Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Post by Phil and Monica H. re William Lane Craig and Michael Murray on animal pain

This is a one-off guest posting. It's well worth reading. Apologies for awful unfixable formatting.

We are the creators of a series of videos debunking the neuroscience claims made by William Lane Craig (WLC) in his debate with Stephen Law.  WLC claimed animals are not aware of pain and that neuroscience backs his claim.  In Feb 2013 William Lane Craig devoted an entire podcast to addressing our video on the neuroscience of animal suffering; we quickly uploaded a video response, addressing the flaws in his arguments.  You can see all this back and forth here:

Craig promised his source author Michael Murray would write a written reply to our video response and one year later, this has now been published on Craig's web site:
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/animal-pain-re-visited   

We would like to thank both Michael Murray and William Lane Craig for responding.  For those of you who don’t have the time to watch all these videos, here is Craig’s claim as made in his debate with Dr Law:
 “Now, let me say one other thing, however, that is a result of recent scientific discoveries that shed remarkable light on the problem of animal suffering. In his book Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, published by Oxford University Press, Michael Murray explains that there is really a three-fold hierarchy of pain awareness.   On the most fundamental level there’s simply the reaction to stimuli, such as an amoeba exhibits when you poke it with a needle. It doesn’t really feel pain. There’s a second level of pain awareness which sentient animals have, which is an experience of pain. And animals like horses, dogs, and cats would experience this second level pain awareness. But they do not experience a third level pain awareness, which is the awareness of second order pain, that is, the awareness that one is oneself in pain. For that sort of pain awareness requires self-awareness, and this is centered in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) of the brain, a section of the brain that is missing in all animals except for the higher primates and human beings. And therefore, even though animals are in pain, they aren’t aware of it. They don’t have this third order pain awareness. They are not aware of pain, and therefore they do not suffer as human beings do.
Now this is a tremendous comfort to those of us who are animal lovers like myself or to pet owners. Even though your dog or your cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware of being in pain, and therefore it doesn’t suffer as you would when you are in pain.” 

Craig also said:
“All animals but the great apes and man lack the neural pathways associated with Level 3 pain awareness. Being a very late evolutionary development, this pathway is not present throughout the animal world. What that implies is that throughout almost the entirety of the long history of evolutionary development, no creature was ever aware of being in pain.” http://www.reasonablefaith.org/animal-suffering

Please note the complete lack of any caveats, of any maybes, or any hint that what Dr Craig is advancing is a controversial idea sourced from a non scientist (Michael Murray) writing in a paperback book, not a peer reviewed journal article.  The audience is given the impression that these are recent finding of neuroscience and they are scientific facts.
In fact there are no scientific facts here at all. 
It is not a fact that self awareness is required by the PFC. In fact one recent paper showed evidence supporting the hypothesis that self awareness arises from “distributed interactions among brain networks” and the PFC is not needed for self awareness. 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/self-awareness-with-a-simple-brain/?page=2  It is not a fact that consciousness is separated into three discrete categories, rather than being a continuum of experience. The evidence of emotional lives in animals suggests the latter.  

