Monday, December 26, 2011

Cartoons, Animal Death, and Theology

Ever since I can remember I have been an avid fan of the old Looney Tunes cartoons (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, et al). Since I have grown up and am now a more critical thinker, I have an all new appreciation for these cartoons (they are funny for even more reasons now). The other day I was watching through some of them and came across one that I think provides quite an interesting critique of the challenge of so much animal death in God's creation.

The Challenge:
  1. If God is all loving and all powerful, then he would not have created a world in which there was so much animal death and suffering.
  2. There is a lot of animal death and suffering.
  3. Therefore, God is either (or both) not all-loving and (or) all-powerful...and may not even exist.

This is a form of the problem of evil. It is also frequently used by young earth creationists against old earth positions- since the old-earth views tend to recognize that the fossil record provides solid evidence of death prior to man's introduction into creation (thus death existed prior to The Fall). Anyway here's the cartoon (for those with limited time or attention span, you can skip to 5:05 for the main part I want you to see):


The junior cat basically challenges his father's choice to catch and eat birds. Jr. appeals to his father's "humanity". His father counters it by pointing out the obvious thing: he's not a human; he's a cat, and cats catch birds. He stated it in quite a matter-of-fact way, and Jr. had nothing to come back with.

Grounds of the Challenge
It seems that the foundation for this challenge is the anthropormorphization of (projection of human qualities onto) animals. The naturalist does it via the idea of common ancestry (man and animal are really no different). Young earth creationists make the assumption (in their challenge) that animals are moral beings just as humans are, thus their suffering is necessarily just as evil as human suffering (also assuming that all human suffering IS evil).

The Grounds of the Challenge Challenged
Let me first address the naturalist. The anthropomorphimization of animals is consistent in the naturalist's worldview (see my post "Human Equality and Evolution"). So this is not where the argument fails. Where it does fail is when they decide to call it "evil". "Evil" is only a relative term (and likely merely a subjective term) in naturalism. Since there is no objective standard to determine what is "good" or "evil", it is up to the culture or the individual to offer their opinion about the "goodness" or "evilness" of something. Since evil does not have an objective meaning, the challenge makes no sense within the naturalist's worldview.

Of course, the naturalist is not always posing the challenge from within his or her own worldview. Instead, they are posing it as an inconsistency in the Christian worldview. They typically appeal to God declaring his creation "very good". They say that the evil that is the pain and suffering of animals is not "very good". Starting from this point, the young earth creationist and the naturalist are posing the same challenge to the old earth Christian view, so I will address both of them simultaneously.

The Argument
As mentioned before, this challenge (from either camp) rests on the assumption that man and animal are both moral agents.  However, scripture never attributes anything to animals that would allow us to believe that they are moral agents. But man is given an attribute that allows him (and him alone) to be a moral agent- the Image of God. Since this attribute was not ascribed to the members of the animal kingdom, they are not moral agents.

Evil is a term relative to the morality of God's nature. Since animals are not moral creatures then we can't use "evil" to describe anything about them. "Evil" is a term that we use to describe things that happen to humans (moral agents), and since animals are not moral agents, "evil" cannot be used to describe things that happen to them. Here is the formulation:
  1. Morality is a necessary attribute of a being that has the possibility to sin or possess a sin nature.
  2. Scripture does not ascribe moral or spiritual attributes to animals, but does explicitly ascribe the Image of God to humans
  3. Therefore, animals are amoral and aspiritual. (1 and 2)
  4. "Evil" is a term of morality. 
  5. Therefore "evil" is a term that cannot be used of animals (3 and 4)
  6. Things that happen to moral agents can be described as "good" or "evil"
  7. Therefore, things that happen to animals cannot be described as "good" or "evil" (5 and 6)
A Parallel Argument- A Challenge Addressed
Some may wish to challenge the idea that something "evil" cannot happen to an amoral creature. However to respond to that challenge, I will appeal to and argue from scripture (since I am now arguing from within the Christian worldview, and the Bible is a proper authority in the Christan worldview, it is appropriate to appeal to it). First, God cannot contradict himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Morality is part of God's nature, so he cannot act immorally. Second, God took skins to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). The skins had to come from some dead animal. We have a couple options:
  1. The animal was already dead. If it was dead prior to the Fall, then there is no need to go further. If it died just moments after The Fall, it would have had to be orchestrated by God because nature does not work that quickly
  2. God killed the animal

Regardless of the option, to continue to the argument, God must be involved in the animal's death. If God is involved in the animal's death and God cannot contradict his nature, then what he did was not evil. What God did was to kill the animal, therefore the death of an animal cannot be necessarily described as "evil".

