Re: Do animals ever "sin" (was something else)

Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 12:34:33 EST

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    Richard Kouchoo wrote:
    > And this is what separates us from other animals. There is a huge
    > gulf between humans and animals in terms of _results_ of actions
    > and meditative abilities. The young monkey would perceive 'interesting'
    > results from his harassment of the adult but he would not be able to
    > post-meditate his actions in terms of Good and Evil. Hence he cannot sin!

    I'm not convinced that chimps lack capabilities for pre- or post-
    meditative thought. I recall hearing about a case where a lower-ranking
    chimp male that had just copulated with another female tried to hide
    its erections from the male leader of the group. It clearly knew that
    it had done something "wrong" (within the context of the group) and
    could be punished if the behavior was discovered. It also knew that
    there was evidence that could expose its infraction. Finally, it
    knew how to cover up the evidence, albeit somewhat comically. In
    species where success in navigating social interactions is the key
    to survival, I do think that the ability to weigh the consequences
    of actions in more than a "stimulus -> response mode" can arise.

    I agree that there is a gulf (perhaps large) between adult humans and
    chimps in the relative ability to contemplate actions and their
    consequences. However, I'm not so sure whether that gap is quite so
    wide between human infants/toddlers (up to about 2 years old) and
    chimps. With respect to understanding the consequences of one's
    actions, the overlap with some humans suggests that either chimps can
    indeed sin like some humans, or that most young or mentally impaired
    humans cannot sin. Of course, if "sin" is defined exclusively within
    the confines of a _particular_ relationship between say, humans and a
    god, in contrast to a set of operational criteria based on behavior
    alone, then one could claim that animals cannot sin whereas infants
    can. The same applies to the questions of what organisms might posses
    souls, or even which individuals _within_ a species might lack souls (or
    be capable of sin).

    Tim Ikeda

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