Thursday, May 29, 2014

Do animals have souls?

OK, first of all, don't tell me your answer to this question. That would make the rest of this post seem a bit rude.

Here is one of the dumbest questions I can ever imagine a person asking, much less answering:

Do animals have souls?

How utterly ridiculous.

No one knows what a soul is. No one knows what it looks like, what it means, whether or not it really exists.

Furthermore, we certainly have no idea - please allow me to repeat that because I think it is so fundamental to accept this as fact: we have no idea at all - of what is going on inside an animal’s head. Clearly, a whole lot is going on, if you take the time to pay attention to animals and think about what it takes to do what they do. But many of the things humans blithely state as fact regarding animals, such as “They don’t know the difference between right and wrong.” is fundamentally meaningless because we simply cannot know what is going on inside another creature’s mind. We just make the assumption that they are really super different from us in all the ways that matter - to us.

We are intelligent, moral, sentient. We are smart and they are dumb, brute animals. We are conscious, we have history, philosophy, nuclear power. What do animals have? Nothing!

Oh really? How do we know what animals have? Or even what “have” means to a butterfly or a snake or a black bear? Again, we really have no idea whatsoever what animals have, what they want, or how they would feel about killing others just to make themselves comfortable (something that we humans do every second of every day).

So we make the most self-serving assumption imaginable. We simply outright declare that other creatures have no souls, are not sentient. They are food or threat or benign, but they are not like us.

We will continue to reject the evidence of our senses, the clear demonstrations of sentience, of complex social structures, in other animals. That way we don’t have to feel bad about enslaving them and killing them. Think for just a moment about how smart pigs are, and then think about pig farms in which tens of thousands of these poor creatures live short miserable lives - brought into this world for the very purpose of slaughtering them for bacon. And then later a dam bursts and an entire town is swamped with pig feces from the refuse lake at the farm. Go, humans, go!

I sure am glad there wasn’t and isn’t a species of creature on this planet that's three times our size, extremely powerful and licking its lips at the prospect of a nicely smoked human torso. 

We do not know what goes on inside a pig’s head, but it sure seems like they can feel and express terror. 

So, yes, humans will keep on keeping on, keep on consuming, reproducing, and assuming. But that doesn't mean we can’t try to recover a shred, a mere shred, of our individual dignity by at least acknowledging what we are doing, and taking at least one step, no matter how small to help heal our planet and our co-inhabitants.

We can start by acknowledging, accepting, that the thing that we believe makes us unique and special among all living things is simply an unknowable assumption we make. It is an arbitrary, self-serving action - and brings into question the very idea that humans can be considered moral creatures. 

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Bill Cosby the Mathematician

Leafing my way through the Chicago Reader, I came across this ad:

It took me a moment to sort it out. Can you?

And I don't even know what it is an ad for. Maybe he is coming to Chicago soon for a show? Maybe his greatgrandchild said "Hey, Great Grandpa, look what I learned in school today!" and BC was just so taken with the idea - and the fact that his own clever descendent came up with it, that he decided to run it as an ad.

In any case, generally I hate ads, but I sure like this one.

Ha! Or maybe it is old as can be (as in dating to at least 2011) and I am just catching up: 

Well I've never pretended to keep up.