Here is the formulation:
  1. God cannot contradict himself
  2. Morality is part of God's nature
  3. Therefore, God cannot do anything immoral (evil) (1 and 2)
  4. God is involved in the death of an animal to clothe Adam and Eve
  5. Therefore, the death of animals is not necessarily evil (3 and 4)
Implications
I want it to be clear that what I have presented here does not, in any way, serve as a defeater to the worldviews or models of the challengers. The purpose of these arguments is to defeat the specific challenge that the view is internally inconsistent. This is a defensive presentation not an offensive one.

Since it does provide a way for the Christian worldview (and specifically the old-age version) to be internally consistent, the challenge provided by both naturalists (against Christianity) and young-earth creationists (against the old-age view) is not able to stand logically.

Here is another post on the same issue from J.W. Wartick: Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism

18 comments:

  1. Interesting post; however, the statements made regarding the YEC position on their not being animal death before sin are fundamentally incorrect. YECs do not adhere to a belief in animal death before sin not because they profess animals have a sense or morality or are moral beings. They come to this conclusion based on the context of Genesis 1 and a correct understanding of what "good" and "very good" mean in the original Hebrew ("tob" and "me-od tob" respectively). Add to this the clear statements in Genesis 1 and 2 of man and animals being given plants to eat combined with the curse of sin impacting not just humanity but all of creation and there is no biblical necessity for animal death before sin.

    Making assertions that YEC positions are akin to naturalistic/evolutionary presuppositions is certainly a nice try at positioning YEC beliefs in the same arena as those of naturalists; however, it does not stand up to closer scrutiny when the holistic teachings of scripture in regard to sin, death, and redemption are brought into play.

    For a better understanding of the YEC position on the matter of sin and death I recommend reading the following articles:

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/03/02/satan-the-fall-good-evil-could-death-exist-before-sin

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v24/n1/history

    http://creation.com/the-fall-a-cosmic-catastrophe

    http://creation.com/retroactive-death

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  2. Mike,

    Thank you for taking the time to post that comment. I am glad that you brought that up. I failed to make myself clear about what I was saying was the foundation for the YEC belief.

    I recognize that YECs get their idea of "no animal death prior to the Fall" from Scripture. I am not denying that. Nor do I wish to make it appear that YECs believe animals are moral beings. What I am contending in this post is that in order for animal death to be evil, animals MUST be moral beings. Since both sides recognize that animals are not moral beings, both sides should also recognize that animal death cannot be evil.

    Now, I could be wrong that the ONLY way for animal death to be evil is for animals to be moral beings. The challenge before the YEC, at this point, is to demonstrate how animal death can be evil WITHOUT them being moral beings.

    However, if I am not wrong (and the YEC is willing to recognize it), then the YEC must also recognize that the absence of animal death prior to the Fall is not the only valid interpretation of scripture. As I mentioned in the post, I'm not attempting to defeat the YEC view with this argument. I'm only defeating the idea that the YEC interpretation of Scripture is the only valid interpretation. This argument still allows for the interpretation of the absence of animal death before the Fall to be valid, but it allows for the interpretation of the presence of animal death before the Fall to be valid also.

    My intended audience for the challenge is only YEC who believe that their interpretation regarding no animal death prior to the Fall is the only valid one. If a YEC believes that the OEC interpretation, allowing animal death prior to the Fall, is just as valid, then the challenge is not directed at them.

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  3. Well, I am not sure if this is a good theodicy for natural evil. I think that you could say that animals cannot do evil as your carton perfectly illustrates, but if an animal are in some sense conscious and can feel pain, then I think we as Christians would say that it is evil that animals suffer. The question I think is if animals are conscious, if it turns out that they are, we need another answer than you submit. Can you follow me? I really appreciate your blog, but I don´t think you get it right this time, not everything at least (maybe a hard thing).