For a discussion see here:
http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2010/7165.html
Nor is it a fact that only humans and the great apes have a PFC; see our videos for discussion and references in the scientific literature.
In Murray’s response he tries to shift the burden of proof on to us to prove animals can suffer. But it is WLC that made very specific claims and gave no hint to his audience that his claims were controversial; therefore the burden of proof is with him. Having said that, there is an enormous body of work that non ape-like animals do experience suffering and self awareness. In our films we cited a number of studies which imply this, but let’s just give a few more brief examples here.
Studies of rats that normally prefer a sweet solution change their preference to a solution containing pain relieving additives following induced arthritis. 
Conversely rats seem to seek out the hand that tickled them. 
So it seems that even rats respond to pain and pleasure in a similar way to humans.  The seeking of pain relieving medications from animals that appear to be in pain seems contrary to the idea that they have no conscious experience of pain. It is seen in a wide variety of animals from rats to chicken to fish.  From an evolutionary perspective this is what we might expect; evolution modifies existing structures and provides for continuity between animal and humans, not necessarily sharp diving lines. 
Lynne Sneddon performed experiments on fish which showed anomalous behavior following a noxious stimuli, this included rubbing affected areas and included non adaptive behavior such as refusing food. That behavior was reduced with controls that had morphine. 
www.liv.ac.uk/media/livacuk/iib/fish/Response_to_Rose_2012.pdf
Recent studies on crustaceans shows that they learn from their pain experience, make motivated pain trade-offs and they excessively groom antennae treated with acid compared to controls with the same acid but given a local anaesthetic.
It would be one thing if Craig had discussed these studies and given some argument why the conclusions were flawed, but he has not.  To be fair Jim Rose did offer a critique for fish pain, but his argument, as Sneddon points out, is fallacious.  Rose argued fish brains were too different to experience pain. Fish brains are certainly different to human brains but that does not mean they can’t generate similar experiences. Nature finds many independent ways to generate similar functions. Fish swim through the water using their tails, but octopus don’t have tails, does that mean they can’t swim?  Indeed recent studies indicate that different brain structures in the fish brain can replicate what is happening in the mammalian brain:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/the-hook-that-hurts-scientists-tip-the-scales-against-anglers-a-749956.html
Investigating the neuro anatomy that is associated with a certain trait is very interesting but it's no substitute for investigating the presence of the trait itself and Murray simply does not address these behavioral studies. 
As to the issue of self awareness, the most well established test for self awareness is the mirror self recognition test. A number of animals have passed this test, including animals that according to Craig do not have a PFC.  Another new test is uncertainty monitoring.  Here, dolphins are given the option of opting out of trial and they clearly do so if their knowledge is insufficient to complete it. 
The evidence for dolphin self awareness is important because dolphins and humans are separated by tens of millions of years of evolution and have quite different brain structures.  Recall that Craig claimed that self awareness comes from a recent evolutionary development and is dependent upon a particular brain structure. 
Of course one can challenge how good these tests are for self awareness. The problem here is this is the evidence we have; we are unaware of a better test for self awareness and certainly our opponents have not suggested any. The tests we have for self awareness show that non primates possess it. 
Murray describes a phenomenon called blind sight, “Where patients with a certain sort of brain damage report that they are blind, and yet they are able to navigate obstacles in their path by using their eyes.”  The suggestion is that pain is analogous to this; an experience that an animal has, but is not conscious of.  The problem here is that it is not shown that blind sighted persons have the same analogous behaviors as animals that seek to avoid pain. Consider the rat experiment described above. The rats had a preference to drink from sweetened solutions, but in the presence of pain they switched to those that had pain relieving drugs in them. There is no evidence presented that blind sighted people have similar preference switching for visual stimuli. Do they, like most people, prefer red ketchup to green ketchup, or respond better to green sugar pills for anti anxiety than red sugar pills? Do they switch such preferences in response to changing environmental pressures? Most of the experiments with blind sighted people involves them simply performing somewhat better than chance on visual tests.  It doesn’t mean they respond in the same way as a sighted person. But animals do respond to pain in a very similar way to humans.  
Initially Craig said god had shielded animals from suffering, then he said actually they do suffer but not as humans do. The problem is, if blind sight is a good analogy for pain in animals then there’s no reason to think they suffer at all. As Craig pointed out there’s no point in taking a blind sighted person to an art gallery. So perhaps our opponents could actually agree on what they are saying and say something consistent with their actual beliefs. Would Murray and Craig be for or against the use of anesthetics for animals? 
Let us now come to the core issue: the claim made by WLC that self awareness needs a PFC and that a PFC is missing in all animals other than higher primates. 
Here’s how Murray responds:
YouTube channels like skydivephil toted their video cameras around to interview a bunch of scientists and asked them whether or not animals feel pain (an exercise not likely to address the philosophical subtleties of the arguments I address), and have PFC’s. All of those interviewed indicated that other animals have PFC’s, and thus my argument fails.”
In fact, all the scientists we interviewed were aware of the philosophical relevance of the questions we were asking. They were all provided with WLC’s argument as well as a final version of the film to verify they had not been taken out of context. Does the scientist that Craig quotes in his debates get that same chance?  They all agreed WLC had got it wrong and they even ridiculed his views, calling it nonsense. Not just on the issue of PFC’s but on the wider issue of animal suffering. These were not fringe scientists; they included the author of the most cited paper in the world on animal self awareness, the author of the most cited (by far) text book on the pre frontal cortex, the chair of the biology department at Columbia University and a neuroscientist who presented the prestigious Farady Christmas lecture on the brain at the Royal Institute and had just written a book on guess which subject? The nature of the self. 
 Keep in mind that WLC had said:
What’s especially odd about this situation is that the question of animal suffering has nothing to do with theology—it’s all about neuroscience.”
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/animal-pain-and-the-ethical-treatment-of-animals
If it’s all about neuroscience what is wrong with asking some of the leading neuroscientists in the field if Murray and Craig have it right? 

