William Lane Craig defends his ridiculous claim that animals don’t suffer

Last October I posted about theologian William Lane Craig’s ridiculous claim, made in a video debate with philosopher Stephen Law, that animals don’t perceive pain.  As Craig said then,

“Even though animals feel pain, they’re not aware of it.. . Even though your dog and cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware that of being in pain, and therefore it doesn’t suffer as you would when you are in pain.”

And as I wrote at the time, this claim was motivated by Craig’s desperate attempt to explain away the problem of gratuitious suffering—in this case the suffering of animals:

The reason Craig and others argue that animals don’t suffer is because it eliminates one of the vexing aspects of the theological problem of evil (theodicy): why do innocent animals (who haven’t sinned) suffer? If you claim that they don’t suffer, that part of the problem goes away.

But of course to any person with rationality (a quality not much in evidence among Craig or his followers), the argument that animals feel but but aren’t aware of it is palpably ridiculous. As I noted:

But there’s no difference between feeling pain and being aware that you’re feeling pain. Pain is a “quale” (plural “qualia”)—a conscious and subjective sensation—which demands awareness, unless it’s simply a sensation that you have learned (or evolved) to avoid.  But if you’ve learned or evolved to avoid it because it’s unpleasant, then you are indeed aware of feeling pain! Finding a sensation unpleasant demands sufficient consciousness to experience qualia.

Does anyone here really think that mammals, for instance, aren’t aware of pain, and don’t suffer when they’re injured?

At any rate, a group of skeptics put together a video responding to Craig’s claim that animals aren’t aware of pain. Several biologists were interviewed, and agreed that all evidence points to the idea that animals feel pain.

Craig appears to have been butthurt by that response video, and made a new 22-minute podcast, which you can find here, in which he tries to defend his original claim. He now admits that animals do suffer pain, but they suffer differently from humans. Craig’s definition of “third-level” pain, which he argues is the way humans suffer, demands one form of consciousness: the awareness that “I am myself in pain.” (I’m not a philosopher, but I don’t think this is the only way one can be conscious.) This all rests on Craig’s claim that animals don’t have a frontal cortex that could mediate self-awareness.

Since, according to Craig, animals—Craig exempts primates—don’t have this form of consciousness, they don’t suffer as humans do, and therefore we shouldn’t worry that animal suffering is a problem for the existence of an omnipotent and omniscient God.

This argument, however, not only contradicts Craig’s previous claim, but, to any reasonable person—even a religious one—remains untenable.  Even if animals aren’t conscious of their individuality, they still suffer, and suffering hurts. It is unpleasant. Is there anyone who doubts that a benevolent God would be justified in exhibiting complete indifference to the suffering of (supposedly) nonconscious animals?

Listen to Craig’s podcast, and see how a crazy theologian can rationalize anything by judiciously redefining words and relying on distorted science.

As far as I know (and I may be wrong), this is the first time Craig has produced a podcast responding directly to internet criticism of his his views.

At any rate, the group that posted the first video contradicting Craig’s original claim has made a new video responding to Craig’s later podcast. Here it is:

It takes apart Craig’s “scientific” claims that animals don’t have self-awareness or a prefrontal cortex, as well as other stupid statements he made. One of the latter, which I find deeply offensive, is Craig’s assertion, “It almost seems as if some atheists would actually prefer that animals experience terrible suffering than to have to give up the objection to theism based on the problem of animal pain.”

No, Dr. Craig, animals do experience terrible suffering, and it does militate against the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God.

What we see here are two things: the ridiculous lengths theologians go to when rationalizing the existence of gratuitous evil, and the fact that even evangelical Christians rely on science when trying to defend their views. In other words, they seek the clarity and assurance of science as a way to support their beliefs. Craig does not, you notice, argue that he has “faith” that animals aren’t aware of suffering. He relies on science (bad science, in his case) to support that claim. In the end theologians are jealous of science, for they are aware that it has greater authority than do their own ways of finding “truth”: dogma, authority, and revelation. Science does find truth, faith does not.

I almost wish Hinduism were true and that Craig could experience his next life as a feral cat in Mumbai. Maybe then he’d change his mind about whether animals experience suffering.

h/t: Philip

186 Comments

  1. Kevin
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I find it ineffably sad that a monster like Craig gets any respect at all from any human being at any time for any reason.

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      In all seriousness, he’s not a monster. Kim Jung il was a monster. Craig is a pseudointellectual, a pompous and dishonest specialist in obscurantism, an apologist for semi-mythical ethnic mass murder in the Old Testament, and he apparently doesn’t care about baby seals being clubbed, but a monster he is not.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        We have a taxonomy of monsters?

        I suppose we do need one, sigh.

        Bravo for that Craig characterization!

      • abrotherhoodofman
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        He’s not a monster only because he lacks real power.

        If WLC had been sitting in Landsberg jail in 1924, he might have been Führer und Reichskanzler Craig in 1939.

        /Godwin

        • Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          Point taken. But loss of points for Godwin.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

            Only a technical Godwin, since he didn’t mention the H word ; )

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted February 11, 2013 at 1:15 am | Permalink

          Craig is full of shit, and intellectually dishonest to boot. But nothing that he’s said — leastwise, nothing that he’s said here, on this issue — warrants characterizing him as a “monster” or crypto-Nazi. He’s not advocating that pain ought to be inflicted on animals; he’s merely asserting (damn all appearances, and full-speed ahead) that animals do not suffer when in pain. In so doing, he’s only doing what soi-disant “apologists” by definition do: defending the indefensible.

          It may be that, if Craig were peddling his line of theodicy in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s while fascism was ascendant, he would have accommodated his religious beliefs to Nazism — as so many clerics of the time did, from Pius XII on down. But nothing in the argument he presents here supports that inference.

          If anything, a contrary inference seems warranted. Just as (as Jerry points out in the OP) religious believers aspire to square their beliefs with science, they similarly seek to comport religious morality with the principles of humanism. This is why we hear blather such as democracy being God’s gift to humanity and slavery offending God’s law — notwithstanding abundant evidence in the primary source of Scripture itself, and millennia of human history, demonstrating that long did the Lord blithely abide both the divine right of rulers and the subjugation of vanquished peoples.

    • Chance
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for expressing what I already felt deep down inside ;)

  2. Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    If this ass ever comes to a place near me, I’d be the first to boo him with rotten eggs.

  3. Rebecca Harbison
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    “It almost seems as if some atheists would actually prefer that animals experience terrible suffering than to have to give up the objection to theism based on the problem of animal pain.”

    I don’t like it when people make points about religion at the expense of people, and I don’t like it when you switch to animals. If Craig were to substitute a theist group for atheists (“It almost seem as if some Presbyterians would…”), it still would be a pretty nasty thing to say: to insist something must be true, despite evidence, because it needs to be true for a religion to be ethical.

  4. Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    More importantly, everyone suffers when reviewing the oeuvre of Mr. Craig.

  5. Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    If you’ve ever rescued an abused animal, and adopted it, you will see the long-term effects of what they suffered in their previous environments.

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      I had a horse once who had been abused by a previous owner. The person I bought him from treated him well, but the person he’d gotten him from beat him up all the time.

      I got him when he was five. He lived until two months shy of his thirtieth birthday. Until the day he died he was afraid of men. L

  6. quiscalus
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    This post immediately brought to mind a quote by Glen Campbell’s character, LaBoeuf, in the movie True Grit:

    “You’ve done nothing when you’ve bested a fool”.

    Doesn’t it get tiresome to expose stupidity only to be reminded that a person ignorant enough to say and think such things is also too ignorant to understand when they’ve been refuted absolutely? You are made of sterner stuff than I, good sir! Keep it up!

  7. Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Craig’s definition of “third-level” pain, which he argues is the way humans suffer, demands one form of consciousness: the awareness that “I am myself in pain.” (I’m not a philosopher, but I don’t think this is the only way one can be conscious.)

