don't run over creatures on purpose, or beat their pets to death for fun. If this is at all morally objectionable from the Christian world-view, then this objection does not work. Does KRF really want to pursue this line of reasoning? We shall see.
KRFournier

Con

In our first debate, I was more than happy to extend Kinesis the benefit of the doubt when he said I was misrepresenting his argument. After all, this is why we took a second crack at it. Now I'm calling shenanigans.

In Kinesis' own words, "this argument aims at the internal consistency of the Christian world view." How else can one hope to show even the probability of God's existence without appealing to a logical contradiction? Indeed, he does exactly this. In round one he asks, "How is this to be reconciled with the proposition that an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent God created and maintains the natural world?" In round two he asks, "Does a perfectly loving God seriously not give a damn about near-sentient or even sentient animals suffering terribly as they die?" In both cases he questions the LOGICAL validity of the Christian Worldview. Either animal suffering is compatible with God or it is not.

Renaming his argument into a probability is a scapegoat and dismisses my argument rather than addresses it. My logical defense is that animal suffering is compatible with the existence of God since God has a morally sufficient reason to allow it. Instead of responding to this argument, he simply says it's inapplicable. I think, given his wording in both rounds, such a tactic is intellectually dishonest.

At the core of his argument is the premise that God would keep animal suffering to the absolute minimum. I have asked, on what basis does Kinesis claim to know this to be true? Is this a fact? Is it a Christian presupposition? I claim it is not. No where does the Bible state that God can only be good if he minimizes animal suffering.

On the contrary, I have given a good reason why God would not want to minimize animal suffering: because doing so would constitute a lesser good. It has nothing to do with whether or not God cares, as I'm sure he cares very much. In fact, I'd go as far to say that animal suffering breaks his heart. However, how God feels or thinks about animal suffering has no bearing on whether or not he would minimize it. We might care that a butterfly struggles to escape the cocoon, but the educated nature lover knows the struggle is good for its subsequent survival. The butterfly might wonder why we stand idly by, but we know better. In the same way, God knows better.

God can simultaneously care deeply about the plight of his animals and willingly allow that plight to subsist, provided he has a morally sufficient reason to do so. That reason does not need to be known to Kinesis, me, or the rest of humanity. The fact that Kinesis cannot imagine a God that would allow for gratuitous animal suffering is not proof that He doesn't exist.

Kinesis ASSUMES God would minimize animal suffering at all costs, which is a presupposition on his part not supported by scripture. Ergo, he is using an outside presupposition to show an internal inconsistency within the Christian worldview. If he can show the Bible teaches that God would indeed minimize animal suffering, then his argument has merit. Until then, all he has shown is that Kinesis' presuppositions are incompatible with Christian presuppositions.
Debate Round No. 2
Kinesis

Pro

KRF's last round is a result of misinterpretation - in fact frankly, given the numerous clarifications I've already made, I fail to see how it could be anything other than purposeful misinterpretation to net an easy win.

He constantly attempts to show how the language of my round shows that I must be aiming for logical contradiction, even though I have explicitly pointed out time and time again - from the very beginning - that this is not the case. As a result of this, it's obvious that any language he thinks implies logical contradiction is to be interpreted differently from what he assumes. For instance, he claims that the phrase 'How is this to be reconciled with the proposition that an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent God created and maintains the natural world?' implies logical contradiction. Not at all.

Presumably, he thinks the word 'reconciled' implies I mean that all he has to do is show that the two are logically compatible. But what I mean by reconcile is: 'to make consistent or congruous' [1]. In other words, to show that the two can fit naturally together - that animal suffering is not so surprising given Christian theism after all.

Virtually no issue is settled on a question of logical validity. It cannot be logically proven that the world is not resting on the back of a turtle swimming through space. It cannot be logically proven that the world is not under the grip of an elaborate reptilian conspiracy controlling the government. The question is whether any of these beliefs are reasonable. Whether they are likely. Whether they are inductively plausible or not. Arguments against these issues cannot be waved away by claiming they are logically possible and misinterpreting the arguments against them.

To claim that I am the one being intellectually dishonest when all he is doing is interpreting my argument in a way I have said time and time again that it is not to be is, well, being intellectually dishonest himself. It's quite frustrating actually - when he said he wanted to redo this debate, I assumed he was actually going to engage the argument this time. Not some strawman version of it.

[KRF's objection]

Having said all that, he does end up attacking one of the premises of the argument - the God would choose to minimise animal suffering as far as possible. He ignores my arguments for why God would care about animal suffering, but ends up conceding the point anyway. But here's what he claims - that him caring about animal suffering has no bearing on whether he would do anything about it!

He gives the example of a butterfly struggling out of its cocoon - to help it would weaken it, so letting it struggle is for its own benefits it in the end. This is a nice analogy, but clearly not applicable. With the butterfly, there is an actual reason for its suffering. For the vast amounts of horrifying suffering undergone by animals even as we speak, there can be no serious consideration that it benefits the animal in the end.

