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

From: bivalve (
Date: Wed Feb 06 2002 - 13:11:33 EST

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    Tim Ikeda wrote:
    >>>And I'm happy to work under such a definition. I just think it's important to note that if one defines "sin" in such a manner (i.e. divine fiat) there is little reason to diminish the evidence that other species may exhibit capabilities and behaviors somewhat similar to our own (e.g. planning, social calculation & etc.)... That an animal cannot "sin" doesn't mean that it cannot think ahead, feel distressed or happy, or try to calculate its optimal place within a social group. And just because we aren't necessarily "special" or unique within the animal kingdom in ways we once thought doesn't necessarily have any bearing on supernatural moral contracts. <<<

    I think that this is where Eccl. 3:18-21 ties in. From a physical, “under the sun” viewpoint, it is hard to find an absolute difference between us and animals, although the lack of difference has sometimes been exaggerated. However, special revelation indicates that we have unique status and responsibilities. The adult male DeBrazzas has a white mustache and goatee, making it particularly easy to anthropomorphize him as a dapper little old man, but the differences go well beyond having a tail.

    One particular aspect of our ability to sin that is rare or lacking in animals is the ability to recognize another individual as equally sentient. In my example, could the young monkey realize that yanking on his father’s tail would cause pain, or did he lack the capacity to know that his actions would entail any consequences beyond an entertaining response? Study on baboons in southern Africa, summarized in a recent Smithsonian article, suggests that they lack this capacity. One example given was the case of swimming mother baboons. The baby normally clings to its mother’s chest and will drown if she swims too long. She is apparently oblivious to the fact that it needs to breathe, just like her. Similarly, lost individuals are not helped by other members of the troop. They give a distress call, but there is no response. Instead, the distress calls function to help locate the troop because individuals are wandering all the time. Thus, if an individual that has wande!
    red off to the north hears a call for help, it is probably south of him, and heading in that direction will bring it back towards the main troop.

    However, we can also sin unwittingly, so this is not all of the story. The divine mandate is the most important part of it.

    The popular YEC argument that animal death could not occur before the fall of humans would suggest that carnivores sin when they attack their prey. Perhaps a dispensationalist could argue for preflood and postflood regulations differing, but to me it seems inconsistent with the constancy of God.

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