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    1. Linus,
      Thanks for the comment; I understand where you are coming from. However, I think there is a gap in your reasoning. In order to get a conclusion of evil suffering, there must be a moral component. Here is the formal version of what you have proposed:

      1. Consciousness allows for the experience of suffering
      2. Animals are conscious
      3. Therefore, animals experience suffering

      This is as far as you can go. Since you recognize that animals are not moral agents (and "evil" is a term of morality) then we need a moral component. It would look something like this:

      1. Animals experience suffering
      2. ?????
      3. Therefore, the fact that animals experience suffering is evil

      Now, we can infer that #2 should be something along of the lines of "animals are moral beings". But, we both recognize that is not true, so it can't be used. We may also want to use "All experience of suffering is evil", but we see suffering all around us that is not necessarily evil, so that one cannot be used either. Although some people would disagree and say that all suffering is evil- a foundational matter in my argument, so if you don't agree with me, we need to discuss it. Moving on...

      What I will offer here is going to provide a nuance to my argument and help explain the boundaries of my conclusion.

      I would propose that the only moral component that may go into the #2 place is man (although this will slightly change the conclusion). This is how I would formulate it:

      1. Animals experience suffering
      2. Suffering caused by a moral being may be evil
      3. Man is a moral being
      4. Therefore, the experience of suffering of animals at the hands of man may be evil

      Notice that what I have here has a moral component that allows me to draw a moral conclusion. The arguement that you presented contains "suffering" "animals" and "consciousness", none of which are moral components. Yet, you wish to draw a moral conclusion. The component that I added was "man". This allows me to draw a moral conclusion. But it extremely limits what animal suffering may be considered evil. It eliminates animal-to-animal interactions (including predation) from being possibly considered evil (#3 would have to state "Animals are moral beings" to draw a moral conclusion).

      This means that I have no problem recognizing that animal suffering at the hands of humans may be evil. Notice too that I use the qualifier "may" in the conclusion. I must include that because if I wanted to say that "all animal suffering at the hands of humans is evil" I would have to alter my #2 from "may" to "is". If I did, I would not agree with the premise. And since I do not accept that as true, the premise is limited to using "may", thus my conclusion is also limited to "may".

      Because of all this, I don't think that what you present (in its current state) defeats my conclusion or offers a viable alternative. I think, though, that if you can add a moral component to the argument (which you may be assuming, but just didn't articulate), then you may be able to accomplish both tasks, and that would force me to reevaluate.

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  4. Okay, I think I figured this out... I have to sign in to post! Duh.

    Luke,
    Well written as usual. I will gladly take you up on your challenge for YECs to show that animals do not have to be moral creatures for their suffering to be evil. I appeal to both Scripture and (in brotherly love and humility) common sense. Let me start with the latter first.

    Imagine a world full of dinosaurs and other animals all trying to just survive. No morality, just animals like we have today. But all these animals are in horrible pain. I have been in pain so bad I could hardly breathe while it lasted. I was having a bone set in my right arm with no anesthetics. It hurt! Now, imagine a world where every single animal was in this kind of pain. It’s strictly hypothetical, but not impossible. Can we say this world is “very good” because the animals aren’t moral? I know it’s an emotional appeal, but does it have merit? I think so. Granted, we’re talking about a different kind of “goodness” than human sin. We’re talking about what you recently proposed as “aesthetic goodness” and what I would like to call “ontological goodness.” This goodness refers to comfort, beauty, and general satisfaction.

    From the Bible I appeal to the millennium reign of Jesus on earth. Not the new heaven and earth mind you. I know physics and other things are going to be different in the next life and next world. I am referring to this world after Jesus defeats the antichrist. Allow me to quote Isaiah 11:6-9 just for the record. I know it’s long, but here it is.

    “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
    The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
    And a little child shall lead them.
    The cow and the bear shall graze;
    Their young ones shall lie down together;
    And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
    The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
    And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
    They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
    For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD
    As the waters cover the sea.”

    I know you have heard these words a hundred times already. But it’s my strongest argument for my position. Notice specifically the last three lines. “In all My holy mountain” may imply that there is a specific place on earth where this blessed peace is limited to. But the very next line seems to counter that. The whole earth will be full of God’s glory. This also gives the CAUSE for this new relationship between the animals and men. “For the earth...” This implies a cause to me. The reason the animals will change is because the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God. So my question would be, wouldn’t the earth have been full of the knowledge of God before the Fall? I think we see here a restoration of how God intended things to be originally.

