With too much misery in the world, Charles Darwin could not persuade himself that “a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice”(Darwin 1860)
He could not “overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering through the world”(Darwin 1873) “That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes,” correctly observed Darwin. He went further:
A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe, is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time?(Darwin 1958)
For Darwin, the existence of suffering was a strong case against the existence of an intelligent first cause. “[T]he presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection.”(Darwin 1958 ibid 85-96)
Darwin’s advocate, Richard Dawkins, echoes Darwin’s challenge. “During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence,” contended Dawkins, “thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease.”(Dawkins 1995: 132)
Having “Darwin’s ichneumon wasp that the caterpillar should be alive, and therefore fresh, when it is eaten, no matter what the cost in suffering” in mind, Dawkins wrote,
If Nature were kind, she would at least make the minor concession of anesthetizing caterpillars before they are eaten alive from within. But Nature is neither kind nor unkind. She is neither against suffering nor for it. Nature is not interested one way or the other in suffering, unless it affects the survival of DNA.(ibid 131)
“Nature is neither kind nor unkind” concluded Dawkins. But what if “Nature” is kind to a caterpillar? What if “Nature” spared caterpillars and many other animals an ability to suffer? Neo-Cartessianism, a position explored in Michael J. Murray’s Nature Read in Tooth & Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, aims to lessen the thrust of the problem of pain and suffering in animal kingdom. It was briefly explained by William Lane Craig in his debate with Stephen Law at Westminster Hall on October 17, 2011.
In my next article, I will explore Murray’s neo-Cartessianism case, Craig’s presentation, and explore Jerry A. Coyne, PZ Meyer’s, and Austin Cline’s criticisms directed toward Craig’s presentation.
Question: In Oxford Journals’ article, D. Öngür and J.L. Price’s explained that primates and many other species have orbital and medial prefrontal cortex. Did Craig err in asserting that “[f]or 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.”?
Darwin, Charles (1860) Letter To Asa Gray
___________ (1958) The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882, with Original Omissions Restored, ed. Nora Barlow. London: Collins.
Dawkins, Richard (1995) River Out Of Eden. Weidenfeld & Nicolson , The Orion Publishing Group
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