To back up Murray's argument regarding pain and the PFC, Murray cites some cases of patients that have had a frontal lobotomy who said they could feel pain but no longer described it as unpleasant. He states that since other animals don’t have a PFC they are in the same position.  The problem is of course that other animals do have a PFC. Furthermore, as we have seen, a recent case study showed that self awareness was preserved given extensive damage to the PFC so it seems both premises of the argument are refuted. 
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0038413

What’s Murray’s response?  He says scientific opinion is not unanimous on the subject and finds two recent critics” that apparently argue against our conclusion. Let’s note that these “recent” papers are 35 and 19 years old respectively. It’s a cheap trick to say there is no unanimity on scientific subject, the real question is: is there a broad consensus?  What if I said scientists had discovered that dark matter didn’t exist and cited this paper:  http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0702146 ?  Would that one citation overrule the huge consensus that exists in astronomy that dark matter is real? 

Note that even the paper Murray cites admits “the work of Rose, Woolsey, and Akert produced a broad consensus among neuroscientists that homologues of primate granular frontal cortex exist in nonprimates.”  Were the authors able to overturn this consensus? A quick search on citation for the rat PFC on Google scholar might show a sharp decline after the paper was published if that were the case.  Let’s take a look. 
            Citations 1985-1995: 983
            Citations 1995-2005: 4003
Clearly not a sharp decline, perhaps because even the paper that Murray cites actually concludes: 

“If prefrontal cortex is construed broadly enough to include orbital and cingulate cortex, rats can be said to have prefrontal cortex. However, they evidently lack homologues of the dorsolateral prefrontal areas of primates. This assessment suggests that rats probably do not provide useful models of human dorsolateral frontal lobe function and dysfunction, although they might prove valuable for understanding other regions of frontal cortex.” 

So all the paper is saying is that the rat lacks some sections of the PFC that are present in other primates. And of that region, the paper says we can’t use the rat model for function and dysfunction, yet Murray appeals to dysfunction. 
More importantly Murray is using inconsistent criteria. He’s saying that the lobotomized patients had damage to the PFC but did not state which sections of the PFC were damaged. At best Murray might argue that some animals don’t have all the same regions as humans, but then he needs to show his patients had those regions damaged; he did not do this.
Another problem is that he needs to show the patients had the same adaptive behaviors against pain. Generally when you have a section of your brain damaged, adaptive behavior is also damaged. Were the patients able to respond to pain in a similar way to normal base lines? If not, the analogy fails. When they said they didn’t feel pain unpleasant, how severe was the pain? Again we are not told and without this, the reports are fairly useless to his argument. 
Murray goes on to claim “even if non-primates have PFCs, the human PFC is completely different from every other type of organism.”  If this is true, then Murray has shot himself in the foot yet again. If the PFC differs radically from human to non primates then there’s little reason to think that studies of human PFC damage is relevant to non primates.
Lastly Murray’s response is in contradiction to WLC. To recap, Craig said: 
“And therefore, even though animals are in pain, they aren’t aware of it. They don’t have this third order pain awareness. They are not aware of pain, and therefore they do not suffer as human beings do.”
Yet Murray says in his response:
“Do we know that any of the possibilities I describe (that animal pain is like blindsight—experienced but not felt (response 1)or like “lobotomy pain”—felt but not undesirable (response 2)) are true in the case of animals? Absolutely not. But do we know that they are not the case? I argue that we don’t.”
So the two authors are simply contradicting each other.  Having said that, Murray's arguments are extremely weak and do not seem consistent with the scientific literature.  What we have here is another example of William Lane Craig misleading his audience into thinking that science backs his theology where it most certainly does not.

31 comments:

Fergus Gallagher said...

The page formatting is awful and it's really hard to follow the thread...

Stephen Law said...

