Beth Seacord

Unto the Least of These: Animal Pain and the Problem of Evil

Historically the suffering of non-human animals has been given very little serious attention in the literature on the problem of evil.  However, the existence of animal pain presents us with a prima facie reason to doubt the goodness of God.  In this dissertation, I will examine some of the best attempts to reconcile the God of traditional theism with the apparent reality of animal suffering.  First, contrary to Descartes and present day neo-Cartesians, animal consciousness is such that many species do experience morally significant pain.  Second, I reject Swinburne’s theodicy arguing that, in the case of animals, the development of virtue does not outweigh the bodily pain necessary for them to acquire these virtues.  Third, I argue that the skeptical theists approach to animal suffering ends up proving too much by undermining knowledge of God and justified belief in the existence of other minds.  Last, I argue that it is metaphysically possible for God to have created a young earth with fully formed, non-predatory species.  The fact that God did not do this gives us good reason to conclude that God is not good God of traditional theism.