Why I will not debate William Lane Craig »« Why I am an atheist – Ric Baker

William Lane Craig and the problem of pain

Kitties experience pain and suffering, which turns out to be a theological problem. If a god introduced pain and death into the world because wicked ol’ Eve was disobedient, why is god punishing innocent animals? It seems like a bit of a rotten move to afflict the obedient along with the disobedient — shouldn’t god have just stricken humanity with the wages of sin (or better yet, just womankind)?

William Lane Craig has an answer. His answer involves simply waving the problem away — animals don’t really feel pain — and he drags in science to prop up his claim. Basically, Craig is playing the creationist gambit of abusing the authority of science falsely to support his peculiar theology.

So Christian theologians of all stripes have to face the challenge posed by animal pain. Here recent studies in biology have provided surprising, new insights into this old problem. In his book Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, Michael Murray distinguishes three levels in an ascending pain hierarchy (read from the bottom up):

Level 3: a second order awareness that one is oneself experiencing (2).

Level 2: a first order, subjective experience of pain.

Level 1: information-bearing neural states produced by noxious stimuli resulting in aversive behavior.

Spiders and insects—the sort of creatures most exhibiting the kinds of behavior mentioned by Ayala—experience (1). But there’s no reason at all to attribute (2) to such creatures. It’s plausible that they aren’t sentient beings at all with some sort of subjective, interior life. That sort of experience plausibly does not arise until one gets to the level of vertebrates in the animal kingdom. But even though animals like dogs, cats, and horses experience pain, nevertheless the evidence is that they do not experience level (3), the awareness that they are in pain. For the awareness that one is oneself in pain requires self-awareness, which is centered in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain—a section of the brain which is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates. Thus, amazingly, even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain. God in His mercy has apparently spared animals the awareness of pain. This is a tremendous comfort to us pet owners. For even though your dog or cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware of it and so doesn’t suffer as you would if you were in pain.

As is usual upon reading any argument by William Lane Craig, I find myself wondering if we shouldn’t, in the name of common decency, have him locked up or in some way isolated from the sane human population. He makes bad arguments, he makes dishonest arguments, and he seems opportunistically willing to sacrifice moral reasoning on the altar of his barbarian god. Or at least, maybe we should confiscate his pets and put them in a safer home.

A few objections popped instantly into my head when I read his essay.

  • An assertion built on a false premise is likely to be false itself. Craig (or possibly his source, Murray), misrepresent the science. They claim that the prefrontal cortex “is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates.” This is simply false! I’ve personally done histological work and surgery on the prefrontal cortex of cats, many years ago, and you can find papers describing the prefrontal cortex of opossums, and just about any common mammal you can think of. Craig has made a truly bizarre claim, like declaring that only people have noses or something.

    Primates do have a unique histologic feature of their primary cortices, an internal granule layer that is developed to varying degrees. But it’s also present in prosimians as well as all primates, so you can’t argue that it is unique to ‘humanoid primates’, and you can’t claim that it’s necessary and sufficient for self-awareness. If a bushbaby is going to be declared self-aware because it has an internal granule layer, it seems ridiculous to argue that other mammals with a similar or greater degree of cortical development are excluded from the club on the basis of this one detail.

    Scientists are supposed to talk about the evidence. Theologians are apparently not only exempt, but they get to fabricate their evidence. Also, I’m used to hearing theologians babble about the nonexistent as if it were real, but this is the first time I’ve heard one argue that a real structure is nonexistent.

  • There is a real issue here: we can identify pain neurons in insects and fish and all kinds of animals — they’re ubiquitous. But you could ask about the slippery problem of consciousness, and wonder whether there is a real difference between reflexive aversion to a noxious stimulus and a more substantial awareness of pain. There are people who argue that non-human animals are not thinking and self-aware like we are, and so their perception of pain is qualitatively different.

    Unfortunately, you can’t make a binary distinction here. If we accept that humans are all aware of pain (there have been people who don’t accept that: Nazi-types and racists have argued that Jews and blacks, for instance, are subhumans who have blunted sensitivities), it’s hard to argue that chimpanzees aren’t also aware — they exhibit all the signs of stress, of learning aversion, of memory and recall of unpleasant experiences, and their behavior is identical to ours: they make it known that they don’t like needles or fear snakes or suffer pain and distress at their discomfort and the discomfort of others. And if you admit chimps, where do you draw the line? Dogs also exhibit all of those behaviors; they even show empathy when people are injured or unhappy.

    How can anyone who has known a dog deny that they are capable of perceiving pain in fairly complex ways?

    But it really is a continuum. I haven’t been able to tell if cats feel much empathy — they don’t show it, but I have no way to see what interesting (or terrifying) cognitive wheels are spinning in a cat’s brain. I know they react to their own pain in very emotional ways, and I’ve seen mother cats respond with what looks like affection and protectiveness to their kittens…and I would not assume that a cat’s aversive reaction to getting cut is all a superficial reflex, and therefore anesthesia is unnecessary in operating on them. That is the road of the psychopath.

    Again, scientists rely on the evidence: if I see an animal struggling and making frightened noises and fighting to avoid a painful experience, and if it shows recognition of the circumstances of that pain in the future, I’m going to assume that it feels pain and is in some sense aware of its situation. Theologians are apparently able to see a cat or dog in the throes of agony and declare that it isn’t really suffering, no, not like you or me. Hey, theologians and psychopaths have something in common!

  • Let us consider the implications of Craig’s worldview. If this property of awareness sets humans apart from animals, making our suffering have a greater moral significance than that of animals, and if that awareness is a product of a specific neuroanatomical structure, the prefrontal cortex (or more specifically, a well-developed internal granule cell layer in that cortex), then what is the status of a human that lacks that all-important, very specific pattern of neuronal connectivity?

    I’m thinking, of course, of the embryo. The internal granule cell layer does not pop into existence at the moment of fertilization — it arises much later, gradually, as the brain matures. Cortical wiring is an ongoing process after birth, as well — the microstructure of the human brain changes amazingly during the first couple of years of life. If we’re going to claim that an adult dog, despite appearances, isn’t really aware of pain, shouldn’t we be saying the same thing about the embryo?

    I mean, sure, babies squall and scream and flail about at the slightest discomfort, but how do you really know that they’re actually conscious? Maybe they’re just bio-reflexive hunks of meat until the final bits of their cortical cytoarchitecture snap into place, and we should be unperturbed by their struggles. They’re not really human yet, after all — god hasn’t given them that second-order awareness that they need in order to be conscious of their deontological status as the product of original sin, you know.

    I don’t know of any scientist — or sane human being — who could make that argument seriously. Again, it’s about the evidence; they exhibit the symptoms of feeling pain, they have some complex cerebral machinery that we think is likely capable of processing experiences in complex ways (but we don’t know for sure — we don’t have a parts list of neuroanatomical correlates that are sufficient to generate consciousness), so the humane assumption is that yes, babies perceive pain. Apparently, this is a much more ambiguous issue for theologians, if they had any consistency in their views. Oh, but wait — theologians. Evidence, consistency, reason are not highly valued properties of theological arguments. If they were, it would suggest that Craig ought to rethink his dogmatic anti-abortion stance.

Sorry, Mr Craig, but pain is still a big problem for your religion, and you don’t get to shoo it away or drag in the mangled, bleeding body of a butchered science in agony to act as a scarecrow and distract people from your absence of evidence.

(Also on Sb)


I just had to add this interesting point. Craig has painted himself into a corner by associating the supposedly uniquely human property of self-awareness, consciousness, and self-representation to a biological structure, which has some interesting implications.

Craig has actually just rejected Cartesian dualism (and neo-Cartesian views of the ‘soul’) in that claim. If you assert that the neurological processes that are involved in self-representation are necessary for the existence of self-representation, then you are rejecting the possibility that something can self-represent without those processes. That’s the basic mode.

The problem is that, then, some sort of ‘immaterial consciousness’ (whether that’s a soul or a God) would be logically impossible.

I actually think that a version of this claim is true, and its part of my reason for rejecting many religious claims and claims about things like spirits and demons and so on; my version allows for multiple realizability, and is far more generalized. It looks like: “Some set of physical states of affairs is necessary for the existence of some corresponding mental states.”

Of course, Craig can’t allow that if he wants to have an immaterial God who can self-represent. He has to stare down the question: Does God then have a prefrontal cortex?

Comments

  1. Beatrice says

    Consistency is for other people, they have The Truth TM, which is true any way they spin it.

  2. Taz says

    Wow. Rationalizing away the pain felt by animals. William Lane Craig is one fucked up individual.

    (I guess babies have it coming.)

  3. mitchelllee says

    OK Mr Craig, Why do the mentally disabled feel pain? Why would god punish those who are not mentally capable of understanding his plan?
    [or do you even care about them? God didn’t.]

  4. Dianne says

    If we’re going to claim that an adult dog, despite appearances, isn’t really aware of pain, shouldn’t we be saying the same thing about the embryo?

    Except that I’ve never seen or heard of an embryo exhibiting any signs of pain. Does an embryo even have a myelinated spinothalamic tract, much less the cortical neurons to interpret data coming from it? Not to mention the hypoxia problem…In short, I’m much more inclined to worry about pain in an adult dog than in an embryo. A fetus, we can talk about, but an embryo…just no there there.

  5. Cosmic Snark says

    Anyone who thinks animals don’t feel pain probably tortured small animals as a child.

  6. Craig says

    A small point, if “humanoid primates” are the only ones having the awareness of being in pain, why aren’t they also gifted with souls? God gives them the same ability to experience pain that humans do but then lumps them in with the animals to be treated as we see fit.

  7. CJ says

    Doesn’t Craig make criticisms of Dawkins et al., for speaking outside their “realm of expertise”? And yet here he is weighing in on the physiology of pain in animals?

    Oh wait, I forgot, his expertise lies in excusing his god for the inexcusable.

  8. Christophe Thill says

    When you’re sick, in pain, or feeling very unhappy, you can trust that your cat will come and comforts you. Well, not always, perhaps. Sometimes he may have other pressing matters to attend, of which we know nothing. And some cats will certainly be more sensitive than others. But for me there’s no question that cats are aware of their human’s state of pain or sadness.

  9. Sean Boyd says

    Oh, for fuck’s sake. This ‘sophisticated’ theology is not a good way to wake up in the morning.

  10. GvlGeologist, FCD says

    PZ, I’ve got to disagree with you about cats and empathy. My personal experience (I know, anectodes are not evidence, but it is a data point) is that my cat could definitely show what I interpreted as different emotions. Once, while I was overcome by grief and weeping at my desk, my cat got up from the other room, came in, hopped up into my lap, stood up and pushed his head under my chin, purring all the while. This has happened more than once. Now you could argue that was a conditioned or instinctive response, but you could do the same with instances of human empathy. Our other cats often show what we would characterize as emotions, including Bucky or Garfield-like behaviors as well… ;)

    Maybe I’m a little sensitive because of your anti-caturday posts…

    By the way, this quote:

    I would not assume that a cat’s aversive reaction to getting cut is all a superficial reflex, and therefore anesthesia is unnecessary in operating on them. That is the road of the psychopath.

    really sums up a lot of the religious attitudes we see towards other species. And this:

    I mean, sure, babies squall and scream and flail about at the slightest discomfort, but how do you really know that they’re actually conscious?

    is the argument for non-anesthesia circumcisions, isn’t it?

  11. Friendly says

    My sister’s tiny dog was stepped on heavily by a big dog once and badly hurt. For many years afterward he would avoid large dogs or, if he had to be in the same place they were, growl and snap at them if they came near. I think my sister’s dog was aware enough of his pain to remember and categorize it and try to prevent a similar episode from occurring.

  12. Bribase says

    Wow! WLC really will say just about anything in service of his belief, even if it means abandoning all sense of humanity.

  13. JGC says

    So those rare humans born with congenital insensitivity to pain (as the result of a mutation inactivating the SCN9A gene encoding sodium channel NaV1.7, for example) must be divinely privileged, right?

  14. Yossarian says

    Man alive, what a load of bollocks! His claims are dangerous and absurd. Complete imbecile…

  15. CJ says

    Am I the only one who pictured Craigs annoying hand gestures and boring country club dining room suit as I read that and cringed?

  16. Alverant says

    Isn’t one of the signs of being a psychopath the inability to feel the pain of others? William Lane Craig needs to be separated from normal society and kept away from animals as soon as possible.

  17. Thomas R says

    Guys, you’re missing the whole point.

    “The scientific evidence (e.g., breeding, development of drug resistance, etc.) for the power of the Darwinian mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection to account for the evolution of all living things is surprisingly weak, involving an extraordinary extrapolation from producing limited to universal evolutionary development.”

    Really, you don’t need to go any farther than this. Just stop reading.

    Evolution: Baseless guess work since 1859.

  18. godskesen says

    Craig’s views are even worse than PZ describes them, I think. Craig writes: “Thus, amazingly, even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain.” This is an utterly dishonest abuse of the distinction between first and second order awareness. In fact, it simply doesn’t follow that animals are not aware of being in pain (construed as we normally would).

    “Second order consciousness” actually means having a conceptual understanding that what one experiences is an instance of a category of experience – in the case, the category of pain.

    Obviously, and this is what Craig obfuscates, the unpleasantness and painfulness of pain does not depends on a second order awareness of it been an instance of the category of pain.

    Second order consciousness is important for intentional, verbal communication but not for making pain real and important to someone who is in pain. Craig is insinuating otherwise and that is can only lead to a moral permission of harming animals. Disgusting, is say!

  19. KG says

    It’s not obvious to me that babies deserve as many rights as adults. – George LOcke

    Oh, I agree. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to drive heavy goods vehicles or sign loan agreements.

  20. ButchKitties says

    Even if we accepted his argument at face value, he still hasn’t solved the problem of pain because by his own admission “humanoid primates” are capable of feeling pain the way we do.

    Perhaps humanoid primates also have souls and their own versions of original sin, and Jesus was just one of several primate messiahs?

    Is there a Chimpanzee Christ?

  21. frustum says

    “I mean, sure, babies squall and scream and flail about…”

    I see this paragraph being quote-mined in the future to illustrate how amoral PZ is.

    There is another tack to take on this. Let’s ignore pain, which is somewhat subjective, and look at sickness and death. Before the fall of man, everything was perfection; sickness and death were unknown. Then man sinned, and not only man, but all the plants and animals now suffer sickness and death. These are externally verifiable facts.

    So if the account of Adam & Eve is true, we can only conclude that God is a mighty prick.

  22. otrame says

    PZ, cats are capable of showing empathy. Anyone who has ever had a bad cold knows their cats will come and sit on them whether they want to be sat on or not. Even cats that are not particularly “lap cats” will do this. I suppose you could argue that they are aware that something is out of kilter and that they feel the need of reassurance, but lack any actual empathy, but I’m pretty sure it is more than that (yes, yes, my “pretty sure” and $4 will get me a cup of over-priced coffee made from burned coffee beans–you damned materialists are so mean).

    The acrobatics of apologists is amazing to watch, but Craig even cheats at that. An honest apologist may tie him/herself into knots, but won’t actually lie about things to make their point.

  23. abadidea says

    In my theology classes in high school they tried REALLY HARD to drill it into us that animals do NOT feel real pain, do NOT feel real fear, and do NOT think in any way whatsoever. They were “one step above robots.”

    As someone who had grown up with animals, this upset and confused me, and I didn’t understand why people stared blankly at me like I was some kind of moron when I said of COURSE dogs can reason and learn, haven’t you ever seen a dog?!

    It’s a perfect example of religion dictating reality. Observe dog learn to open a door on its own, discard evidence because it doesn’t fit the theology.

    And btw, these were the same sorts of people who deliberately underfed and undersheltered their hunting dogs to near-death. Yeah, rural south.

  24. lelandjory says

    Yay! Finally, someone comes up with a refutation of Craig’s pseudo-scientific woo! The first time I heard him use this ridiculous argument was his recent debate with Stephen Law, and though I am not a biologist, the red flag went up faster than I thought possible under the laws of physics.

    Thanks, PZ, for providing solid biological evidence that Craig’s view on pain borders on psychopathic. Bravo and kudos.

  25. Sean Boyd says

    Arrgh, too quick on the submit button.

    Has Craig even stopped to think for one second about the horrors his attitude can, and has, justified?

    God in His mercy has apparently spared animals the awareness of pain. This is a tremendous comfort to us pet owners. For even though your dog or cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware of it and so doesn’t suffer as you would if you were in pain.

    I don’t see him address the issue, in his sophisticated reasoning, about whether it’s acceptable to cause pain in an animal, then, because it doesn’t suffer as a result. Which I’m pretty sure I don’t believe, in any case…it reminds of a sequence of quotes Carl Sagan put into one of his books (I think it was Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors) which related the progression of human attitudes towards animals over the last few centuries. For all the veneer Craig puts on his notions, he seems firmly stuck in, oh, say the 12th century.