    Post Script. I believe it’s clear that Isaiah 11:6-9 is talking about the millennium because it goes on to talk about some countries we know about in verse 11.

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    1. Steve,
      Thanks for accepting the challenge. Likewise, I offer this critique in brotherly love and humility.

      I see that your second argument is actually dependent upon the conclusion of your first. I'll get to that in a few minutes, but first, I know that you said that you were only going to provide two appeals, but you have actually provided four:

      1. Beauty
      2. Physical Comfort
      3. Psychological Comfort (Satisfaction)
      4. Scripture

      The reason that I have separated the top three is philosophical. None of those are part of the same category. Beauty refers to aesthetics, while physical and emotional comfort are teleological (they are ends).

      Ontology refers to being and nonbeing. "Good" is not a word that refers to being or nonbeing, so using that word is a category error. I abandoned that word to avoid confusion.

      My challenge was to establish that animal death and suffering are morally evil without the animals being moral beings. You have provided three arguments for animal pain and death to not be beautiful and not have a purpose. Whether or not those three arguments are sound, they don't apply to what I have offered here.

      If you wish to say that these do address the specific challenge, then you need to demonstrate how beauty and comfort are necessarily tied to morality. If not...

      I will likely post about "very good" being an aesthetic proclamation in the near future; we'll cover that one then. I would propose the other two on the post about "very good" being a moral proclamation, here.

      What we have left is your appeal to Scripture. I haven't studied eschatology very much, so I'm going to grant that this is a passage that refers to the millenial reign of Jesus Christ on earth.

      I want to point out something very important about what you have offered regarding the line "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD" and your question "wouldn’t the earth have been full of the knowledge of God before the Fall?" What you are asking is this: "don't you believe that this represents a restoration to pre-Fall conditions regarding the animals' behavior?" My answer is "yes". But I don't have a contradiction because my view of the animal behavior prior to the Fall is the same as what I would affirm if I decide to take the millenial view of eschatology. The reason is because animal pain and death are not necessarily contradictory to any of God's attributes.

      If you are to say that my pre-Fall view is undermined by this passage, then you are begging the question by assuming your view of this passage- which is dependent upon the first three appeals you provided (to establish your view of Genesis 1). You must show how death and pain are necessarily ugly (not merely having no objective aesthetic value) or are exclusively the results of purposes necessarily against God's purposes. You cannot simply assume your view of "very good"; otherwise, you have begged the question.

      Also, it appears that one's interpretation of Genesis 1 cannot be dependent upon this passage in Isaiah because its interpretation is dependent upon Genesis 1. Yet, I said that it was at the begging of my post. That is because we have a circular argument. The arguments for the proper interpretation of one passage or the other must be independent of the another.

      Even with my granting the accuracy of your eschatalogical interpretation of the Isaiah passage, your argument fails on one, if not two, accounts.

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  5. Luke,
    If you accept that the passage in Isaiah 11 is a restoration of creation, I have a strong argument going for me. Not because Isaiah rests on Genesis, quite to the contrary. Isaiah 11 has its own very clear description of animal behavior that even goes farther than anything directly stated in Genesis one.

    You say, “I want to point out something very important about what you have offered regarding the line "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD" and your question "wouldn’t the earth have been full of the knowledge of God before the Fall?" What you are asking is this: "don't you believe that this represents a restoration to pre-Fall conditions regarding the animals' behavior?" My answer is “yes.”

    You have correctly understood my position and my question. If that’s your answer, consider what Isaiah says there. We see a harmony between animals we certainly don’t see today.

    The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
    The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
    The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
    And a little child shall lead them.
    The cow and the bear shall graze;
    Their young ones shall lie down together;
    And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    How do you understand this prophesy?

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  6. Steve,
    I have four lines of reasoning that are fully compatible with my view. One of them specifically argues against your combination of YEC/literal millennium (3).

    Keep in mind too that you only addressed my critique of one of the four claims you made. Do you grant my critique of the other three, or do you want to come back to those later?

    Metaphorical Interpretation
    1. Already granting that the premillennial view is the correct interpretation of this passage, it is perfectly acceptable, as with other prophetic and apocalyptic passages, that this is metaphorical and not literal, regarding the peace that is to be experienced during the millennial reign of Christ.