I know. Blogger will not let me fix it either.

Steven Carr said...

Has William Lane Craig read the books he has written or edited?

On page 257 of 'Philosophical Foundations for a Christian worldview' , we read that something (eg a robot) cannot be in pain unless it has the *conscious* property of being in pain.

So, according to books by Craig, when he says an animal is in pain, he means it is conscious of being in pain.

If the animal was not conscious of being in pain, Craig would deride anybody who said the animal actually was in pain.

On page 450 of 'The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology' (editor - a certain WL Craig) we read that it would be puzzling to say that pain did not hurt.

So , if Craig carefully read the books he edited, he would learn that to say an animal is in pain is to say that the pain hurts.

Jonathan MS Pearce said...

If anyone is interested, I interviewed the pair here:

http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/09/10/interview-with-skydivephil-creator-of-superb-videos/

and I wrote a piece on WLC in conjunction with them here:

http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2014/02/08/william-lane-craig-is-either-lying-or-getting-things-very-wrong/

"William Lane Craig is either lying or getting things very wrong"

Jonathan MS Pearce said...
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Anonymous said...

Law, do you really want to get into this? Craig might call foul and say that you guys are unfairly attacking him. Besides, Craig is a knowm charlatan. Look up you-tube video "William Lane Craig's low demeanor towards Skydivephil."

S Johnson said...

I'm glad to know that early infants don't suffer from diaper rash or circumcision as we adults would. And that aborted fetuses don't either.

cipher said...

I couldn't even make it halfway through. Craig's "argument" (or, in this case, an argument written by someone else that Craig is presenting as his position) is - well, in the US we'd say "a load of crap". I imagine that in the UK, you'd call it "bollocks".

I object to "science" and "William Lane Craig" being used in the same sentence.

Anonymous said...

On this issue, both WLC and his critics may be barking up the wrong tree. The reason the topic of animal and infant suffering was brought up in the first place was as a classic Problem of Evil objection to God's existence. The objection is typically stated as 'If suffering is the result of sin, then why do sinless animals and infants suffer?'

There's a fairly straightforward philosophical counter-argument to this objection, but whether it accords with the theology of any particular religion is a matter that would have to be left to theologians. Perhaps WLC's theology precluded this counter-argument, so he resorted to the flawed neo-Cartesian alternative.

The counter-argument actually relies on WLC's four-level classification of pain, but without denying the existence of suffering at the third level. Instead, the third level is characterized by the presence of pain, but the absence of an ability in the creature to relate to itself in the first-person (an ability that requires language, and which is present only at the fourth level).

So the animal or infant experiences pain, but is unable to understand that it is experiencing pain as a person, self-identified from a first-person perspective as someone separate from other persons. In other words, such creatures lack personal identity (the kind that comes with learning a first language).

Some theologies would contend that a person cannot sin if they lack personal identity (because they need to identify themselves as someone separate from God, in order to knowingly rebel against Him). Some of those theologies would go a step further, and claim that once a child attains personal identity, it is automatically a sinner; since once it has identified itself as a separate person from others (including God), it will willfully disobey God.

So the objection from animal/infant suffering is aimed at those theologies. Since such theologies claim that animals and infants are sinless, why do such creatures suffer (if suffering is part of the penalty for sin, surely only sinful humans should bear the consequences?).

Now comes the philosophical counter-argument that some theologians may find objectionable. The counter-argument is based on the premise that God experiences the suffering of all his creatures. In other words, when animals or humans (whether infants or adults) are in pain, God suffers. That is to say, God experiences all pain, from Level Two up.

So because animals and infants lack personal identity, when they suffer, ONLY God suffers (though the creatures display pain behavior, it is only God who feels the pain). When humans with personal identity suffer, they suffer as persons self-consciously separate from God (who also experiences their suffering). Because such humans are also sinners, their collective suffering (but not God's suffering, except in certain special cases, according to some theologies) is part of the penalty for sin (the question of why some sinners appear to suffer more than others is a separate issue from that of animal/infant suffering, since it elicits a different set of responses).

This counter-argument turns the objection from animal/infant suffering around. Instead of being part of the Problem of Evil, the 'objection' is now an indictment by God against sinful Humanity. The counter-argument holds sinners culpable for the suffering of sinless animals and infants,but does not hold God culpable,because He is the only one suffering when animals and infants are in pain.

