The Instigator
Kinesis
Pro (for)
Winning
12 Points
The Contender
Valtarov
Con (against)
Losing
7 Points

The Problem of Animal Suffering (Round III)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/23/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,090 times Debate No: 12398
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (13)
Votes (4)

 

Kinesis

Pro

I have been challenged yet again on this topic. 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...
Valtarov

Con

If my opponent doesn't mind, I'll synthesize his arguments into a syllogism.

P1: God is omni-benevolent
P2: Animal suffering is not minimized
:. God does not exist.

Assumptions:
1) God's qualities ("omni-benevolence") would cause Him to minimize animal suffering
2) Animal Pain is Suffering
3) Suffering is Evil

First of all, it is disingenuous to call God "omni-benevolent", or "wanting to do all good for all". This misconstrued notion comes from the central Christian idea that God is love (agape). [1][2] Agape is one of the four Greek words for love; it is a love that acts for the ultimate good of the other party. God thusly acts in the best interest of each and every soul.

My opponent secondly assumes that animal pain is suffering. Suffering is pain experienced by a creature with a soul; it is different for creatures without souls. God is much more concerned with people, who have eternal souls that are of infinite value, than the suffering of animals. God is somewhat concerned with animal suffering [3], but He is far more interested in the ultimate welfare of our souls. In C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain", Lewis argues that the natural world provides a way so that entities can be distinct (specifically, that God and humans can be distinct and thus humans can have free will). This natural world must have rules and properties for there to be normalized interactions necessary for relationships between entities. Try to violate gravity by jumping off a cliff, and it won't end well for you. [4] But animal pain must necessary for some reason, and I can see few better reasons than to show humans that this world, where the best one can hope for is ultimate pain and death, is not our home. In the Christian worldview that is assumed for this debate, God confirms that this is true. [5]

Humans shouldn't inflict unnecessary pain on animals, I agree, as does the law God gave to Moses. [6] But God cares much more about people and their needs than animals, whom are not as important [3].

"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)."
If God is perfectly good, he cannot be evil. My opponent has failed to show that animal suffering is evil.

A Further Extension:
Assumed Christian worldview:
P1: God is the basis of everything
P2: God is love
P3: God is omnipotent
:. All things that happen are allowed, if not precipitated, by God.
How can such evil and suffering exist?
Because God doesn't give a jot about your present comfort. He is looking to the ultimate good of each and every individual, and that may mean pain or even death. There is a cancer growing inside each and every soul, that if allowed to mature, will become hell. God is much more willing to do the painful surgery on you that will save your life rather than let you slowly die in "comfort". We would not think very highly of a doctor who refused to do life-saving surgeries in a triage unit because the surgery puts the patient in a little more pain for a moment, but which will lead to recovery and happiness.

Sources:
[1] 1 John 4:8 http://bible.cc...
[2] 1 John 4:16 http://bible.cc...
[3] Matthew 10:26-31 http://yltbible.com...
[4] Lewis, Clive Staples. "The Problem of Pain"
[5] Revelations 21 http://yltbible.com...
[6] Deuteronomy 12 20-27 http://yltbible.com...
Debate Round No. 1
Kinesis

Pro

I thank Con for his response - although I think he needs to do some research into what constitutes a sound syllogism. I'll take them as pointers to his actual arguments for now.

Con offers two responses to my arguments. First, he attempts to blunt the force of the argument by arguing that God cares much less about animals than about humans, who contain a soul. Second, he offers an explanation of animal suffering - that it shows humans that they live in a fallen world.

:God just don't care:

First, it is worthwhile to note that Con concedes that God cares about animals to a degree; just that he regards human welfare to be more important. Note that this does not actually deny the argument. In fact, if God cares about animals at all then he would still minimise their suffering to the greatest degree possible in order to achieve his other, more important goals. I contend that even under the assumption that God cares about animals less than humans, the astounding amount of animal suffering in the animal kingdom seems so unbelievably gargantuan that it counts as strong reason to believe God has not created this terrible state of affairs. Are we really to believe there was no other way than this for a being with omnipotent power? The very idea seems absurd.