    Right; almost no one would say that to be conscious of x, one must believe that one is conscious of x. Here, I think, Craig parts company with almost every philosopher of mind.

    The problem of animal pain is widely taken to be the most difficult version of the Problem of Evil, and the best argument against God’s existence. But Craig’s “solution” is extremely unpopular, even among theist philosophers. Instead, they usually argue that (1) there may be some outweighing good that we just can’t know about; (2) a universe containing some gratuitous suffering is still worth creating, and God will create all such universes; or (3) actual animal sufferings don’t serve any greater purpose, but if God were to eliminate them, some other evil would take their place. None of these attempts ultimately works, but all are better than arguing that animals do not feel ethically significant suffering.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Theologians trying to define evil should just look in the mirror.

  8. Bobby Havicon
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Yeah, I don’t know why they would resort to such desperate tactics. I thought the “normal” explanation for them was that humans (original sin) introduced pain and suffering into the world and we all, including animals, suffer the consequences of that disobedience in a myriad of ways, e.g., physical pain. Of course this doesn’t really answer the question as to why the world was designed in such manner as to allow that to occur in the first place.

    • raven
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I don’t know why they would resort to such desperate tactics.

      1. WL Craig appears to be a sociopath. A lot of fundie leaders seem o be socipaths.

      2. There is huge money in pandering to the christofascists.

      Pat Robertson is ruputed to be a billionaire. Glenn Beck in the last few years has made ca. $100 million. Making millions or tens of millions a year is not at all unusual.

  9. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I would be interested to know how much time WLC has actually spent around animals. L

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      He said he is an animal lover, I guess a lot of time maybe.

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        No matter what he SAYS, I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t actually spend time with them.

        I have bred animals all of my adult life. I have trained dogs and horses, and I currently have a goat dairy. I have been breeding goats for 33 years.

        Believe me, they can and do feel pain. They can and do feel lots of other things, too – love, jealousy, anger, frustration, fear, curiosity, joy, playfulness…

        A real animal lover would know this. WLC says whatever he thinks will buttress his argument. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near a critter I cared about. L

        • SA Gould
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

          Wouldn’t want him near any living creature of any species. He has no empathy. Only HIS pain counts. (And may his god grant him some character-building pain.)

        • hankstar
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

          “No matter what he SAYS, I’d be willing to bet he doesn’t actually spend time with [animals].”

          Indeed – and no matter what he says about anything, I’d be willing to bet that much of the time he doesn’t believe it himself. My most charitable part tells me that there must be some part of him that realises the moral bankruptcy of his defence of genocide and gratuitous suffering and that he mounts these awful, pseudoscientific and pseudophilosophical defences to keep the faith among the fundamentalist pew-warmers and reassure them that their faith isn’t threatened; perhaps he imagines he’s performing a public service by adopting points of view that are abhorrent and extreme, effectively making himself cannon fodder and sparing those less “sophisticated” from the atheist onslaught.

          Then again, my less charitable parts tell me that, if the above is true, those acts are those of a cynical used-god salesman seeking publicity.

          My least charitable part tells me WLC is a high-functioning sociopath who should quite possibly be locked away before he starts to emulate the perfect morality of his God (or hear God issuing him new orders) in real life.

          But my realistic parts just tell me WLC’s a true believer who’s had his more-or-less keen intellect hobbled by fundamentalism; his aforementioned high functions chained to a post so that all he can do with them is walk around in endless, infinite circular arguments.

          Frankly, if he wasn’t so damnably proud of his moral offensiveness I’d pity him.

    • raven
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I’ve never seen any evidence that WL Craig is capable of empathy.

      He has spent a lot of time around humans at least.

      It doesn’t look like it made any difference in his personality. He comes across as a sociopath.

      • Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        Sociopath? I was thinking that too.

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Moral certitude and empathy are mutually exclusive. L

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          I like that a lot!

        • hankstar
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          I’m stealing that (with attribution) :)

        • Linda Grilli Calhoun
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          Seriously, think about it. Empathy requires being able to see an issue from another’s viewpoint. If you are so morally certain that you are “right”, looking at something from a different viewpoint is, by definition, looking at it from the “wrong” viewpoint.

          I believe that the most fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals see empathy as a skill, and conservatives see empathy as a weakness. (As in “bleeding heart liberal”.) L

          • Diane G.
            Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

            I’m liking your framing more and more. Will have to remember to steal it.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted February 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

            I believe that the most fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals see empathy as a skill, and conservatives see empathy as a weakness.

            I think you’ve got this exactly. From a Machiavellian standpoint empathy is certainly weakness, and the conservative mind set seems to long for simple formulas, quick solutions, and moral absolutes, which means frequently ends justify means. This desire for certainty and security feeds into the prevalence of fear in their instincts, which is connected to the dislike of change, ambiguity, and diversity.

            Liberals want to make things better for everyone, while conservatives want to hold on dearly to what they have because they fear things will get worse for themselves.

            • Howard Kornstein
              Posted February 10, 2013 at 4:41 am | Permalink

              Oh dear Jeff….. just when I start believing that you might not be totally blinded by your own self richeous political posturing, you spout off something like that.
              Is there any real difference between WLC’s claiming that animals feel no pain and your claiming that conservatives feel no empathy?
              If you want to see the profile of someone whose sense of certitude overcomes his own capacity for critical thinking, just look in a mirror.

              • Linda Grilli Calhoun
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

                I can’t speak for Jeff, but I can respond to you.

                I don’t claim that conservatives feel no empathy. What I do claim, though, it that they see their empathic feelings as weakness.

                Consider for a moment the reaction the conservative world had to GW Bush when he said he was a “compassionate conservative”. He was hooted and booed and derided.

                I reiterate, why do you think the term “bleeding heart liberal” is used?

                When people of that political persuasion teach their boys to be “tough”, they are attempting to disconnect them from their empathic feelings, which they consider to be female. (“Don’t be a girl.”)

                Christianity believes that suffering is “redemptive”. To me, it’s just a love of pointless cruelty. Mean people enjoying their meanness, if you will. L

              • Howard Kornstein
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

                “I don’t claim that conservatives feel no empathy. What I do claim, though, it that they see their empathic feelings as weakness.”
                I think it is totally wrong to use any of these pseudo-Freudian characterisations of people who hold a different political outlook. As with any ad hominem argument, it demeans all debate, and is unworthy of anyone who claims to be a rationalist. I think that much of conservative positioning comes from their holding a different set of logical premises regarding issues..say poverty. They can empathise with the pain of poverty, and wish for the mitigation of this pain, but may propose solutions that to a liberal can hard hearted. Who is right? Only an honest debate regarding the rationality and effectiveness of the proposed solutions is appropriate. Also, just because a subset of people in the opposite camp may seem to be, or actually are pigheaded, does not give us the excuse to avoid putting our own views and assumptions up to real scrutiny, and to be just as pigheaded as the people we disagree with.

              • Linda Grilli Calhoun
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

                How is my statement ad hominem?

                I gave examples of phrases that THEY THEMSELVES use, and I gave an example of their nasty reaction to GW Bush’s characterization of himself as a compassionate conservative. They themselves demeaned him for saying that.

                Yes, they do see suffering as “redemptive”.

                And yes, I think that’s bloody ridiculous. L

  10. Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Born Again Scientist and commented:
    Dr. William Lane Craig brings such passion to a discussion, yet he argues about nonsense sometimes.

  11. MAUCH
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    William Lane Craig delivers his ruminations with an eloquent Gish gallop that is truly impressive. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that though we do not have a clue of what he is saying he certainly does sound like he is delivering one profound insight after another. Scratch the surface though and you realize that what you are hearing is absolute nonsense. The man is no more than a glib intellectual vacuum.

