we are animals

Today is no braining Tuesday, so I bring you this interview of de Waal

Why are so many people wedded to the idea that humans are special?

We’re raised with those ideas. It’s an old Christian idea that humans have souls and animals don’t. I sometimes think it’s because our religions arose in a desert environment in which there were no primates, so you have people who lived with camels, goats, snakes, and scorpions. Of course, you then conclude that we are totally different from the rest of the animal kingdom because we don’t have primates with whom to compare ourselves. When the first great apes arrived in Western Europe—to the zoos in London and Paris—people were absolutely flabbergasted. Queen Victoria even expressed her disgust at seeing these animals. Why would an ape be disgusting unless you feel a threat from it? You would never call a giraffe disgusting, but she was disgusted by chimpanzees and orangutans because people had no concept that there could be animals so similar to us in every possible way. We come from a religion that’s not used to that kind of comparison.

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on whether animals feel pain

Some food for thought

Why Evolution Is True

Last year the infamous theologian William Lane Craig debated philosopher Stephen Law, and made the extraordinary claim that many mammals can’t feel pain, or, if they do “feel” pain, then they aren’t aware that they feel pain. Only “the higher primates and human beings,” claims Craig (“higher” of course, is a scientifically inaccurate term), are aware that they feel pain.

But there’s no difference between feeling pain and being aware that you’re feeling pain. Pain is a “quale” (plural “qualia”)—a conscious and subjective sensation—which demands awareness, unless it’s simply a sensation that you have learned (or evolved) to avoid.  But if you’ve learned or evolved to avoid it because it’s unpleasant, then you are indeed aware of feeling pain! Finding a sensation unpleasant demands sufficient consciousness to experience qualia.

The reason Craig and others argue that animals don’t suffer is because it eliminates one of the…

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