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Anonymous said...

Correction to my earlier post. 'Level Three' should read 'level Two', and so on correspondingly. There are only three levels, not four.

Philolinguist said...

Sorry, this is the corrected version of my earlier comment:
On this issue, both WLC and his critics may be barking up the wrong tree. The reason the topic of animal and infant suffering was brought up in the first place was as a classic Problem of Evil objection to God's existence. The objection is typically stated as 'If suffering is the result of sin, then why do sinless animals and infants suffer?'

There's a fairly straightforward philosophical counter-argument to this objection, but whether it accords with the theology of any particular religion is a matter that would have to be left to theologians. Perhaps WLC's theology precluded this counter-argument, so he resorted to the flawed neo-Cartesian alternative.

The counter-argument actually relies on WLC's three-level classification of pain, but without denying the existence of suffering at the second level. Instead, the second level is characterized by the presence of pain, but the absence of an ability in the creature to relate to itself in the first-person (an ability that requires language, and which is present only at the third level).

So the animal or infant experiences pain, but is unable to understand that it is experiencing pain as a person, self-identified (from a first-person perspective) as someone separate from other persons. In other words, such creatures lack personal identity (the kind that comes with learning a first language).

Some theologies would contend that a person cannot sin if they lack personal identity (because they need to identify themselves as someone separate from God, in order to knowingly rebel against Him). Some of those theologies would go a step further, and claim that once a child attains personal identity, it is automatically a sinner; since once it has identified itself as a separate person from others (including God), it will willfully disobey God.

So the objection from animal/infant suffering is aimed at those theologies. Since such theologies claim that animals and infants are sinless, why do such creatures suffer (if suffering is part of the penalty for sin, surely only sinful humans should bear the consequences?).

Now comes the philosophical counter-argument that some theologians may find objectionable. The counter-argument is based on the premise that God experiences the suffering of all his creatures. In other words, when animals or humans (whether infants or adults) are in pain, God suffers. That is to say, God experiences all pain, from Level Two up.

So because animals and infants lack personal identity, when they suffer, ONLY God suffers (though the creatures display pain behavior, it is only God who feels the pain). When humans with personal identity suffer, they suffer as persons
self-consciously separate from God (who also experiences their suffering). Because such humans are also sinners, their collective suffering (but not God's suffering, except in certain special cases, according to some theologies) is part of the penalty for sin (the question of why some sinners appear to suffer more than others is a separate issue from that of animal/infant suffering, since it calls for a different set of responses).

This counter-argument turns the objection from animal/infant suffering around. Instead of being part of the Problem of Evil, the 'objection' is now an indictment by God against sinful Humanity. The counter-argument holds sinners culpable for the suffering of sinless animals and infants,but does not hold God culpable,because He is the only one suffering when animals and infants are in pain.

Anonymous said...

The shit people say.... philolinguist and other theists have to create all these ad hoc fantasies instead of just accepting the truth and see that if there is some kind of god(s) it is an apathetic one.

Philolinguist said...
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Philolinguist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philolinguist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Philolinguist said...

Maybe we're the apathetic ones? There's certainly plenty of evidence for that. But there's also lots of evidence that we have the resources to be a lot better, healthier, happier and more knowledgeable. Why are those resources there, and why do we have the potential to exploit them?

After all, we could have remained neolithic hunter-gatherers to this day. No other species has made the leap to language and technology (beyond crude signalling and using rocks or sticks for simple tasks). In less than 200 years, we're made ridiculously good scientific progress. Is it just a coincidence that we're able to interact with the environment so successfully to further our goals?

I'm not alone in thinking there's something odd about that. The physicist Eugene Wigner wrote "the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and . . . there is no rational explanation for it." Einstein noted "The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible". The cosmologist Max Tegmark was so struck by the idea that he concluded the universe was made of nothing BUT mathematics.

This remarkable symbiosis between Man and Nature is very evident in Medicine. Remedies we take for granted, like antibiotics, anesthesia (without which complex surgery would be impossible), painkillers, etc. They all come from the natural environment, and we're discovering new ones daily. There's no reason why we should take that for granted. Other species don't get that privilege; when they fall ill, they just suffer and die.

