Animal Pain and Animal Resurrection and Humanization: Somewhere between theodicy and defense
September 29, 2010 — 12:29

Author: Trent Dougherty  Category: Afterlife Books of Interest Christian Theology Problem of Evil  Tags: ,   Comments: 25

So I’m teaching this honors undergrad class on C.S. Lewis and the Problem of Evil here at Baylor. Today we covered parts of “Animal Pain” from _The Problem of Pain_. I must say that well prior to reading Rowe, I was very struck with the problem of animal pain. I regard it as in certain ways much more troubling than the problem of human pain. In fact, it constitutes–and I’m probably not alone here, though at one time it was rare to find anyone who even talked about it–one of the two objections to theism which have any real weight with me, and it bears much, much weight.
In the chapter, Lewis suggests that…

…the higher animals–the ones with souls much more like our own–might be resurrected, especially when part of a human “familia”. He supposes that part of humans mission on Earth was/is to nurture in animals their higher selves. He notes this actually happens in well-ordered households. In one poignant line he says
“If the good sheepdog seems ‘almost human’ then it is because the good shepherd has made him so.”
He also characterizes the fall of man as a fall from human nature back into the bestial nature. Likewise, he suggests that animal predatory behavior is a fall from true animal nature back into the vegetative nature. This sets up two analogies.
Just as humans will be restored to their true human nature–which entails, I take it, some AMAZING differences with fallen man–so animals will be restored to their true animal nature–which we should likewise expect to be far different from the current state of animals.
Just as humans will be deified (in the Eastern Orthodox sense) animals will be “humanified”.
Now we can also credit Lewis with giving us a picture of the incredibleness of restored and deified human nature. He has a poem about an Adamic creature “flying” his planet as part of his dominion, in his creation myth in in the chapter “The Fall of Man” in _The Problem of Pain_ he suggests that an unfallen Adamite would have control over his digestion like we have over breathing, the Gospel’s make probable that he had powers like some kind of Superman, etc.
But we should expect at least as radical a transformation of resurrected animal nature. And note that there is, in principle, no limitation to the “humanization” process Lewis notes takes place with domesticated animals (think of the etymology there, Lewis says that we get the closest glimpse of true animal nature in domesticated animals, wild animals are like the animals in Naria that lost the ability to talk).
And since humans evolved from animals, there’s no reason that any animal–or even living creature–couldn’t be evolved into a person (not a human, exactly, but a person in the classical sense, a rational substance, though very human in being a rational animal (it is an accident of history that there is only one rational animal, the man)).
In short, it might be that one day *every* animal is a person. Recall one of the more popular of the Naria books, _The Horse and His Boy_ in which a Narnian horse Bree and a boy Shasta make their way out of the land of the Calormenes. The horse was a horse. The horse was a person. That is, for all we know–and there might even be hints that it’s true beyond “potuit, decuit, ergo fecit”–it might be that one day *every* animal is a Narnian animal.
Most of the work of this theodicy is not stated, of course, but it does hold out promise that some theodicies and defenses used for humans can be extended to the animal kingdom, something which is often assumed to be impossible. As usual, Lewis takes us further up and farther in.

  • Jeremy Pierce

    Greg Bassham has a good discussion of this issue in his chapter in The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy.

    September 29, 2010 — 13:40
  • Anonymous Reptar

    Dinosaurs too?
    T-Rexes with sharp meat devouring teeth but have no need for them now that they’ve “humanified”.

    September 29, 2010 — 13:51
  • Anonymous

    I have to say that the probelm of animal pain is one of the few objections to theism that carries weight with me, too. It also doesn’t help that there’s an extreme lack of literature not only on this specific problem, but on animals and Christianity in general. Things do seem to be changing a bit, though. May I suggest some books?
    Stephen H. Webb: On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals, and his recent The Dome of Eden: A New Solution to the Problem of Creation and Evolution.
    Michael Murray: Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering.
    Christopher Southgate: The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil.
    William Dembski: The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World.
    Forthcoming (I’m especially looking forward to these)
    Connor Cunningham: Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong. You can check out a brief sample on the Web.
    David L. Clough: On Animals: Systematic Theology.