  12. Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I almost wish Hinduism were true and that Craig could come back as a feral cat in his next life. Maybe then he’d change his mind about whether animals are aware of suffering.

    Maybe he comes back as a beast of burden having to work all day then just maybe he may wish he was a pet

    • marycanada FCD
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Do feral cats have it so bad? I’d have thought maybe a bear having its bile harvested, or made to “dance” on a hot plate, a shark being finned and thrown back or, if human cruelty is not gratuitous enough, an antelope being felled and eaten by a lioness.

      Since he seems to grant that “higher” primates experience pain, how about a bonobo being torn apart by chimpanzees?

  13. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Craig seems he relies on science only when it suits him.

    He has made silly critiques of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity insisting that contra Einstein there has to be such a thing as absolute simultaneity. (I’ve only read the critiques over at “theaunicornist.com”- I haven’t read any Craig directly.)

    Not only has he made silly arguments defending Jesus’s resurrection- he has even used the Shroud of Turin in its defense. (So much for carbon-dating it to the 14th century!!)

    Folks here probably already know Craig has also made grotesque defenses of the genocide of the Canaanites, Amalekites, etc. If there’s any part of the Bible I’m most relieved and glad to know didn’t actually happen, this would have to be it.

    Oddly, Craig got his doctorate under the supervision of John Hick, a philosopher of religion with vastly more progressive views (though not necessarily more credible to a strong secularist). Hick is only barely Christian, only by a thin thread. Hick has come under fire from traditionalists for NOT believing in original sin, that Jesus was divine, the exclusivity of Jesus as a road to God, or if anyone is in hell.

    Which just further suggests that theology is largely a matter of finding reasons for a priori assumptions.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Which just further suggests that theology is largely a matter of finding reasons for a priori assumptions.

      This thread is just full of delightful summaries like that! Well said!

  14. Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    “Craig’s definition of “third-level” pain, which he argues is the way humans suffer, demands one form of consciousness: the awareness that “I am myself in pain.”

    Using this rationale, Craig should also argue that human babies and one-year old children don’t suffer either.

  15. darrelle
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    There he goes again, pulling stuff out of his nethermost region and polishing it with highfalutin verbiage. WLC can sound impressive to the ignorant because he speaks well, uses scholarly words, is good at using tone of voice to convey ridicule, contempt or superiority, and speaks fast. What he actually says, though, is pure crap. Translated to standard English my 8 year old kids can readily see how ridiculous his arguments are. In other words, he is a carny. It seems unlikely to me that he is not aware that his arguments are crap, in which case he is a really nasty piece of work. But, who knows? I could of course be wrong about that.

    • marycanada FCD
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Your observation seems more plausibly true

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Just a special case of the fact that all debates are more about persuasion than reason, one reason I’m no big fan of any of them.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely. I do appreciate rhetorical skill, but I despise it in the service of arguments like those of WLC. Some people, perhaps all people on occasion, are persuaded by the rhetorical skills of the speaker rather than their arguments, data or evidence. And people, like WLC and his carny ilk, are fully aware of that and knowingly use it to their advantage and their marks’ disadvantage. That just pisses me off. But hey, that’s good for the circulation.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          Some people, perhaps all people on occasion, are persuaded by the rhetorical skills of the speaker rather than their arguments, data or evidence.

          Heck, some people are persuaded (or the opposite) by a speaker’s sex, sex appeal, popularity, clothes, ethnic identification, humor, academic degrees, weight…

          *Smile* at ‘good for the circulation. For me it’s more like ‘bad for the blood pressure.’ ;)

  16. John K.
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I guess we are in the clear for all abortions that occur before the frontal cortex develops in the fetus, then.

    Let’s see him squirm out of that one.

    • Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      I imagine the squirming would involve “special creation for humans,” or something equally dishonest.

  17. Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    ‘This all rests on Craig’s claim that animals don’t have a frontal cortex that could mediate self-awareness.’

    Craig the naturalist denies that self-awareness exists in beings without a frontal cortex.

    So what happens to dead people?

    As a True Christian, Craig will now be scoffing at the idea of life after death, as without a frontal cortex how can dead people be self-aware?

    Or is Craig once again arguing whatever suits him at any one moment in time, knowing that the marks will not be capable of thinking seriously about what he says?

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Craig the naturalist denies that self-awareness exists in beings without a frontal cortex.

      So what happens to dead people?

      Logic demands that they take their frontal cortices with them to Heaven. Or Hell – otherwise how could the damned suffer? (Somehow I suspect WLC doesn’t want anyone to miss out on that!)

      [cortices - I haven't looked it up, but it has to be right. I wonder if I'll ever use that word again....]

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        “Cortices” is correct. Another useless bit of trivia from two years of HS Latin.

        I can still recite the first paragraph of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, too. L

  18. Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    One might notice some parallels between Craig’s argument and Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism – they both rely on a dualistic theory of mind, which stems from belief in an immortal soul.

    Think those SkydivePhil videos do an excellent job of debunking Craig – check out their one on the Kalam Cosmological Argument too, which is excellent.

  19. Galactor
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    ” … animals — Craig exempts primates — don’t have this form of consciousness”

    I have never seen a gorilla in church.

    Perhaps god is evolving them for their own, future path to heaven.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      You just haven’t been to enough churches.

  20. Jamie
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    If you have heard V.S. Ramachandran talk about mirror neurons, you know that the “sympatheic pain” we feel when witnessing an animal in pain is very real. I find it interesting that not only do animals suffer when in pain, but that any witnessing human not trained to callousness does as well.

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Animals can feel sympathy, too, both with each other and with their humans.

      Have you ever been sick, or crying, and have your kittehs come and cuddle you?

      Believe me, they KNOW. L

      • SA Gould
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        When my mother had ALZ, she got into a phase where she would have to check on the whereabouts of the cat every fifteen minutes, she thought the cat was lost. Cat could have easily hid, run or scratched but did not. And every time she lay down for a nap, the cat came up to cuddle with her. The cat did as much to comfort my mother as I did.

      • microraptor
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        I was going to post this myself- dogs and cats both can tell when someone is hurt or unhappy and will respond accordingly.

      • Prof.Pedant
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Some of that being convinced that they KNOW has to be derived from our interpolating meaning onto events – but cats and dogs clearly interpolate meaning onto events themselves, so fair is fair. And it is still a good thing when the cat is real nice to me when I am stressed regardless of what the cat’s motives or understandings of the situation are. The cat and I are a lot less able to discuss our inner states with each other than I and my human friends are – but how she is feeling still matters to me, and I am convinced that how I am doing matters to her, despite the vast amount of misunderstandings we surely have of each other.

  21. Kent
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Craig is not deluded, but dishonest.

    • steve oberski
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Grey’s Law

      “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.”

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      He is deluded *and* dishonest. He knows that god exists through the revealed truth of the holy spirit. That then justifies using any argument that convinces an audience, regardless of whether it’s rational or not.

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      You should never attribute to malice what you could just as easily attribute to stupidity or ignorance.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        In WLC’s case I think all three are probably appropriate…?

  22. Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    If this slime bucket was aware of how disgusting he appears to many people, he would feel the pain of shame. But he won’t ever get to that point, because then he would feel the only pain that matters to him and whose suppression he is willing to be as intellectual dishonest as possible: that his god is a monster, the god that gives substance and meaning to this slime bucket’s life. Truly, what a pathetic human being he is. Pure cowardice. And not an ethical bone in his body.

    Anyway, he was pawned most competently. She’s great!

  23. Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t know how feasible it is, but I was intrigued by a suggestion Dawkins made once that because humans have the capacity for conscious rationalistaion, animals might have been adapted to feel *worse* pain than humans in order to really hit home something that we might need less pain to motivate us.

  24. ladyatheist
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Wow, now in addition to knowing more about astrophysics than professional astrophysicists, professional philosopher WLC knows more about biology than biologists! What a genius he is! Such a genius that he couldn’t be satisfied saying “god is the god of people, not of animals, and he really doesn’t care about animal suffering” as the Catholics (I’ve heard) do.