    Well, I’m awake now, at any rate!

  26. Gus Snarp says

    Since PZ handled the science, I’ll go with anecdote. Have you ever been around a rescue dog that had been beaten and seen how it responds when you raise your hand? Yeah, take one look at an innocent puppy cowering in fear because you scratched your head and you can’t tell me that animal didn’t have a “second order awareness that one is oneself experiencing a first order, subjective experience of pain,” when it was beaten in the past. On behalf of all the tortured and abused animals in the world, fuck you, Mr. Craig.

    Also, does this guy ever listen to himself? I mean shit, I think Hitchen’s dropped the ball in his debate with Craig, mainly because I think he just assumed that he didn’t really have to address Craig’s idiocy as if it was substantive, but surely in his studies Craig has seen solid arguments that utterly dismantle his claptrap, right? If not, I wish he would watch the Qualia Soup videos so he would just shut up and go away from the embarrassment of realizing what he’s been peddling.

  27. Diane says

    Does this guy even know animals at all?
    Why do those of us who own animals put them down on the advice of our vets to spare them pain and suffering and a horrible death?
    Is he confusing the ability to verbalize pain with not being able to?
    I hope to God he does not own an animal.

    I cannot believe how these people will go to any lengths and come up with the stupidest reasons to support their beliefs.
    I do believe in God unlike most of the readers here. I can imagine Him laughing when he reads the bullshit that is written about people’s beliefs.

  28. says

    First, I’d like to concur with Christophe. Cats can express empathy and concern if a person is in distress. For example, I had a cat who would come running (well, trotting) if I started to cry. She’d come and pat my head or my face to make sure I was okay. Another cat would come and cuddle with me if I was upset.

    Second, WLC is a monster. Animals aren’t self-aware enough to feel pain? That’s twisted–perhaps even more twisted than his defence of Old Testament genocide.

  29. JimboK says

    Why should one honor this grotesque irrationality with the title of “theology”? I think “warped superstition”, “neurotic fantasy/delusions”, or “logically incapacitated” (or something similar) is much more appropriate.

  30. Ben says

    I’ve seen very smart, skeptic friends using these exact same arguments to justify eating animals. It’s quite disturbing.

  31. Sastra says

    I just read Craig’s essay and of course once again he is blithely shifting the burden of proof.

    “The design inference has absolutely nothing to say about the moral qualities of the designer.”

    But the design inference is all about seeing the signs of intention — and you can’t separate desires from their ethical motivations. Craig likes to compare good design to bad design and point out that they’re both ‘design.’ I’ve yet to see him compare bad design to appearance of bad design: the category of the latter would doubtless be too large. If you say “this fits together too well to have happened without someone putting it together” it makes little sense to then continue to apply this reasoning to things which don’t work well also.

    “Thus, amazingly, even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain. God in His mercy has apparently spared animals the awareness of pain. “

    Why would God in His mercy have given them any awareness of pain at all? He seems suspiciously constrained by natural laws.

    I’m not going to dispute Craig’s argument about the unwarranted human tendency towards anthropopathism. But I am going to argue that his attempt to rescue God’s ethics is unsuccessful. If nothing else, we are left to wonder why God would want his beloved humans to stifle and overcome their natural empathy towards the ‘lower’ living things. I thought our inherent tendencies towards empathy were implanted by God to reflect His nature. Have they been implanted for the purpose of us learning through science that we must rise above them?

    Since God doesn’t give a crap about the pain and suffering of the damned, a human who could watch a pet writhing in agony and think “ah, but this isn’t worth my pity” might be acting in the image of God, I guess. Anything can be Perfect if you lower the bar.

  32. says

    Yeah, I’m teasing about the cats.

    But I’m making a serious point: awareness isn’t all or nothing. We do have impressions of variation in sensitivity: dogs are incredibly emotive, cats less so, spiders…well, spiders are hard to read. We can’t be sure, though: maybe they’re all robots putting up an illusion of feeling pain. Hey, maybe we are all robots pretending — well, you guys. Not me. I really feel pain and have a very sensitive soul. Maybe you’re all a bunch of spiders.

    Of course, I would say that the humane, and even rational, assumption is to take behavior driven by a complex brain on face value.

  33. sailor1031 says

    “But even though animals like dogs, cats, and horses experience pain, nevertheless the evidence is that they do not experience level (3), the awareness that they are in pain. For the awareness that one is oneself in pain requires self-awareness, which is centered in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain….”

    What evidence? Name some. This is just total fucking crap!!! I’ve had dogs and cats for forty years and never met one yet who wasn’t self-aware. As for feeling pain – in that time I’ve had a few animals who contracted terminal, painful disease and I can tell you that they DO experience pain and that it can often be treated. They respond to synthmorphines the same way humans do and for the same physiological reasons.

    Craig can tie himself up in theological knots all he wants to explain things to his own satisfaction but it doesn’t change reality one iota. Maybe it is Craig is not truly self-aware.

  34. mordacious1 says

    Using WLC’s logic (or lack thereof), Michael Vick should ask to have his conviction for dog fighting overturned. If the dogs were not aware of their pain, how could it be considered cruelty to animals? The ASPCA should be abolished immediately.

    I have seen people accidentally step on a dog’s foot or tail and from the anguished yelping and whimpering, you’d think that they were aware that they were in pain. It’s been my experience that after such an event, they can predict when pain is about to occur. Whenever someone’s foot comes close to them, they jump away. Prediction seems to denote awareness to me (but I’m not a sophisticated theologian).

  35. otrame says

    Ben, I do not justify eating animals by claiming they don’t feel pain. That is just stupid. I justify eating animals by noting that I am an omnivore. There are valid arguments for choosing to refrain from eating animals, but worrying about the pain animals feel is NOT why you chose not to eat animals, so why pretend it is? And you’ll forgive me if I read between your lines and assume your smug holier-than-thou attitude toward animal-eaters is the real reason you don’t. You like feeling superior. You don’t give a shit about the animals.

  36. says

    @otrame:

    Stop being so defensive. Ben didn’t say anything about you. He said “smart, skeptic friends.” Eesh, you’re like the people on the one chat room I was in who attacked me for talking about eating a vegetarian meal.

    Truth is that there are some people who use the “animals can’t really feel pain” argument as a reason to why they eat meat.

  37. says

    Let’s not forget that Craig is the guy who’s tried to argue that the Israelite soldiers are the ones deserving greater sympathy for the emotional stress of having to slaughter all those women and babies who were “enemies of the Lord” in the Old Testament. So I wouldn’t expect much in the way of a morally sound, empathic point of view from him.

  38. reason says

    “As someone who had grown up with animals, this upset and confused me, and I didn’t understand why people stared blankly at me like I was some kind of moron when I said of COURSE dogs can reason and learn, haven’t you ever seen a dog?!”

    Of course the problem wasn’t that they thought you were wrong – it was that you were questioning a religious precept. Religious dogma isn’t a question of opinion to them, it is a question of authority. Scepticism is anathama to an authoritian view of the world.

  39. Stuart says

    Actually, the original argument for non-anaesthetised circumcision was that having newborn boys associate their genitals with severe pain will traumatise them, and thus reduce the chance of them masturbating. Nowadays, I think it’s pretty much just “Well, that’s how it was done in the past, so obviously it’s not bad to do it that way.” But in any case, no one ever claimed there was no pain – the whole point was that there was supposed to be pain.

  40. andrea says

    hmm, if Balaam’s ass in the bible didn’t feel pain, why did it complain? Again, WLC’s poorly thought out excuses come back to bit him in the “ass”, so to speak :) What a pathetic little man.

  41. reason says

    abeille @44
    “I have Jehovah Witnesses come every week. One week they told me, “Birds don’t have brains!””

    Actually, In China they fry them (bird’s brains). The answer is “yes they do, I have eaten them.”

  42. Gus Snarp says

    I have to say, I’ve lived with cats a long time, right now I have five of them. I really like them a lot, for the most part. But I have never experienced anything that indicated to me that they gave a shit about me and what I was feeling. Nor have I heard any argument for cat empathy that can’t easily be explained in other ways, for example, otrame’s suggestion that cats comfort sick people (though I have never experienced anything of the sort), can easily be explained by fever and sedentary behavior. Cats like warmth and may be more inclined to snuggle up if you are slightly warmer. They also like you to sit still, which you’re more likely to do for longer when you are sick. I don’t think we can say with certainty whether cats have empathy, but I haven’t seen anything beyond poor anecdotal evidence to suggest they do. None of which has anything to do with their ability to feel pain and suffering, which I think absolutely exists. I, for one, don’t need cats to be empathetic for me to be empathetic towards them.

  43. says

    In my theology classes in high school they tried REALLY HARD to drill it into us that animals do NOT feel real pain, do NOT feel real fear, and do NOT think in any way whatsoever.

    Ah. You’ve brought to mind a memory. I was attending a Catholic high school at the time and had a grade nine religion class. The teacher was trying to tell us that animals had no souls. They couldn’t reason, couldn’t feel the way that we do, had no or little self-awareness, and would have no after-life. There was a small group of us that argued with the teacher. If humans had souls, so did animals–at least the smarter ones like dolphins and dogs and cats. Surely, if dumb people could go to heaven, smart whales and monkeys couldn’t be excluded. We ended up calling ourselves “the atheist club” as a joke (I don’t know if any of us were atheists in fact at the time, but we certainly weren’t Christians) and resisted and argued against any of the dogma we didn’t agree with from then on.

  44. rad_pumpkin says

    Now this pile of bullshit hit uncomfortably close to home. Let me tell you a story of the cat (Tiger) I had growing up. Now this cat was a weird one. To this day I’m not sure whether he was more intelligent than your average freshman (that’s 6,103,256.7 Craig mental equivalents for those who can’t remember their retard-metric conversions), or dumb as a rock. I like to think he was a happy cat, even after we “took” his territory comprised of a small forest away when we moved halfway across the world. We and he settled in nicely, but we noticed problems developing. He had some sort of aversion to the local cat food, some bizarre reaction that caused him to develop kidney stones. Now I will grant one thing to Craig, animals do not show mild discomfort or even slight pain easily. When I stub my toe, I’ll curse. When my cat fell off a chair in his sleep, he would simply jump back on. On the other hand, even felines will scream (well, meow as loudly as they can) when their bladder filled almost two day’s worth of urine can’t be emptied, because of a kidney stone. Yes, felines can in fact scream in pain, and I’m pretty damn sure he was quite aware of how badly that hurt. Didn’t really help that he had to endure that overnight as the vet was closed. So, let’s leave the whole anatomy business that proves your point being bullshit aside for a second. Spend a night listening to the screams of the pet you’ve had for seven years and tell me that they can’t feel pain. Fucking retard…
    (feline survived that encounter, and the two subsequent ones. We eventually put him on a restricted diet as per the vet’s recommendation, and he lived for a few more years)

    Dear Mr. Craig, kindly jump of a bridge and die, you worthless excuse for a human being.

  45. says

    If a god introduced pain and death into the world because wicked ol’ Eve was disobedient, why is god punishing innocent animals? It seems like a bit of a rotten move to afflict the obedient along with the disobedient — shouldn’t god have just stricken humanity with the wages of sin (or better yet, just womankind)?

    Or even better yet, how about just Eve (and Adam, who could have said “No”)? The Wholly Babble doesn’t wait long before it starts dishing out the sick, disproportionate punishment. If this Yahweh character was in charge today, jaywalking wouldn’t just earn the jaywalker a jail sentence (tickets are for saner gods), but every descendant of that jaywalker to come.

    But on topic and speaking of arbitrary punishment that would have introduced pain and death into every non-human animal, if they were all herbivores before “The Fall”, how did Yahweh decide which would become predators and which would suffer horrible, bloody, painful deaths to become food for predators?

  46. Chas. says

    As whacked out as he is, in some respects Craig is correct: If he puts a nail into the neck of a kitty, Craig feels no pain. Since he cannot comprehend the pain, even while noticing the kitty acting in a manner that is consistent with the kitty feeling pain, there is clearly no pain present. Similarly, if I were to put a nail into Craig’s neck, there would be no pain for the reason that I would not feel it. He might claim to be feeling pain, but without me performing surgery to determine whether he has a functioning prefrontal cortex, I can safely assume that his protestations of pain are false.

    Obviously, if his argument isn’t all about him, then there is nothing to argue about.

  47. Jim Mauch says

    William Lane Craig’s foray into pseudo- intelligent thought mystify me. Is he arguing that intelligent design can be proven to be a valid scientific theory because god is a sick incompetent idiot?

  48. Marina says

    What can you say about a man who admits that if he were to go back in time and discover that Jesus’ resurrection and all of Christianity were a sham and a fraud, he would still believe it all?

    Is WLC a fraud himself or really just that delusional?

  49. truthspeaker says

    Stuart says:
    8 November 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Actually, the original argument for non-anaesthetised circumcision was that having newborn boys associate their genitals with severe pain will traumatise them, and thus reduce the chance of them masturbating

    I can testify from first hand experience that this does not work.

  50. magicthighs says

    How can we know for sure W.L. Craig really experiences pain? He could be a philosophical zombie for all I know. In fact, that would explain the garbage he tends to spout.

  51. ButchKitties says

    Re: #27 & #50

    In my junior year theology class, we did this exercise in which we were supposed to name all the ways that humans are distinct from other animals. The idea was that our special nature could be empirically demonstrated, which delightful because it meant “has a soul” wasn’t a valid answer for the purposes of the exercise. “Has a soul” was what we were supposed to demonstrate.

    One person suggested only humans use tools, I told them about termite-fishing chimps. Another suggested only humans have sex for recreation, I brought up the sexual behaviors of bonobos and dolphins. Etc, etc. I could tell the teacher wanted to boot me from class, but since technically I wasn’t breaking any rules, he settled for dropping the exercise and changing the subject. From what younger school friends have told me, he never tried it again.

  52. madtom1999 says

    Its not worse than sports fishermen claiming fish feel no pain.
    If you were to stick a large hook with a large weight attached through the mouth of a fisherman underwater and drag him around until he was too tired to fight and you couldn’t hear a sound does that means he’s enjoying the sport too?
    I should add that I fish for food but the number of people that seem to think a fish that kicks up a fuss when hooked does it for sport is quite staggering.
    Catch and replace is a great way of getting diseases into waterways too.

  53. Carlie says

    Why does anyone give him a platform to publish on? Everyone should just be backing slowly away, keeping a safe distance from this guy.

  54. This Is A Turing Test says

    Diane at #31 got it, I think, when she asks:
    “Is he confusing the ability to verbalize pain with not being able to [experience it]?”
    Exactly- he’s defined, for his own purpose, the ability to experience pain as meaningful ONLY when the one who experiences if meets his specious and contrived criteria of consciousness, and can express it to his standards of understanding. Theology at its hair-splitting finest. Pain is pain. I don’t even like to step on cockroaches (though I will if the little bastards get in my way, and at least it’s quick and merciful when I do).

  55. JGC says

    Frustrum @ 25

    But those plants and animals aren’t aware they’re getting sick or dying, so it’s all good…

  56. fastlane says

    Doesn’t that last bit sorta go hand in hand with his idea that babies that get killed go straight to heaven? Now he can say they didn’t even feel any pain either.

    Wow…that really is fucked up.

  57. MGM says

    I wonder when some drive-by-poster will show up to explain how, actually, this is deep and nuanced inquiry into the ontological beaver of epistemic hoobledegerb or something, rather than disingenuous unreason. It’s just amazing (read:depressing) how someone could make such an asinine argument and still be hailed as a brilliant mind.

  58. you_monster says

    this is deep and nuanced inquiry into the ontological beaver of epistemic hoobledegerb

  59. Carlie says

    Its not worse than sports fishermen claiming fish feel no pain.

    Do they really? I’ve heard claims that fish have very few nerve endings in their mouths where hooks usually lodge, but not that they have no capacity for pain in the first place.

  60. unbound says

    “…at least, maybe we should confiscate his pets and put them in a safer home.”

    This was my first thought. If this idiot really thinks animals feel no pain, we really need to call animal services ASAP to get his pets removed from his household.

    PZ, cats are very different animals than dogs, but they do show empathy in their own ways (I have both dogs and cats as pets). The dominate cat will get in between family members that are yelling at each other and start meowing herself. And her ability to accommodate the 2 younger cats (obtained as young kittens from a shelter) as being essentially her own has been an interesting evolution of her behavior over the past 2 years as well.

  61. No One says

    Dolphins have been observed using sponges when hunting for fish in the sand. This keep their snouts from being stung by poisonously spined fish that may be hiding in the sand. Not only are dolphins aware of their pain, they use tools to protect themselves, and teach the behavior to their offspring.

    William Lane Craig is an irrelevant clodhopper.