    Qualified Literal Restoration
    2. I'm trying not to go too much into eschatology, but I can see that this is where we must go. Again, granting the premillennial view, if I remember correctly, according to those who take believe in the literal millennial reign of Christ on earth, there will not be an absence of evil. Just because Satan will be locked up does not necessitate the absence of evil. We can't forget that man has not reached glorification at this point- his heart is still evil and still has enmity towards God. If the millennial reign is a complete restoration of the creation, then it would be the same as if man had never sinned, but without the free will that Adam and Eve had to sin. So again, even if we grant that it is actually speaking of restoration, qualifications must be made to that restoration. Without qualifications, the literal restoration becomes a repeat of the story told throughout the Bible- which we both agree is not scripturally sound. So, qualifications on a literal restoration would be required.

    God's Knowledge Prior to the Fall and During the Millennium
    3. As I stated in the previous comment, if I believe that the earth was full of God's knowledge before the Fall, and I grant that it will be full of God's knowledge during the millennium, I don't have an issue, if I believe that it will be the same regarding animal behavior- I don't believe that animals will all of the sudden stop feeling pain or eating each other- they would also have to stop procreating AND physically live for a full 1000 years (to avoid the pain of death) to avoid over-population of the planet.

    God's Knowledge After the Fall and Prior to the Millennium
    4. We also cannot forget that the angels and God, Himself, declares that the earth (after the Fall, prior to the millennium) declare that the earth is filled with God's glory (Isaiah 6; Numbers 14, respectively). Paul echoes these declarations in Romans 1:20. He goes on to state that because of this knowledge, no man has an excuse.

    All three of those passages state that God's knowledge is present in the world, even today. Animal death and suffering are present today. So, they are compatible with God's knowledge.

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  7. Okay Luke, let me try this again. I don’t remember everything I said the first time, but I’ll do the best I can. ☺

    You said, “Do you grant my critique of the other three, or do you want to come back to those later?” I assume you’re talking about the four things you mentioned above “Beauty, Physical Comfort, Psychological Comfort (Satisfaction), and Scripture.” I don’t see a critique per se of these four things. You said later, “whether or not those three arguments are sound, they don't apply to what I have offered here.” So you don’t really critique them, you just say that they’re not relevant to the discussion. Maybe we can come back to these later. For now, let me comment on your four categories you give above.

    On Metaphorical Interpretation: You say it’s okay to interpret Isaiah 11 metaphorically. I know this is a major difference between our views and may well be worth our time to focus on specifically for a while. We would probably both walk away with a better grasp on hermeneutics if we delved into it some. Obviously this specific example is a difference of exegesis between us. If you’re interpretation is correct, I am very wrong and don’t have an argument.

    On Qualified Literal Restoration: You said in this section, “if I remember correctly, according to those who believe in the literal millennial reign of Christ on earth, there will not be an absence of evil.” You are correct. But I believe that fact actually strengthens my position, not weakens it. If we have a description of a “restored” world, but know it hasn’t been completely restored, doesn’t that mean the original creation was even better?

    Concerning God's Knowledge Prior to the Fall and During the Millennium: This is a response of the better half of your text above. I think I understand what you’re saying here. But aren’t you begging the question? Aren’t you starting with your view of how life was before the fall and using it to interpret the Isaiah passage? I, on the other hand, am using Isaiah 11 as a clue (since I believe it’s a restoration prophesy) of how the earth was prior to the fall and allow it to help me understand Genesis better. Obviously I am using presuppositions as well. I’m not making the arrogant claim that I am “being objective.”☺)

    You go on to say, “they would also have to stop procreating AND physically live for a full 1000 years (to avoid the pain of death) to avoid over-population of the planet.” This has been an issue I have wrestled with. It is admittedly one of my difficulties. I don’t know how God planned for animals and people to not eventually get crowded out of house and home. I have done some rough math on the pre-flood population and believe there might have been between 10-20 billion people on earth when the flood came (that’s a conservative number considering the people’s life spans back then). That was 1,650 years after man was first created. You have already presented my best guess for the solution – that both humans and animals were going to stop reproducing when the world got full.

    That of course is my problem at creation before the fall, not the Isaiah passage. We know that death is not yet defeated and that men and animals are still dying during that time in the millennium.