  25. raven
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    The fundie death cult xians have never produced a thinker of note. The closest they came was Rushdooney, the founder of xian Dominionism. Rushdooney’s plan for a US theocracy results in murdering 99% of the population, auto-genocide. He has been very influential.

    WL Craig and his clones, Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell can be counted on to lie and make any logical fallacy known to humans.

    They aren’t provided “reasons to believe”. They are provided excuses and lies to believe.

  26. abrotherhoodofman
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    William Lane Craig:

    How in the holy hell do you know what God is like?

    How the hell do you know animals don’t suffer?

    I hear there is a new WLC motorcycle being developed. It has no tires and can go from zero to Jesus in less than ten seconds.

  27. Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Even if we accepted his thesis on animals not suffering level 3 awareness, observing animals in whatever degree they do suffer still makes God a real shit – if there were a God.

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Really!

  28. Patrick
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    The other notable thing from Craig’s argument that hasn’t got attention, but which should, is the way that he has (apparently intentionally) used his knowledge of philosophy to mislead.

    If Craig had defined “third level pain” as “I am myself, and, I am in pain.” the stupidity of his argument would be instantly evident to even the most naive reader. Even an utter fool would be able to read his argument and recognize that everything about awareness of pain occurs in the second half of that clause, and none of it in the first. The first is therefore severable, leaving behind only “I am in pain,” a thought animals appear to be able to feel, even if they (arguably) cannot articulate more complex ideas like “I am myself.”

    So instead he rephrased it as “I am myself in pain” to make it into a single declarative statement in which “myself in pain” appears to be a direct object.

    But there’s no reason we should accept that formulation. “I am myself in pants.” “I am myself typing.” “I a myself in a room.” I do not transition between different forms of “myself” based on what I am doing or where I am located. I am myself, also, I am wearing pants, in a room, typing.

    • abrotherhoodofman
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I am myself giving you a +1

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        LOL!

        +2 to Patrick & +1 to you.

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      That formulation is itself an empty redundancy, meant only to seem substantive to the hard-of-thinking themselves.

    • Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Also, it’s good to know you’re wearing pants.

      • Patrick
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        Everyone lies on the internet.

        • Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          :)

          Well, it is the weekend. Enjoy!

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

          Is your statement, then, a lie? ;-)

  29. Capt. Stormfield
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Reading Craig is the semantic and philosophical equivalent of watching a cheap birthday-party magician pull quarters out of his nose.

    • hankstar
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Except … quarters are worth something.

  30. Marta
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Ever slam your fingertip in a car door, or hit your thumbnail with a hammer? And you know, it throbs, and turns hot and then purple and it hurts like that for 3 days?

    That pain is William Lane Craig.

    Because if you say this:

    “Even though animals feel pain, they’re not aware of it.. . Even though your dog and cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware that of being in pain, and therefore it doesn’t suffer as you would when you are in pain.”

    you can make the planet a better place if you’d just get the hell off it.

  31. KP
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    EMERGENCY!! Someone please confiscate WLC’s pets!

  32. Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    “…Craig’s assertion, “It almost seems as if some atheists would actually prefer that animals experience terrible suffering…”

    That’s right; this is all about preferences. Reality conforms to our preferences. Totally.

    Also, even if animals don’t experience “third-level” pain it remains unexplained why so much life has to be wasted.

  33. Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    When the religious try to condescendingly wave away the “Problem of Evil and Unnecessary Suffering” it only makes me irate. In a world where unspeakable horrors happen to all manner of life every second of the day, one can either face the reality head on and with empathy – even if it is overwhelming, even if you have no idea how to fix it – or one can so distance themselves to these horrors as to actually border on psychopathy. If you believe a classroom of 6 yr olds are in heaven after being brutally mowed down by a military weapon, if you believe that the pigs being strung up alive by their ankles, beaten, burned, all while screaming in terror and pain is nothing other than affirmation of Descartes’ sophisticated automatons – then you have found a way to remove yourself from healthy emotional responses. This is, to me, the biggest roadblock to a healthy society. When rampant suffering is so easily dismissed, when it’s explainable, when it’s ignored – we just cannot take a step forward.

  34. R J Langley
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    The man is a creationist. There is, therefore, no need to take a damn thing he says seriously. He has already demonstrated that facts and logic are less important than his religious convictions.

    • jesse
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      But it is good to know who these people are so that if they do show signs of gaining political power, it can hopefully be nipped in the bud.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        God forbid he gets into politics! He’d be an instant success in many US districts.

        • jesse
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Well, as “politics” I include things like school boards or anywhere within government where he’d be given some power to make policy that affects others.

  35. david middle
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I should have told that to my dog two days ago when she was bitten by a snake or stung by a scorpion, when she was lying on the ground howling. Thankfully she has made a full recovery.

  36. microraptor
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Funny (not really) how I should be reading this while I’ve got a throbbing headache. Ugh, where did I put the aspirin?

  37. M Janello
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    “Craig appears to have been butthurt by that response video”

    But was he aware of the butthurt?

    The existence of God rests on the answer.

  38. Jeff Johnson
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    It strikes me as extremely dense of Craig to claim to love animals and at the same time go to such great lengths to construct an absolute firewall separating humans from animals. This blindness to his own contradictions is like a slave owner talking about how much he loves his slaves while also offering arguments for why they aren’t human and how they benefit from slavery.

    Real animal lovers are quite sensitively attuned to animal moods and feelings. Anyone who has ever accidentally stepped on a dog’s paw would be pretty hard pressed to explain why dogs are such good actors with an amazing ability to fake reactions of pain and severe distress.

    Even if Craig’s argument stood up to scrutiny, it accomplishes little with respect to god’s existence. Along with all the other arguments against god, there remains the argument that the mere existence of Dr. William Lane Craig is strong evidence that a benevolent god does not exist. The two are obviously mutually exclusive. The god Craig would represent would be an evil fascist dictator who needs a PR man to propagandize for him and rationalize his brutality and vanity.

    • raven
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      It strikes me as extremely dense of Craig to claim to love animals and at the same time go to such great lengths to construct an absolute firewall separating humans from animals.

      There is a mistake right there.

      Craig is a serial, pathological liar.

      I wouldn’t believe anything he says without outside corroboration.

      As mentioned above several times, he seems to be a sociopath.

  39. Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that using Craig’s logic, a new born babe doesn’t feel pain either. For is it really any more aware in any sense of the word than said feral cat?

  40. bc68251
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    If animals are “unaware” of pain, why do electric fences work?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      ‘cos animals can sense the disturbance in the force, and they haven’t yet learned to make tinfoil hats?

  41. hankstar
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Am I right in assuming that if Dr Craig had a cat who needed an operation, the only reason Dr Craig would want anaesthetic to be used would be to spare everyone all that agonised wailing?

    • abrotherhoodofman
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      +1 !!!

      This question simply must be put to Doctor Craig. Perhaps the group who created the response videos could be contacted…

  42. Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I remember freshman psychology class: there was the experiment done on two sets of monkeys: one set just got random shocks; the others learned that they *might* be able to stop the shock by pressing certain buttons given a “pre-shock” cue. (it worked some of the time but not all of the time)

    The former set of monkeys didn’t develop ulcers but the latter set did, due to anxiety. Hence, these animals DID suffer pain and worry about pain.

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m quite shocked. Your college tortured animals for teaching purposes? Did the students tolerate this? Your professors should have been arrested and jailed.

      • steve oberski
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        In “The Better Angels of our Nature”, Steven Pinker describes how as a young research assistant working under the direction of a professor in an animal behaviour lab he tortured a rat to death, which he now considers to be “the worst thing I have ever done.”

      • Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        NO! This was a study that was presented in a text-book. Google “executive monkeys”.