  62. Anteprepro says

    You know, when Craig said this ” For the awareness that one is oneself in pain requires self-awareness”, I half expected him to bring up some of the tests for self-awareness, like the mirror test . Of course, that would have been shooting himself in the foot:
    -Similar to PZ’s point about embryos, humans often don’t pass the mirror test until they are 2 years old. And, apparently, this might be cultural, because in some segments of the world, six year olds don’t pass the specific criteria for success on the test (see my last link).
    -Many different primates pass the mirror test.
    -Several non-human, non-primates pass the mirror test, including dolphins, elephants, and magpies. Pigeons have also passed an altered version of the test.
    -The mirror test may be a fairly high bar for self-awareness, and failure on the mirror test may not indicate lack of self-awareness, since the mark test used to pass it may give false negatives . In other words, dogs and other animals who have “failed” the mirror test may still be self-aware.

    But, Craig instead says that only primates have a pre-frontal cortex, shooting himself in the foot even more severely by being profoundly wrong. Maybe Craig shouldn’t pretend that he has any authority to speak about scientific knowledge if he’s going to pretend that scientists can’t speak about philosophical matters with any precision. Or is that expecting too much intellectual consistency from a known idiot/liar? Great to know that he is among the best and brightest of apologists.

  63. donald says

    The day this idiot gets to decide who feels pain who doesn’t is a very bad day for the human race. Mr. Craig and his cohorts are bad people. Probably the type of rednecks who like to go out in the wood and shoot defenseless animals. Now he can justify it: they don’t feel anything.

  64. truthspeaker says

    I’m the kind of redneck who goes out in the wood and shoots defenseless animals. I don’t know of any hunter who suffers from the delusion that animals don’t feel pain.

  65. says

    On behalf of all the tortured and abused animals in the world, fuck you, Mr. Craig.

    QFMFT.

    I always picture Craig wearing a smoking jacket and a fez. This makes me giggle, and helps to avert the head explosion.

  66. Tiktaalik says

    This stuff just makes me boil. This summer I lost a dog after he suffered for years with Immune-mediated polymyopathy, a condition in which the immune system attacks and destroys the body’s own muscles. Despite the best veterinary care I could get (at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital) he continued to deteriorate. I couldn’t help but wonder sometimes about how someone who believes in God could possibly justify creating that kind of horrible disorder in a dog. At the end, he appeared to suffer from despression, from being unable to interact with my other dog, and the other dog definitely showed signs of intense confusion after he died, to the point of apparently hallucinating that she heard him, perking up her ears and running down the hallway in an attempt to locate him. Those are signs, to me at least, of self-awareness. What a bunch of bull this guy is spouting. It makes me feel literally sick.

  67. abadidea says

    abeille #44: Please tell me you said “Of course they do, birdbrains!”

    … why is that last word in my spellcheck?

    RE: cats and dogs, I find that any given cat is less likely to act empathetic than any given dog, but you do occasionally spot it. Perhaps they are just not as capable as dogs in expressing it in ways we can understand.

    I swear I’ve had horses express empathy. They’re also pretty hard to read because their faces don’t do much, though. You really need to pay attention to the ears and the nostrils.

  68. Ing says

    Similar to what I was saying on the Ray Comfort is a fraud thread; when you’re criteria for rights/person-hood is based on metaphysical invisible exhalation you can easily justify all sorts of cruelty by not seeing that supernatural quality in your victims.

  69. Dhorvath, OM says

    As seems usual, Craig’s line of reasoning only makes sense if you start from an assumption that the conclusion is correct and then pare and whittle facts to try and build a platform beneath it. No one would reach this conclusion without first needing to show that humans and animals differ

  70. Ing says

    @Abadidea

    Domestic cats are less pack/herd oriented and thus have less incentive to be very empathetic. There are some breeds of cat specifically bred to have the person-ability associated with dogs. We also do know that dogs were/are basically selected via artificial breeding for their ability to empathize with humans.

  71. Dick the Damned says

    Ben @ 34,

    I’ve seen very smart, skeptic friends using these exact same arguments to justify eating animals. It’s quite disturbing.

    Well, they should kill them first, then eat them. The animals, i mean.

    Better still, buy just the meat from animals that’ve been humanely killed. Of course, the problem here in the UK is that a lot of the meat for sale has been killed inhumanely for religious ‘reasons’ – halal – without the consumer having any way of knowing that.

  72. Brownian says

    So do I have any obligation to treat him as though he were a sentient being?

    I was just thinking of some of our trolls. We know they’re not self-aware; if they were they wouldn’t be so goddamn fucking cluelessly hypocritical in their argumentation.

    So, do they have the awareness of feeling pain?

  73. Anteprepro says

    Gotta love this from Willie Lane also:

    During the debate I showed a slide of an East German Trabant. It was probably one of the worst cars ever manufactured. It was full of design flaws. (I actually rode in a Trabbi once while visiting East Germany, and when I tried to pull the door shut, the whole inner panel nearly ripped off!) I next showed a slide of a 2009 Mercedes e-class. I then asked the audience: because a Trabant is not a Mercedes, does that justify the conclusion that the Trabant was not designed but originated by chance? Obviously not! Designs exhibit various levels of optimality, and there’s no reason to restrict design inferences to only maximally optimal designs. In fact, it would be positively foolish to do so. If a biological system meets William Dembski’s criteria for being designed (high improbability plus conformity to an independently given pattern), that design inference is not nullified by the possibility of structures which could have been better designed.

    Yep. It doesn’t matter if the “design” is crap, if it was unlikely, it is “designed” and therefore there is a “designer” who is totally consistent with the perfect Christian God, despite the “designer” being responsible for poor quality or outright evil designs. The “Design Inference” says nothing about all design needing to be high quality, and no designs leading to undue suffering. So please just disregard when everyone uses The “Design Inference” to believe in a divine entity that is so perfect and good that these types of “design” are blatantly inconsistent with its supposed nature. Just say “design” over and over and over until the inconsistencies just fade away.

  74. says

    A few months ago, I saw a documentary about leopards. This mother leopard had two cubs following her about, until one was eaten by hyenas and the other fell out of a tree and broke its pelvis. Now, it is this second leopard cub, and its mother’s reaction to what occurred, that illustrate what a mendacious piece of shit is William Lane Craig. The leopard cub, stuck in the fork of a tree and unable to move, was screaming in pain. The mother tried to comfort her cub, tried to get it out of the tree. The whole time, the mother was making these mournful sounds… I can’t go on, because I’m making myself cry, but you see where I’m going with this.

    Fuck you, William Lane Craig.

  75. raven says

    WL Craig is also famous for justifying the (imaginary) Hebrew genocide of the Canaanites.

    “They were bad and had it coming. Even the babies, women, and children.”

    Besides all the good innocent Canaanites went to heaven.

    The claim that xianity is the source for morality is clearly wrong. On the evidence it is better to state:

    Xianity is a source for some very screwed up and perverted morality a lot of the time. Explains WL Craig.

  76. Ing says

    Having done work castrating pigs, I can almost see where WLC would get this bullshit. We castrate swine straight with no numbing or local. However, this was (or at least I hope what I was told was true) found to be the least stressful method for doing so from stress studies. Knocking out the pigs is more stressful for them, a local numbs them for too long and other pigs nibble at it without them knowing hurting them more, getting it done quickly and returning them to the sow is the least stressful way.

    Now the pigs clearly felt pain at the moment, but recovered quickly…because the stress they felt from being removed from the sow far eclipsed the physical pain. You have to have ear plugs because their cries can cause serious damage. It’s been compared to being on a airport tarmac.

  77. Ing says

    “They were bad and had it coming. Even the babies, women, and children.”

    Besides all the good innocent Canaanites went to heaven.

    It makes me question why more X-ians are not in favor of indiscriminate terrorism? Blow up random buildings, gun down malls of people, mustard gas schools! The evil get what they deserve and the good are sped along to heaven. Plus it gives a clear incentive for people to convert ASAP since they never known when the Lords Army will call them home.

    Oh wait…didn’t Judge Scalia same something similar with how executing innocent people was acceptable because of heaven?

  78. Ing says

    @Bill

    You’re fooling himself if you think he’ll stop at pets.

    The Family has shown what people like WLC WANT to do with what agendas they push in places where they can affect policy like Uganda.

    They very very very very very much would like to kill you thank you very much.

  79. ButchKitties says

    @Tiktaalik

    I had two golden retrievers. The older one developed cancer and had to be put to sleep. The younger dog witnessed us leaving the house to go to the vet, with the older dog never coming back.

    For months after that, every time we picked up the leash to take the younger dog for a walk, she’d run and hide.

  80. raven says

    There are people who argue that non-human animals are not thinking and self-aware like we are, and so their perception of pain is qualitatively different.

    This isn’t correct. Thinking, self awareness, and consciousness seem to be a property of mammals at least. We humans are just better at it than the rest of the lot.

    1. Counsciousness seems to be an ancient deep brain phenomena.

    2. Most mammals seem to have some level of consciouness and self awareness. Anyone who has had a dog or cat quickly realizes that they are thinking, self aware individuals, with their own personalities.

    This is the current thinking of a lot of neuroscience. I’m not going to reference anything because there isn’t that much data and it isn’t a settled point. Just how do you determine that a raccoon is a thinking, self aware animal?

  81. says

    abadidea #79

    I was somewhat in shock that they put forth that claim.
    I managed to say, “Yes, they do! Animals have brains!”

    They later told me that birds, and other animals, don’t have any preferences and they operate on instinct alone.

    They didn’t want to press the issue with me, probably as they’ve assumed that I’m anthropomorphizing my birds.

  82. Anj says

    If animals don’t experience pain (except in the presence of noxious stimuli) then they should lack aversive responses except in the presence of the actual stimulus.

    So all those experiments with animals associating a non-noxious stimulus with a neutral stimulus shouldn’t have worked! Flash a light, then administer a small but painful shock to a rat – and the rat begins to show aversive response to the light (a non noxious stimulus) because it is associated with the noxious stimulus (the shock).

    You have to wonder how he trains any pets he has. If there is no association, then punishment would simply fail to work. What his stance is on pleasure and if animals can feel it? If they can’t experience pain except as a transient experience that they can neither remember, nor associate with anything, then how about pleasure?

    I don’t think reducing pleasure to the mere satisfaction of some need would work – or once the animal’s need reached satiation, they would no longer have the motivation to perform an action.

  83. Stevarious says

    The premise behind the argument is incredibly flawed. (That is, the idea that it’s somehow okay to inflict pain on ‘lesser’ animals because they don’t really understand pain like we enlightened humans do. It seems to me a very short step from that to this.) But so are the details – at least in my experience (which, while anecdotal, is fairly extensive).

    My family has always had dogs, lots of dogs. I can remember just off the top of my head the names of about 20 different dogs that I lived with while growing up, and I know it was more than that. Very few of the dogs were ‘mine’ in the possessive sense that dog owners have – only three of them were ever my ‘personal’ dogs.

    I still tear up a little bit whenever I remember my dog, Bear, an eleven year old German Shepherd, dying of a rapidly expanding tumor in his chest. There was a day, at a point when the vet had already said that he had only weeks to live at most, when he looked up at me and his look plain as words told me, “I am tired of the pain and I’m ready to die.” (Vets, I am told, call it simply ‘The Look’.) I took him to the vet that afternoon and it was the very first time he did not struggle or complain about going. We put him down that day, and it was a mercy. I still remember the look on his face as the pain disappeared and he slipped off to sleep the last time. It was clearly relief. It could not have been more clear to me than at that moment that dogs understand pain all too well.

    I have been told I am guilty of anthropomorphism. I don’t THINK I am. I’ve done a little bit of study into animal psychology (only at the layman’s level though) and while the field is filled with all kinds of ‘woo’ it’s pretty easy to pick those books out, as they generally prattle on about the dog’s ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ or whatever. Dogs have a much more simple range of emotions than humans do – what we divide up into ‘love’ and ‘friendship’ and ‘family’ and whatnot they just have one catchall emotion – ‘affection’ – which they tend to express to all the members of their ‘pack’ more or less equally, even their mates and offspring.

    But one thing that dogs seem to understand every bit as clearly as humans is pain. Dogs are extremely empathetic creatures. Not only do they demonstrate an extreme awareness of their own pain (and have a number of different ways of communicating it), they have a very good ability to sense when others (both other dogs and humans) are in pain as well. They will, in general, attempt to comfort an individual in pain.

    I would ask that loathsome demagogue WLC how it is possible that a dog can recognize pain in other creatures of a completely different species, if they can’t even recognize pain in themselves?

    Then I’d resist the urge to punch him in his smarmy face. What a scumbag.

    Is WLC a fraud himself or really just that delusional?

    Yes.

  84. Ing says

    Even if animals do not have the anthropomorphic emotions we do (which why would they…they’re not primates) they clearly do show changes in behavioral states that indicates they have SOME range of mood.

  85. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    How are you all even competent talking about the theoligical implications of neuriscience? Having published in every relevant field, William Lane Craig is competent to do that, you are not. He is, according to the world-renowned philosopher Dingbert D. Dohford, “One of the most renowned theological thinkers of our time”. Christopher Hitchens has said that he is “The most formidable debater” he knows. In fact, I know people who study philosophy, and WLC was always on their reading list. He has so much more academic credentials and more PhDs than all of you combined, so PZ and should just shut up. Show me peer reviewed literature that proves that you are smart enough to criticise William Lane Craig. Put up or shut up.

    I wonder where all the people are who have produced endless permutations of above sort of comment in every blog post about WLC ever. Maybe this time, the evil is too obvious. Maybe they are yet to come.

  86. UpAgainstTheRopes says

    Do you really think he believes the shit that spews out of his mouth?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a closet atheist.
    A psychotic closet atheist.

  87. Ing says

    I wonder where all the people are who have produced endless permutations of above sort of comment in every blog post about WLC ever. Maybe this time, the evil is too obvious. Maybe they are yet to come.

    If they didn’t do it for WLC celebrating hypothetical people smashing open baby skulls, I doubt they bat an eye at this.

  88. Ing says

    Do you really think he believes the shit that spews out of his mouth?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a closet atheist.
    A psychotic closet atheist.

    Fuck you.

  89. Ing says

    Seriously? WLC is so evil he can’t be a christian…he must be an atheist.

    Go get sodomized by a freight train

  90. footface says

    I’d been waiting for a good place to post this, from this past Sunday’s New York Times. On page three of the front section is this lovely pull quote:

    “I believe that God put those people here for a purpose, because if we didn’t have them to look after, we would lose our humanity.”
    —Patricia Taylor, whose quadriplegic brother, James, drowned in a bathtub at a group home for the developmentally disabled near Schenectady

    I know when we read something like that we’re meant to smile wistfully and say, “That’s really beautiful.” But just like god creating pain and death for nonhumans unable to learn from them, the god who would behave as Ms. Taylor presumes is an obscene monster.

    I know it’s meant to comfort us to think, for instance, of dead babies whose deaths are not in vain, but the underlying sentiment is hideous.

    When I hear of some all-powerful tyrant cursing these people over there with frustrating, sometimes painful lives all so that those people over there can learn a valuable lesson, my skin crawls.

    Why couldn’t god just blink and cause So-and-so to retain his humanity? Why does someone else have to suffer for it to count?

  91. Brownian says

    Then I’d resist the urge to punch him in his smarmy face.

    Why? Because of the laws against assault, or because you might hurt your hand?

    If it’s the latter, that’s why God created smaller, lightweight apologists that you can pick up and swing at bigger ones.

  92. Ing says

    “I believe that God put those people here for a purpose, because if we didn’t have them to look after, we would lose our humanity.”

    If I recall the story his brother died because he was left in a bathtub being filled and the caretaker walked away…letting the water level Slooooooooooooooooooooowly rise above his face.

    What is there to lose again?

  93. raven says

    The fundie xian death cult has produced exactly zero thinkers, scholars, theologians, or philosophers of note.

    1. WL Craig is considered one of the best. He is an idiot.

    2. Norm Geisler is famous for pointing out that UFO flying saucers exist and are piloted by demons from hell, during a creationist court case.

    The rest of the lot are the liars; Hovind, Ham, Haggard, the ICR, and a vast collection of hate filled bigot leaders, the vaguely humanoid toads, Hagee, Fischer, Falwell, Jacobs, etc..

    3. They did produce one theologian. Rushdooney is the founder of xian Dominionism. His plan was to take over the USA, set up a theocracy, set up biblical law, and kill 99% of the US population.

    Rushdooney was clearly a psychopathic kook. He is also one of most influential thinkers in fundieland and they may yet actually manage to destroy the USA. They have their own religion, fundieism and their own political party, the Tea Party/GOP.

  94. Anj says

    1) Selective breeding is NOT “artificial” breeding. Artificial insemination is necessary in some highly dysfunctional breeds, and may be used as the insemination method of choice in others.

