Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Problem of Pain: Chapter 9 - Animal Pain

For anyone new here, I am doing a series of "book club" posts going through "The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis. The format I post in is similar to my bible posts, section headings in bold, summary in regular text, my comments in italics. The only difference here is there are no section headings in the book so I make them up.


Animal Suffering is Different than Human Suffering

Animal suffering is different from human pain because they are incapable of sin and virtue, so they can neither deserve pain nor be improved by it. Therefore it might seem that animal pain is pointless. But because of the doctrine that God is good, we can confidently deduce that the appearance of reckless divine cruelty in the animal kingdom is an illusion. We have no experience with animal suffering, so everything we say is speculative.

I hope he justifies this as we go on in the chapter. It is not good to start by assuming what you want to be true.

Plants are Different than Animals

There are times when we talk of plant life as though the flower enjoys the sun, or that different plants compete with one another for resources. We must remember that these are mere metaphors. What really matters when we are talking about our current topic is sentience.

Always a good idea to remember that our metaphors will eventually break down and we shouldn't be slaves to them.

What Do Animals Suffer?

It is impossible to know for sure, but we can guess. The first thing we should do is distinguish between different kinds of animals. Apes for example, are much more developed than earthworms. We need not lump apes in the same category as the earthworms being "non-human animal" where they are actually quite like us. It is reasonable to assume apes have consciousness but there is no reason to think they have sentience or a soul.

I don't really understand the different between consciousness and sentience, and I don't believe we have a soul.

What is the Origin of Animal Suffering?

Animal suffering could be a result of the fall of man, except that animals existed long before man did, so that doesn't make sense. However, it is largely accepted that there was activity on earth before we got here and perhaps there was another fall before us. Perhaps Satan was there before humans got there and there was a different fall.

This seems pretty out of nowhere to me.

How Can Animal Suffering be Reconciled With the Justice of God?

The lower animals don't feel pain in the way we do. They are merely sentient but not conscious.

I still don't really understand this distinction and find it to be fairly silly.

But the question still remains for some of the higher level animals who seem to feel pain in similar ways as us.

He never really seemed to answer this, although I might have missed it. He talked a lot about how animals are probably not immortal, although when we have pets they might become immortal along with us, or something. He seemed to end the chapter by saying we can never be sure that animals are even in pain in the same way we are. This to me is just a huge cop-out. 

Again, he didn't satisfactorily answer the central question of the chapter.


Next week: chapter 10 heaven. 


  1. I don't think there is a difference between consciousness and sentience.

    Animals were here long before man...so I guess he doesn't believe Genesis literally? But then what is "the fall?"

    "Perhaps Satan was there before humans got there and there was a different fall." So maybe a T-Rex ate from the tree of knowledge before man did?

    I think C.S. has been living in fantasy worlds too long.

  2. He talked about the fall in a previous chapter. Basically it seems that his idea is that evolution happened, then at some point God came down and breathed souls into humans and then some version of the garden of Eden happened. It was actually a pretty interesting idea but it seems crazy to me for him to really believe it as it seems that he just made it up. I agree with you, it seems he spent too much time in his own fantasy worlds and at some point started believing in them.

    1. It's strange how people can believe parts of the Bible as fact and then write their own fan fiction (which they also believe is fact) to fill in the rest.

    2. that's a good way to put it. The funny thing is that seems to be what everyone does, it's just that most people aren't fiction writers so they don't come up with something so crazy and interesting.

      Think about an argument you've had with a theist. When was the last time you stumped them and they said "that is interesting, I'll have to read some scripture and get back to you" or "I'll talk to my pastor about that"? In my experience that never happens, they always make something up on the spot.

    3. I guess some people's beliefs are a moving target. Anything to not be wrong.


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