The Instigator
Kinesis
Pro (for)
Losing
56 Points
The Contender
KRFournier
Con (against)
Winning
62 Points

The Problem of Animal Suffering.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/28/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 10,414 times Debate No: 12042
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (144)
Votes (23)

 

Kinesis

Pro

:: 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

Thanks to Kenesis for this debate. I hope the smaller character limit will invite more readers.

Kenesis wants to debate a Christian, so I offer the most complete description of God I know. He is too complex to be simply use the typical quadro-omni definition, so I quote the Westminster Confession of Faith [1]:

-----

There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

God has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases. In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.

In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

-----

My rebuttal is simple. The Argument from Animal Suffering is merely the Problem from Evil in different clothes. Clearly, Kenesis sees animal suffering as evil, and he cannot reconcile its existence with the God of the Bible:

P1. If God is all-good, he would destroy animal suffering
P2. If God is all-powerful, he could destroy animal suffering
P3. But animal suffering is not destroyed
:. Such a God (all-good and all-powerful) does not exist

In order to objectively claim that God doesn't exist with this proof, the evidence in its favor must also be objective, namely evil. If he can show animal suffering to be universally evil then we can rightly substitute animal suffering with evil:

P1. If God is all-good, he would destroy evil
P2. If God is all-powerful, he could destroy evil
P3. But evil is not destroyed
:. Such a God (all-good and all-powerful) does not exist

Kenesis cannot appeal to relative morality. Relative morality reduces moral obligation to matters of opinion. Note the absurdity in the revised syllogism:

P1. If God is all-good, he would destroy things I decide are evil
P2. If God is all-powerful, he could destroy things I decide are evil
P3. But things I decide are evil are not destroyed
:. Such a God (all-good and all-powerful) does not exist

How can we disprove God based on something people simply decided? The only way to truly disprove God is to appeal to absolute morality, which must then be justified in a Godless existence. I will show that this is impossible. Absolute morality is irrational outside of the Christian Worldview. Therefore, in order for Kenesis' argument to be valid, it must be false.

1. http://www.reformed.org...
Debate Round No. 1
Kinesis

Pro

.
.
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Thanks to KRFournier (one of my favourite Christian debaters on this site) for taking the challenge. He has provided an attempted short refutation of not only my argument, but every single version of the argument from evil. He has also provided a (little excessive) definition for the God he believes in. I accept the definition.

KRFournier somewhat straw-man's my argument by replacing 'animal suffering' with 'evil', but I'm going to let that go in the hope of squashing one of the more popular objections to the Problem of Evil.

KRFournier's attempt to form my case into a syllogism is simply incorrect. He phrases it as the logical argument from evil, which was NOT my argument. A more accurate syllogism would be this:

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.

(I apologise if I've made any mistakes in the syllogism. I've no education in philosophy)

This, however, is not relevant to his attempt to refute the Problem of Animal Suffering. He doesn't even bother distinguishing my argument from evil with general arguments from evil (which is fine, since his argument would apply equally to all of them).

I must say, I find his attempt to refute the argument surprising. If his objection were valid, then thousands upon thousands of Christian philosophers have been wasting their time coming up with defences and theodicies in response to the argument from evil - who knew it was so easy to defeat! Alvin Plantinga needn't have bothered writing his famous refutation of the logical argument from evil.

KRFournier's objection is this:

*I cannot claim that animal suffering is objectively evil without appealing to absolute morality. If I do appeal to absolute morality, then I've proven God's existence, so my argument implodes on itself*

Let me try to explain why this response is not a valid way to deal with the argument from evil. Imagine I am dealing with an earnest group at my doorstep hailing from the Church of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. I am attempting to break them from their absurd beliefs, so I come up with the following argument;

P1. Invisibility is logically incompatible with pinkness.
P2. Anything with logically incompatible properties cannot exist.
:. The Invisible Pink Unicorn cannot exist.