    September 29, 2010 — 14:39
  • Thanks for the suggestions.

    September 29, 2010 — 21:05
  • I don’t know if T-Rex’s have the level of consciousness required, but sure, why not.
    Bears are mostly herbivorous and they have claws and fangs. My dog and cat are almost completely herbivorous and they have claws and fangs.
    In fact, scientists think that teeth and fangs in some cases evolved to open fruit. This was pointed out to me by a vegetarian friend when I suggested that claws and fangs on animals proved they were “meant” to eat meat. I didn’t believe her at first, but it checked out.

    September 29, 2010 — 21:09
  • Matthew Baddorf

    Nice summary of CSL on that issue; where is the poem you mention? I don’t remember that from ‘Problem of Pain’.
    Also,how would the potential humanization of some animals contribute to a theodicy of animal pain? Would animals remember their pre-person selves? Is there some kind of soul-building going on now that is best accomplished through animal pain?
    Surely, for this to function as a theodicy, we need more than what Lewis called “eternity in heaven in exchange for so many years under the lash”.

    September 29, 2010 — 21:50
  • Dustin Crummett

    I would think T-rexes becoming herbivores would be no weirder than us becoming immortal…

    September 30, 2010 — 0:12
  • I believe the poem is in his collected poems (not the collection of narrative poems). I’m at the office now, though, and don’t have it to hand.
    Compensation is part of it, but it can’t be the whole story. I definitely think it has to involve soul-building.
    The virtuous Narnian will be glad they got to play an important role.
    Now I hasten to add that I’m not writing off Swinburne’s idea that it’s just to allow them to suffer in virtue of the moral importance of their role–for which he was excoriated by Phil Quinn (RIP).
    For all I know, God could know this about them: Were they to develop powers of reflection, they would consent. I doubt that though. More important might be that they *should* consent. If it is “meet and fit” then I’m inclined to think it’s just.
    I’m certainly OK with taking money from people by force–taxes–to redistribute them to neutralize brute luck inequalities in ways that are so reasonable any reasonable person *should* consent. I’m optimistic about this line of thought as an extension of Swinburne’s position.

    September 30, 2010 — 11:53
  • Right, resurrection is not mere resuscitation: it is radically transformative.
    And, after all, we are already told the Lion shall lie down with the Lamb. So we’re already committed to herbivorous lions. (Though Lewis tempers this a bit actually.)
    We’ve got those already: we call them cats.
    Same with herbivorous wolves: we call them dogs.
    Sometimes, theological failure is due to failure of the imagination.

    September 30, 2010 — 11:56
  • Mike Almeida

    Same with herbivorous wolves: we call them dogs.
    I probably missed this in the comments, or skipped it in the post, but dogs are certainly not herbivores (they’re omnivores). It doesn’t mean that you can’t put a dog on a vegetarian (or even vegan) diet. It does mean that you’ll have to supplement that diet (as human vegetarians must) with B12 and other micronutrients found in meat and hardly anywhere else. It also means that your dog will be more susceptible to certain infections, but that’s also manageable. I don’t have my dog on a vegetarian diet, but more radical friends do. It’s incidentally not a good idea to put a cat on a vegetarian diet. fwiw

    September 30, 2010 — 12:42
  • As an alternative to becoming herbivores, maybe the carnivorous animals in heaven could restrict their eating to non-conscious prey (clams? shrimp? stegosauri?).
    That said, for all I know, the following hypothesis is true: Without the kind of conceptual complexity that we have, pain could not be very bad (it could still be bad–but if it’s just bad, and not very bad, it’s less hard to believe it could be justly permitted).
    There is good reason to think that how the individual conceptualizes very significantly affects the amount of badness of a pain. Take, for instance, the platitude that what some people treat as a fairly minor pain others treat as the end of the world. Or take that weird experiment that showed that looking at a paining body part through the reverse side of the binoculars, and hence making the part appear smaller, made the pain feel smaller. Or observe the ways in which we can be distracted from pain. Now, I don’t know how these kinds of facts play out in the case of non-human animals. One might, for instance, come to one of two conclusions: (a) human conceptual abilities make pains less bad than they would be in a critter without these abilities; or (b) human conceptual abilities make pains worse than they would be in a critter without these abilities (or one might think that sometimes (a) is true and sometimes (b) is true).
    In any case, it really could turn out that it is our ability to conceptually focus in on mental phenomena in a second-order way that is crucial to pain’s being really bad. (For instance: If Frankfurt is right, pain only negatively impacts one’s wellbeing when one has a desire not to have pain and a second-order endorsement of that desire. I don’t find Frankfurt’s view of value plausible in general, but for all I know there is something to it in the special case of pain.)