If God cares about animals even slightly, the argument still has a large amount of force due the the sheer quantity of suffering undergone by them.

Besides, if God truly cares little about animals then he seems to have moral beliefs utterly alien to ours. Most modern people recognise that animal suffering should be avoided as far as possible. We try our hardest to avoid killing animals on the road. We treat our pets kindly. Most of us are against cruel forms of animal experimentation. We all feel a moral responsibility to animals. It seems strange then, that if our moral code is a reflection of God's as is the case on Christianity, that God's morality is so alien to our own.

:Animals are a signpost:

Con contends that animal suffering is a way for God to show us that our current world is imperfect - that it shows people how futile and pointless this existence is, so we can look for our true home in heaven. Again, it seems extremely implausible that a being with omnipotent power could not have found a kinder way of communicating this to us. An omnipotent being can do anything possible. He could telepathically communicate these beliefs to us himself. He could show us all a vision of heaven's perfection so we understand how crummy this world is in comparison. He could do ANYTHING.

Why on earth would he choose to create a horrific cycle of pain and suffering, most of which we never even know about, to communicate to us? Especially since A. It has led many to conclude that naturalistic evolution accounts for life, and thus there is no real need for God and B. It is exactly what we would expect to find if naturalism is true and the forces of nature, which don't give a damn about animal suffering, are the true creators of the animal kingdom. It's almost as if God is trying to communicate that he doesn't exist, rather than communicating to us the splendours of heaven in comparison to this life!

:Conclusion:

Con's last paragraph is similar to KRF's butterfly analogy - in which a butterfly must struggle to get out of its cocoon. However, I'm not sure where Valtarov is going with this one. He claims he is looking for the ultimate good of every individual (including animals?) and does not care about our present suffering. I think this is clearly false. Even if it is temporary, a God with omnipotence and omni-benevolence would still minimise suffering to the greatest possible degree. He would have to, because unnecessary suffering is clearly incompatible with his omni-properties.
Valtarov

Con

Valtarov forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Kinesis

Pro

For whatever reason, my opponent has forfeited this round. I therefore have no choice but to let him finish off.
Valtarov

Con

I apologize for my absence next round. I was violently sick during the time that I would have posted.

Remember, this debate takes place from within the confines of Christianity.

:God doesn't care:
I believe I was unclear in my last round here. God is very much concerned with people treating life in an ethical fashion (as is evidenced by the laws against killing animals inhumanely, the care of a shepherd for his sheep that was on an ethical level, etc.). He may, as is evidenced once or twice in Scripture, care about animal pain. But God is far more concerned with man, as the entire Bible is dedicated to mankind, and He has given man dominion over the earth [1].

My opponent claims that God would reduce animal suffering to the greatest possible degree whilst still achieving other goals. My opponent provides no evidence against my previous claim that this world has these characteristics. For the world to exist, there must be natural laws. These natural laws must have consequences if one "breaks" them i.e. pain. This is distinct from human suffering, as humans have souls [1]. No matter how much we try to personify animals, they are still only animals. They do not look for higher meaning. They follow instincts and instincts only. They do not make moral choices nor bear responsibility. They are of infinitely less worth than a human soul [2].

"Are we to believe that there was no other way than this for a being with omnipotent power?" No. There were other ways. But, by God's own definition (agape), they must be ways that achieve a lesser good than this one. Animals are not people. God cares far more about people than animals. God cares far more about redeeming His penultimate creation than about saving all animals and people from pain. To rid the animal kingdom of pain would require Him to violate the order of the universe so far as to destroy it, and to destroy the possibility for mankind to freely choose Him.