Equally remarkable (in a different sense) is how we've wasted, misused and abused those resources. Thousands still die daily for lack of clean water, many more from diseases that could have been easily cured. Selfishness and greed are taken for granted, the strong trample on the weak. We blame the elites, but we outnumber them a million to one. The only difference between us and them is they know we're as bad as them (that's why they want to stay on top, and know how to exploit our dark side to keep it that way).

So it's undeniable that we're a remarkably privileged species, and equally undeniable that we have thoroughly abused that privilege. That gives us a pretty strong motive to deny that anyone will hold us to account for the disparity. As any psychologist will tell you, we are a species prone to wishful thinking and self-deception (if you don't believe me, look up 'cognitive dissonance' and 'list of cognitive biases' in Wikipedia).

Some may respond "That's OK, we can correct for our cognitive biases". We certainly can, for the cognitive biases of individuals vis-a-vis the lowest common denominator, the average human. Correcting for the cognitive biases of the species as a whole requires us to take a more indirect approach (because we have no standard, outside the species, by which to make a direct comparison).

What we can do is note if the species as a whole has a strong motive to disbelieve something, and given our tendency to self-deception, conclude that the stronger our collective motive to disbelieve, the greater the likelihood that what we disbelieve is true. So given that a) we (as a species) clearly have a strong motive to deny the existence of an ultimate Judge who will hold us to account, and b) we (as a species) are obviously prone to wishful thinking and self-deception; which do you think is the more reasonable conclusion: 1) There is no such Judge, or 2) There is, but we're awfully good at not believing things we don't want to believe, so given that we have a strong motive to prefer 1), it follows that 2) is the more likely to be true?

Steven Carr said...

'We blame the elites, but we outnumber them a million to one'


I think what PL is trying to say is that most people in the world believe in a god, so the world is in a mess, and his god passes by on the other side when his children are suffering.

Oh, and we can torture as many kittens as we like, because William Lane Craig says they won't be aware of what is happening to them.

Steven Carr said...

'We blame the elites, but we outnumber them a million to one'


I think what PL is trying to say is that most people in the world believe in a god, so the world is in a mess, and his god passes by on the other side when his children are suffering.

Oh, and we can torture as many kittens as we like, because William Lane Craig says they won't be aware of what is happening to them.

PL
What we can do is note if the species as a whole has a strong motive to disbelieve something, and given our tendency to self-deception, conclude that the stronger our collective motive to disbelieve, the greater the likelihood that what we disbelieve is true.

CARR
I think what PL is trying to say is that his god has designed our cognitive faculties so that they are reliable.

Or was that last week's punt by theists?

It is hard to keep up when they keep talking, as they are not burdened by the need to say the same things from one week to the next.

Why can't they just produce a god?

Why can they only produce endless streams of verbiage?

Philolinguist said...

CARR
"most people in the world believe in a god, so the world is in a mess, and his god passes by on the other side when his children are suffering."

Most people in the world don't believe in God, they self-identify with a religion. If most people really believe God would hold them accountable, they would behave a lot better and the world would be nicer place. As it is, most people identify with a religion because it serves a social, political and/or economic purpose; and they only adhere to it when it suits them (which is not very often).

As for 'God passing by on the other side'; as I mentioned, He has blessed us greatly, but we have failed to be good stewards of those blessings. Man was given the privilege of stewarding the world on God's behalf, so we can share in his Divinity. The duty carries responsibility; which entails free will, the possibility we may do a bad job and suffer the consequences. As it is, we're on the verge of free unlimited energy (google 'water splitting'), which can exponentially improve the quality of life, but I doubt most people will be allowed to benefit much from it.

Some may argue that we only believe in religion because we're afraid of death. If that's true, why don't we take religion more seriously? The majority of East Asians and a growing proportion of Europeans claim not to believe in God, and they don't seem to fear death any less than the rest of us. It seems more likely that our greater fear is of being held accountable to God. So we resort to atheism or watered-down religion that doesn't require us to live up to high moral standards.

Anonymous said...

I think it is clear that god's existence has nothing to do with morality existing. Look up the excellent video on YouTube by the name of Euthyphro's Trilemma by sisyphusredeem. He is a philosopher of religion who makes great videos. I also agree with anonymous that PL has to make up ad hoc fantasies to save his personal god.

Philip Rand said...

I was wondering...

Do people "feel" waking up from sleep in the morning?