    September 30, 2010 — 22:19
  • Luke Gelinas

    It seems to me that there’s something disheartening about this view of animals. Isn’t one of the great things about creation the raw wildness and diversity of strange stuff we find? Do we really want the sea monsters and leviathans to be humanized? It seems somehow to fail to do justice to them.

    September 30, 2010 — 22:39
  • Mike Almeida

    In any case, it really could turn out that it is our ability to conceptually focus in on mental phenomena in a second-order way that is crucial to pain’s being really bad
    This looks like you’re rejecting the idea that pain is the painful stuff. If you think that pains might not be painful–that we’re able to experience pains that don’t hurt–then something like Alex’s view seems right. But it is certainly tempting to think, on the contrary, that when we self-anesthetize (by distracting ourselves, or conceptualizing the experience in different ways, etc.) we are actually experiencing less pain rather the experiencing the same amount of pain less painfully.

    October 1, 2010 — 7:45
  • Lewis makes similar comments, and I’m sympathetic with them. But we don’t have to choose, as he shows in Narnia. He shows this in two ways. First, at the creation of Narnia the animals come toward Aslan and he has some go to the left, and some go to the right and some become talking animals and some not. Justice might only require that some animals become Narnian, not all. Some animals may have perfectly wonderful animal lives. I have not much idea how many animals would require huminazation for justice (and remember the subtitle of the post: this is partly defense, meant just to show there were ways of reconciling).
    Second, there are plenty of hints in the Narnia books that wildness remains even after what I’ve called “humanization”. I used that term just because humans are the only animal-persons we know of (and, as Lewis notes, their destiny is tied to ours). Strictly speaking, I should have said “personalization”. The Nanian animals are not humans, but they are persons. And they remain wild while being persons. “No one ever laughed at a centaur,” and “he is not a tame lion.”

    October 1, 2010 — 7:52
  • Rob

    This is slightly off topic and for that I preemptively apologize. But, recently, I’ve been thinking about Lewis’s Omnipotence argument in the PoP.
    As you know, it runs from the (assumed for the sake of argument) major premise that the existence of individuals in a world with pain is better than the non-existence of individuals, to the minor premise that (likely) even Omnipotence couldn’t have created individuals in a world without a material medium that allows for pain, to the conclusion that (likely) it was better for God to create a world with pain than to have done otherwise.
    My question is do you know of any good analysis of his argument? Or, would you be willing to share your thoughts on it (that, I assume, you developed for your class)?
    Thank you.

    October 1, 2010 — 15:41
  • I agree that animal suffering is one of the main problems confronting most theodicies, and that Lewis’ story sounds attractive. But I wonder what the criteria of identity are for an animal (or an animal species), such that we can correctly describe things as God resurrecting and redeeming the animals (and species) in a blessed afterlife, as opposed to creating new animals and species.

    October 1, 2010 — 18:32
  • Oh, one further thought. For this to work as a theodicy, it isn’t enough to show that things will be made right in the next world, we’d also need to explain why the present pain and suffering in the natural world is necessary for some greater good. In the case of e.g., a libertarian version of the soul-building theodicy, the story of why present suffering is needed prior to the blessed afterlife is pretty straightforward (although it can be disputed). But what’s the story here?

    October 1, 2010 — 19:07
  • I wasn’t suggesting that animals have pains that don’t hurt. I was suggesting that animals have pains that aren’t very bad, because maybe it is our conceptual abilities that make pain worse than it would otherwise be.

    October 1, 2010 — 21:21
  • Mike Almeida

    I wasn’t suggesting that animals have pains that don’t hurt. I was suggesting that animals have pains that aren’t very bad, because maybe it is our conceptual abilities that make pain worse than it would otherwise be.
    But you are suggesting that a pain P and the experience of that pain F are such that the experience F of P is made worse by the way we conceive of P. But then P is not identical to F. This is how it can be true that our conceptual ability make P worse than P might have been. If P might have been less bad, then P might have been less painful. But then P is not F.