:Animals are a signpost:
"Again, it seems extremely implausible that a being with omnipotent power could not have found a kinder way of communicating this to us."
There's probably a kinder way (assuming such language is appropriate referencing animals) to do this. But God doesn't give a jot about how sentimentally justifiable it is. He cares about how effective it is. While it's not the only way that God communicates this to us, it is absolutely necessary to get the message across. One human being, with an eternal soul, gaining salvation would be enough to justify all the animal pain that has ever existed, if for nor more reason than that animal life is temporal but the soul is eternal. The soul thusly has an infinitely greater value due to the fact that it's bliss or damnation will last an infinite time.

"He could telepathically communicate these beliefs to us himself. He could show us all a vision of heaven's perfection so we understand how crummy this world is in comparison. He could do ANYTHING."
Yes, but this would violate the very free will that is superlatively important to Christianity. A world of automata, or a world in which the only choice was heaven, would have no choice at all. Since the penultimate ethical command is to love one's neighbor as one's self, and love not freely given is no love at all, to take away choice is to take away the ethical command from which all others are derived [3].

This is also exactly what we'd expect to see from a God who valued order and choice, as I've shown.

God is agape. Agape is the action of acting in the best interest of each and every soul. No, animals aren't included, since they don't have souls. God is not omni-benevolent, in the way that my opponent thinks. God is concerned with the eternal well-being of each person. Animal pain is not incompatible with his omni-properties. It merely shows that He would rather allow evil than take away the greater goods of choice and order.

Sources in the comments section.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
It's fine. Real life takes precedence. :)
Posted by Valtarov 6 years ago
Valtarov
Sorry man. I really wish I could have given you a better showing than I did.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Not right now. I've done this topic enough for the moment. >.>
Posted by Valtarov 6 years ago
Valtarov
I'm all for a repeat/continuation, if you are. I've got almost nothing going on for the next few weeks, and it's unlikely I'll get violently sick again.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Oh dear. That's okay then. :)
Posted by Valtarov 6 years ago
Valtarov
Sorry dude. I was violently sick during the time that I planned to post.
Posted by Kinesis 6 years ago
Kinesis
Ah...that was unexpected.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
@Valtarov

P1: God is the basis of everything.
P2: God is omnipotent.
P3: God is agape.
:. God has arranged all things in the ultimate good of every soul.

I'm telling you, that syllogism is not valid. The conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. You can reason out your position in a paragraph, but that syllogism isn't going to get you anywhere.
Posted by Valtarov 6 years ago
Valtarov
That conclusion was a bit flawed off what I wanted. I /was/ writing this at 4 a.m. though.

Yes, I left out steps. Yes, I can coherently form syllogisms most of the time.

But I wasn't really so much constructing a syllogism as presenting my argument in as crystal-clear a way as possible.

P1: God is the basis of everything.
P2: God is omnipotent.
P3: God is agape.
:. God has arranged all things in the ultimate good of every soul.

Reasoning: If God is the basis of everything, and is omnipotent, than He has the power to engineer time, events, etc. If God is agape, He acts for the ultimate good of every soul. This, in turn, means that God has arranged all things for the ultimate good of every soul.
Posted by Freeman 6 years ago
Freeman
P1: God is the basis of everything
P2: God is love
P3: God is omnipotent
:. All things that happen are allowed, if not precipitated, by God.

There is no logical rule of inference that can possibly take you from P1 - P3 to the conclusion. The conclusion does not follow.

You could construct that syllogism like this:

P1: If God is omnipotent, love, and the basis of everything, then all things that happen are allowed, if not precipitated, by God.
P2: God is omnipotent, love, and the basis of everything.
C: All things that happen are allowed, if not precipitated, by God. (from 1 and 2) (Modus Ponens)

I have no idea what you are trying to get at with your premises, and I can't possibly imagine how (P1) could be true. However, at this point, the argument is at least structurally valid.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by jat93 6 years ago
jat93
KinesisValtarovTied
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Vote Placed by dmarais 6 years ago
dmarais
KinesisValtarovTied
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Vote Placed by Atheism 6 years ago
Atheism
KinesisValtarovTied
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Vote Placed by kevin1110 6 years ago
kevin1110
KinesisValtarovTied
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