        • Alexander Hellemans
          Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          OK. These results can be obtained by observation of real “executives” suffering from ulcers. There are enough of them around. There is no reason to torture a monkey for 23 days! I know of one university in Europe who has a animal-welfare officer. She can block experiments she deems to cause unnecessary suffering. She blocked one experiment involving mice in a water tank where researchers would check how long it takes for the mice to give up swimming to avoid drowning.

          • Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

            This experiment was carried in the pre-IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) days and might well be illegal now (in the United States)

  43. Rain
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    “It almost seems as if some atheists would actually prefer that animals experience terrible suffering than to have to give up the objection to theism based on the problem of animal pain.”

    Wow, he sure does put a lot of weight on a mere and not-so-obvious assertion that animals don’t suffer. I wouldn’t doubt if he got it from some joke like Augustine or something.

    “It almost seems as if some atheists would actually prefer that animals experience terrible suffering than to have to give up the objection to theism based on the problem of animal pain.”

    Wow, that might be the most twisted demonizing of one’s opponents I have ever seen. I had to quote it again to make sure I was reading it right the first time.

  44. Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    One of the latter, which I find deeply offensive, is Craig’s assertion, “It almost seems as if some atheists would actually prefer that animals experience terrible suffering than to have to give up the objection to theism based on the problem of animal pain.”

    I also find this deeply offensive, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. It seems he would rather attribute really disgusting behaviour to us than let his thinking be challenged. And in making that claim, is he not almost admitting that animals expereince terrible suffering, himself?

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Craig want’s us to bury our heads in the sand–isn’t that all what religion and the problem of suffering is about?

  45. raven
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    This all rests on Craig’s claim that animals don’t have a frontal cortex that could mediate self-awareness.

    FWIW, this appears to be pseudoscientific nonsense.

    At least all mammals seem to have a prefrontal cortex or equivalent part of the brain.

    We don’t really understand self awareness and consciousness in humans. Yet.

    It is incorrect to claim that animals aren’t self aware and/or conscious. My observations with pet cats and dogs tends to imply that they are. This might not be rigorous proof but I doubt I could prove I’m cosncious and self aware either.

    Craig is just doing what he usually does. Babble and lie a lot.

    wikipedia:

    To define the prefrontal cortex as the projection zone of the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus builds on the work of Rose and Woolsey[7] who showed that this nucleus projects to anterior and ventral parts of the brain in nonprimates. Rose and Woolsey however termed this projection zone “orbitofrontal.” It seems to have been Akert, who in 1964 for the first time explicitly suggested that this criterion could be used to define homologues of the prefrontal cortex in primates and nonprimates.[8] This allowed the establishment of homologies despite the lack of a granular frontal cortex in nonprimates. The projection zone definition is still widely accepted today (e.g. Fuster[9]), although its usefulness has been questioned.[5][10] Modern tract tracing studies have shown that projections of the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus are not restricted to the granular frontal cortex in primates. As a result, it was suggested to define the prefrontal cortex as the region of cortex that has stronger reciprocal connections with the mediodorsal nucleus than with any other thalamic nucleus.[6] Uylings et al.[6] acknowledge, however, that even with the application of this criterion it might be rather difficult to unequivocally define the prefrontal cortex.

    • Alien humanoid
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      WLC seems to have got his ideas from ‘The Myth of Animal Suffering’ by Dutchman Bob Bermond. I discovered this after digging around a bit after this was discussed on philosopher Stephen Law’s site.

  46. Rain
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    First documented animal death in the Bible:

    Genesis 3:21: The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

    Yep, God was the first one to kill animals. Maybe the LORD never heard of polyester.

  47. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    “I almost wish Hinduism were true and that Craig could come back as a feral cat in his next life.”

    What’s so bad about being a feral cat?

    I wish WLC could come back as a caterpillar. One that’s paralysed and being slowly eaten by a wasp larvae. I believe they leave the nervous system till last so the ‘meat’ stays fresh. But of course WLC wouldn’t feel a thing.

  48. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    … and another thing…

    ‘See here, Mr Craig, this animal in front of you is a tiger. A very large, but quite well-fed and contented tiger. You’re quite safe.
    Now, I am about to whack his paw very hard with this here hammer. However, you are in no danger because he can’t feel it… wait, where are you going…?’

    (I hasten to add the above scenario is quite untrue. I would never hit a kitteh with a hammer).

  49. Kev
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    If a social animal (say a cat or a dog) shares some traits of human behaviour, does that mean that it has the same consciousness as a human? If consciousness requires well developed prefrontal lobes, could an animal with lesser lobes be concious to a lesser degree. For me “pain” or suffering is dependent upon being conscious. Withdrawal from a painful stimulus does not require consciousness, although it would appear that an animal that does so is “in pain” in the human sense. This could be described as an anthropomorhic interpretation. I think we cannot “know” what a dog is “thinking” or “feeling”.
    The standard evolutionary/philosophical dilemma is to understand at what point human ancestors actually became “self aware”. It is also interesting to ponder what this “awareness” is worth in an evolutionary sense, since complex human behaviour could possibly be possible from a brain that could elaborate complex “decisional” behaviour without being self-aware. In short what does consciousness serve?

  50. Geoff
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    There was a faith-healer from deal
    Who said, “Although pain isn’t real,
    If I sit on a pin
    And it punctures my skin,
    I dislike what I don’t think I feel.”

  51. Posted February 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I think William Lane Craig feels intelligent, but I’m not aware of it.

  52. Geoff
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    another version of the above limerick with a little alliteration in the last line.

    There was a faith-healer from deal
    Who said, “Although pain isn’t real,
    When I sit on a pin
    And it punctures my skin,
    I dislike what I fancy I feel.”

    • SA Gould
      Posted February 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      +1.5!

  53. Craig McGillivary
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    I think there is a lot of animal behavior that looks like suffering, but we need to understand what is happening in their brains and whether that is anything like what happens in human brains when we suffer. I think that language may play a stronger role in suffering than many people realize. After all part of what pain does is undermine the operation of your inner monologue. If you didn’t have such a monologue what would pain really be like?

    • Observer
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      What would pain be like without an inner monologue? Painful!

      Awareness of self, the inner monologue, can have an effect on the intensity of pain, but anybody who has experienced extreme pain can testify that it shuts off that inner monologue most effectively.

      There is no good reason to think that a squirrel being eviscerated by a hawk would suffer any less, or in a substantially different way, than a human eviscerated by, say, shrapnel. In times of intense pain and fear, self reflection doesn’t enter into it.

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        I agree that trying to diminish the idea of animal suffering because they lack some higher cognitive functions is bogus.

        The implication is that these higher cognitive functions are something purely noble that make human suffering in some way grander and more acute or more unpleasant. What do these higher cognitive functions add in the context of pain?

        They also add the ability to feel self-pity, to be a hypochondriac or a primadonna, to use one’s pain to manipulate the sympathies of others, and a host of other negative indulgences that other animals are most likely not capable of.

        I doubt there is much difference between the raw experience of pain between humans and other mammals. It seems a fairly basic and primitive aspect of our neurophysiology. What the human brain adds to the matter is a bunch of melodrama, self-aggrandizement, irony, pity, and other BS that only humans are capable of. Other mammals are probably quite a bit more literal about it being a raw fact of survival that must be dealt with. They are simply and naturally what humans would consider heroic or stoic about their pain. Not because it hurts less, but because they aren’t burdened with all the neurosis that comes along with our advanced cognitive abilities.

        If an animal gnawed off part of its paw to escape the jaws of a hunter’s trap, it would probably feel all the pain a human would in a similar situation. It would just lack thoughts like “why me?”, or “why didn’t I go left instead of right a few yards back?” or “maybe this can be made into a top box office earning motion picture”.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 10, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

          Very good point.

