Yesterday I asked for suggestions for blog topics. My best friend suggested I write about cats. I’m not certain how I can relate cats to philosophy, but I will try.
I’ve heard it said that we can learn natural law by looking at the animals. What is natural for animals is a reflection of standard behavior in humans. Some use animals in natural law to point out male hierarchies over the female of the species. It’s a shame no one told that to angler fish. Others use animals in natural law to support homosexuality, somehow forgetting that at its most basic function, natural law in that sense would support heterosexual coupling in order to continue the species.
I can understand to a point why atheists would use animals to bolster their understanding of natural law. But I don’t understand why Christians do so. I realize that great thinkers, like John Knox, have done so in order to prove certain points with regards to human behavior. An argument from a Christian worldview could be made that since God created both animals and humans, we are more alike in terms of created earthly beings than we are to heavenly beings. Those making that argument can also point to similar physical structures as well.
Monday, when I relayed a conversation I had with my son, I mentioned that unlike animals, humans are able to reason and that because of our reasoning capacity, we perceive that we have reason. It is also vital to note that unlike animals we are created in the image of God. That means we have a rational soul that is able to create and reason logically. While there may be a few similarities in behavior—caring for our young and providing food for the “family”—it does not logically follow that we look to the animals to cherry pick our ethics.
Back to my cat Bagheera. I’m going to brag about him because he’s a great cat, and I’m pretty sure he has the intelligence of a toddler—a 12-pound muscular toddler with claws. When Bagheera does something wrong, he screams loudly, protesting his innocence. When he wants to get on the table, he puts his front paws on it first and studies my husband and I for our reactions. He possesses an intuitive sense of time and knows what to expect out of me at certain times in the day. He follows me around the house with the devotion of a toddler or a dog, except when I make dinner. That’s usually when he stays in the living room and throws a fit because I’m not paying attention to him. He’s also extremely affectionate, like many other mammals that are kept as pets.
From this anecdotal example, we see a few things. 1) There are similarities in behaviors between animals and humans. 2) Animals are able to give and receive something that resembles love, though on narcissistic terms. 3) This is not a creature I want to emulate in terms of morality. Sure, if you want to act like a toddler who hasn’t learned anything beyond basic needs and selfish desires instead of like an adult with a heightened sense of morality, you are free to do so. If you do, please don’t lecture the rest of us on obtaining natural law morality from the animals.
Admittedly, some of this was a little tongue-in-cheek. I don’t really believe that those who use animals in defense of natural law imitate their base behavior. But I do hope by taking their arguments to their natural conclusion, we can see the absurdity of their otherwise well-crafted arguments.
This post was light and a little flippant. Friday, I will dig more into natural law and my own philosophical beliefs on it.