    2) Some (not all) breeds of dogs are selected for “responsiveness to humans”. This means that dogs are selected to be highly responsive to humans. This is a very endearing trait in dogs. In combination with a tendency towards submissive behavior makes dogs tend towards both attentiveness and obedience.

    3) One of the oldest working groups of dogs (livestock guardian breeds) have been selected for independence and dominant behavior. These breeds are given flocks or herds to watch over and guard almost entirely on their own. Their demeanor is described as “aloof”, “reserved” and “imposing”.

  95. KG says

    Do you really think he believes the shit that spews out of his mouth?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a closet atheist. – Idiot

    Yes, I think he does. Do you have any evidence or argument to the contrary? Or any evidence whatever that he might be an atheist?

    Thought not.

  96. says

    Warning: This is a TL/DR rant.

    As far as cats and empathy and most any animal and pain, there’s no doubt anyone who has ever shared their life with a pet can tell plenty of anecdotal stories refuting WLC.

    As far as WLC being a scumbag, QED.

    However, as far as the evil that the WLCs of the world spew, just showing that they’re wrong or immoral does not go anywhere at all with the faithful, although it appears to be helpful in isolating them from whatever sensible people are left. The way to fight these people on their home turf is exposing their hypocrisy. Showing that they’re more interested in sex, adulation, and/or money than theology. All the notorious godlings that have been taken down went out this way.

    [channeling Deanna Troi for the rest of the post] 8)

    America is not necessarily a christian nation as much as we’re a nation where the legacy of PT Barnum is alive and well and loves to peddle crap to a poorly educated and gullible populace. We need to pull the curtain away from the “Charlatans of God” (no offense to L Frank Baum).

    Sadly, one is between the horns of a dilemma because *we* must debate and refute their claims, but debating them publicizes their existence (and their persecution) with the gullible and their money, which is the only thing *they* really care about.

    That explains how someone like Pat Robertson can say the most fucked up things or a Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachmann can double quintuple down on an impossible position. Most of us shake our heads, wonder what got in their pablum, and assume no one is paying attention, yet the more outrageous they are the more the believers go wild. They’re seen as fighting the great fight, they’re courageous, they’re rock stars. And the bucks roll in.

    I mean, have the insane been so ostracized by the sane that they’re grabbing at any straw that pretends to value their existence. Maybe we need to start an outreach program directly to them.

    [putting Deanna Troi back in the closet]

    Laterz all.

  97. says

    Carlie #71

    Its not worse than sports fishermen claiming fish feel no pain.

    Do they really? I’ve heard claims that fish have very few nerve endings in their mouths where hooks usually lodge, but not that they have no capacity for pain in the first place.

    Yeah, I read an article in a fishing magazine that was making basically the same claim that WLC seems to be: fish have nervous systems that allow them to react to injury in a way then helps them survive, but they lack the part of the brain that would be neccessary to actually experience it as painful, and thus they are incapable of actually suffering.

  98. raven says

    I’ll add here that pain and negative emotions have high survival values. They serve a critical purpose.

    There are mutant humans born who can’t feel pain. They are cognitively normal but tend to die young from a variety of accidents and conditions.

    They have to train themselves to avoid personal physical damage.

  99. Pareidolius says

    WLC doesn’t understand a complex, nuanced universe. He understands fairy stories. Like children learning that they’re eating Wilbur at Sunday breakfast, he can’t grasp that everything eats everything else in order to live in this rock and that it’s not “fair” or pretty. He has to make up stories that place him outside the messy, complicated morass of biology and ethics that sentient apes have to navigate if they actually use their huge brains. Unfuck him. Unfuckhim with an unporcupine.

  100. pickle surprise says

    This discussion reminds me of a cow on our farm that had injured her back legs whilst giving birth to an unusually large calf. She was paralyzed pretty severely and any time she would move she would moo in obvious distress. We had a vet come over and give her some painkillers which might make her better but could take a while to work.

    We had to give her buckets of nuts as she grazed all the grass around her. She could not travel to drink water so buckets of water were given as well. And we gave her straw to keep her warm throughout the night. We would see glimpses of her improving but eventually it was obvious that she was going to remain this way for the rest of her life and the vet put her to sleep. The calf itself survived and suckled on another cow.

    Seeing this animal stuck in one spot, utterly helpless and mooing plaintively really affected me and to everyone but a psychopath it was obvious she was suffering and in pain.

    Fuck you William Lane Craig and fuck your sociopathic tyrant of a god.

  101. UpAgainstTheRopes says

    @Ing

    I never mentioned evil. I think you might be projecting. Evil is a messy religious term I tend to stay away from.

    The things that come out of his mouth are so ridiculous that it seems he’s trying to make arguments to justify positions that he really might not hold, that it’s more of an exercise then an actual justification of a christian position. His arguments strike me as a non-believing preacher at the pulpit with no way out who has gone cynical.

    Here’s your porcupine back, go play nicely with the other children.

  102. eigenperson says

    WLC has accidentally made a testable claim here. Let’s apply TMS to the prefrontal cortices of subjects (I would propose WLC as one of them), and then subject them to pain.

    If WLC’s hypothesis is correct, they will be unaware of experiencing pain. Surely this means that they will volunteer to repeat the experiment over and over again, right?

  103. CJ says

    Dudes and dudettes, the “he is so evil he must be atheist” comment clearly meant that he is such a sick bastard he HAS to be trolling and disgusting to everyone- thus turning them away from xtianity and towards atheism.

    Or at least that’s how I read it, rather than being overly sensitive.

  104. naturalcynic says

    Maybe Craig needs to talk to a much more sophisticated theologian: Ken Ham. Ham would skillfully deflate WLC by referring him to the simple question Were you there in the brain of the mouse when the cat was playing with it? How the fuck does WLC know what’s what with consciousness and perception?

  105. RowanVT says

    As a registered veterinary technician, this assertion of his is extra appalling to me. I work to alleviate every day I’m at my job. I’m at my job especially *because* I hate for animals to be in pain. If animals don’t have conscious sensation of pain, then why would a beaten animal cringe and cower from an upraised hand? Why would they express *fear* if they didn’t actually ‘feel’ pain? If they don’t ‘feel’ pain, why is it that puppies can teach each other bite inhibition when playing? If they don’t have the necessary awareness, how come they can recognise the pained yelp of a playmate and react accordingly?

    Stupid anthropocentric asshole.

  106. F says

    Re: Cats.

    Yes, PZ, they can show empathy, they just don’t have the same social skills as dogs. But in response to some of the other cat comments, I’d say only some cats are actually do this, if they happen to give a damn at the moment. I’m sure a lot of it depends on how they were raised. I’ve known plenty of cats which show no empathy at all, where most dogs seem incapable of stopping themselves from doing so, even if they aren’t particularly happy with you at the moment.

    Of course, I’ve know members of either species which are more likely to kick you when you are down, so to speak.

  107. Aquaria says

    I haven’t been able to tell if cats feel much empathy — they don’t show it

    Whether they will show it, and how, depends on their relationships with you or other people or animals.

    My little black cat will come running if I’m crying, if I’m in pain or if I’m sick. She’ll nudge me, circle me, get close to my face to look at me, and lick me. If she’s really concerned, she’ll start “talking” to me. You can almost hear her saying, “What is it? What’s wrong? Where does it hurt?”

    She’ll show up when the other’s hurt, too, and there’s lots of nose-to-nose sniffing, and pacing back and forth.

    The big white one is all eyes when something goes wrong, and she fidgets quite a bit, like she wants to come to me when I don’t feel well, but isn’t sure she can. This is probably because she’s the beta cat in the house, so she knows to hang back to see what the little black alpha will do, rather than getting a face full of claws. The little black cat is quite, uh, possessive of her human owner.

    I had a cat who would lay down on me when I was sick–which is a good way to make someone like me get the rest I need, rather than getting up and doing stuff. If he had to tend some business and I got up during it, he’d make a nuisance of himself with the leg circling until I got tired and went back to bed. Another cat would do some psychotic rubbing of anything she could touch, yowling all the time. Then she’d dash off and suddenly be nice to my mom (a notorious cat-hater), circling her legs and doing the cutie pie thing with her.

    So, like humans, cats have their own individual ways of showing empathy. You just have to know how a particular one expresses it.

  108. Anteprepro says

    CJ giving possible explanation for Up Against the Ropes’ comment:

    Dudes and dudettes, the “he is so evil he must be atheist” comment clearly meant that he is such a sick bastard he HAS to be trolling and disgusting to everyone- thus turning them away from xtianity and towards atheism.

    This sentiment is often repeated and it is tiresome. The problem is that you can pretty much say “you’re contradicting yourself/reality and you’re advocating something amoral/immoral, you MUST be trolling” to ANY Christian. The belief system, at its very core, is sick and inconsistent. We can’t just leap to the assumption that, because a Christian is supporting sick and inconsistent ideologies and pretending they aren’t, they must not really believe it and are just trying to get everyone’s goat. Because it is almost universal that believers believe some sick shit and rationalize it over and over so that they will never, ever permit themselves to see it as such. That’s not “atheist playing Poe”, that’s “standard, everyday Christian”. The very reason why Poe’s Law even exists.

  109. Aaron Baker says

    And human pain, which I assume Craig admits exists (but, since it’s Craig, who knows for sure?), is a big enough problem for theodicy without even bringing up animal pain.

  110. naturalcynic says

    All this talk of animal perceptions and no one has the decency to mention the philosophical musings of the octopus and cuttlefish.

  111. Esteleth says

    OFFS.
    The other day I arrived at ironclad proof that mice can learn and empathize.

    On occasion, I sacrifice mice in my lab. Like most animal labs, the room where the killings and dissections take place is separate from the living quarters. I went into the room with the cages, identified the mouse I wanted, and removed it from its cage. Not only did this mouse squeak and generally indicate unhappiness, so did the other mice, who I didn’t do anything at all to.

    As I walked towards the door to the dissection and sacrifice room, the squeaking of all the mice rose in a cacophony. The mice understood that when a person removed a mouse from a cage and walked through that door, that particular mouse was never seen again.

    The mice learned this.

  112. twitchy little bastard says

    Not related to animal pain, but it is from the same article by WLC:

    To see why, consider first the issue of design flaws. During the debate I showed a slide of an East German Trabant. It was probably one of the worst cars ever manufactured. It was full of design flaws. (I actually rode in a Trabbi once while visiting East Germany, and when I tried to pull the door shut, the whole inner panel nearly ripped off!) I next showed a slide of a 2009 Mercedes e-class. I then asked the audience: because a Trabant is not a Mercedes, does that justify the conclusion that the Trabant was not designed but originated by chance? Obviously not! Designs exhibit various levels of optimality, and there’s no reason to restrict design inferences to only maximally optimal designs. In fact, it would be positively foolish to do so. If a biological system meets William Dembski’s criteria for being designed (high improbability plus conformity to an independently given pattern), that design inference is not nullified by the possibility of structures which could have been better designed.

    For the bazillionth fucking time:

    Cars =/= Living Creatures

    Cars ARE NOT alive!

    Cars DO NOT have cell structures!

    Cars CAN NOT reproduce new cars!

    Cars are made of mostly inorganic compounds that are arranged mechanically, not genetically!

    Any attempt to use cars (or other non-living things that were made by humans) in order to demonstrate that life was also designed, is a BULLSHIT ARGUMENT!!

    Thank you, FTB, for letting me rant.

    *Re-lurking*

  113. Nemo says

    The argument that babies aren’t conscious, don’t really feel pain, etc. is something that I’ve seen raised by advocates of infant circumcision.

    Personally I think “consciousness” is a largely a crock. Much of the time, what people mean when they say “consciousness” is really “the soul”. The concept is used as a thin disguise over magical thinking. Certainly that’s how Craig uses it.

  114. NancyNew says

    Temple Grandin, in her book “Animals Make Us Human” (I think–I’m at work and the book is home, so I can’t check–it might be from “Animals in Translation” instead), using her experience and unique point of view, makes this distinction between human and animal experience of pain:

    In general (paraphrased) she defines the big distinction as –animals lack the capacity for feeling the dread of anticipated pain. Yes, of course, they feel pain, and through evolution various species have developed strategies for disguising weakness from possible predators, which may make determining a pain reaction difficult for dumb humans.

    She also develops the idea that this in no way reduced human responsibility for ethical treatment of animals, and is key, for her, in her development of humane slaughter systems. She loves cattle, and is frequently asked how she can work on systems to kill them. Her systems work to reduce any possible suffering to an absolute minimum, to keep their walk to death as peaceful and calm as it can be.

    Also I recall reading, as a teenager (this was probably in the 70’s), an article that absolutely HORRIFIED me–you know, back in the bad old days, people didn’t believe that infants could fully feel pain. So complex surgeries were performed on infants without anesthesia.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  115. raven says

    Cars =/= Living Creatures

    Cars were not designed by a perfect, all powerful god.

    WL Craig is claiming that god is an incomptent designer, no better than an East German commie automobile engineer.

    If this god is no more competent than humans, why call it god much less worship it?

  116. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    Often it’s not worth trying to influence preachers, but this particular teaching is so abhorrent that it might make sense to strip tax exemption for lying in service of animal cruelty. A lot of Americans, after hearing the alternatives to this teaching, would find this counter to human decency. And popular support does affect courts to a degree.

    Although I doubt WLC has tax exemption for his work.

  117. Marius Rowell says

    Never let it be forgotten that Craig’s target audience is a group who between them have the IQ of a bag of hammers, and who have already proved beyond any doubt that they can be made to believe anything – just make sure to charge enough for drivel and they’ll believe it!

    After all, they already think that the priests of an Iron Age ANE tribal junior warrior deity (one among hundreds in the region) had knowledge not available to modern humans. They can get away with hearing voices in their heads where any normal human would be drugged and hospitalized for their own safety and the safety of the community in general. Even high court judges refuse to accept the’god told me to’ defense!

  118. Stevarious says

    Then I’d resist the urge to punch him in his smarmy face.

    Why? Because of the laws against assault, or because you might hurt your hand?

    If it’s the latter, that’s why God created smaller, lightweight apologists that you can pick up and swing at bigger ones.

    Well, it’d be satisfying for a few minutes, especially if I got to punch him hard enough to hurt my hand. But I don’t want to live in a world where people get punched in the face for having an opposing viewpoint, so I think it’s immoral to punch someone for having an opposing viewpoint (even one as slimy and obviously immoral as WLC’s).

    Also, it would just feed their persecution complex, not to mention give them another blinkered argument about why atheists are the bad ones. “Oh that violent crazy atheist, he broke my jaw because I dared to claim that cats weren’t as emotionally developed as humans! Oh yeah, they’re rational all right!”

    The part where I’d go to jail for assault is also bad. Low on my list of reasons not to do it, but certainly a factor.

    Now, if someday I came across him say, getting ready to smash some babies, and he said “Oh, no, don’t worry, these babies are going straight to heaven! You should feel sorry for ME, since god is brutalizing me by ordering me to murder babies!” THEN I’ll break his jaw with a clear conscience, to stop him from murdering babies, which he has publicly stated that it’s okay to do.

  119. UpAgainstTheRopes says

    you will “lose” if you go head to head in a debate and a bunch of high school judges are present. WLC does it for a living, it’s how he do.

    The most successful(and infuriating to WLC) strategy I’ve seen up against WLC is in his debate with Sam Harris. The house may have been packed in his favor but his non-confrontational strategy worked. Shelly Kagen destroyed him on morality. You won’t win that battle.

    Why would you even debate him?
    Oh, you have a book coming out…
    might be a wise choice to hit the debate circuit…
    I’d buy a ticket.

  120. No One says

    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says:

    How are you all even competent talking about the theoligical implications of neuriscience?

    Well since there is no evidence for the supernatural that pretty much makes Craigs “expert theology” irrelevant. Particularly when there is evidence that his “pusstulations” about neuroscience (neuriscience to you) are easily refuted by available evidence. Craig has the all charm of an over-perfumed car salesman. You are welcome to buy the undercoat. I’ll pass thank you.

  121. DaveL says

    I love how Craig responds to Ayala’s arguments by noting that we can ignore the scientific aspect of the Problem of Pain if we’re willing to trash Christian theology and we’re able to resolve the theological Problem of Pain if we’re willing to throw out scientific validity. Then he just elides around the difficulties of a Christian holding to both simultaneously.

    I think that he realizes just how stupid that sounds, thus the need for his contrived, ignorant, not to mention monstrous justification for the suffering of animals.

  122. Olav says

    MGM says:

    It’s just amazing (read:depressing) how someone could make such an asinine argument and still be hailed as a brilliant mind.

    Butbutbut… He uses all those big-sounding words just like the scientists do.

  123. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    @NancyNew

    Temple Grandin’s argument is obvious bullshit for intelligent nonhuman Primates and probably also other animals. It’s a matter of degree, not a black and white thing.

