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← Intelligent Design and the cruelty of nature

Sketchy's Avatar Jump to comment 79 by Sketchy

Comment 77 by ccw95005

The reason you believe that suffering is a moral issue, Sketchy, is that evolution gave us empathetic feelings toward humans and those animals that we identify with.

That’s only partly true. Evolution gave us empathetic feeling toward close kin, friends and babies, but that’s about it. Couple of hundred years ago, torture was good, clean family entertainment for almost everyone, and empathy toward animals was completely unheard of. Evolution didn’t really take us very far in terms of morality. The rest came from the Enlightenment, rational discourse and hard won understanding that other peoples suffering is as real as our own and matter as much. It’s not just about feelings, it’s a line of reasoning, and it was never inevitable.

A person could be extremely kind and compassionate toward his family and at the same time have no appreciable empathy for animals. For him, cruelty toward animals would not be a moral issue.

Yes, but hopefully, no-one would actually object to steps being made to alleviate animal suffering for trivial cost. The only possible motivation for that would be sadism.

Many Buddhists believe that hurting insects is evil. For them, cruelty toward mosquitos would be a moral issue. So it's fine to have a definite idea of what you consider right and wrong in terms of cruelty, but don't delude yourself into thinking that it's anything more than one person's point of view.

But not all points of view are equal. You mean to say someone who, say, enjoys cruelty and wants lots of it, has an equally valid view on morality? That leaves the concept with no discernible meaning at all, so what are we even talking about? I don’t have the stamina for an “is-suffering-really-bad” kind of argument. If you’ll agree with me that suffering is bad, you’ll agree that people who don’t care about animal suffering have at least one moral blind spot, and so it follows that they’re somewhat less moral than they could be. That’s a fact, not an opinion.

And of course the idea of stopping animals killing animals is silly and impractical in the extreme. The only way to do that would be to remove them from their natural environments and put them into zoos, which I think would be cruel.

I conceded it was impractical. It’s not silly, though. “The only way?” Here you only show your lack of imagination. Separate them, in reservations the size of countries, control the zebra population by sniper rifle, feed the lions their meat. Not perfect, but I only thought about it for ten seconds. We have unlimited time to think of something, and you know a lot of things that were “impractical in the extreme” in the past are trivially easy today. Most things, in fact.

Mon, 21 May 2012 01:54:51 UTC | #942541