          I wonder how much of that would be associated with the fact that we can talk and animals can’t (well they can make noises, but a very limited ‘vocabulary’). So I suspect part of our tendency to dramatise is simply because we can talk about it and demand sympathy – “Ouch it hurts! It’s agonising! Get my lawyer on the phone NOW!”

          What I’m not sure of though, is whether the ability to dramatise actually increases the apparent pain, or whether it may actually act as a diversion and relieve it somewhat. I’m not sure how to test that though (and I not about to volunteer!)

          • SA Gould
            Posted February 11, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

            With birds, pain and illnesses are something to hide at all costs. Even with just three zebra finches, if one is acting sick, by the time I get out a net and turn around, there is not a sick one to be found. He’s blending in with the others. (“I’m fine. Wasn’t me. Must have been the other one. I_am_not_the_finch_you_are_seeking.”)

            Which is why Craig is even more of an idiot- animals hide pain to survive, not because it’s not affecting them.

    • Posted December 24, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      I think there is a lot of human behavior that looks like suffering, but we need to understand what’s happening in their brains….. it’s admittedly an argumentum ad absurdum, but it makes a point. What does it matter whether we are aware of the way they sense pain when they clearly do sense pain. By your own admission, we can’t judge to what degree other animals sense pain, all we can do is note that they clearly do. Perhaps they have a far more highly refined and nuanced relationship with pain than you know. Stop your speciest thinking and you might pierce this rather silly notion of a privileged position in the order of things.

  54. threecheersforreason
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    i address to prof. coyne and any of the posters here who take exception to mr. craig’s assertion the following question: aside from its utility as an arguing point, what is the significance of your contention that animals feel pain?

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      The whole debate only has utility as an arguing point for Mr. Craig. It allows him to let God off the hook for allowing innocent beings to suffer. It allows him to feel that all human suffering must be deserved punishment for wickedness. The whole set of concepts Craig works with are absurd to the informed reasonable modern person not suffering from the historic delusions of religion.

      To me pain is simply a natural part of biological reality, and creatures share it because we all share common origins. It is a mere fact of life that has obvious reasons for existing, none of which relate to philosophy or religion. It exists because it enhances survival rates.

      So the significance is that pain is just more evidence for evolution, and against the idea that nature is an intentional plan of a loving creative intelligence.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention that pain is pretty adaptive. Those born without the ability to feel pain, or who lose pain perception from leprosy, diabetes, etc., suffer serious injuries.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Have you not been following the argument?

      Significance:
      1. We are NOT entitled to be cruel to animals on the grounds ‘they don’t feel it’
      2. Atheist argument: The natural world is full of unnecessary suffering which any creator (/designer) with a conscience would avoid, therefore God is either not omnipotent, or else he’s a sadistic b*****d. Theist rebuttal: No it isn’t because animals don’t feel it.

      • threecheersforreason
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        “We are NOT entitled to be cruel to animals on the grounds ‘they don’t feel it’”

        then, pray tell, what IS the justification for cruelty to animals?

        • gbjames
          Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

          Is someone advocating cruelty to animals here?

          • threecheersforreason
            Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

            i’m aware of only poster here overtly doing so. that is not quite the question i am addressing, which is more specifically the tacit acceptance of cruelty to animals.

            • gbjames
              Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

              You should just come out and say what you think. If you are making an argument for PETA, just do it.

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

                what i think is not relevant to the question i posed above, and on which i expanded below in response to Mark Fuller Dillon.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

                If saying what you think is not relevant, then you should keep your silence.

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

                you are apparently unwilling to say what you think, yes?

              • gbjames
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

                Not at all. What I think is that you are trolling, purposefully antagonizing other people, asking disingenuous questions while refusing to just make your point.

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

                my ‘point’ is the question i asked. it’s jolly good fun to thunderously denounce someone with whom you disagree, but apparently not quite so amusing to actually engage with the implications of the arguments being presented.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

                apparently not quite so amusing to actually engage with the implications of the arguments being presented

                You have not presented an argument. You have refused to state your position. You have even claimed that your reason for doing so is that it is not relevant.

                You are trolling.

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

                “You have not presented an argument. You have refused to state your position. You have even claimed that your reason for doing so is that it is not relevant.”

                that’s right; you are stating truisms. the question i asked, which is relevant to the post, does not require me giving it a personalised context for it to have meaning.

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

                perhaps the question i have asked is too abstract, so i’ll phrase it in a way more relevant to the post: is cruelty to animals only objectionable if the justification or exculpation for it has a religious basis?

              • gbjames
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

                Of course not. Nobody here, as far as I can tell, has advocated such a thing.

                Stop trolling now, OK?

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

                i decline to provide you with the means for an irrelevant ad hominem attck, but i will ask you to do me the courtesy of explaining to me how my question is less relevant to this post than, say, these are to theirs:

                http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/richard-iii-in-a-leicester-car-park/#comment-382014

                http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/02/10/do-your-head-in-on-sunday-some-amazing-astronomical-numbers/#comment-385161

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                and, thank you for answering the question.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

                The difference is between trolling and not trolling.

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                would you be so good as to define the term for me? i thought i had a sense of what it meant, but perhaps it has less to do with relevance than with offending the sensibilities of those who decline to go where the facts take them.

              • gbjames
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

                Go read about it for yourself. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

              • threecheersforreason
                Posted February 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

                having done so, i still contend that your characterisation is inapt; i believe my question is relevant to the topic at hand. it would appear, based on a discussion further down the page to which i am not a party, that the an interest in the subject is not unique to me. you answered the question in a revised form, and i am grateful to you for having done so.

    • raven
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      what is the significance of your contention that animals feel pain?

      Way to completely ignore the entire forgoing thread.

      It means a lot of things.

      1. We value the truth over lying about a perverted version of a mythological religion based on nothing real.

      2. This one is going to be beyond your understanding. We aren’t sociopaths!!! We aren’t monster either. We aren’t evil. We aren’t anything like WL Craig and millions of crazed death cultists.

      You can be good and be a xian. It is just much harder. WL Craig couldn’t do it.

      • raven
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 1:14 am | Permalink

        I’ll add here some background.

        1. The idea that animals can’t feel pain, is old dating back before the 20th century.

        It has long ago been more or less discredited and abandoned by most scientists in relevant fields. This has been recognized by our laws which make animal abuse and torture illegal.

        It’s been revived by tenth rate xian liars like WL Craig, Strobel, McDowell etc.. to somehow make the Sky Monster god of the OT look less…well Monsterish.

        2. Craig is also a Dualist. This is another old concept that was abandoned by science a century ago. It’s creationism, Geocentrism, Flat Earthism. It lives on in the same groups as those for the same reason. Oogedy Boogedy religion.

        what is the significance of your contention that animals feel pain?

        What is the significance of WL Craig claiming animals don’t feel pain?

        It is obvious and he doesn’t make any secret of his reason for lying. He is trying to make his Sky Monster god look less like a Monster. For the same reason he defends the murder of babies in the bible and the genocide of Canaanites.

      • threecheersforreason
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        “We aren’t sociopaths!!! We aren’t monster either.”

        certainly one would hope as much, and not just with regard to spelling.

    • Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:13 am | Permalink

      >>aside from its utility as an arguing point

      Are you serious?

      • threecheersforreason
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        yes. is it worse to offer inane, fatuous reasoning in defense of a contention which is obvious nonsense, or to indignantly insist that animals do indeed feel pain and yet continue to underwrite and even participate in the industrialised infliction of pain on animals? in other words, i ask again, does it have significance other than as a point of argument?

        • raven
          Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

          You are just trolling and derailing this thread.

          This is a thread about WL Craig’s latest lies and how and why they are wrong.

          It isn’t about your ALF or Militant Vegetarian hobby. This is also Jerry Coyne’s blog, not yours.

          FWIW, I have yet to see that you are a sociopath or monster. You are though an obnoxious troll and have wasted whole minutes of people’s lifespans.

