Animal Conscience... a few random thoughts

Juli Kuhl (
Fri, 10 May 1996 17:15:24 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 09 May 1996 21:45:16
From: Glenn Morton <>
Subject: Fwd: Animal Conscience

>Date: Thu, 9 May 1996 05:28:34 -0400 (EDT)
>From: Juli Kuhl <>
>To: Glenn Morton <>
>Subject: Animal Conscience
>I'm not educated enough in animal behvaioral science to comment
>knowledgeably on this matter of animal "conscience". But the baboon
>incident agrees with what I have leanred about animals in my 50+ years
> of
>having pets. They *do* seem to have some kind of sense of
>"rightness/wrongness" - witness the dog who with ears and tail down
> will
>steal food from the table. (Cats are more self-confident. They
>arrogantly walk across the table and make themselves comfortable at the
>plates!) Or witness the tail-tuck after a dog has made a "mess" (had
> an
>accident). They are anticipating a screaming session from The
>Master/Mistress of the house. Not always, that's for sure; but I'm
>talking in generalities.
>If I'm going to have any kind of sure foundation, as opposed to being
> my own
>slippery subjective "authority" for life, I have got to rely solidly on
>the Scriptures for guidance, adding of course human logic which, Lord
>willing, is Spirit led (sanctified common sense). So I find in Genesis
> 9
>a phrase that is intriguing, though confusing: God said, "I will
> demand
>an accounting from every animal" (NIV). Now, since the cross was
> clearly
>for humans only, there seems to be no provision for "sin" by animals,
> and
>there is nothing in the New Testament about Christ's atonement
> including
>animals (even though the entire creation is groaning together, and
>is waiting "in eager expectation for the sons of God to be
>revealed", implying that the entire creation has been tainted with
>sinand needs redemption - Genesis 3 - which we already well know!).
>Besides, where do we finite humans draw the line between "animals" and
>"lower life forms"? Mammals only? Reptiles also have a fear of
> mankind and
>non-mammals can be trained (respond to punishment). More
> significantly, I have
>experienced the genuine affection and love of pets. Intelligence is
> not
>to be equated with "soul", obviously, but if there is a "soulful look"
> in
>the eyes of an animal, there has to be something behind it. And I will
>never forget in my life the look of terror I saw in a dog's eyes as
> he/she
>tried to cross the Brooklyn Expressway but instead continued trotting
>against the traffic in the fast lane next to the cement divider wall,
> not
>knowing how to get back across three lanes of commuter-time traffic.
>I could expand on this but time's limited so let me go on.
>The only conclusion I've come to is that the animal world has a
> different
>law, something we're not given a look into. I can appreciate this
>wisdom, knowing that the human heart will dwell on this instead of the
>critically more important one of evangelizing humanity. Our sinful
>spirits will seek the good of the lesser world. I tentatively and
>without biblical basis think that animals will probably all go to
> heaven
>(Jesus and the saints will be riding on white horses - I take that
>literally - and in the millenium as well as the new heaven and new
> earth
>there will be agriculture.)
>A minute ago I referred to the human heart dwelling on "saving" the
> animal
>world instead of mankind: such regard for animal life might degenerate
>to an extreme similar to the point where adherents of a certain world
> religious
>system put masks over their mouths when they drink water, lest they
>ingest "living things" and thereby kill them. We do tend to go
>overboard, don't we? I am content to rest on God's clear and obvious
>message of His love for us as individuals, and to worry about what His
>claims are on my life, trying to use discernment as to what can be
>classified as a "foolish and endless" question or a "disputing about
>words" that results in division and anger. Instead, I try to be open
> and
>growing in those things that increase my faith... your geologic
>discussions, though way over my head, fit in the latter category.
>As for baboon parents not telling their kids what's right and wrong,
>there's an assumption build into that: language, morality, "witness
>without the law" to the self - all of which are unverifiable. If mere
>mammals who swim can communicate (dophins, whales, etc.) who are we to
>presume they don't communicate just because we don't understand them?
>Sounds a bit like human pride to me, similar to our modern 20th Century
>pride in our technological expertise as we forget the incredible
>accomplishments of civilizations that built the pyramids, erected
>gigantic stones, made tremendous designs over acres and acres of land,
> or
>laid out precise sun-worship artifacts on the landscape and much more
>too numerous to mention. :)
>I suppose you could forward this message to the asa forum if you
> thought
>it worthwhile. I hesitate because I don't feel qualified to address
> the
>On Mon, 6 May 1996, Glenn Morton wrote:
>> Paul Arveson writes:
>> >That is, in order for there to be morality, there have to be laws or
>> > commands defining what is sinful (e.g. Thou shalt not eat from such
> and
>> such a tree). The existence of laws presupposes that the recipient
>> understands the meaning of the behavior that is condemned, *without
>> having yet experienced it*.
>> >
>> >For this reason, sin is meaningless for animals, and meaningful for
> all
>> > humans who have the ability to communicate and understand. For
> this
>> reason, the law is relaxed somewhat in the case of insanity.
>> >
>> >So the advent of language -- that is, communication that is complex
>> > enough to describe a hypothetical event, and be understood as such
> --
>> seems to be what is occurring in the story of Adam and Eve.
>> >
>> >Any comments?
>> >
>> I ran into this account a couple of years ago. It is an interesting
>> example of what you are talking about. In the following, is Paul
>> unethical or "sinful"?
>> "Forming alliances is only the beginning. If it takes smarts for
>> a baboon or monkey to keep track of all the facts in his social
>> relationships, imagine how much intelligence is required when he
>> and his companions begin to lie."
>> "Take Paul, for instance, a young juvenile chacma baboon
>> observed in Ethiopia by Richard Bryne and Andrew Whiten of the
>> University of St. Andrews in Scotland. One day they noticed Paul
>> watching an adult female named Mel dig in the ground for a large
>> grass root. He looked around. There were no other baboons
>> nearby, though the troop was within earshot. Suddenly and with
>> no visible provocation, Paul let out a yell. In an instant his
>> mother appeared, and in a flurry chased the astonished Mel out of
>> sight. Meanwhile, Paul walked over and ate the grass root she
>> left behind."~Donald Johanson and James Shreeve, Lucy's Child,
>> (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1989), p. 274
>> My little sister used to do this to me all the time. And I used to
> do it
>> to my older brother. The difference is that our parents told us not
> to do
>> it, the baboon parents can't tell their kids that this is wrong.
>> glenn
>> Foundation,Fall and Flood
>> Foundation,Fall and Flood