Imagine that in response to this argument, one of the believers comes up with the objection that I myself do not believe the ability to be invisible exists. Therefore, I have no objective basis to claim that the invisibility is incompatible with pinkness - in fact, by appealing to invisibility in my argument, I am only supporting the claim that the Invisible Pink Unicorn exists!

We can plainly see that the objection is not valid - just because I myself do not believe a certain thing exists *does not mean I can't point out that it is inconsistent with something else*. In the same way, even if I did not believe morality was objective, I would still be able to make the argument that the immense amount of animal suffering in the world is objectively inconsistent with a God with the properties of omnipotence and omni-benevolence.

I am NOT trying to hold God to my own standards of right and wrong. Rather, I am showing how certain properties of the world are inconsistent with God's attributes. I have no need to appeal to any kind of objective morality to do that.
KRFournier

Con

First, allow me to apologize for misspelling my opponent's name last round. I shall endeavor to correct that mistake from here on out.

I'm curious as to how Kinesis finds my argument a straw man. His argument is supposed to be a "compelling reason to reject the existence of a theistic, omni-benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God." He attempts to do this by showing that animal suffering violates his all-good, all-powerful nature. If needless animal suffering is not evil, how can it contradict either quality? If it's not evil, then what exactly does animal suffering have to do with the existence of God? I fail to see how this differs from the Problem of Evil in any significant way.

So, I chose to steer the argument towards the general problem of evil in order to avoid obfuscating the debate. He may continue to use gratuitous animal suffering as an example of evil, but to focus on it alone serves no other purpose than to gain a possible advantage by an appeal to emotion.

Before I offer my defense, I must cite Kinesis for an appeal to authority fallacy when he says, "If his objection were valid, then thousands upon thousands of Christian philosophers have been wasting their time coming up with defences and theodicies in response to the argument from evil - who knew it was so easy to defeat! Alvin Plantinga needn't have bothered writing his famous refutation of the logical argument from evil." Note there is no counter-argument, just an attempt to poison the well for his benefit.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn story is a false analogy. Allow me to clarify my position:

P1. Truth is objective.
P2. Objective evidence supports an objective truth claim.
P3. Subjective or arbitrary evidence does not support an objective truth claim.
:. To objectively prove that God exists, one must appeal to objective evidence.

Kinesis' says, "…even if I did not believe morality was objective, I would still be able to make the argument that the immense amount of animal suffering in the world is objectively inconsistent with a God with the properties of omnipotence and omni-benevolence." If morality is not objective, then it cannot be used to objectively argue for inconsistency. If Kinesis is right--that morality is subjective--then his opinion cannot prove the existence of God one way or the other. At best, Kinesis could say that he dislikes God for allowing animal suffering, but it's hardly "compelling evidence" against his existence.

Kinesis does refine his argument near the end of his round to argue that the Christian Worldview is internally inconsistent. That is, if he can show that Christian belief contradicts itself, then it is incorrect. However, no contradiction can be found exclusively within the Christian framework. In Christianity, God is by definition good. He does no evil and is sovereign over his creation. Ergo, anything he ordains within his creation is, by definition, good. (Keep in mind, Kinesis accepted this definition). Any attempt to say, "God says he's good, but the things he does are evil," is to substitute Christian morals with one's own moral standards. Internal consistency cannot be proven with external premises.

This leaves Kinesis with only the option to objectively defend his Argument from Animal Suffering. He must show that needless animal suffering is objectively evil. Simply asserting animal suffering contradicts God's goodness and power is begging the question.

To conclude, Kinesis is arguing the existence of animal suffering contradicts an all-good, all-powerful God and therefore makes for compelling evidence against his existence. He has not offered an objective reason why this is true. He simply assumes animal suffering is evil, so much so, that it cannot be reconciled with God's existence. He also has yet to reveal any internal inconsistencies within the Christian Worldview. I submit, therefore, that the resolution stands negated.
Debate Round No. 2
Kinesis

Pro

.
.
.

