There was a really interesting article in The International Herald Tribune last week, which indirectly addressed a comment that I’ve heard surprisingly often since I started working in animal protection: “Animals don’t have souls.” I’ve never personally considered the question relevant to my work, since the only thing that matters to me is whether or not they’re capable of suffering, which it should be obvious to anyone who’s actually seen an animal that they are.
Anyway, the gist of the article was that as brain science becomes more advanced, scientists are discovering more and more evidence of actual physical processes that relate to feelings like empathy, disgust, or joy:
“That is, they are discovering physical bases for the feelings from which moral sense emerges – not just in people but in other animals as well… As biologists turn up evidence that animals can exhibit emotions and patterns of cognition once thought of as strictly human, Descartes’s dictum, ‘I think, therefore I am,’ loses its force.”
The article centers around the argument that it’s simply false reasoning to attempt to distinguish humans from animals based on who has a soul and who doesn’t. I’m still trying to wrap my head round the whole concept, honestly, but it’s definitely worth a read if you have time—or if, like me you have people giving you weird jive about souls when you try to talk to them about animals. You can read the full article here.