    @No One

    So you think only because you don’t have evidence of the supernatural, you can ignore WLCs proofs for the supernatural? That is a self-refuting position.

  124. Stonyground says

    Alex@#99
    We are coninually being told that our ignorance of theology means that we are not qualified to cross swords with skilled theologions such as WLC. In this case we are discussing a specific essay and I would say that the qualifications to do so in this case consist of the basic ability to identify fallacious arguments. Specifically, unsupported assertions, factual errors and none sequiteurs. Add to that the fact that theology is a discipline that is known to start with its conclusion and then torture its evidence until it fits. Rational people understand that this is not the road to truth.

    Oh yes, argument from authority, that’s another one, if you are wrong it doesn’t matter how eminent and highly regarded you are, you are still wrong. That animals do feel pain is self evident, WLC must know this but denies it, not because he has evidence but because it is the only way that he can salvage the benevolent justice of his god.

  125. Gus Snarp says

    What always gets me about the argument by design is this: say you find a watch, but you’re from a primitive society that’s never seen watches. Nevertheless you can tell right away that this watch was designed. How? Because it’s different from rocks and trees and such. You know, natural things. Things created by God. In other words, the very definition of “design” set out in the argument is “not natural”, i.e. “man made” as opposed to “made by God”. So the argument assumes at the outset that things that are designed are not made by God. The rest of the argument becomes self contradictory. If an item is defined as designed because God didn’t make it, but we see the evidence for God in the “design” of the universe, then there is no difference between designed and not, “design” is a completely meaningless term.

  126. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    @Stonyground

    I was just teasing “No one” because xe didn’t bother to finish reading my original post to the point where I indicated it was satire.

  127. GvlGeologist, FCD says

    Gotta say that I laughed at this:

    The little black cat is quite, uh, possessive of her human owner.

    Exactly who owns who?

    And I’m saying that as someone else who shares the house with 4 other cats (as well as another human).

  128. John Phillips, FCD says

    When thinking of the religious, I am often reminded of the Stephen Weinberg quote.

    With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil, but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.


    However, every time I hear or read anything by WLC I realise, again, that some people need no reason to be evil, but as with WLC, it does provide them cover as well as a means to justify their actions.

  129. Olav says

    raven says:

    [..] an incomptent designer, no better than an East German commie automobile engineer.

    The Wartburgs weren’t that bad. Except for the two-stroke engine.

  130. KG says

    The things that come out of his mouth are so ridiculous that it seems he’s trying to make arguments to justify positions that he really might not hold, that it’s more of an exercise then an actual justification of a christian position. – UpAgainstTheRopes

    No, it doesn’t. Of course he says ridiculous things, but what preacher or theologian doesn’t?

  131. says

    I disagree about your cat comment. We had my mum’s friend staying with us when she found out her husband had cheated on her. She was extremely upset, and our cat came to her specifically to “offer a paw”, rather than retreating from the noise she was making.

    Anecdotal yes, but I’m a cat person.

  132. Anteprepro says

    NancyNew: “In general (paraphrased) she defines the big distinction as –animals lack the capacity for feeling the dread of anticipated pain.”

    Nothing against you, Nancy, but that’s pretty much bunk . It is simply not the case that other animals lack this capacity.

    From the article’s Discussion:

    Fear inducing stimuli are very aversive and fish will avoid them. Fear is an old primitive emotion and the authors speculate that fear may cause suffering further down the phylogenetic scale than pain. For example, a fish might have attenuated perception of pain but it could suffer greatly from fear. Whereas a dog would suffer greatly from both pain and fear and a chicken could suffer greatly from either pain or fear depending upon the situation. We propose that there is probably a certain minimum amount of associative circuits between circuits processing emotion and the cortex are required for an animal to suffer from pain and even fewer association circuits are required to suffer from fear.

    Basically, fear is a very primitive emotion expected to be present even in those with very limited pain perception. It is common. And the authors are also of the opinion that fear and pain simultaneously leads to greater suffering, but that pain itself is sufficient to be considered suffering. The mention of the chicken is due to the finding that chickens and turkeys can only experience pain or fear at any given time, and not both simultaneously. But mammals don’t have that problem. There is also an update on pain in fish in that article that makes the “attenuated perception of pain” line a bit more questionable.

    Anyway, see also: “In assessing criteria for suffering, psychological stress which is fear stress, should be considered as important as suffering induced by pain.”

    And: “In both mammals and people, the frontal cortex reduces responses to stimuli that elicit fears, but it increases suffering from pain. Fear operates in a low more primitive brain system than pain. The prefrontal cortex which is the most highly evolved brain region helps an animal to control its reactions to fear provoking stimuli, but heightens pain perception.”

    (Note that my citation is also Temple Grandin. I think that you either may have misremembered something, or new evidence came in).

  133. Brownian says

    But I don’t want to live in a world where people get punched in the face for having an opposing viewpoint, so I think it’s immoral to punch someone for having an opposing viewpoint (even one as slimy and obviously immoral as WLC’s).

    [Looks around for Walton.]

    Only if you do not think that immoral and slimy people learn from consequences being associated with their actions, or that it is beneficial for the group to see immoral and slimy people getting a comeuppance. And I don’t like the world I live in now, where dishonest and stupid people think they deserve cookies for merely holding opinions, no matter how they twist the evidence to support them. Because opinions either matter, or they don’t and who gives a fuck?

    But they do. Look at the American invasion of Iraq: we had two wonderful opinions, and privileged people who had nothing to fear happily argued this way and that, and facts didn’t matter, and it was a great wonderful moment for freedom of speech.

    And then a lot of other people died.

    I’ve heard dangerous and malicious morons use the “I’m entitled to my opinion” canard as a get-out-of-thinking-free clause. And then they vote, the fuckers.

    Also, it would just feed their persecution complex

    See? You’re happy; they’re happy. Everyone wins.

    “Oh that violent crazy atheist, he broke my jaw because I dared to claim that cats weren’t as emotionally developed as humans! Oh yeah, they’re rational all right!”

    You can be the most sweetest and kindest atheist in the world, and it won’t make a lick of difference anyway. I’m not interested in monitoring my behaviour so dishonest people won’t have actual evidence for their claims; evidence doesn’t matter anyway when it’s all just viewpoints. Look at WLC. If the evidence doesn’t fit his conclusion; he’ll simply make it up.

    Do not fool yourself into thinking that these people will respect your ethical stances. If you have one, have one for yourself, and for those you care about. These apologists care only about justifying their worship of a tyrant. No amount of good atheist examples will change that, any more than the amount of evidence for evolution will sway a creationist.

    Having said all that…

    *Sigh* But, you’re right. Satisfying as it might be to dole some out to asshole douchenozzles, people shouldn’t live in fear of violence for speaking their minds (or the clusters of ganglia they rely on in lieu.)

    I retract my imagery, as funny as I think the thought is.

  134. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    WL Craig is claiming that god is an incomptent designer, no better than an East German commie automobile engineer.

    Is there evidence that the Trabants were not well-engineered cars considering the allowed costs?

  135. Agent Smith says

    Trying to comprehend WLC’s worldview causes a sickening agony akin to having your elbow bent in the opposite direction, combined with the oppressive helplessness of carbon dioxide suffocation.

    He can still feel pain. Whether he can feel shame is more debatable.

    Damn, I never thought the subjects of this observation

    [The anatomists] administered beatings to dogs with perfect indifference, and made fun of those who pitied the creatures as if they felt pain. They said the animals were clocks; that the cries they emitted when struck were only the noise of a little spring that had been touched, but the whole body was without feeling. They nailed poor animals up on boards by their four paws to vivisect them and see the circulation of the blood…”

    would get 21st century defenders.

  136. CJO says

    The mice learned this.

    Yes, and Clever Hans learned to do simple arithmetic. My point being, an anecdote subject to human biases for anthropomorphizing behavior does not give you grounds to make assertions about the subjective experience of the mice.

    However, while there are real issues here in neuroscience and ethology, whether dogs and cats feel pain and are aware of it is not one of them. The subjective experience of “information-bearing neural states produced by noxious stimuli resulting in aversive behavior” is exactly what you need when the organism has a plastic suite of responses to the same stimulus, depending on a whole host of other circumstances and stimuli. It’s about degrees of freedom. A spider’s “aversive behavior” is canned, a series of switches, you might say, and its response to danger or distress will not vary much depending on circumstances. A dog’s, clearly not. Flee, fight, threaten, fighting retreat, submissive behavior, and etc. An algorithm isn’t going to be tractable on the time scales that the dog’s nervous system has to pick a response, so what is needed is a heuristic: a globally available “raw feel” of the location and intensity of the physical trauma that other systems may access and act upon. This is practically awareness by definition.

  137. Stonyground says

    The argument about the Trabant is quite interesting from an engineering point of view. The guy who designed the Trabant was probably constrained by all kinds of factors. The level of technology available to him and the need to construct a car that was affordable to the relatively poor East Germans for instance. WLC’s god is supposed to be infinately wise, knowledgeable and powerful, so not constrained at all then. What then is his excuse for my urethra going through my prostate gland? I can’t see the designer of the Trabby making a mistake like that.

    (It is interesting that East Germany also produced the MZ motorcycle which is hideously ugly but surprisingly good. MZ also produced successful racing bikes that only reached their true potential when they were copied by the Japanese.)

  138. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    CJO, I’ve read your post thrice and I’m still not sure what it’s message is.

  139. truthspeaker says

    @Gus Snarp #146 – I think you’re exactly right. I’ve had that thought for a while now but haven’t been able to articulate it as well as you.

  140. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    WLC’s god is supposed to be infinately wise, knowledgeable and powerful, so not constrained at all then. What then is his excuse for my urethra going through my prostate gland?

    I think there is a definitive scientifically informed theological answer that can be given here: He has done it this way to make it look exactly as if it had evolved. The design is too close to being like an evolved organ for it to have been intended for any other purpose.

  141. Gus Snarp says

    @truthspeaker – Thanks, I’m still not convinced I’ve articulated it all that well, and I keep thinking someone else must have done it better, but I have yet to run across it. I’m quite convinced that it is not some brilliant insight that I’m the first to come up with (you having thought it as well proves that), but it seems like few people bring it up in addressing the argument from design.

  142. CJO says

    Alex,

    There are two messages:

    1. (first paragraph) Complex states, like learned responses to vicarious distress (the mice anecdote) cannot be attributed to animals on the basis that it just seems that way, because we know we anthropomorphize and we know that behavior that looks complex sometimes isn’t.

    2. (second para) WLC is trying to exclude the middle between his 2. and his 3., such that there’s no distiction to be drawn between his 1. and his 2. A stimulus not made available to global awareness for the organism to act upon can only be an “information-bearing neural state […] resulting in aversive behavior” and if there’s a distinction to be drawn between “available to global awareness” and “a second order awareness that one is oneself experiencing (2)” Craig hasn’t drawn it.

    Clearer, or should I drink more coffee?

  143. Anteprepro says

    Alex: I believe CJO’s basic points were:

    1. There isn’t sufficient evidence to support the idea that mice learned that the other mice would be gone forever and panic over their loss from Esteleth’s anecdote.

    2. Despite that objection, CJO still believes that the case for pain in many non-human animals is settled. A sufficiently complex nervous system, and behavioral responses reflecting it, are sufficient to suggest consciousness of suffering over alternatives.
    2a. Spiders don’t have complicated enough behavior/neural circuitry for us to assume that they suffer/panic in a way similar to humans rather than explaining their behavior as simple (nearly mechanical) responses.
    2b. Dogs do have a complicated enough set of behavior/neural circuitry for us to believe that they suffer/panic in a way similar to humans, because such complicated behavioral responses more closely resembles consciousness than a simple algorithm.

    I believe that’s the jist. I may be wrong.

  144. Aquaria says

    Just how do you determine that a raccoon is a thinking, self aware animal?

    The thinking part is easy to determine: I’ve spent many an evening watching a raccoon pace in front of a garbage can a couple of times, jump up some steps, get on a box, leap on the can, balance one paw on the ledge by the flap you push to put the garbage in, and stick their head into the flap then ease themselves into the trash can inch by inch until all that’s left is the tail, and then, poof! it disappears, too. They figure out how to get out of the can by pulling the flap open again. You can hear them scratching until they get purchase on it.

    If that isn’t thinking, I don’t know what is.

  145. Gus Snarp says

    @thecynic – That would explain why he kills one every time I masturbate. Which also explains why cats reproduce so prolifically.

  146. says

    The “inference of design” is simply the same human ability to see patterns that gives rise to astrology or soothsaying methods like tarot reading or “reading the bones”. Someone looks at the pattern of the stars, or randomly drawn cards, or bone markers that have been thrown and attributes some sort of intentional significance to their placement.

    I think that publicly and loudly comparing “design inference” to these sorts of woo will be sufficiently ridiculing to demonstrate why ‘design inference” is a silly idea.

  147. horrabin says

    I thought most philosophers posit “second order awareness” as being conscious of yourself a conscious being – WLC seems to be redefining it to mean consciousness of “any” stimuli. (I don’t know if Murray did this or WLC did – I haven’t read ‘Nature red in tooth and claw” but I did find an article he wrote about the animal suffering problem where Murray throws a bunch of possible explanations at the wall and then ends with: “We do not mean to argue that the positions we describe here are known
    to be true, or indeed that they are true at all.” https://edisk.fandm.edu/michael.murray/Animal.pdf)

    It takes a christian apologist to say that animals have a “first order, subjective experience of pain” and then say that because they don’t have a self-reflective awareness of experiencing that pain that they aren’t “really” in pain, despite, you know, all that yowling and thrashing around. It seems to me that a first order pain is worse: a fully conscious animal can realize that a particular pain is necessary or will only last a short time–to an animal that can’t conceptualize such things the only reality is what is happening now.

    But really, what else can these guys say, when they try to rationalize their god’s cruelty? It’s either “Animals are just robots, it doesn’t matter what happens to them.” (not too popular nowadays, what with all those pet owners who want their pets to go to heaven, too) or “They’re not really in pain, isn’t God merciful?”. It makes you admire the ones who just say “uhh, it’s a mystery…”

  148. jenl says

    So, animals aren’t aware of being in pain? Hrmmm. Check out this link – http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57319021/tarra-and-bella-elephant-loses-mans-best-friend/.

    Short version: Elephant and dogs are best buds. Dog gets killed by local wildlife. Elephant grieves (or at least changes behavior in ways that look like grief). OTHER elephants change their behavior (in ways that look like sympathy and support). Say what you want about not anthropomorphizing animals, it sure *looks* like other elephants are aware of this one’s grief and are trying to support her through her loss.

    That goes *beyond* one being’s awareness of it’s own (physical) pain to the ability to perceive and respond to another being’s emotional pain. Which is apparently beyond Craig…

  149. Esteleth says

    CJO,
    The mice have learned that when a person removes a mouse from a cage and goes through the door to the dissection room, then that mouse does not come back.
    They react negatively to this (squeaking loudly, running about their cages, aggressiveness) but do not have that reaction to a person (even the same person) removing a mouse from a cage and going through the other door, which leads to a room with scales and other measurement equipment – because those mice come back.
    Whatever they think happens in the dissection room, they’ve learned to associate people taking a mouse there with bad.

    A.R., in answer to your question, I work with stem cells. I harvest fibroblast cells from the mice to feed the stem cells.

  150. says

    The question of animal pain isn’t a theological problem if you believe in a “watchmaker God” who created the initial Universe and let it run. It’s just an outcome of where the initial ocnditions led to. But people don’t want that kind of God, because watchmaker God won’t actually do stuff for them. He won’t be their personal buddy, he won’t beat up on all those people they don’t like. Hence all these ridiculous attempts at justifying why personal buddy God never seems to be around in any consistent way when you or your loved ones really need him.

    In fact God just might be a cat. One of those cats who will interact with you on his schedule, and only his schedule, and who will sometimes, for no apparent reason, decide your shoes are a good place to take a pee in.

  151. Aquaria says

    Like children learning that they’re eating Wilbur at Sunday breakfast

    It was Snowball as a lovely dinner of veal marsala for me. Snowball was the first calf I learned to tend cattle with (I was five, so that consisted of giving him feed, and brushing him down). Learning I was eating him was a very tough lesson in not getting too close to any of the animals on the farm again. You never knew when you’d be eating them, or selling them, or scraping them off a road, or cleaning up pieces of them out of a field after a coyote attacked them.

    When I was on the farm we didn’t have cats and dogs as companions first, but as pest control (cats), or as herders or intruder alert/attack systems (dogs). We had guns in the house, because sometimes you had to kill animals to ease their pain. WIth cattle and horses that break their legs, there isn’t anything you can do to save them. You can’t keep them down to stay off a broken leg–they’re too damned big and strong. If they don’t stay off it, though, they never heal, and they end up wasting away, because they’re in constant agony from re-breaking their leg all the time, or making the break worse.