    October 2, 2010 — 8:54
  • I’m not sure the problem is much harder for non-human animals than for human animals, especially since I tend to an animalist approach to the latter.
    I’m also open to the idea that identity might be brute, which lends itself to some good puns in this context. 🙂

    October 3, 2010 — 9:45
  • You should be in my class! The assignment for Friday was to address the question whether animals were capable of moral virtue. We then investigated an extension of the soul-making theodicy to animals.

    October 3, 2010 — 9:47
  • I just pointed out that some of the best modern writing on the topic–Plantinga and van Inwagen–develops this line of thought and so Lewis was once again ahead of the game.
    It’s actually hard to see that much of the best modern stuff really adds much to Lewis’s account. I think they are mostly amplifications of it.

    October 3, 2010 — 9:50
  • Deb

    Trent, if you’ve not seen it already, you might enjoy Andrew Linzey’s discussion of C.S. Lewis’ theology of animals here.

    October 3, 2010 — 19:53
  • I have never really liked the seemingly artificial distinctions many set up between non-human animals and humans. One possibility is to present the distinction in terms of some normative description; fallen men are bestial in nature resorting to animal-like behaviour. Animal-like behaviour I suspect is focused around those animal actions where animals fail to participate with each other and are mean, nasty, brutish and so on. This suggests that humans are in some sense a higher order being than animals, they have souls, are more rational etc.
    One worry therefore is that this view glosses over the fact that animals seem to lead rich cognitive and emotional lives. In “Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals”, Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce give a plausible and detailed account of how animals feel sympathy, empathy, treat each other fairly, cooperate toward common goals, help each other out of trouble. As such, animals have a sort of morality, a sense of justice and fairness and probably even rationalize to some degree. Bekoff and Pierce therefore argue that the distinction between humans and animals is not as clear as we might think. This view also glosses over the fact that humans are, in some sense, animals.
    This view also seems to come into conflict with religious views, like my own aboriginal ancestry, that ties humans intimately with the rest of creation where humans are a part of nature and do not necessarily have dominion over it, but rather should strive to live in harmony with it. (On a side note I wonder if the ideology that men who are fallen are most bestial lead to intense conflicts between first nations persons and European settlers who might have seen these aboriginal people as fallen, morally repugnant and in desperate need of saving since the aboriginal communities identified so closely with their animal brethren). So I guess the question is where exactly does Lewis’ notion of humanity rest? If it rests on rationality, or the soul, then do we really want to say that those with lower intellectual capacities are not to be identified as “human”, fallen, morally repugnant (I would hope not, this seems to be highly discriminatory)? If it rests on being good, or having moral lives, then Bekoff and Pierce’s work seems to call that into question. Even worse would be if humanity rests on human becoming a non-animal, in some way.
    I do like your conclusion though, the idea that human theodicies and defences used for humans can (and in my opinion should) be extended to the animal kingdom. It seems like a natural conclusion given my own dissatisfaction with views that sharply separate humans and the rest of creation. I might add though, perhaps a theodicy that fails to be extended to the animal kingdom ultimately might fail as a good theodicy.

    October 4, 2010 — 20:40
  • Mike:
    There are a couple of options that could make true what I said:
    1. Pain = experience of pain, but how we conceive of a situation can actually increase or decrease the pain. This could be because
    1a. How we conceive of the situation is partly constitutive of the pain itself.
    1b. How we conceive of the situation can add a new, perhaps much worse, pain, or can add a pleasure to the pain that cancels out some of the badness of the pain.
    1c. How we conceive of the situation can cause the pain to decrease or increase.
    2. Pain = experience of pain, but how much disvalue a pain has is not determined solely by the phenomenal features of the pain, and how we conceive of the situation affects how much disvalue the pain has. (When I was talking of how “bad” a pain is, I was talking about its disvalue.)
    3. Pain is not the experience of pain, and how we conceive of the situation affects how we experience the pain.

    October 5, 2010 — 9:09