Thursday, February 02, 2006

Predation Problem Part I

I wrote a paper a little while ago on violence in wildlife documentaries for Zadok Perspectives. I though that reviewing the basic arguments might be of interest to any real or imaginary readers out there.

The first version of the Predation Problem I call the Fall Predation Problem because it involves the concept of the Fall of Adam as being the cause of animal predation. It can be stated thus:

  1. Animal predation, i.e. the fact that some animals kill and eat others for survival, is a direct result of the Fall of Adam.
  2. Viewing any consequence of the Fall for the purposes of enjoyment or pleasure is a sinful activity, because it is a form of participation in this rebellion against God.
  3. The only reason one might view animal predation is for enjoyment or pleasure in the act of predation.

    Therefore, viewing animal predation is sinful for the Christian.

I think that this a valid argument in that the conclusion follows from the premises. I just don't think that it is sound. Here's (briefly) why:

Firstly, as has been noted by Simon Conway Morris in Life's Solutions, carnivory appears ubiquitous in nature, and various features "designed" for killing are convergent, i.e. they have ariseindependentlyly many times.

Secondly, any use of Romans 8.19f and the bondage to decay falters on the fact that Paul nowhere suggests that animal predation is in view, or will be undone in the eschaton (end times).

Thirdly, texts like Is 65.25 "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food." (NIV, emphasis mine) are metaphorical. The reference to the serpent reminds us of the Garden of Eden and the serpent's role in the Fall. This is all about putting things to rights in the world, but not of animal vegetarianism. A similar text in Isaiah is 11.6-9, with the common theme of the presence of a human child who tames and is not harmed by the wild beasts (i.e. the Messiah).

Fourthly, whatever you might think of the origins of animal predation, God permits it in an active sense, hence in Psalm 104, reflecting on the role of God as the one who creates and sustains his creation, states, The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God (v21, NIV).

What the following four observations do is defeat premise 1, that we can think of it inappropriate to watch violent animal death because it all happens because of "an apple" (though the type of fruit isn't specified). There are other ways of thinking about this violence, but for another post.

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