    Putting them down is the humane thing to do, because there’s so little you can do for them to make them better and end their pain. It’s considered cruel to make them suffer.

    Take that, WLC, and shove it up your psychopathic, genocidal ass.

  152. crissakentavr says

    I don’t know why we would be surprised. It certainly seems to me that history speaks that a non-empathetic position towards the sensation of pain in other animals was a leading opinion a hundred years ago.

  153. ZF says

    Craig’s questionable animal-pain distinctions aside, he admits that some animals DO experience pain the way we do.

    Isn’t any example of non-human suffering enough to contradict his argument?

  154. suttkus says

    It’s impossible, of course, to determine if cats in any of the anecdotes in this post or any of the others are feeling empathy or simply demonstrating some degree of awareness and attempting to address an aberrant situation as best as they can. Humans anthropomorphize. We’re good at it. Every time a cat scent marks us, we interpret it as affection, even when that’s not remotely confirmable! But, we like it, so we go with it.

    Still, I find the idea that cats feel and express empathy and concern to be the least difficult conclusion to observations. (At least for some cats. Just like the human species, the house cat species is fully capable of producing selfish, uncaring individuals. Okay, maybe not as capable as the human species.)

    When my sister and I were very young, we had a cat named Shifter. When Hurricane David was passing near our house, we went out to play in the windstorm. It wasn’t near enough for there to be significant risk and the wind was a great deal of fun. Our cat, however, was displeased. While we were playing outside, according to mom’s report, Shifter was in the window, watching us, and complaining fiercely. Mom assumed it was just her response to the storm, which was causing branches to scrape against the house and make an awful racket.

    When the storm got worse, we decided to come inside. Shifter immediately got off the windowsill, ran over to us and rubbed our legs. He then waited out the rest of the storm calmly.

    Shifter wasn’t scared or bothered by the storm, she was worried that we were out in it.

    Keep in mind that we were too young to be the cat’s primary caretakers. Mom was the one who made sure she got food and water, cleaned the box, etc. She couldn’t have been worried about losing someone important to her physical needs here. She was just worried about losing us. Why Shifter would care about us, I can’t imagine, we were horrible children to that cat, but apparently she did.

    Our current cat, Alex, also has displayed concern. I had dental surgery and came home pressing a wad of cotton between my gums to stop the bleeding, and half-anesthetized. Resting afterward, I fell asleep and then swallowed the wad of cotton. The blood pooled in my mouth and then started dribbling down into the furniture, creating a yucky, ugly mess. It must have looked horrible.

    I woke up to a sharp pain in my arm. Alex was sitting beside me, with his claws sunk into my arm, meowing plaintively and trying everything he could to get me to wake up.

    Could it have just been concerned that he might be losing a caregiver? Sure, it’s impossible to tell, but to truly believe that it can’t possibly be an example of empathy for another species beggars my imagination. What does it take to turn someone that cold?

    @ Rad Pumpkin:

    When I stub my toe, I’ll curse. When my cat fell off a chair in his sleep, he would simply jump back on.

    Shortly after we got Alex, it became clear that he was a cat who really didn’t like being separated from humans. When I was the only person home and went to use the restroom, Alex would sit outside the door, upset and angry that he couldn’t get to me, so I started leaving the door cracked open so he could come in when he wanted.

    On one of his early visits, I’m stuck on the toilet and Alex comes in and accidentally shuts the door behind him. This makes him scared and nervous and he starts pawing at the door trying to get it open. It’s outside of my reach and I’m not ready to get up yet, so I can’t help. He gives up on the door out of the bathroom and starts trying to open the closet door, which is only partially closed, giving him some purchase on the side. He scrambles at the edge of the door for maybe four minutes of struggle before he manages to get the closet door open. Believing himself free at last, he rushes into the closet… only to discover that it is a closet and doesn’t go anywhere.

    He comes back out of the closet, looks at me, and yells, “RRRRRRR-RRROWWWW!”

    If that wasn’t a cat swearing like a sailor, I don’t know what it was. : – )

  155. Aquaria says

    Gotta say that I laughed at this:

    The little black cat is quite, uh, possessive of her human owner.

    She lets me think I’m the owner sometimes. It amuses her.

  156. CJO says

    Whatever they think happens in the dissection room, they’ve learned to associate people taking a mouse there with bad.

    How close are these doors to each other and are they equidistant from the cage? What if you altered these distances? What if you walk toward one door and then go to the other? What if you take a mouse out and turn off all the lights so they can’t tell what door the mouse went to? What if you employed other means of misdirection, like walking toward the “good” door and handing the mouse to a colleage to take it to the “bad” door? Are lab workers, in anticipation of what they’re about to do, giving the mice cues that they’re responding to? How would you control for that? These sorts of “how would I know if I were wrong?” questions are the difference between anecdote and experiment.

  157. Stevarious says

    Brownian:

    Only if you do not think that immoral and slimy people learn from consequences being associated with their actions, or that it is beneficial for the group to see immoral and slimy people getting a comeuppance.

    The problem is that most people (except the ones that already agree with us) would not SEE it as just comeuppance. They would just see it as some violent atheist, lacking a rational argument, resorting to violence.

    Look at the American invasion of Iraq: we had two wonderful opinions, and privileged people who had nothing to fear happily argued this way and that, and facts didn’t matter, and it was a great wonderful moment for freedom of speech.
    And then a lot of other people died.

    I freely admit that the system is not perfect. The problem here is not that people are allowed to lie freely. The problem is that the people doing the lying have too much control over the systems that are supposed to keep them honest. When they have suborned entire news organizations (like Fox News) who do nothing but publish whatever propaganda they wish, they control the facts. It’s not that facts didn’t matter, it was that they were able to disseminate and ‘confirm’ false facts through a seemingly independent outlet. Fox News is the proof that sock puppetry sometimes works.

    And then a lot of other people died.

    And I don’t like the world I live in now, where dishonest and stupid people think they deserve cookies for merely holding opinions, no matter how they twist the evidence to support them. Because opinions either matter, or they don’t and who gives a fuck?

    Yeah, this whole meme that ‘all opinions are equally valid’ that has stemmed from this moronic post-modernist ‘we can’t really know anything’ is infuriating. But it’s all a carefully calculated undermining of respect for knowledge that’s been going on for decades.

    You can be the most sweetest and kindest atheist in the world, and it won’t make a lick of difference anyway. I’m not interested in monitoring my behaviour so dishonest people won’t have actual evidence for their claims; evidence doesn’t matter anyway when it’s all just viewpoints.

    For the most part, I agree. I’m certainly not going to conform my behavior to what they consider to be moral just to prove them wrong somehow – that would be craven and useless, for the reasons you present.
    However, I’m not going to act contrary to my OWN moral standards just because most of them don’t care whether or not I actually have any. The thing is, while the vast majority of them are brainwashed godbots and refuse to think, there is mixed in the occasional fence-sitter who is doubting biblical morality and wonders if, perchance, it might actually BE possible to be moral without religion. That’s the person I’m thinking about when I strive to act in a moral manner around the fundies. Because I used to BE that person.

    Look at WLC. If the evidence doesn’t fit his conclusion; he’ll simply make it up.

    Yeah he’s a tosser all right. But hopefully, by pointing out his deceptive behavior in a reasonable debate setting, we can win a few converts. We won’t (and shouldn’t!) win any through violence. (I’m not tone trolling, BTW! Some people are won over by polite, reasoned, intellectual debate, and some are won over by simply having it loudly pointed out that they are acting like a moron! I was one of the former, so that’s just what I prefer.)

    Do not fool yourself into thinking that these people will respect your ethical stances. If you have one, have one for yourself, and for those you care about. These apologists care only about justifying their worship of a tyrant. No amount of good atheist examples will change that, any more than the amount of evidence for evolution will sway a creationist.

    The opinion of die-hard god-botherers is very far down my list of concerns. After all, don’t they already think I’m a self-deluded monster who deserves to be tortured forever? Apologists like WLC I think are probably unsalvageable. It’s already been demonstrated that he won’t listen to reason, doesn’t care if people know that he lies, and cannot feel shame. It’s sad to see someone who’s obviously intelligent and charismatic be blinkered by childhood indoctrination into the moral monster he is today.
    But we don’t argue with apologists to convert the apologists. We argue for the benefit of people watching.

    *Sigh* But, you’re right. Satisfying as it might be to dole some out to asshole douchenozzles

    And it really, really would be, too.

    people shouldn’t live in fear of violence for speaking their minds (or the clusters of ganglia they rely on in lieu.)

    .

    Yep. Wasn’t it Christopher Hitchens who said ‘Christianity lost it’s best argument when it stopped burning people at the stake’?
    Violence is a tool of the ignorant. As a species we are well rid of it, except as a last resort.

    Also, it would just feed their persecution complex

    See? You’re happy; they’re happy. Everyone wins.

    Now THAT was funny.

  158. says

    @Suttkus:

    Ehehe, your story about Alex made me giggle.

    I know cats get embarrassed, how many times have you seen a cat do something stupid (fall off the bed, miss a jump onto a table or dresser, run into a door) and come out afterwards with their heads held high, maybe licking themselves. If you laugh at a cat after they do those stupid things, oh boy do you get the look of death from them.

  159. UpAgainstTheRopes says

    @ KG

    “No it doesn’t”>

    No it doesn’t what?

    Pardon me if my sense of wonder falls on the side of empathy. I’m not defending the content of what he says in any aspect. Maybe he believes what he says, I just find it hard to believe that he does.

  160. happiestsadist says

    Re: Cats and empathy

    I find it varies by cats. At Casa de Happiestsadist, we have two, His (Gatsby) and Mine (Cinnamon). Gatsby’s affectionate enough, but I haven’t seen much by way of empathy, aside from his lying next to me when I’m sick in bed for the duration of my being in bed.

    Cinnamon’s a strange one. She’s not very bright, to be charitable. She’s older than dust, and, for reasons unknown to us and maybe related to her prior home(s?), she’s scared of everything. Wind. Loud noises. Many soft noises. Her own farts. She’ll snuggle if you sit still and she knows you, but that’s it.Mostly, she just likes me. I have PTSD. It used to be very severe. When I’d start having a flashback, or a panic attack, or convulsions, or the nightmares would be back, she’d always, ALWAYS come running to me to purr, pet my face and hands and lick my nose or fingers. Even though she was afraid of everything that was happening. The same cat that runs away if someone sneezes would stay by me.

    I’d say WLC shouldn’t be left with anything beyond maybe a houseplant, but even as a vegetarian, I couldn’t do that to a plant.

  161. Erulóra Maikalambe says

    Maybe you’re all a bunch of spiders.

    Well, there have been occasions where I’ve wanted to go grab a shoe after reading some of the comments.

  162. CJO says

    I know cats get embarrassed

    You know no such thing. It pleases you to attribute human attitudes and dispositions to pet animals, because you identify with them. But consider the function embarrassment serves in human communities, and how in many persons it is accompanied by an un-fakeable, un-suppressable autonomic response (the blush). What comparable function could such a cognitive state have among cats? I’m not saying there isn’t one necessarily, but it seems to me that embarrassment as we experience it is very much a product of our evolution as social apes.

  163. tbp1 says

    Isn’t this the same guy who said that the real victims of the slaughters in the Old Testament were the soldiers who had to carry them out? How traumatized they must have been…!

  164. footface says

    @ Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort, 185:

    Any time our cat Foot (no relation) misjudged a jump or fell or did something else ungraceful, she would immediately find another cat to lash out at. Sure looked like embarrassment to me.

    @ NancyNew, 134:

    I think Temple Grandin is full of it. She says, “I have autism, so I know how animals think.” Yeah, well, says you. It all sounds like an argument from revelation to me. And the fact that she puts her special empathy to work on kinder ways to kill animals doesn’t impress me much.

  165. stripey_cat says

    My mother’s cat makes regular attempts to teach her to hunt. Live prey (usually a mouse) is released in a confined space, if my mother tries to ignore it, the cat slaps her, etc. The behaviour changes if Mum is ill enough to need bed rest: then the cat brings her dead prey, and leaves it on the bed. Once Mum’s on the sofa, the prey is live but incapacitated.

    The explanation that occurs to me is that the cat has enough understanding of incapacity/illness to modify her expectations of my mother’s behaviour, which would be consistent with a species that teaches their young complex behaviours. Interestingly, the cat was separated young from her mother and kept indoors for the first 9 months of her life: she has no experience of being taught to hunt (and was indeed entertainingly incompetent as a mouser her first winter with my parents).

  166. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    I could really use some anecdotes about emphatic pet octopi now to bring some balance to this hello kitty-based morality debate.

    Anyone?

  167. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    Wow, you genuinely aren’t a cat person.

    People who deal with cats a lot call it the nursing instinct. Cats tend to cuddle up to people who are sick, injured, or even just really upset. I’ve had a complete stranger of a cat come up to me and start rubbing against me when I sat outside crying. It’s a little surprising, because cats tend to retreat into a closet or under a bed when they aren’t well themselves, but they seem to have spent enough time with humans to grasp we find them soothing. Or perhaps because we don’t hide, they know we’re okay with company.

  168. Carlie says

    I have watched a cat accidentally fall into a trash can, and then when retrieved stalk off with what appears to be a definite “shut the fuck up” look on its face.

  169. Michael Swanson says

    Lane can’t tell “awareness of pain” from the ability to actively contemplate it. Just because an injured horse or lemur or bunny can’t spend time pontificating about the nature of its pain, doesn’t mean that they don’t real physical and emotional pain.

    Gene Bauer, a founder of Farm Sanctuary in New York, tells of a cow that had never had her own offspring, but had adopted and doted on four calves at the farm. When homes were found for the calves and they were taken away, the cow was inconsolable, trying to get the through the fence to get them, and writhing on the ground, bellowing for hours. Bauer said that years later that cow would still charge him, and that he could never get near her again. (And that they no longer separate bonded animals when it can be helped.)

    Nope. No pain there. Just some melodramatic godly programming for our entertainment!

  170. Glodson says

    Does God then have a prefrontal cortex?

    Not anymore. I preformed a bit of a minor lobotomy on God when I was a Christian. Prayer is a powerful thing. But now I have a lump of divine brain matter just sitting around. I’ve been using it like a bean bag chair until I figure out what I should do with it.

  171. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Another argument, more a guess though, against WLCs “awareness of pain” idea that comes to my mind is the following:

    Humans, in a moment of intense pain, have a very reduced capability to reflect on anything. In a moment of intense pain, our pain fills our mind and not much else. I would not be surprised if our own mode of consciousness in the presence of extreme pain is much more similar to that of other animals than our usual one. Does this ring true to you?

  172. A. R says

    Alex: I wish I could give one, I’ve wanted my own cephalopod for years! They far outrank cats in every way. :)

  173. tbp1 says

    He doesn’t appear to allow commentary. That’s probably a really, really good idea on his part.

    And I see someone beat me to point out his position about the real victims of OT slaughters being the slaughterers, and not the slaughtered. Shoulda read the comments a little more carefully.

    FWIW, C. S. Lewis (IMHO one of the most overrated thinkers of the 20th Century) tried to deal with the problem of animal pain, with no more success than Craig.

    The problem goes away if you just realize the evolutionary advantage of feeling pain: it encourages you to avoid things that do you damage.

  174. carolw says

    My old moggie is very perceptive of my moods. If I don’t feel well, it’s lap time. Another of the household cats was (I believe) abused by the husband’s former roommate and was very foot-shy for about a year after leaving that home. I try not to anthropomorphise them too much, but when a lap full of cat gives you googy eyes and puts an arm around your waist it’s hard not to fell like it’s love.

  175. davem says

    For even though your dog or cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware of it

    In that case, I’d really like an explanation why my sister’s dog yelped when I accidentally trod on its paw the other day. Such a simple ‘experiment’ to prove WLC an idiot.

    Re empathy, I’m sure that both cats and dogs understand when you’ve accidentally hurt them, and when it’s deliberate. The only way they can do this is by understanding your empathy towards them.

  176. No One says

    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says:
    8 November 2011 at 6:08 pm

    @Stonyground

    I was just teasing “No one” because xe didn’t bother to finish reading my original post to the point where I indicated it was satire.

    Aha! Trying to wiggle out of your weak position by claiming it was “satire”. You don’t fool me for a minute mister. Now back to reading my copy of “The Secret”.

  177. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    No One,

    And thus saith the Lord, and spake unto the people, and saith: ye shall use blockquotes, for all other modes of quotation are an abomination. And thus he spake, and thus it was an abomination unto the Lord to do otherwise.

    (Book of Tags 1:1-2)

  178. says

    (Skipped previous comments)

    Okay, I thought he was a monstrous psychopath when he defended genocide. With a little mental stretching, I might be able to attribute that to being locked in the ivory tower of theology, not really thinking of the people involved as people, more like a hypothetical thought experiment. I can understand a lack of empathy for people that appear as an unnamed, uniform mass described in a text, even if I don’t condone it.