And if they do...what does it feel like?

Does a one day old infant "know" when it wakes up?

cipher said...

@Philolinguist: It seems more likely that our greater fear is of being held accountable to God.

No. What is far more likely is that you're jumping through hoops in a desperate attempt to hold on to your authoritarian worldview (for which, if recent experimental data is correct, you are most likely neurologically programmed) and your negative self-image.

Anonymous said...

I think it is clear that god's existence has nothing to do with morality existing. Look up the excellent video on YouTube by the name of Euthyphro's Trilemma by sisyphusredeem. He is a philosopher of religion who makes great videos. I also agree with anonymous that PL has to make up ad hoc fantasies to save his personal god.

Edward T. Babinski said...

What if animals with smaller brains than ours do feel harsh physical pain that fills their smaller brains, while humans have a bit of an edge since with our larger brains we can consciously compartmentalize some of it or self-placebo-ize or otherwise distract ourselves from feeling it?

Edward T. Babinski said...

If animals don't feel pain then why don't they bump into things more often, like leprous humans do (who can't feel pain)? Indeed, why don't they run right into the jaws of predators instead of expending such Herculean efforts at being aware of nearby predators, and also fleeing from them with the utmost expenditures of energy once chased?

The same Designer who made predators to catch prey also designed prey adept at avoiding predators (such that lions and other predators can starve, or at least get so run down chasing prey that they have difficulty finding and keeping mates or leaving further offspring as in the case of the extinct marsupial dog in Australia). You’d think that if the Designer wanted one thing or the other to happen he’d have engineered it rather better. Maybe he enjoyed the spectator sport?

Also, the more intelligent animals like elephants, apes, cetacea, exhibit not only mirror-image recognition, but also, depending on the circumstances, symptoms of having a nervous breakdown, i.e., psychological pains.

Edward T. Babinski said...

"The evolutionary process is not at all a perfect one and many traits created by it are not even adaptive. It is precisely because of this that we suffer from such unadaptive traits as back pain, fallen arches, impacted wisdom teeth, varicose veins, appendicitis, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, Huntington's disease, schizophrenia, manic-depression, alcoholism, painful childbirth, and a host of other maladies which genetic evolution has created, but which natural selection has done nothing to eliminate.

"Moreover, each evolutionary change tends to bring with it new forms of pain and suffering that had not existed before...

"For example, sexuality is not absolutely superior to asexuality, and the evolution of the former has brought with it many forms of conflict and suffering that do not exist in organisms that reproduce without sex...

"Sociality is not absolutely superior to solitary life, and its evolution has created new forms of competition and conflict that are less frequent, or even unknown among asocial animals...

"Bipedalism [walking on two legs] is by no means absolutely superior to quadrupedalism [walking on four], and the evolution of a two-legged gait in Homo sapiens has brought with it countless adverse side effects...

"Intelligence and behavioral flexibility are by no means absolutely superior to instinctive behavior, and their evolution had brought with it many forms of [intellectual angst and] emotional pain that are virtually unknown in the nonhuman world...

"No animal has undergone more major changes during the course of its evolution than Homo Sapiens, and no animal has inherited a greater capacity for pain and suffering. With every evolutionary change we have sustained, we have discovered new ways to protect our genes and new ways to suffer for their benefit. With every passing generation, the aggregate price paid for their preservation has become dearer and dearer. And our genes - unlike us - remain blissfully ignorant of the staggering mass of suffering that has been endured for the sake of their perpetuation."
TIMOTHY ANDERS, THE EVOLUTION OF EVIL

Edward T. Babinski said...

NO ONE WAS BLINDER TO NATURE’S WAYS THAN THE PSALMISTS (OH, AND WILLIAM LANE CRAIG, WHO PROBABLY ADORES THE INSPIRED PSALMS IN ALL THEIR HYPERBOLIC FALSITY)

The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from the Lord…Oh Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all...both small and great beasts...These all wait upon thee; that thou may give them their meat in due season.
- Psalm 104

How blind the psalmist was to nature’s ways! He forgot to mention that “the Lord” either gives lions “their meat in due season;” Or has them be eaten by their own mother (because they are runts or deformed); Or has them be eaten by a rival male who has taken control of the pride; Or has them starve because their parents fail to bring enough food home or die trying; Or makes young lions the “meat” of some other predatory species that catches them off guard; Or (if they are male) has them grow up and be killed in combat by another male seeking territory or mates; Or makes them the “meat” for a parasite or disease organism. It’s all the same to “the Lord.”

