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Archive for the ‘prefrontal cortex’ tag

Animal suffering: William Lane Craig whiffs again

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Head over to the Breaking Spells blog to read that intellectual superstar, William Lane Craig, explaining how animals other than humanoid primates aren’t conscious of pain because they have no prefrontal cortex. Actually, mice do seem to have these, and other animals probably do as well. Here’s another article from the NIH that suggests as much.

This is Craig’s comment about prefrontal cortices:

…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.

And a portion of the blogger’s response:

… the pre-frontal cortex is present in animals outside the primate line. It’s a bit different (primates tend to have granularized cortices[1] ). …

WLC is citing the work of philosopher Michael Murray, who suggests that animals aren’t aware of their pain (therefore god exists) -but Murray has some fatal flaws in his work. Murray differentiates humans from other animals by claiming (with minimal evidenciary support) that there exists a “affective pathway” which allows for self-awareness -this pathway, he says, terminates in the prefrontal cortex in humans. Because non-human animals aren’t self aware of their pain, according to Murray, they aren’t suffering. In other words, gratuitous evil is not present.

But lets suppose it’s the granular layer that’s found in primate cortices that makes the difference. This granular layer is present in many non-human primates, and yet these primates experience pain and are clearly, demonstrably aware of it. Gratuitous evil, therefore, exists among non-human primates that suffer predation, abuse, natural disasters, anthropogenic habitat destruction, infanticide, etc., etc.

If gratuitous evil exists, god can neither be omnipotent or benevolent. Therefore, god doesn’t exist. It’s not my reasoning, it’s the reasoning of WLC and Michael Murray. Surely one or both would move their goalposts accordingly if called on it, so I’m not expecting either to revise their positions. That would be too much like science.

Written by Jeremy

December 17th, 2011 at 12:49 am

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