          • gbjames
            Posted February 10, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

            Er… website, raven, website! ;)

            • threecheersforreason
              Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

              i asked a straightforward question, relevant to the post; dismissing it as trolling or insisting that i put it into a personalised context are less than adroit evasions of the question.

    • Posted December 17, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      It has ethical implications too. If animals feel pain then that is one more reason to treat the animal world with care and compassion.

  55. Timmy
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    He probably read something similar to Damassio’s hypothesis of consciousness, feeling and emotion and then created his own defective or fallacious version.

    Here is a little excerpt that might contribute to the debate:
    (I hope I’m not breaking any WEIT rules)
    “.. Some readers may be puzzled by the distinction between “feeling” and “knowing that we have a feeling.” Doesn’t the state of feeling imply, of necessity, that the feeler organism is fully conscious of the emotion and feeling that are unfolding? I am suggesting that it does not, that an organism may represent in neural and mental patterns the state that we conscious creatures call a feeling, without ever knowing that the feeling is taking place. This separation is difficult to envision, not only because the traditional meanings of the words block our view, but because we tend to be conscious of our feelings. There is, however, no evidence that we are conscious of all our feelings, and much to suggest that we are not. For example, we often realize quite suddenly, in a given situation, that we feel anxious or uncomfortable, pleased or relaxed, and it is apparent that the particular state of feeling we know then has not begun on the moment of knowing but rather sometime before. Neither the feeling state nor the emotion that led to it have been “in consciousness,” and yet they have been unfolding as biological processes. These distinctions may sound artificial, at first glance, although my purpose is not to compli-

    cate something simple but rather to break down, in approachable parts, something that is quite complicated…”

  56. Timmy
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Part 2

    “…For the purpose of investigating these phenomena, I separate three stages of processing along a continuum: a state of emotion, which can be triggered and executed nonconsciously; a state of feeling, which can be represented noncon-sciously; and a state of feeling made conscious, i.e., known to the organism having both emotion and feeling. I believe these distinctions are helpful as we try to imagine the neural underpinnings of this chain of events in humans. Moreover, I suspect that some nonhuman creatures that exhibit emotions but are unlikely to have the sort of consciousness we have may well form the representations we call feelings without knowing they do so. Someone may suggest that perhaps we should have another word for “feelings that are not conscious,” but there isn’t one. The closest alternative is to explain what we mean.

    In short, consciousness must be present if feelings are to influence the subject having them beyond the immediate here and now. The significance of this fact, that the ultimate consequences of human emotion and feeling pivot on consciousness, has not been properly appreciated (the strange history of research on emotion and feeling, addressed below, is possibly to blame for this neglect). Emotion was probably set in evolution before the dawn of consciousness and surfaces in each of us as a result of inducers we often do not recognize consciously; on the other hand, feelings perform their ultimate and longer-lasting effects in the theater of the conscious mind..”

  57. Wayne
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    Basically what Craig is saying is because animals (most of them perhaps) do not have a sense of themselves as individuals they do not suffer pain in the way of a human who does.

    So if I feel pain, it is not just the physical pain by itself that is suffered, but also the realization that “I” am in pain.

    So yes, there may be a 3rd level of pain which renders pain worse than that if only experienced at the 2nd level.

    But then, so what—2nd level pain must still be horrific.

    And then it is highly likely that new born babies also have not yet developed a sense of individuality. It seems babies do not recognize themselves in the mirror until at least a year and a half into life (whether this is exactly the same as self-awareness or not, I am not sure).

    Does a new born baby then suffer if it is say tortured? Of course it does –even if not in the same way as an adult (perhaps), and it would be wicked to cause pain to that new born baby.

    But according to Craig’s theory, tortured babies would not really feel pain in the way adults do, and therefore do not really suffer?

    That is batshit crazy.

    Of course Craig forgets about the higher order primates who do have some form of self-awareness—-how is their suffering in nature redeemed?

  58. Howard Kornstein
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “Yes, they do see suffering as “redemptive”.”
    I just wish I had your capacity to read the minds ..of other people Linda so I could make such observations with such certainty.

    I think you are mixing religious dogma (eg. redemption and suffering) with social conservatism (eg. individualism and self-help). They are not the same thing, and they do not always go together. Believe it or not I know quite a few conservative atheists and quite a few more religious oriented political liberals. So let’s separate the arguments from the characterisations.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      This has gone out of bounds from the topic, but the idea connects with Craig’s apparent conservative lack of compassion, in particular for animals, which he goes to extraordinary lengths of intellectual gymnastics to rationalize, as Jerry has so clearly pointed out.

      To claim individualism and self-help for social conservatism is going too far by a lot. This is based not on facts, but dishonest Republican rhetoric that grew out of the Southern Strategy.

      Social conservatism takes the form of religion based theocratic tendencies regarding education and women’s reproductive rights, combined with homophobia, xenophobia, white panic over the spector of becoming a minority, and a loony obsession with guns in the service of wild anti-government and anti-democratic paranoia. These things have nothing to do with individualism or self-help, but rather with the attempt to force religious values on the public by exploiting narrow democratic majorities. This program violates the Constitution at nearly every level.

      Self-help and individualism is how practically every American succeeds, whether they are liberal or conservative.

      Some of us are just opposed to being left behind by the modern world, which has hit upon a combination of healthy regulated markets, strong public investment in future oriented technologies and health, and a strong program of social insurance to mitigate the factors that are beyond human control and exceed the reach of people’s ability to do things on their own. This is the formula that is propelling the standard of living beyond that of the US in over a dozen modern advanced economies, and it’s the logical progress for America that reactionary Republican theocratic ideology is trying to block.

      You have no right to claim conservative ownership of individualism and self-help.

      • Howard Kornstein
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        I think you are influenced too much by a rather parochial American view of the conservative movements Jeff. If you were equally familiar with European conservative parties and policies you wouldn’t make the mistake of equating so many negatives directly with the conservative movement. Equally you wouldn’t be so inclined to link religious dogmatism with conservative political thinking. I would agree that the Republican Party in the States has been mostly hijacked by radical religionists, which has certainly poisoned any chances of any sensible dialogue and debate between the left and right there. That is not true here in Europe. To demonise conservatism in general is just an excuse to avoid having to rationally defend ones own preconceived positions.
        Anyhow, one thing I do agree with you on, is that we have drifted off topic.

        • Alexander Hellemans
          Posted February 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          ” I would agree that the Republican Party in the States has been mostly hijacked by radical religionists, which has certainly poisoned any chances of any sensible dialogue and debate between the left and right there. That is not true here in Europe.”

          Not really, look how the conservatives in the UK voted about gay marriages, to even the dismay of David Cameron. And who opposes laws banning cruel blood sports such as fox hunting? The majority of the conservative party.

          So… we are back on topic.

          • Howard Kornstein
            Posted February 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            It was a Conservative British government itself that put forward the bill to establish gay marriage in the UK. How can you possibly take this progressive policy initiative here as indicative of any failings of European conservatism, particularly when only 9 American states out of 50 have passed similar legislation, in spite of many having Democrat controlled legislatures.
            As for your “fox hunting” example do you seriously somehow consider this as in any way relevant to any discussion about the fundamentals of political philosophy?

            • Alexander Hellemans
              Posted February 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

              “As for your “fox hunting” example do you seriously somehow consider this as in any way relevant to any discussion about the fundamentals of political philosophy?”

              Sorry? Political philosophy?? We are discussing Craig’ argument that animals that do not feel pain and suffer, and the consequences of such an idea. Fox hunting is not only causing suffering to foxes, but worse, people are enjoying it.

              As to Tories voting for gay marriage, the fact is that 127 Tory MPs supported the law and 136 opposed it. Is that not a failing of UK conservatism, and what else is behind the Tory vote than religious superstition, or even worse, the idea that religious dogma should be translated into law?