    Now he’s arguing that animals don’t really feel pain? They may not be human, but we see animals all the time as living, breathing, and especially for our fellow mammals, as expressive beings. I couldn’t distance myself from a real animal being tortured.

    That small bit of charity I was willing to give him is gone at this point. It makes me wonder what horrible things he might have done as a kid. Last I checked, people who close off their empathy for animals often end up tormenting them. Once they can do that, they’re usually only a step or two away from tormenting humans.

    That’s definitely one reason I’d never want to debate him. If he’s that far out of touch with normal humans and civilized society, I’d rather not meet him in person at all. Especially not in the presence of sharp objects.

  179. CJO says

    Any time our cat Foot (no relation) misjudged a jump or fell or did something else ungraceful, she would immediately find another cat to lash out at. Sure looked like embarrassment to me.

    I have watched a cat accidentally fall into a trash can, and then when retrieved stalk off with what appears to be a definite “shut the fuck up” look on its face.

    “Sure looked like” and “appears to be” are hallmarks of unjustified anthropomorphizing. Another plausible explanation for the cats’ behavior besides the cognitive experience of embarrassment is not hard to find. Cats sense when they’ve done something ungainly that they are for a moment off-balance, disoriented, and not poised to respond to potential threats. Upon regaining balance and composure, the first thing to do would be to adopt a posture of hypersensitivity to potential threats that may have arisen while the cat was unable to pay proper attention to the larger environment. The second would be to re-establish a stance of counter-threat. Especially in a circumstance where a larger animal is making eye contact, baring its teeth, and barking (laughing), we should expect the cat to behave for a moment as if it had a threat to deal with. The “nonchalant” “I meant to do that” behavior that often follows is not the cat feeling foolish (which would require it to be able to attribute complex mental states to other animals), but simply a behavioral correlate to the cooling off of the fight or flight response. Everything’s okay after all, so the animal behaves in a seemingly exaggeratedly normal way. Just as the act of smiling may elevate mood, other behaviors may serve to reinforce a particular disposition.

  180. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Aquaria #181

    The little black cat is quite, uh, possessive of her human owner.

    She lets me think I’m the owner sometimes. It amuses her.

    Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.

  181. greame says

    @Gus Snarp #146 and truthspeak #161

    The other problem I’ve found with the ‘argument from design’ is when it was first proposed in 1802 or something like that by William Paley, the analogy included a rock. “You’re walking along a beach and you come across a rock, and a pocket watch. You can tell the rock is just a rock, but the watch is designed…”

    Nobody includes the rock anymore, because if the watch is designed, then so is the rock. And so is the sand of the beach, and the water of the ocean next to you. So it’s like you find a watch on a beach made of watches next to an ocean of watches.

    Not to mention the infinite regression that comes with “If complexity requires design, and the designer must by nature be more complex then that which he/she/it is designing, who designed the designer?”

  182. Hairhead says

    I had a cat once, one of four. She *LOVED* me, and I mean *really* loved me. If I sat down in the Lazy-Boy and tilted it back, boom! she was on me. But not just on me. She would crawl up my chest until she was face-to-face with me. She would then breath in my breath and purr LOUDLY. And she would wrap both her arms (front legs) around my neck, the better to hold me close.

    This drove my wife crazy. She would snarl, “Get a room!” at me, and the cat, Shelob by name, would turn her head briefly, then turn to me and purr louder.

    Also, when this cat was in heat she would follow me from room to room. As soon as I stopped walking, she would rush in front me, crouch down, arch her back, and flick her tail to one side, and then give the female cat’s mating yowl.

    This was definitely a cat with issues.

    And since we’re over 200 posts in, fuck you to WLC, you evil fucker.

  183. Esteleth says

    CJO, what is your point?

    Animals of many species (including dogs, cats, horses, rodents, birds, dolphins and monkeys) can be trained to do a variety of tasks. This means they can learn.

    The Pavlovian response is real. Animals learn to associate various stimuli (light, sound, pain, tastes, smells, etc) with each other. That pain works at all (witness rats learning to fear a light being turned on because they’ve learned to associate it with being shocked) means that they (1) feel pain and (2) remember that pain.

    Are you disputing these facts?

    If not, what is your point?

  184. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Phillip Lemky

    Charles Darwin, despite being the progenitor of the theory of evolution

    Why the “despite”? No one here thinks that being a brilliant biologist precludes empathy. Also, if anything, the theory of evolution shows that animals are our relatives.

  185. Brownian says

    CJO, what is your point?

    He’s made it twice now. Anthropomorphic conclusions about animal behaviour “My kitty seems to care when I’m sick so obviously cats care when their owners are sick” aren’t warranted.

    There are other reasons that WLC is wrong besides “animals are just like furry little people.”

  186. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    There is indeed a religious connotation to the word “evil” that should be, and is effectively, discarded by us, but I think in common usage we already simply attribute it to a certain facet of human behavior, roughly that of intense malevolence and the pleasure of inflicting suffering. It is useful in this sense.

  187. raven says

    The other problem I’ve found with the ‘argument from design’ is when it was first proposed in 1802 or something like that by William Paley..

    It’s actually older than that. The ancient Greeks had it long before xianity was even invented.

    Xianity borrowed a lot from other cultures, including the afterlife and hell. It’s common, syncretism.

  188. Tim Groc says

    W.L. Craig’s rationale is incredibly silly, but it is “padded out” enough for his theist supporters. An empty chair has a more coherent argument than he does.

    The fact is, the theists realise that W.L. Craig is about the best (if that is the word) apologist, rhetorician, sophist, etc. they have, and so are blind to his logical errors. If they see his logical errors (obvious to all sensible and intelligent people) then it is simply game over for their beliefs.

    They are all in denial.

  189. No One says

    Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says:
    8 November 2011 at 9:21 pm

    No One,

    And thus saith the Lord, and spake unto the people, and saith: ye shall use blockquotes, for all other modes of quotation are an abomination. And thus he spake, and thus it was an abomination unto the Lord to do otherwise.

    (Book of Tags 1:1-2)

    “And behold Stan shall make your blockquotes fail at the most inopportune time.”

    (Book of Tags 1:1-2b)

  190. Ianw says

    “Some set of physical states of affairs is necessary for the existence of some corresponding mental states.”

    Can you make that claim without experiencing someone elses mental states? There is an old saying “do not judge a book by it’s cover”, or do not judge by appearance. But that is exactly what scientists do. Any other way does not fit into their world view.

  191. CJO says

    The Pavlovian response is real. Animals learn to associate various stimuli (light, sound, pain, tastes, smells, etc) with each other. That pain works at all (witness rats learning to fear a light being turned on because they’ve learned to associate it with being shocked) means that they (1) feel pain and (2) remember that pain.

    Are you disputing these facts?

    If not, what is your point?

    Using the word “remember” there is begging the question. It’s not those facts I dispute, it’s your ability in the absence of controlled experiment to have confidence in attributing cognitive states to animals when they behave in conditioned responses. Famously, planarian worms can be conditioned too, but I imagine you’d hesitate to attribute episodic memory or complex discriminatory abilities to them. Also, what is going on in animals responding to what are called supernormal stimuli?

    Additionally, Pavlovian conditioning is not how humans generally form memories and learn things. So it’s anthropomorphizing to say that because an animal has a nervous system that can be conditioned, it then necessarily has an experience analagous to a human’s experience of retrieval from episodic memory and generalizing from the specific instances recalled.

  192. Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Ianw,

    But that is exactly what scientists do.

    How is that exactly what scientists do?

  193. Nentuaby says

    Having felt extreme pain both fully conscious and improperly anaesthetized, I can assure you that pain is ‘infinitely’ worse without our higher cognitive capacities.

  194. skepticallydenpa says

    I can see WLC arguing that babies not having an internal granule cell layer is evidence hat God has not afflicted them with a conscious level of pain. Thus the burden of sin is not in affect until later in life proving God is moral and doesn’t let babies go to hell.

    He would completely ignore that it’s not only humans that have this internal granule layer.

    And he might play to the idea that science can measure his God just to “win” the debate. But if results were ever brought against him later on he would find some way to back paddle and make his god, once again, intangible.

    Of course, William Lane Craig is and immoral creaton, who preys on the ignorance of his audience and probably rakes in a good bit of cash doing so.

  195. raven says

    “Some set of physical states of affairs is necessary for the existence of some corresponding mental states.”

    Can you make that claim without experiencing someone elses mental states?

    Yes. It was known a century ago.

    There is an old saying “do not judge a book by it’s cover”, or do not judge by appearance. But that is exactly what scientists do. Any other way does not fit into their world view.

    .

    This is nonsense, someone channeling WL Craig.

    Scientists discover new knowledge.

    The worldview of science is that there is a real world and we can understand it. It’s been the most successful endeavour in human history.

  196. UpAgainstTheRopes says

    @ing

    “Evil is a messy religious term I tend to stay away from.”

    FFS. It is not.

    FFS, it is.

    Care to do this all day?

    I don’t find it helpful labeling a person as evil. No matter how much I disagree with their ideas. But you may if it confirms your in-group–out-group bias.

    Want to check my atheism card? Just to make sure it’s legit in your eyes.

  197. Olav says

    Cats do like to be with people and are emotionally attached to us, but I don’t believe they are consciously trying to make us feel better when we are sad or sick. The initiative is with us, even when we aren’t aware. When we feel sad and could use company and the cat walks by, we may look at them in a different way that they pick up on, like an invitation. In that sense they are perhaps not really empathetic, but certainly exquisitely sensitive. They notice things, even very small hints.

  198. Azkyroth says

    …isn’t this also basically a concession that consciousness arises from the brain and not from an etheral soul?

  199. Ing says

    Yes I have a strong out-group bias against genocidal fucks.

    I hate seeing ‘atheists’ buy into this whole “only the religious have views on morality”.

    killfile.

  200. Ing says

    They notice things, even very small hints.

    And people know to comfort someone through…what magic?

  201. Alex, The other Tyrant of Skepsis says

    myeck waters:

    Obviously, it’s the prospective element 116, Ununhexium.

  202. Ing says

    Ferrous metals are known to stop magic

    Tin and Aluminum are known to stop psionics

    Plutonium is known to stop Curies

  203. CJO says

    It was radium, of course, on which the Curies did their work. Plutonium doesn’t occur naturally, and so had to wait for Seaborg to synthesize it at Berkeley in the 40s.

    But it is a funny joke.

  204. Craigore says

    @228, I agree evil is a messy word. For all of its use we can really just think of it as anything that causes pain, suffering or personal vexation. The problem I’ve noticed with its use especially among religious circles is that it often muddles the distinction between a personal vexation and a much more objective wrong which negatively impacts everyone. While I agree on the one hand that there is some evil shit out there (agent orange, malaria, malignant cancer, etc), calling someone evil or simply dismissing a behavior as evil without further analysis and discussion doesn’t really tell us shit and really is a waste of time.
    My 2 cents.

  205. Craigore says

    @ING 232
    As far as Lame Craig is concerned, I’m pretty sure we’ve had our analysis and discussion, and I suppose I could be content with calling that vile sack of shit evil (or at least a festering pox on the face of society) masquerading around as a an example of moral authority. Personally I hope he suffers from some sort of stroke that renders him incapable of any sort of communication considering the shit that’s come outta his mouth thus far with no promise of willful cessation.

  206. Aquaria says

    When we feel sad and could use company and the cat walks by, we may look at them in a different way that they pick up on, like an invitation. In that sense they are perhaps not really empathetic, but certainly exquisitely sensitive. They notice things, even very small hints.

    The fucking arrogance here is absolutely incredible. So you’ve been there when my cat comes to me when I’m not feeling well, or I’m upset? You absolutely know we were even looking at them…how?

    You could at least have the fucking courtesy to ask any of us who have stated that cats have empathy if we were looking at them. But nope, the asshole in you had to jump up and eat your brain first, so that it made you ASSume you knew what was going on. When you know exactly fuck all.

  207. This Is A Turing Test says

    Gus Snarp @#146:
    I’ve always seen that argument by analogy for design as a failed analogy. As you pointed out, it’s the obvious contrast of the watch (or a painting hanging on a tree, as I’ve seen used for the same purpose) with the environment it’s found in (or the tree)that marks it as an artifact, i.e. designed. But “creation” as a whole has no such contrast to point it up as an artifact of god’s design. Where’s the tree? The analogy’s no good because the contexts of the scenarios don’t match in even the basic way necessary to make it work.

  208. says

    I don’t know I’d go as far as “empathetic”. That seems to require a level of theory of mind that I’m pretty sure cats don’t have. But functionally, perhaps it’s redirected kitten-care instincts? Domestic cats are known to be more social than wild cats, so somehow they cooperate. My cats seem to lick me more when I’m sick, as compared to just snuggling and purring, but perhaps I’m making that up.

  209. Ing says

    When we feel sad and could use company and the cat walks by, we may look at them in a different way that they pick up on, like an invitation. In that sense they are perhaps not really empathetic, but certainly exquisitely sensitive. They notice things, even very small hints.

    Again…isn’t this what people do, save for an explicit “I NEED COMFORTING” vocalization?

  210. Lola says

    Recently I discovered that one of my favorite comedians, Mike J. Nelson off MSTK3 and RiffTrax fame, is not only a Christian apologist but a follower of this dishonest cunt. Now I cringe whenever he cracks a Scientology joke.

    It was heartbreaking, that.

  211. says

    As someone who’s given it some thought almost to where it’s a hobby of conjecturing about computationalist models of consciousness around Dennett’s schema from CE, it’s certainly true that humans are nearly exclusive possessors of second level *abstraction*. Possibly our nearer cousins are somewhat capable of it albeit far less facile.

    But saying that animals lack second order abstraction is a *vastly* different thing than saying they lack second order thought. Their reflective thoughts almost certainly are not Turing complete. But they can and almost certainly do have some sense of self, and an ability to sense, store, remember, … and surely to *feel* … their relationships of self and state, and compare it to memories of self and other state.

    That they. unlike Craig, lack the ability to lie does not imply that they cannot feel pain nor make it less.

    — TWZ

  212. Ing says

    @Lola

    Take heart to know that apparently Tom Servo and 2 Crows are awesome from what I hear.

  213. TB says

    It’s interesting that invertebrates(apart from cephalopods) tend to be dismissed as basically automata. I suppose this is beacause they’re seen as simpler than verterbrates, but there’ve been some interesting studies on the behavior of Portia, a genus of jumping spider. Portia varies it’s hunting strategies based on what its prey is and can use trial and error. See here: http://books.google.co.nz/books?hl=en&lr=&id=T-ztyW8eTnIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA27&dq=portia+spider&ots=uIk7UCnnFm&sig=xuxuJQyXCSgeAFaDAtICOsqefRU#v=onepage&q=portia%20spider&f=false

    and here:
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/4535141

  214. says

    WLC explicitly and admittedly believes in command morality. Good because god wants.

    It is a trivial demonstration from that that lying is “good” if it forwards what (he believes) god wants.

    Babies lying, crying for hours with broken bodies in the desert sands waiting to die, and the torture of animals are all good if his god wants it.

    Lying about the pain of animals, lying about what scientists say in their papers, claiming to have completed syllogisms despite busted premises, all of these things are “good”, the right and proper thing for him to do if he can convince himself that god wants it.

    He has no reason not to lie, and any residual frisson of guilt he experiences about it is just a reminder to lie harder in pursuit of gods work.

    — TWZ

  215. anchor says

    So, what this idiot is saying is that if an animal can’t articulate it, it doesn’t have an awareness of it, and if it isn’t aware of it, it isn’t in Pain as We Super-Duper-Special Sentient Beings, First Cless know it.

    But hold on thar!

    He’s forgotten to include the logical extension of this scale to incorporate the ineffable supernatural class of beings beyond our station. Obviously our level of pain is by no means the pinnacle, and must necessarily be a rung below that of angels. Yet not even they can acheive the Exquisite Divine Perfect Level of Pain which the Almighty, in all His Completness, Suffers.

    Every other attribute ostensibly follows that hierarchy. There isn’t any reason that explicitly removes pain from the list, and the arrow of agony clearly goes UP in intensity with sophistication. We couldn’t begin to appreciate it: God’s is to ours as ours is to a spider’s.

    With the Almighty’s capacity for Ultimate Suffering, therefore, one can’t avoid the conclusion that God must be in Hell, located in its very worst part at its Absolute Nadir, as consistently befitting His clear Absolute Priority in all things.

