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


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

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

  2. 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


  3. 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.

  4. 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?

      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:



              • 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.

  5. 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…”

  6. 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..”

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.


    • 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.

  10. 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?”


    …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.”


    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.

  11. 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:

    • 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Posted May 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Is the link to the second youtube correct? It shows auroras and another video about roger penrose. What has that got to do with Craig?

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