Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Why Animals Suffer

Right at this moment creatures are hunting or being hunted, killing or being killed. Young and old are being devoured in a merciless orgy of blood and gore and violence. The question of animal suffering is real a quandary for those who hold the view that God is perfectly good. Now if you ask them why humans suffer they will typically respond by saying that it's due to our sin and our free will. They might also say that suffering can often work to achieve the salvation of the soul; our anguish is but a droplet of despair in the oceans of eternity, an eternity we can choose to spend with the Almighty. Now, there's a superficial plausibility to this, but when we consider the plight of the animal kingdom we find ourselves confronting the elephant in the room. Most creatures on Earth are non human, and they suffer horrifically. To give just one example, there's the Ichneumon wasp, a species that deposits its larvae onto the bodies of live caterpillars. When the larvae hatch they duly burrow down into the host and proceed to feed on the creatures internal organs, whilst the caterpillar remains alive. Now according to theologians Caterpillars, nor any other animal inherits salvation, so one must surely ask what benefit is there in causing suffering in this grotesque manner? And what of all the other horrors in the animal kingdom? It's a feeding frenzy. Very few animals survive to old age. So next time somebody tries to provide you with an answer to the ancient problem of suffering, don't forget to mention that the vast amount of it is of the non human variety. Add to that the sobering fact that 99% of the creature that ever inhabited the Earth have gone extinct then I'd suggest we'd do well to scoff in the faces of those who argue for a perfectly good Creator. Some God! Some design! But wait, once again there's a perfectly good solution waiting in the wings. Evolution by natural selection predicts a constant struggle for survival. The weakest are crushed, the strong survive and reproduce. This is exactly what we should expect to see, and exactly what we do see. Once again, be very wary of cranks offering a mystery where none exists. We know why animals suffer, just as we know why we suffer. We are animals. Why should we expect anything less?

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