“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.