Faith & Reason Ministries

Animal Intelligence and Suffering

by John D. Callahan, Copyright © 2000 by Faith & Reason Ministries


Many pet owners cannot help but be impressed with the intelligence of their animals. Equally impressive, pets have the ability to feel, communicate, and suffer to a high degree. The most intelligent animals (apes, parrots, and dolphins) have demonstrated intelligence on par with that of small human children (up to 5 years of age). These animals can understand human speech, carry out complex tasks, and form very simple sentences of a few words (parrots audibly, apes with sign language, etc.). Our kinship with the great apes and evolution from similar animals is clear. Intermediate forms in this evolution, such as Homo erectus, had intermediate brain sizes and undoubtedly intermediate intelligence.

Jesus many times used animals as examples in His parables and speech. Significantly, He had sympathy for the suffering of animals, and He compared evil people with snakes and foxes. This implies that the animal kingdom is currently affected by the fall and perversion of the universe. Animals, however, have little responsibility for their actions: they are innocent victims of the fall and not eternal beings. Man, on the other hand, though he is limited by his animal origins, can comprehend good and evil and choose eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Suffering in the animal kingdom existed many millions of years before the evolution of man (from animals). On other planets, this suffering most likely has existed in the past, exists now, and will exist in the future, as life evolves throughout the universe. Therefore the perversion -- and perhaps the very existence -- of the material universe was the inevitable result of the preceding fall of the spiritual universe. This rebellion of Lucifer and his angles, whom God created, happened before the Big Bang and more than 10-20 billion years ago. The sin of man and corruption of the material universe was not a result of the fall of a few human beings (Adam and Eve) 6,000 years ago. Through our choice, however, we can lessen evil, but we cannot (and nor could we ever) completely eliminate it.

It is remarkable and a treasure of infinite value that God has provided for us the opportunity to transcend this current, rudimentary corruption and receive eternal life.

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