::My case clarified::

It's clear at this point that the debate has been muddied some-what. It's probably my fault for not being clearer in the last round. I shall endeavour to be as clear as possible in this round.

There is a reason why not a single professional philosopher seriously uses this argument as a response the the problem of evil - it is COMPLETELY irrelevant. It is a red-herring to avoid dealing with the actual argument.

To illustrate this, imagine I was a Christian intent on testing my faith, and come up with the same argument. KRF could no longer use this objection because I would, in his view, have a solid basis for morality. Yet the argument would not have changed at all! It's almost an ad-hominem attack against myself, to avoid dealing with the problem. It doesn't matter who makes the argument, moral nihilist, moral subjectivist, Muslim, Hindu, whatever. BECAUSE THE PROBLEM LIES WITHIN CHRISTIANITY, not any other world view.

To repeat - it is an internal consistency problem within Christianity itself. Whether or not morality is objective on a completely different world view does not matter. Even slightly.

What may count as evil on my world view, and what may count as evil on Christianity are two distinctly different issues. Only the LATTER is relevant in this argument, because we talking about Christianity. If morality is subjective on atheism, and so animal suffering is not a problem for KRF - well done! But God does not exist in this scenario, so the argument is irrelevant anyway!

The simple fallacious nature of KRF's response can be pointed out by reminding him that he would still have to deal with the problem himself even if I hadn't brought up the argument. Theism must deal with its own internal consistency problems, as must any other world view. This red-herring attack on MY world view, while ignoring the point that we are talking about HIS, is just a fallacious attempt to evade the argument, not a serious attempt to address it.

::KRF's round::

'He attempts to do this by showing that animal suffering violates his all-good, all-powerful nature. If needless animal suffering is not evil, how can it contradict either quality? If it's not evil, then what exactly does animal suffering have to do with the existence of God?'

--> If animal suffering is not evil, then God does not exist! You are talking about ATHEISM as a world view. KRF is arguing that on ATHEISM, the argument has no force - obviously! Who cares? Then the argument would be redundant then anyway! - We. aren't. talking. about. atheism -

'Before I offer my defense, I must cite Kinesis for an appeal to authority fallacy'

--> I'm sick and tired of people misusing logical fallacies like this. I did NOT commit the appeal to authority fallacy. If I had argued that I was right BECAUSE Christian philosophers do not use this argument, then I would be. I didn't.

' However, no contradiction can be found exclusively within the Christian framework. In Christianity, God is by definition good'

--> You are still missing the point. The argument is that God, with his given attributes, would choose to minimise animal suffering to the best of his capabilities. It is clear from the terrible amount of animal suffering in the world that this is not the case, so it counts as strong evidence against Christianity. To argue that vast amounts of animal suffering would be a GOOD thing because God commands it doesn't matter. With his given attributes of 'most loving, gracious, merciful', he would choose to minimise the amount of suffering in the world to the greatest possible amount. He clearly has not done this.
KRFournier

Con

Before I wrap up my argument, I must address some of Kinesis tactics. First of all, when I said Kinesis was using an appeal to authority, I thought I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I have to ask, why did he drop names such as Alvin Plantinga and the nebulous "thousands upon thousands of Christian philosophers" if he had no intention to actually explain what they contributed to his rebuttal? As best as I can tell, it was a cheap shot meant to weaken my argument by attacking my credentials before he actually refuted it. If it's not an appeal to authority, then it's ad hominem. I ask the voters to re-read that paragraph and consider its intent and implications. Please feel free to let me know in the comments if I read too much into it.

Furthermore, my argument regarding objective morality was not purposefully a red herring. I am tasked to refute Kinesis' arguments, which in his own words initially spoke nothing of the internal inconsistency of the Christian Worldview. I'm not driving the debate off topic, rather I'm attempting to refute his arguments as best as I can interpret them. Besides, what harm is there in refuting the resolution on both fronts?

