Animal ethics and clear consciences

“In Praise of Self-Deprecation” – Wislawa Szymborska

The buzzard has nothing to fault himself with.
Scruples are alien to the black panther.
Piranhas do not doubt the rightness of their actions.
The rattlesnake approves of himself without reservations.

The self-critical jackal does not exist.
The locust, alligator, trichina, horsefly
live as they live and are glad of it.

The killer whale’s heart weighs one hundred kilos
but in other respects it is light.

There is nothing more animal-like
than a clear conscience
on the third planet of the Sun.


Wislawa Szymborska (1923 – 2012) Poland
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996

Quoted from p. 125 of Osborn, Ronald E., 2014, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, IVP Academic

2 thoughts on “Animal ethics and clear consciences

  1. Glen K

    Hi Kevin,

    Well… maybe it’s not so clear (and am not sure you are saying it is).  Almost anyone who has had a dogknows that they display a wide range of emotions, including expressions andmannerisms that seem to suggest shame or guilt when they are scolded for doingsomething wrong.  One can rationalize that we are reading too much intothis, but there seems to be increasing scientific evidence that they are at least somewhat similar to human emotions. This does not mean carnivores feel “guilty”when it kills or devours its prey–since that would be an evolutionarydisadvantage. 

    The point is, while it may be tempting to emphasize how unique and special humans are on all levels, tosuggest that animals have far fewer and less profound emotions, and neveranything indicating a conscience, guilt feelings, etc. may be somewhat debatable, especially when it comes to very social vertebrates such as dogs, dolphins, elephants and apes.  This may alsosomewhat vindicate the ethics of those who do not approve of animals beingraised in cramped cages and slain for human consumption, on the grounds thatthey can feel emotional as well as physical pain, although I agree that PETAgoes too far in suggesting that even lower invertebrates are as valuable orconscious as higher animals.   On a different topic, I amwondering if you would be willing to look over an article I wrote (actuallyexpanded from an earlier essay) addressing claims by a few YECs about”living pterosaurs.”   Any comments or corrections would begreatly appreciated.  The URL is:

    Thanks very much! Glen | geochristian posted: “”In Praise of Self-Deprecation” – Wislawa SzymborskaThe buzzard has nothing to fault himself with.Scruples are alien to the black panther.Piranhas do not doubt the rightness of their actions.The rattlesnake approves of himself without reservations.T” | |


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