In 1994 one thousand lions, one-third of the population of East Africa’s Serengeti park, died from painful convulsions by a virus that attacked their blood cells, lungs and brain, i.e., the Canine Distemper Virus. The lions probably picked up the virus from hyenas who picked it up from domesticated dogs that lived just outside the park. (That same year, a tenth of the 500,000 western gray kangaroos in South Australia and the 2.8 million gray kangaroos in neighboring New South Wales, went blind due to a mystery virus.) Let us all praise “the Lord” for supplying those viruses their “meat” in due season.

Edward T. Babinski said...

On Thy wonderful works I will meditate...The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works...Thou dost open Thy hand, and dost satisfy the desire of every living thing...[By giving them other living things to prey upon? But then how is the desire of every living thing satisfied? – E.T.B.]...He will also hear their cry and will save them. [But if He “hears their cry and saves” them from being eaten by some living thing, then He is starving that other living thing. – E.T.B.] He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens which cry.
- Psalms 145:5,9,16,19 & 147:9

Speaking of how well “the Lord” “satisfies the desire of every living thing,” let’s take “the young ravens which cry” as a prime example. A recent study showed that one-third of adult birds and four-fifths of their offspring die of starvation every year (David Lack, “Of Birds and Men,” New Scientist, Jan., 1996). Not surprising, since birds have to eat from one-quarter to one-half their body weight daily, so starvation is a common killer of birds.

Neither does “the Lord” “save” the baby birds that get tossed out of their own nest by the young of a rival species, the cuckoo. The female cuckoo lays her egg in the nest of other birds, and when the cuckoo chick emerges from its egg it tosses the other eggs or other baby birds out of the nest, so only the cuckoo chick is fed by the other bird’s parents.

Nor does “the Lord” “save” the baby birds that I saw on the “Hunting and Escaping” video (in the Trials of Life series) which were dragged from their nests by sea birds of a rival predatory species in order to feed the predator’s own hungry chicks.

Nor does “the Lord” “save” baby birds tossed out of the nest by their own parents because their chicks were not developing properly or swiftly enough.

How blind the psalmist was to nature’s ways!

Edward T. Babinski said...

Surely He will deliver you...You will not be afraid of...the arrow that flies by day; or of the disease that stalks in darkness; or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you...Because you have made the Lord your refuge...no evil will befall you...His angels...will bear you up in their hands, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and cobra...you will trample them under foot...Because you have set your love upon Me, therefore I will deliver you...with long life I will satisfy you.
- Psalm 91

A modern day editor of Psalm 91 would probably add, “Atomic bomb radiation shall not burn you even though a thousand melt at your right hand and ten thousand at your left into puddles of ooze.” Which reminds me of how Rev. Pat Robertson in the late 1970s gave a rousing speech about how “machine gun bullets” would not be able to harm true believers who stood up for Jesus.

Of course, anyone taking a moment’s thought must recognize that Psalm 91 portrays a fantasy version of earthly existence, i.e., of a man incapable of being hurt by arrows, an army of foes, diseases, poisonous snakes, lions, not even a chance of painfully stubbing one’s toe. But if earthly existence teaches us anything it is that “bad things happen to good people, including even the most righteous believers.” Job, Jesus, and Pope John Paul can all testify to that, not to mention the Christian and Olympic runner who was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film, Chariots of Fire, who died at a relatively young age of a brain tumor while working as a missionary in China with his parents.

Another psalmist (or perhaps the same one who wrote Psalm 91) sang that he had “never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25). If he had only opened his eyes.

Philip Rand said...

Edward T Babinski...

I like your quote:

"But if earthly existence teaches us anything it is that “bad things happen to good people, including even the most righteous believe..."

But what about the Pre-Cambrian mass extinction when photo-synthesis evolved?

The result was that Earth's atmosphere became oxygenated killing most life on the planet...except those that "evolved" to use the "poisson" called oxygen...

The fact is that life on Earth is now dependent on a waste product called oxygen...without this waste (i.e. a poisson, therefore a bad thing) we (i.e. humans) would not exist :)