              • Howard Kornstein
                Posted February 11, 2013 at 3:34 am | Permalink

                “Sorry? Political philosophy?? We are discussing Craig’ argument that animals that do not feel pain and suffer, and the consequences of such an idea. Fox hunting is not only causing suffering to foxes, but worse, people are enjoying it.”
                Right… as you contend this argument is back “on subject” lets have a look at fox hunting and other forms of animal suffering versus political orientation.
                Re: Conservatives and Fox hunting- I’ve never heard any defence of fox hunting which claimed the fox does not feel any pain. The rationale is that foxes are vicious vermin and don’t deserve very much sympathy, and fox hunting is just a traditional method of culling their numbers. The “enjoyment” is in the horsemanship and in holding to a thousand year rural tradition. The truth of the matter? Foxes do kill hundreds of thousands of farm animals – poultry and lambs in particular. They kill wantonly (far in excess of their needs – wiping out a whole flock and taking just one animal to eat). Farmers hate foxes for the damage they do. City foxes have attacked human infants on multiple occasions – such an attack happening just yesterday. So I suppose you could say that conservatives are saying that fox hunting, on the whole, is an argument for minimised animal suffering when all species are considered. Does this argument wash – not totally when you consider there might be more humane (and more expensive to the farmers) ways to cull foxes.
                Now before we condemn these evil and cruel conservatives for supporting this painful form of animal cull lets have a brief look at how British liberals behave with respect to animal suffering.
                Throughout the years of the last Labour government a strong, mostly rural conservative lobby continued to try to have ritual animal slaughter banned. This slaughter for Halal or Kosher meat involves slitting the animals throat and letting it slowly bleed to death. An added perversity of this practise is that both Muslim and orthodox Jewish convention is that the animal must be fully conscious while the process takes place – it is truly horrific. Scientific studies of animal sensory data proved the great levels of animal suffering in all modes of this slaughter technique. The Labour government with Liberal support killed the drive to outlaw this practise. The reason was extremely cynical – Muslim voters were a traditionally left oriented vote. This was reinforced by a leftish relativistic multi-cultural ism where a practise condemned in ones own culture is excused in another culture( but not in British rural “toffs”). This left oriented philosophy was carried to a further extreme in many Labour controlled councils which dictated that all meat served in schools must be Halal slaughtered so as not to offend dietary practises for Muslim children. The number of animals thereby inhumanly slaughtered in Britain is magnified by such dictates.

                What I am attempting to point out here is the utter hypocrisy in a liberal “holier than thou” attitude over the animal cruelty controversy -or any other controversy for that matter. As most proponents of scientific rationalism also are left of centre, I expect them to show a high degree of tolerance to differing ideas and a strong adherence to critical thinking . In this, I am very often disappointed – seeing sloppy logic, unjustified mudslinging and smug self-satisfied pontificating. Rationalism deserves more of its adherents. One of my own heros of the left was Christopher Hitchins, who was himself vilified from straying from the standard left acceptable party line( ie forming his own conclusions based on his interpretation of the facts) many times. Sadly we are now without his marvellous example of rationalism without political posturing.

  59. Ayn Bland
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    If it’s true that animals feel pain — but don’t suffer — and that humans alone in the animal kingdom can suffer, it doesn’t say much about this deity of Craig’s. Not only does this not let God All-Smitey off the Problem-of-Evil hook, it would make Him the universe’s worst monster.

    Theoidiocy.

    • Posted February 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Maybe he’s a beetle god and has optimized the world to be the best of all possible worlds for beetles. Our role as humans then could only be to provide the beetles with rubbish on which to thrive. And only beetles have an immortal soul and will ascend into heaven, so our own vain strivings are irrelevant to his purpose. How could one judge such a god as a monster, considering his concern for his kind?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted February 10, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        Dung beetles, natch.

  60. Posted February 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I wrote about this on my blog last October shortly after the first video was posted. Craig’s bizarre ‘defence’ does not counter the problem of evil even by his own standards. Someone asked him one of the obvious follow-ups:

    “If animals can not experience pain, is there anything wrong with committing acts against animals which if committed against humans would be expected to cause pain?”

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/animal-pain-and-the-ethical-treatment-of-animals

    …and in his response he said:

    “Yes, remember that on the view we’re discussing, sentient animals do experience second-level states of pain, which should not be needlessly inflicted. So stunning animals before killing them for food is, indeed, a good idea.”

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/animal-pain-and-the-ethical-treatment-of-animals

    So he’s back to square one! To say that second level pain should be avoided is to concede it is evil, so it is part of the problem of evil. And there’s oodles of second level pain to explain if one believes in an omnipotent benevolent deity.

  61. Wayne
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Craig’s apparent conservative lack of compassion

    Craig is devoid of normal human feeling.

    For example in response to a reader who asked “I am just having trouble imagining myself so happy that I just don’t think about my child who is burning in eternal damnation.”

    Craig responds “it is possible that God removes from the minds of the redeemed any knowledge of the damned. It seems to me that so doing is merciful and involves no wrong-doing on God’s part.”

    and also offers an additional possibility:

    “the experience of being in Christ’s immediate presence will be so overwhelming for the redeemed that they will not think of the damned in hell………… In such a condition you wouldn’t be thinking of your child at all.”

    I’ve never read something so evil and psychopathic.

    The link to the original article is here:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/knowledge-of-the-fate-of-the-damned

    • raven
      Posted February 11, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      Craig lying some more.

      In the bible it says heaven has windows.

      So the saved can look at the damned being tortured in hell and smile.

      Craig knows this. He is a biblical literalist. He just made more stuff up.

      The passage about the windows in heaven to hell is Luke 16. The Catholic church used to be big on this. Their best idea of heaven is watching torture porn all day.

  62. Alexander Hellemans
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    I agree with you about the problem with Halal and Kosher slaughtering. In fact this is an example where politicians are biased because of political and election reasons, and therefore they support indirectly the transfer of religious dogma into law. This is probably worse and more cynical than politicians trying to do this because of religious convictions (for which opposition to gay marriage is an important factor). And as in the US, this is usually more prevalent in conservatives in Europe. Not that conservatives are asocial–a lot of social legislation in the UK has been introduced under Tory governments.

    • Howard Kornstein
      Posted February 11, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      “Not that conservatives are asocial–a lot of social legislation in the UK has been introduced under Tory governments.”
      Agreed, as I fully acknowledge that much of the improvement arising in welfare legislation (particularly in universal access to healthcare) was driven by successive Labour governments.
      We rationalists need all the help we can get from like minded people of all political persuasions

      “And as in the US (religious conviction driving politics) is usually more prevalent in conservatives (than)in Europe”
      And I must say that the state of the Republican Party (once the party of Lincoln) suffers in the extreme from drifting into the control of the evangelical movement. There once was a time this was not so.

  63. Howard Kornstein
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I’ve had the pleasure of attending several of Steven Law’s debates on religion. Aside in his general skill in debating the subject is his rather hilarious twist he makes in “proving” the existence of an omniscient, all-powerful EVIL God. He does this by turning every standard pro-god argument on its head. For example the “problem of evil” becomes “the problem of good” – why would an all powerful, all evil God allow any good in the world? The answer – without knowing any good, humanity can never appreciate just how evil their tortured life really is, and of course how can we poor simple mortals ever attempt to understand the grand infinite wisdom of the Evil one and his own evil grand plan.

    Well, perhaps then the “lack of pain” in animals that WLC claims to exist, is only another manifestation of the Evil Ones way of showing us just how uniquely rotten our own existence is.

  64. r3formed
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    As a theist I’m constantly left scratching my head with much of William lane Craig’s argumentation

    He seems one who leads the evidence as opposed to letting the evidence lead.

    Sad really. I argue more with fellow believers than I do with those who do not and the former tends to have much more vitriol.


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