    Concerning God's Knowledge After the Fall and Prior to the Millennium: You use “glory” and “knowledge” interchangeably in this section and I’m not sure they’re the same thing. As you say, the heavens declare the GLORY of God. Creation speaks of its Creator even in its fallen state. “Animal death and suffering are present today. So, they are compatible with God's knowledge.” Are you saying you don’t believe God’s influence on the earth is going to change things when He comes? If His presence is already here, what are we hoping will improve with His return? Sure, the condition of man’s heart, and I certainly don’t want to downplay that. But Paul says that the WHOLE creation is eagerly waiting for the redemption from bondage, (Rom. 8:18-22). What is going to improve?

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    1. Steve:

      "We know that death is not yet defeated and that men and animals are still dying during that time in the millennium."

      Wait. You have me confused. If you grant that animals die during the millennial reign of Christ, how can you use any passage referring to the same time period to argue for no animal death before the Fall? Could you lay it out step-by-step? You have me thinking that I might be arguing against a strawman.

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  8. (singing) “If I only had a brain...” Or was that the tin man who sang that?

    Good question Luke. My reason for using Isaiah 11 in this discussion is because it speaks against carnivores. Now, my dad, who is also a YEC, doesn’t have a problem with animal death before sin but he does believe there were no carnivores. That is, he interprets Gen. 1:30 the same way I do. The problem I have with his belief is I think we’d quickly have a very big problem with over-population (unless an equilibrium was reached between animals being born and animals dying). There would also be the problem of dead animals lying around rotting. Today, many carnivores help clean up the dead animals. How long would it take ants to eat a large dinosaur? A long time!

    Now, you are correct that the Isaiah passage doesn’t speak directly about animal death. But it does speak against carnivores. (Light comes on) Ah! So I do have a problem. I have the same problem with the millennium that my dad has with his view. No animal-eating animals creates a problem if animals are dying that need to be cleaned up. And yet I know that animals will be dying. Hmm! I might need to think about this one. Thanks for making me think through it.

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    1. No problem. I've really enjoyed our exchanges (I'm working on converting the other one for posting to the comments right now).

      I see a couple jewels in this comment. Ponder the problem and let me know what you come up with. :)

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  9. Actually, my problem is in understanding how the millennium might work, not creation. My specific use of Isaiah 11 is still okay since I’m using it as supporting evidence for my interpretation of Genesis 1:30. So my problem with Isaiah 11 is limited only to my eschatology. How are there not going to be carnivores while animals are dying?

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    1. If you have a problem with animals dying without carnivores in the millennium, you have a problem Isaiah 11 to support your interpretation of Genesis 1:30.

      Remember, you are presupposing that Isaiah literally speaks of no carnivores (as opposed to metaphorically referring to a time of peace). However, if there is an actual problem making sense of that, then you have a problem with your presupposition. And intern, if you have a problem with your presupposition of Isaiah supporting no carnivores, then you can't use it to support your interpretation of creation before the Fall being absent of carnivores.

      That is not to say that the interpretation of Genesis is incorrect, it is only to say that Isaiah could not be used as evidence to interpret it that way. If you have a problem with your interpretation of the millennium, you have a problem with your using it to support your interpretation of the creation prior to the Fall.

      I agree that you have a problem with rotting animals if no carnivores exist in the millennium. In fact, you have two more problems:

      1. What will the animals (who used to be carnivorous) eat, since their digestive tracts are designed for meat and not vegetation. If these animals will just die off, then your original problem is compounded.
      2. The fact that the digestive tracts were designed for meat needs to be explained: did God design them this way to begin with, or did rapid Darwinian evolution produce the carnivorous digestive tracts (since God rested on the 7th day), thus the tracts can never be used as evidence of biological design (as Richard Dawkins would say: "they only appear to be expertly designed")?

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  10. “Remember, you are presupposing that Isaiah literally speaks of no carnivores (as opposed to metaphorically referring to a time of peace)."

    The way I have been taught to interpret the Bible is assume a literal interpretation unless it does violence to the authors purpose or some other known biblical doctrine. So, yes, I am reading Isaiah 11 literally... for now.

    “What will the animals (who used to be carnivorous) eat, since their digestive tracts are designed for meat and not vegetation."

    Please glance over this article sometime. It refers to the origin of carnivores from a YEC perspective. Carnivorous animals didn’t have to change at all in order to become carnivores, so they won’t have to change to return to being omnivores. http://www.icr.org/article/predation-did-not-come-from-evolution/

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    1. Steve,
      Thanks for that link. First, I agree that sharp teeth can be used in a vegetarian diet. I don't have a problem with that at all.

