William Lane Craig: “Animals aren’t aware that they’re in pain”

Recently, some theists have attempted to deal with that part of the problem of evil generated by horrendous animal suffering found in nature – including hundreds of millions of years of animal suffering before we humans even showed up – by saying that animals aren’t aware that they are in pain. They maintain this is what “science” has shown. That helps bring the problem of suffering down to size!

Indeed, that animals aren’t aware that they are in pain is a remarkable “recent scientific discovery”, said Christian apologist William Lane Craig in his debate with me, for example. Craig claimed that all animals other than higher primates lack a pre-frontal cortex, and thus are unaware that they are in pain (see Craig speaking in the video below from about 2 mins 30 secs – P.S. he says e.g. cats have a level of pain awareness, but he maintains science has shown that cats are unaware that they are in pain, which, he says, will be a great comfort to animal lovers like himself).

Actually, that’s a load of pseudo-scientific rubbish, as scientists in this new video explain (the video has nothing to do with me btw).

The first responds directly to what William Lane Craig said: “that’s not true”. (at 6 mins 20 secs)

Another, Professor Bruce Hood, confirms that Craig’s key “scientific” claim that animals other than higher primates don’t have a pre-frontal cortex is just wrong (from about 8 mins)

Indeed, Joaquin Fuster, the author of a classic textbook on the pre-frontal cortex, says about Craig’s statement that it is “wrong on several counts”, and explains that all mammals and some birds have a pre-frontal cortex (from about 9 mins 30)

As the commentator points out, “that so many animals possess a pre-frontal cortex is just a google search away.”

Oh, and by the way, the source Craig quotes to back up his “scientific” claims is not a scientist – Michael Murray is actually a Christian apologist and philosopher.

Several of the scientists also point out that, in any case, even if some animals did have no, or a smaller, pre-frontal cortex, that wouldn’t justify the conclusion that they are unaware that they are in pain.

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P.S. Hopefully Craig is a straight enough guy to issue an unqualified mea culpa on this one. He’s just got the science very wrong.

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About Stephen Law