  216. Azkyroth says

    Cats sense when they’ve done something ungainly that they are for a moment off-balance, disoriented, and not poised to respond to potential threats. Upon regaining balance and composure, the first thing to do would be to adopt a posture of hypersensitivity to potential threats that may have arisen while the cat was unable to pay proper attention to the larger environment. The second would be to re-establish a stance of counter-threat. Especially in a circumstance where a larger animal is making eye contact, baring its teeth, and barking (laughing), we should expect the cat to behave for a moment as if it had a threat to deal with. The “nonchalant” “I meant to do that” behavior that often follows is not the cat feeling foolish (which would require it to be able to attribute complex mental states to other animals), but simply a behavioral correlate to the cooling off of the fight or flight response. Everything’s okay after all, so the animal behaves in a seemingly exaggeratedly normal way. Just as the act of smiling may elevate mood, other behaviors may serve to reinforce a particular disposition.

    …isn’t human embarrassment basically just the expansion of that reaction to include more complex social “threats?”

    I would strongly suspect that the distinction you’re drawing is basically one of degree.

  217. Chris Booth says

    I am infuriated by this sadistic liar’s smarmy sociopathy. I despised him before, but this is even lower. He is now an apologist for raw sadism and sociopathic violence.

    I thought his lying about science was low, but this sickens me.

    This is a vile, vile man.

  218. says

    @Alex, Tyrant of Skepsis, #214:

    Why the “despite”? No one here thinks that being a brilliant biologist precludes empathy. Also, if anything, the theory of evolution shows that animals are our relatives.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you. There are those, especially in religious circles, who are enamored with the misconception that Darwin espoused a belief—regarding animals vis-à-vis animals, humans vis-à-vis animals, or humans vis-à-vis humans—in the dominance of the fittest. My usage of the word “despite” was addressed more to any potential religious readers of my previous comment.

  219. Azkyroth says

    There are those, especially in religious circles, who are enamored with the misconception that Darwin espoused a belief—regarding animals vis-à-vis animals, humans vis-à-vis animals, or humans vis-à-vis humans—in the dominance of the fittest. My usage of the word “despite” was addressed more to any potential religious readers of my previous comment.

    People who demonize Darwin can read?

  220. John Norris says

    Mr Craig says animals, the non-human kind, don’t feel pain. I suggest an experiment: Lets put Mr Craig and a lion in a cage together. Mr Craig jabs the lion with a pointed stick. Since the lion, being a non-human animal, doesn’t feel pain, it will not be bothered by the pointed stick. Thus Mr Craig will be very safe.

    I want 15% of the pay-per-view action on the telecast.

    JohnN

  221. Ichthyic says

    Recently I discovered that one of my favorite comedians, Mike J. Nelson off MSTK3 and RiffTrax fame, is not only a Christian apologist

    This is why I hired Joel Hodgson to host the endless campy sci fi fest in Hell.

    The original, and the best.

  222. Woodbine says

    I hereby propose that whenever people reference W.L.Craig in the future they open with “Thus, amazingly, Dr.Craig believes……etc”.

  223. Ichthyic says

    There is an old saying “do not judge a book by it’s cover”, or do not judge by appearance. But that is exactly what scientists do. Any other way does not fit into their world view

    this is completely nuts.

    I’m looking forward to you elaborating more on this inanity for the lulz.

  224. Ichthyic says

    oh, and thumbs up to CJO for at least trying to explain that conditioned behavior /= memory.

  225. Azkyroth says

    oh, and thumbs up to CJO for at least trying to explain that conditioned behavior /= memory.

    Or, alternatively, that keeping the “human/animal” divide intact is more important than honoring parsimony.

  226. Ichthyic says

    Or, alternatively, that keeping the “human/animal” divide intact is more important than honoring parsimony.

    or that binary thinking has no place in areas with gradients?

  227. Azkyroth says

    That much is obvious. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

    It seems to me parsimonious to infer that outwardly similar behavior patterns in related animals are likely to have similar cognitive or neurological causes, and modify the hypothesis as necessary. Arbitrarily assuming the opposite at the outset is difficult to understand unless one posits a “gulf” between humans and “mere animals.”

  228. Christophe Thill says

    I want to play Troll the Theologien (TM) !

    “So, Mr Craig, you think that sin is real, whereas animal pain is not. So, is torturing fluffy kittens a sin ?”

    And watch him squirm !

  229. aestheticsbear says

    I love my cat. When I took it to hte vet to get an inocculation, we had a bit of an argument and it bit my hand and gave my septicemia – bless his furry little face – but the interesting part comes afterwards. I was bedriden for almost a week while the antibiotics did their work, and my cat began to display a behaviour I can only interpret as feeling shit about it. He’d alternate between trying to cheer me up and hanging around morosely. He also began doing something else he’d never done before: bringing dead mice and birds into the house. Sure, he had brought them in half-dead to play with them before, but now he gave me dead varieties and put them next to my bed. Like he wanted to provide for me.

    Maybe I’m a bit keen to project human attributes on my cat, he could as well want me to get better so he’d have a continued stable supply of cat food. But the point is, I love my cat , and I’m not going to let that horrible ghoul William Lane Craig anywhere near him.

  230. Ariel says

    PZ, a really excellent essay! I come late here and a lot of what I could say has already been said by others. So just two observations. The first one is about the sources.

    Craig (or possibly his source, Murray), misrepresent the science. They claim that the prefrontal cortex “is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates.”

    Indeed, Craig took it from Murray. In Nature Red in Tooth and Claw Murray wrote:

    […] in human beings, the ‘affective’ pathway [the one responsible for the unpleasant quality of pain, contrasted by Murray with a ‘discriminative’ pathway, responsible only for discerning the location, duration and the intensity of the sensation] terminates in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the mammalian brain which was the last to evolve (and so occurs only in humanoid primates).

    The difference between Craig and Murray is that for Murray neo-Cartesian explanation is too shaky a foundation for a solution of the problem of pain, and after discussing it he goes in another direction. On the other hand, Craig seems to accept it wholeheartedly. (In effect the mistake is not so devastating for Murray as it is for Craig.)
    Now for the second observation.

    Craig has actually just rejected Cartesian dualism (and neo-Cartesian views of the ‘soul’) in that claim. If you assert that the neurological processes that are involved in self-representation are necessary for the existence of self-representation, then you are rejecting the possibility that something can self-represent without those processes. That’s the basic mode. The problem is that, then, some sort of ‘immaterial consciousness’ (whether that’s a soul or a God) would be logically impossible.

    This seems too strong. Craig could answer along the line: “I’m not claiming that neurological processes that are involved in self-representation are necessary for the existence of self-representation; I’m saying only that we have evidence for not attributing self-representations to animals. In the actual world, God connected self-representation with these and these neurological processes, and we were able to discover this regularity. It doesn’t follow that the same obtains in all possible worlds”.

    Nevertheless, Craig’s argument sucks and you showed it very nicely. Congratulations!

  231. raven says

    Oh for Cthulhu’s sake.

    If you don’t think behaviorism and simple operant conditionisng don’t appply to humans, you are fucking blind.

    Humans can be conditioned and are, as easily as any of Pavlov’s dogs or BF Skinner’s rats.

    Data. Just look at the fundie death cultists. They’ve been so conditioned by their cults that they will cheerfully vote against their own interests.

    Xianity only survives by early childhood brainwashing backed up by tribalism and threats of lethal violence. OTOH, those work and work well.

  232. raven says

    Pavlov didn’t study dogs because he cared about dog learning.

    Skinner didn’t study rats because he gave a damn about how rats learned.

    These experimental animals were used as standins for humans. Think about it. Why are animals used in biomedical research?

    Because animals don’t have lawyers and humans do.

  233. Infinite123Lifer says

    So I thought I would be a good human & go to erhem..Mr Craigs site & contribute my 2 cents. One forum topic there was titled something todo with Leibniz. OMG

    It looks like there are some good folks there trying to talk some sense into the looney bin so I just ran. But not without printing out a picture of Mr. Craig to use as a new dartboard. Congratulations on your face Mr. Craig. Hope your servers fail.

  234. Anj says

    I will note here for pet owners that many humans are quite good at understanding nonverbal HUMAN communication while being barely picking up the basics of nonhuman nonverbal communication.

    Most of animal communication IS nonverbal, and a good animal behaviorist can interpret the steady flow of nonverbal communication. The average human OTOH tends to focus on the most obvious nonverbal cues and often misses, misinterprets or anthopomorphizes others.

    Let’s get this straight: Cats are not people. Dogs are not humans. Anyone who pretends otherwise is telling themselves a lie. The best way to think of a pet’s relationship with us is that they think of us as an Honorary Cat/Dog/whatever.

    It’s strange to see supposedly science based people (not just here but IRL) build up narratives, stories and fantasies about their pets because it pleases them.

  235. nazani14 says

    Well, Craig has just eliminated one anti-abortion argument, because a fetus apparently can’t register pain until 24-26 weeks, and “second order awareness” seems like a pretty iffy thing, even in newborns.

  236. sailor1031 says

    To get back to the mirror test for just a moment:

    Until she was six months or so old, summer-the-little-stripey-cat hadnever seen a mirror as there are nonein teh house where she was brought up, except in the bathroom where she never went..
    When I brought her to live at our cottage, where there is a large mirror in the bedroom, she found the mirror and looked at her reflection for a minute or two with no apparent indication that she saw another cat or that she saw herself. Then she jumped down from the dresser and has ignored the mirror ever since. So did she pass the mirror-test or fail it?
    My guess is she knew it wasn’t another cat because there was no scent of another cat and therefore she wasn’t concerned about the mirror any more,it’s just another object in the room.

  237. Porco Dio says

    I recall reading a chapter once which discussed 17th century philosophers and the fact that they had declared “animacules” to feel no pain.

    “Look,” they said as they nailed little howling puppies to a wall, “they feel no pain.”

    Anyone recognise this anecdote and can tell me from whence it came?

  238. CJO says

    …isn’t human embarrassment basically just the expansion of that reaction to include more complex social “threats?”

    I would strongly suspect that the distinction you’re drawing is basically one of degree.

    It seems to me parsimonious to infer that outwardly similar behavior patterns in related animals are likely to have similar cognitive or neurological causes, and modify the hypothesis as necessary. Arbitrarily assuming the opposite at the outset is difficult to understand unless one posits a “gulf” between humans and “mere animals.”

    We’re talking about behavior. The “gulf” is not an arbitrary assumption. I’m sitting at a machine connected to a massively distributed global information network in a 30 story office tower, in a city of a million people, all conceived of, designed, and built by humans. My cat…

    Further to that: “cognitive or neurological causes” really, that’s a reasonable rubric for you? No arbitrary assumptions on your part, that you can just blithely include “cognitive” when that’s the very thing we’re discussing? You’re accusing me of sloppy thinking driven by ideology. In doing so you ought to have been a lot more precise.

    I’m interested in understanding the differences, not merely propping up some gulf, or in pretending that we’re not related to animals, or that correlates of human behavior can’t be found in non-human animal behavior. The thing is, I just find that “basically one of degree” as a catch-all response betraying a fundamental incuriosity about a subject. A matter of degree! I want to say. Great, sounds interesting. What are the edges of the gradient; where’s the center? But people who say that aren’t interested in discussing it; quite the opposite. It’s a conversation stopper, it papers over conceptial confusion.

    Sufficient ‘degree’ becomes its own ‘kind’, and the degree to which the complexity of human social behavior exceeds that of any other animal is more than sufficient to at least posit that this may be the case. In the first two sentences I quoted you’re not, in my view, giving enough degree to the “more complex social threats.” But that’s it exactly. It’s more complex, it’s primarily social, and even you needed scarequotes around “threats,” indicating you know we’re not talking about the same type of responses.

    I don’t find it explanatory in the least to describe a cat’s behavior in terms of embarrassment, because that term assumes the cognitive capacity to accurately represent other animals’ mental states. Cats are not worried that we think they look foolish or that we’re going to tell others about the incident (the real threat to humans who are embarrassed). There are no salient risks for a cat in the wild who looks foolish to a primate, and a cat has not the ability to adopt that attitude toward another or to attribute any attitude about itself to another.

    Whether or not a given behavior may be a precursor to a given human behavior, I find it more helpful to try to understand the animal behavior on its own terms and see what relevance that has by analogy. Understanding animal behavior in human terms is obfuscatory; you inevitably smuggle in all sorts of assumptions based on language and a robust theory of mind because those are very hard for us to conceive of being without.

  239. O. Nose says

    Slimy “Christians” like Wm. Lane Craig, with their blithe rationalizing away of the suffering of so-called lesser beings through sloppy apologetics like the one quoted above are a major reason I never wish to be a member of their death cult. Ever.

    I have too much respect for other life forms to want to belong to a religion that denigrates and trivializes their existence in that way.

  240. barbara eckstein says

    Another small example of animal awareness of pain. When my cat, now 12 years old, was a tiny kitten I accidentally stepped on her while wearing shoes. To this day, when I put on shoes, she runs and hides. If I walk around the house wearing shoes she becomes almost frantic trying to escape. She doesn’t have either of these behaviors and is perfectly happy to hang around when I’m shoeless.

  241. Tigger_the_Wing says

    Nentuaby,

    Having felt extreme pain both fully conscious and improperly anaesthetized, I can assure you that pain is ‘infinitely’ worse without our higher cognitive capacities.

    I can second that. I find myself using my higher cognitive capacities to dampen down my pain perception, via distraction usually. Whenever I’ve been unable to do so for any reason, e.g. under morphine, which shuts down my ‘conscious control’ (or whatever it’s properly called) without touching the pain, then the experience of pain is far, far worse. It dominates everything and cannot be escaped.

  242. Stevarious says

    I can second that. I find myself using my higher cognitive capacities to dampen down my pain perception, via distraction usually

    I have to third this.

    Pain is much worse in a semiconscious state than when you’re fully conscious. I’ve experienced a lot of it in both conditions and the ability to distract oneself with higher level thinking has a massive mitigating effect. (It’s why I donate to Child’s Play every year. I know from personal experience that boredom makes the pain worse.)

    I would say that WLC’s argument isn’t just wrong, but that the point he was trying to make completely debunks his own position with just how wrong he is. The ability to feel pain, but the inability to know the reason for that pain or understand it’s cause, makes the pain that much more cruel when subjected by a thinking being.

    Fortunately, we all know that evolution is a huge asshole and we don’t have to defend it on moral grounds. They are the ones claiming that the creator of pain and suffering is a being of pure love.

  243. madtom1999 says

    Back to the fish not feeling much pain.
    A fishermans magazine says….
    Think about it – the mouth is a very very important part of your body and generally the more important something is the more painful any damage is.
    Also since this part needs to be very careful about what you eat why would it have less nerve cells – does it not want to take notice of things that could damage it – oh I’ll ignore sharp and cutting things they wont harm my gut and kill me.
    Its a religious type delusion and it helps run a huge business.
    Never quite understood what was so clever about getting fish to eat either.

  244. Rosita says

    This reads like an episode in the series: “Craig the Barbarian and his Heartless God.”

    Please, somebody, start an on-line library called something like:
    “Complete Collection of Cadish Craig Canons”

  245. JoeM says

    I must admit I don’t understand why William Lane Craig associates himself with this nonsensical explanation from Murray. God or no God, animals suffer pain for the same reasons we all do. A technical explanation isn’t needed here (as in the majority of all cases in life). Men have dominion over all animals. It’s our responsibility completely. I will say that animals do handle pain differently than we do. But they do suffer. They are not immune. But their reasons for being more passive about it then us is due to necessity from living in the wild. I have seen cats seem like they are not in pain, even though they are. But not all cats show this.

    As a christian, there is no significance to any of this other than to consider that animals feel pain and can suffer. Someone like Richard Dawkins wouldn’t care anyway. I picture that guy cannibalizing animals in the wild out of the sheer hatred he flaunts.

  246. Ing says

    As a christian, there is no significance to any of this other than to consider that animals feel pain and can suffer. Someone like Richard Dawkins wouldn’t care anyway. I picture that guy cannibalizing animals in the wild out of the sheer hatred he flaunts.

    Did you have any other purpose for coming here other than declaring your bigotry?*

    *And stupidity, seriously “cannibalizing animals?”?

  247. Anteprepro says

    Joem:

    As a christian, there is no significance to any of this other than to consider that animals feel pain and can suffer. Someone like Richard Dawkins wouldn’t care anyway. I picture that guy cannibalizing animals in the wild out of the sheer hatred he flaunts.

    Oh good. Like any good, true Christian, you take whatever distortions of Dawkins that are thrown your way and accept it without question. Sure, WLC is the one who just denied that animals experience pain in order to make Christianity seem less nonsensical, but that Richard Dawkins and his “hatred”…obviously, he’d be even worse to animals. Because…umm…uh…he’s an atheist (?). Really, is that the kind of thing you want to be suggesting on this blog?

    Oh, and the significance to this is that WLC is a dishonest, ignorant, amoral scumbag. That you can’t even manage to say “well, I disagree with Craig” without also sacrificing a straw-Dawkins at the Apologetics Altar is very telling.

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