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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Animals and the soul

I regularly have arguments with people over the assumption that religious establishments make over the soul and animals.

The church states that only man has a soul and animals do not. I firmly do not believe this for several reasons. The first question we must raise here is what actually is the soul? Many people whom I have asked say it is what gives us life and what gives us personality. We say things like "He has a kind soul" or even "She has a dark soul"

This is merely describing personality. In which case animals too must have a soul as animals often display personality traits. My own cats are a prime example. Tai is very timid and jumpy, where as Rio is aggressive and violent. My previous cat Zero was laid back and relaxed. Three completely different personality traits. Some people may say this is just the animal's instinct. If this was the case however then all animals would do the same thing, there would not be as much variety as there is.

Some people liken consciousness itself to the soul. Well animals are conscious beings so they too must have a soul. Often it brought up that their self awareness is not the same as ours, or their moral integrity. This is true but not soul related. This is merely to do with brain size, Chimps have self awareness so does this mean they too have a soul and no other animal does?

The size of the brain allows more cognitive thought so gives the ability for self awareness. Does this then mean that the soul is dependent on brain size? This certainly is not what religion would have us believe.

My other problem with animals and the soul is then at what point on the evolutionary scale does the soul magically enter?

               The evolution of man (Google images)

At what point on this scale does the God give man the soul? We have no way really of knowing, self awareness certainly becomes a factor early on in the scale, does that mean the soul is entered there? At what point then are we God's design?

Several people I have spoken too simply disregard this question as "Not being important" but to me it risks the entire theory of the soul and could undermine all of religion itself. 

Here we have a video of two foxes playing on a trampoline, to me they seem to be playing in the exact way children would, the only difference is the species.

Is it mans vanity that is the true creator of the soul?



  1. interesting Paul - did u see or read Keith Wards lecture/book on the soul recently - i haven't read the book yet- but in his lecture he termed the soul as and embodied mind if it was in a body. The thing I got out of it the most: was a reason/purpose that a creator has given for material things/bodies- is that if we didn't have bodies for out consciousness we would not be able to distinguish our individual minds/souls from those of others- that is if we were non-embodied minds/souls. I can identify in myself a thinking faculty (mind) a choosing faculty (will) and a feeling faculty (emotions)- this is what I understand as my soul. Animals have minds, wills and emotions too!! although with perhaps greater or lesser complexity.

  2. That is a very interesting idea, I hadn't quite looked at it like that. Different aspects to the soul. I wonder what a religious person would say about that idea, as you pointed out Animals have those same characteristics. Is the important part the existence of these things period, or does the complexity have an impact?

  3. -Is- brain size related to cognitive thought?

  4. Well I always thought so, Brain development at the very least, certain parts of the brain being developed. Admittedly an elephant has a big brain but it is not developed the same

  5. you've got a good point.
    the foxes do seem to play as if they are children and also their very cute :D
    so why would'nt animal have a soul like humans do. they are also living beings.