      I do, however, find a couple things interesting in the article. The use of the term "omnivore" is the first. If God originally designed them as omnivores, then there is the implication that just one source of food would not provide all the nutrients needed. That idea is supported by Dr. Criswell's discussion of the lower level predatory animals being stuck with the less nutritious meat of the animal. Predation and consumption of the body organs provided the nutrients not, only provided by the veggies, but from the animal itself that did not come from the vegetation.

      Please note too, that you use the phrase "return to being omnivores". "Omnivore" indicates that they will be eating both meat and vegetation. If we still wish to use Isaiah 11 to interpret Genesis 1, and we say that the animals will be omnivorous, then we can only soundly argue that they were also omnivorous prior to the Fall- we can't soundly use Isaiah 11 to argue all the way to vegetarianism in Genesis 1.

      Second, the article does cover an omnivorous digestive tract, but if we posit that God created animals and humans to be herbivorous, we must explain the existence of a digestive tract that can handle meat. Also, if Isaiah 11 actually speaks against predatory behavior, it speaks against omnivorous behavior by necessity. So we would need to find another source for the missing nutrition from vegetation (granted by Dr. Criswell in his discussion of the processed/fortified "vegetarian" chow given to omnivorous animals).

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  11. Luke,
    I misspoke. I did mean herbivore. That’s my mistake.

    The idea I get from this article is that carnivores actually have weaker digestive systems than herbivores which means they need herbivores to pre-digest the plants for them. This weakening of the digestive system probably happened shortly after the flood. I believe every kind of animal was on the ark which included the animals that are carnivores right from birth today. How could Noah have supplied meat for carnivores for a year? I know our views on the flood differ so I’m not asking for a reply to that. :)

    So, with my view against animal death before sin, I would exclude carnivorous and omnivorous habits before the fall. It is possible, though I can’t defend this from the Bible, that scavengers began to develop their eating habits after the curse/before the flood. But no actual predators emerged until after the flood. That’s my tentative view at this point.

    I also think that might be an answer to the problem I have with Isaiah 11. If it is taken literally, Isaiah seems to clearly teach no carnivores. But we know animals and people are still dying during that time period during the millennium. So maybe scavengers continue to clean up the dead but no carnivores are hunting the living, thus bringing peace to the animal kingdom. A zebra doesn’t have to be afraid of anything if it’s only going to eat it after it’s already dead right? It’s a thought and nothing more. One of my pet peeves in this kind of discussion is when people make up an answer, throw it at me like it’s fact, and say I have to refute it. I don’t want to sound like this scenario is the definite answer. I don’t know.

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  12. Steve,
    I thought that you meant "herbivore", I just wasn't for sure. :)

    Yeah, let's leave the Flood for another thread.

    My first thought: I agree that scavengers would take care of your issue with Isaiah, but only if you interpret it to not exclude all meat-eaters (carnivores) in the millennium- scavengers do eat meat. If you say that it doesn't exclude omnivores, then connecting that passage back to the time before the Fall leaves possible the interpretation that omnivores existed prior to the Fall. However, you can remove the issue of the possibility of omnivores before the Fall by not using the Isaiah passage to interpret Genesis 1-2.

    My second thought: Even though you would have solved the problem of dead animals lying around in the millennium, you would have them lying around between the Fall and the time when the scavenging behavior evolved. We might be able to get away with it between the Fall and the Flood, but it would be hard to get past the lack of mention of the epidemic disease and death rates caused by dead animals lying around in the historical narrative. Of course, the diseases may not have evolved yet, but then we have to establish when they did and how the rapid evolution took place.

    Notice that you must appeal to a lot of very quick, very orchestrated, simultaneous evolution- the bodies of the scavengers, the behaviors of the scavengers, the diseases, and evolution from extremely small populations. This would require a form of theistic evolution- God's hand forming from what already was present (haya and asa) that was supposed to have ended with the completion of the sixth day.

    And that is just for the scavengers. We haven't even covered the predators- which gives a whole other level of quick, orchestrated, and simultaneous evolution- unless these can be accounted for naturalistically we have further evidence for the hand of God creating beyond the sixth day, from the YEC perspective of no animal death before the Fall.

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