Sample Projects

Three examples of topics (among a much broader range of possible topics) are the following:

  1. Understanding the nature of pain requires a careful articulation of the nature of human and non-human animal minds. At the behavioral level, organisms across a broad spectrum display characteristics that seem to indicate that they possess sophisticated forms of sentience and consciousness. However, the exact nature of the sentience and consciousness is crucial for assessing their theological significance. Scholars thus might elect to examine the nature of non-human animal sentience and consciousness from the vantage points of neuroscience, animal behavior, ethology, philosophy of mind, and other relevant fields to assess its theological and theodicean importance.
  2. Divergent understandings of the nature of God lead to different conceptions of the nature of God's relationship to the natural world. Open theists, process theists pantheists, and traditional monotheists will, for example, conceive of God's creative and providential relationship to the natural world in different ways. What is more, those different conceptions support explanations of the permission of non-human animal suffering that are not only different but in some cases radically inconsistent. Scholars thus might, for example, aim to look at the available responses comparatively or from within one of these traditions.
  3. It seems that pain and suffering are theodicean problems insofar as pain is not simply a functional state of mind that elicits behavior but also one with a qualitatively undesirable character. This in turn requires that minds cannot experience pain that is evil unless those minds have the capacity for qualitative consciousness. The notion that non-human animals have this capacity accords better with some theories of consciousness than with others. Scholars thus might elect to examine the way in which different theories of consciousness would bear on the nature of non-human animal pain and thus on the problem of evil.