So we've come down to the Christian worldview, which I did address at the end of my last round. Kinesis' entire argument rests on this premise:

An all-good, all-powerful, all-loving God would choose to minimize animal suffering.

Where is the support for this premise? If he is indeed operating within the Christian framework, where are the biblical references that show that God would choose to do this? There is none. It is simply asserted, over and over.

He says, "To argue that vast amounts of animal suffering would be a GOOD thing because God commands it doesn't matter." Why? I did not realize we could toss out arguments on a whim. I've already stated that God is good--by definition. He is also sovereign over his creation. It logically follows that whatever he allows must be for good reason. I could offer speculations, but it's really extraneous. In the Christian worldview, God is good and is the standard of goodness. Anything and everything he does is good.

The only way to show that animal suffering is an exception is to fallaciously inject non-Christian presuppositions into the Christian worldview. This is at the core of Kinesis' fallacy. He presupposes animal suffering is incompatible with God, but he has no warrant to do so. He is using atheistic presuppositions to show internal inconsistency within the Christian worldview. As I said in the last round, you cannot show internal inconsistency using external presuppositions.

What we are left with is the concession that, given atheist presuppositions, the resolution cannot be proven and the failed attempt to show an internal inconsistency within the Christian worldview. I believe this is sufficient to consider the resolution negated.

I want to thank Kinesis for this debate. Given the frustration in isolating the actual debate topic, I am willing to debate this topic again in order to focus on the internal consistency issue. Perhaps a resolution of "Animal suffering contradicts Christian presuppositions." It might help the readers understand, more specifically, the nature of the debate.

I also want to thank those that have been following and commenting on the debate. I'm sure I speak for Kinesis when I say that we'd really appreciate feedback in the comments explaining your votes.
Debate Round No. 3
144 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Kinesis 2 years ago
Kinesis
Yeah, I pretty much agree. I didn't really make much of a positive case in this debate beyond an intuition pump, although Con's primary objection plainly wasn't valid.
Posted by Maikuru 2 years ago
Maikuru
Posting to remind myself to read this.
Posted by SuburbiaSurvivor 2 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
I've never heard a rebuttal to the PoE quite like Con's. Brilliant. Pro became upset and incoherent in round III.

Pro had the BOP, and needed to prove that animal suffering was inconsistent with the Christian God. Pro failed to do this.
Posted by Zabcheckmate 3 years ago
Zabcheckmate
An interesting debate. Here's my RFD -->
1. KRF is right to identify this as a version of the problem of evil. However, the attempt to distinguish between Christian and Atheistic worldviews is ultimately meaningless. Kinesis is trying to show that the existence of some event X is proof that God doesn't exist. Suppose I wanted to argue, "God doesn't exist because *corn* does". Such an argument could only be persuasive IF there were some characteristic of corn that made it incompatible with the existence of God. For example, if we suppose that corn is objectively evil, then the "Problem of Corn" argument is fairly persuasive (I know that there are many objections to the problem of evil that address how the existence of evil and the existence of God AREN'T inconsistent, but since none of those came up here, I don't particularly care).
2. What I am left asking myself at the end of this round is, "Is animal suffering objectively evil?" Because there was no burden analysis in this debate regarding this question, I'm left in a rather frustrating position because there . On one hand, there is (obviously) a prima facie case for animal suffering to be evil; my moral intuition is to accept that suffering is generally evil. Still, once KRF contests that intuition, I'm not sure where to stand. I will therefore toss out that intuition, and therefore, the prima facie case that animal suffering is evil.
3. Once that is done, this debate is won by KRF. If Kinesis had made even a single argument supporting my intuition that animal suffering was evil, he would have won.