For instance, a similar creature is a caterpillar. One of the primary predators is the ichneumon wasp, which paralyses the caterpillar, lays its eggs inside it then sticks around as the larvae slowly eat their way out of the caterpillar from the inside. It is not anaesthetized, as one might expect if a loving God were in charge of the whole procedure. It dies, screaming in silent agony. There are millions more examples around the world even as we type. Horrors far, far, far more terrible than a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon, and with no plausible reasons for their benefit.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
KRFournier

Con

Well, this debate didn't go the way either of us had hoped. I am not trying to be disingenuous. I am sincerely trying to understand my opponent's argument. When he first said animal suffering was compelling evidence to reject the existence of God, my best interpretation of his opening round indicated a logical incompatibility. I offer a defense, he says it doesn't apply. I will let the voters decide if my interpretation was way off base.

In the meantime, whether Kinesis says it applies or not, I still offer my logical defense. Animal suffering is not incompatible with an all-good, all-powerful God so long as God has a morally good reason for allowing it.

Regarding the minimization of animal suffering, Kenisis says, "For the vast amounts of horrifying suffering undergone by animals even as we speak, there can be no serious consideration that it benefits the animal in the end."

Assumption: animals must directly benefit from suffering in order for suffering to be ultimately good. I never said suffering always benefits the animal directly. Indeed, my analogy was meant to convey how the knowledge of the person watching the struggling butterfly transcends its experience. Just because we might not be able to imagine why animal suffering is ultimately good does not mean it ultimately isn't.

The suffering caterpillar at the hand of the ichneumon wasp is terrible indeed, but what does this actually prove, even probabilistically? If he's looking for a Christian answer, it is that all suffering--including animal suffering--is part of the fall of man. Man chose to disobey God and God allowed suffering to enter into our existence. Kinesis and others may not like the answer, but God had a good reason for allowing us to choose our fate. It is perfectly "consistent or congruous" that God sees free will with natural consequences as better than no free will at all.

Overlooking the fact that we've been talking past each other with different interpretation of terms, examine Kinesis' argument carefully. What has he actually supported? He has stated multiple times that God would minimize animal suffering without showing why we should accept this. Yes, God cares, but what reason did Kinesis offer as to why caring necessitates prevention? He offered none, as he is hoping his appeal to emotion will suffice. After all, we all feel bad about the plight of the silently screaming caterpillar.

In the final analysis, he hasn't really supported his argument with anything other than his preconceptions about what is good and just. He wants to discredit the Christian worldview without bothering to take the entire worldview philosophy into account. As best as I can tell, Kinesis wants the readers to reject Christian theism on the basis that it bothers him.

Keep in mind that Kinesis is making a claim--yes, a probabilistic one--about the reality of God. One would expect, if there indeed is an internal inconsistency within Christianity, that we would be shown diametrically opposed premises found in scripture. I was waiting for him to show how scripture claims--either directly or indirectly--that God is so good that animal suffering just doesn't comport. No such evidence was ever forthcoming. Therefore, I am of the mind that he has not supported his resolution in this debate.

I do want to thank Kinesis for seeing the debate through to the end. I am sorry we couldn't see eye to eye on certain concepts, but it was nevertheless good to debate with someone thoughtful and reliable. I also want to thank the readers for taking time to read and vote.
Debate Round No. 3
49 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
There's no logical contradiction between Hitler deeply loving all Jews and Hitler commanding the genocide of six million Jews. That doesn't mean that one isn't good reason to reject the other.
Posted by SuburbiaSurvivor 5 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
BOP was on Kinesis. In round III he literally said he wasn't trying to show a logical contradiction in the existence of animal suffering and the existence of God.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
And if I win, change your vote. :D
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Sure, go ahead and send it to me.
Posted by Procrastarian 6 years ago
Procrastarian
Since votes are apparently so important to you, would you accept a debate with the resolution "Proving something requires showing it to be true beyond all doubt"? If you're correct, you should have no problem winning that debate, right? I'll even be nice enough not to title the debate "definition of prove" and then try to weasel my way into a minuscule burden of proof.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Well, if instead of providing fancy animations you had actually looked up the definitions you cite, you'd see that I was right after all.

'disprove' generally isn't defined properly, but 'prove' means 'To establish the truth or validity of by presentation of argument or evidence' - http://www.thefreedictionary.com.... Disprove means 'To prove to be false, invalid, or in error' - http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

So, how about you give it up and change your vote to me now?
Posted by Procrastarian 6 years ago
Procrastarian
Kinesis...
http://lmgtfy.com...
http://lmgtfy.com...

Yes. I am very absurd.

There should be a rule on this site about ambiguous resolutions. So much wasted time...
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Okay then, but you're wrong. ¬¬
Posted by KRFournier 6 years ago
KRFournier
Your syllogism does not indicate that a theodicy was the only expected defense. I rebutted your syllogism using philosophy instead of theology, yet you continue to assert that I didn't understand the debate. You say I was using a straw man, I say you held me hostage to an ambiguous resolution. I don't think we'll ever see eye to eye on this, so we should probably just agree to disagree.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
The important part was 'we should expect all animal suffering to be kept to a minimum'. If I thought the two were logically incompatible, I might for instance have said 'If God is perfectly good, it is crystal clear that animal suffering would not exist'.

Plus, the SYLLOGISM. I provided a syllogism which you completely ignored. How could you possibly think that I was giving a logical argument when I'd presented a syllogism that ruled that out?
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