At the end of the debate, this debate boiled down to:
P1: Animal suffering exists. (Accepted by both parties)
P2: Animal suffering is evil. (UNSUPPORTED by Kinesis, Contested by KRF)
P3: God wouldn't allow evil (Accepted by Kinesis, uncontested by KRF)
Ergo: God doesn't exist

Holistically, this was a fair debate, but Kinesis needed to examine his premises and support the contested one.

Zabcheckmate
Posted by TheManOfWar 3 years ago
TheManOfWar
kinesis is a wanker! kinesis is a wanker! na na naaa na na naaaa KINESIS YOUR SISTER IS A SILF!!!!
Posted by Freeman 4 years ago
Freeman
"I haven't read the previous 135 comments before this, but I'm thinking that a fellow non-believer probably already corrected this mistake, yes?"

I said this in response to that comment.

"Absolute morality is irrational outside of the Christian Worldview." That's not true.

You still have to face the Euthyphro dilemma if you're religious. "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" http://en.wikipedia.org......

Additionally, it's not impossible to conceive of an objective moral standard that doesn't rely on theism. If there are objective facts about the way in which human societies flourish, then knowledge of these facts would provide a clear and objective moral standard. Our brains determine our personalities, and are responsible for our emotions and our state of wellbeing. When we understand the brain more fully, we will understand morality more clearly. Furthermore, there are lots of moral realists that aren't Christians or religious at all. Among these people are David Brink, John McDowell, Peter Railton, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Michael Smith, Terence Cuneo, Russ Shafer-Landau, G.E. Moore, Ayn Rand, John Finnis, Richard Boyd, Nicholas Sturgeon, Thomas Nagel and Sam Harris.
Posted by Danielle 4 years ago
Danielle
I can list a whole explanation but one word should suffice: Objectivism. Objectivists believe in objective [absolute] morality but many objectivists are atheists...
Posted by Kinesis 4 years ago
Kinesis
"Absolute morality is irrational outside of the Christian Worldview." I haven't read the previous 135 comments before this, but I'm thinking that a fellow non-believer probably already corrected this mistake, yes?'

I don't think so. I'm not sure it's false, personally. Absolute morality seems to rely on highly dubious theories of intrinsic value. I don't know much about it though, so I could be wrong.
Posted by Danielle 4 years ago
Danielle
After a bunch of fallacy-noting, it seems to me this debate came down to whether or not Pro proved that animal suffering was not good (and therefore incompatible with an all-good God). Con did not explain why animal suffering was good or acceptable and instead just pointed out that Pro didn't prove animal suffering was bad. However, Pro pointed out that animals endure pain and yet they do not benefit from said pain, which I'm assuming was his explanation for why animal suffering was not good. In that case, I don't see how Con refuted that.

Con attempted to turn Pro's position into the Problem of Evil (i.e. If God is all-good He would destroy evil, or If God is all-good He would destroy animal suffering.) However I don't think that Pro anywhere said God could prove his all-goodness by eliminating animal suffering. Instead, he used the reality of animal suffering to prove that there is unjust suffering in the world (since the animals never made any conscious choice to sin). Unjust suffering = Not an omnibenevolent God (that was my understanding).

Please tell me if I have misconstrued anything in this debate as I hope that I have understood both sides clearly to present a fair vote. On a final note, to quote KRF "Absolute morality is irrational outside of the Christian Worldview." I haven't read the previous 135 comments before this, but I'm thinking that a fellow non-believer probably already corrected this mistake, yes?
Posted by KRFournier 4 years ago
KRFournier
blank = black. I'm terrible with typos when it comes to comments.
23 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 2 years ago
Maikuru
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Reasons for voting decision: Character restrictions and side arguments reduced Pro's case to an open assertion concerning the nature of animal suffering. The assertion is intuitive from a human perspective but, as KRF points out, it stands against a God who is the standard for good behavior, holds full dominion over all life, and possesses unlimited knowledge concerning the interaction of life on a grand scale. Without an established external moral framework from which to base his arguments, Pro's case suffers. Args to Con.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 2 years ago
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