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Do Animals Have Souls?
Gregory Koukl
Here's proof

I can prove to you that animals have souls, and it's actually not very difficult. There are certain activities of our mental life that are clearly defined and are clearly not physical, therefore they cannot reside in our physical bodies. Those activities include beliefs, intentions, desires and sensations. In other words, we experience feelings. We have beliefs about things. Based on those beliefs we may have a desire that we feel also, and that desire brings forth an intention to fulfill that desire.

A characteristic of soulish beings is to have mental activity that consist of beliefs, intentions, desires, sensations . . .

Now an intention or a belief or a desire or a sensation are not the kind of things you are going to bump into in the hall. It doesn't have weight, it doesn't occupy any space. You don't brake for these things. They are non-physical things, like ideas and numbers and propositions, and things like that. Since they don't exist in the physical world they cannot be accessed by the physical senses. So, since you have beliefs, intentions, desires and sensations--and you are clearly accessing them, and you are accessing them in a way that is not physical--then part of you is not physical either. The part of you that is non-physical is your soul.

A characteristic of soulish beings is to have mental activity that consist of beliefs, intentions, desires, sensations and one other which I can't recall. The point being, anything that has beliefs, intentions, desires or sensations must also have a soul to possess those things.

It doesn't seem to make any sense to say that a plant has beliefs about its world, or that it has intentions. One would ask, if it had an intention how would it ever fulfill it? It doesn't pick things up and eat them. It doesn't move to a new location where it's more comfortable, therefore it doesn't seem to have desires about things. It's not even clear that plants have sensations. Now, when I say a sensation, what I mean is the felt quality of a thing. It is possible for a plant to be cut in one portion of it and for another portion to wither, but because it withers it doesn't mean that it's experiencing pain. That may be merely a physical response to a physical stimulus. It is possible to have stimulus response relationships in non-animate objects, but only animate, living objects can even have pain. So, if inanimate objects can have stimulus response kinds of things, then animate objects can have stimulus response reactions with no felt pain either. So it may be that there's a physical stimulus that goes through the plant's system that results in the wilting of the leaves even though the plant is not consciously feeling any pain. In any event, it seems to make no sense, given the qualities of the mental life that I've just mentioned, to talk about plants having them. And therefore, it does not seem to make sense to argue that plants have souls. However, it seems to make entire sense that animals have those things--that animals have beliefs about things, that they have intentions, that they have desires, that they have sensations.

Also, animals have different kind of souls than human beings. Human being souls are made in the image of God and they live forever, they are everlasting. Animal souls are not made in the image of God, and we have no evidence that I can tell that they are everlasting.

When Pavlov rang his famous bell, the dog salivated because it believed it was about to get some food. As a result of that belief it set up a response in its body to produce the saliva. When the dog sees the food placed before him, it moves toward the food because it has an intention to eat, and there is desire of hunger inside of it that motivates the intention. As it eats, it chooses one food rather than another -- and you cat owners know about that -- because one food tastes better than another to the cat. Therefore it has sensation, too. In other words, animals have all of these things that are qualities and characteristics of the mental life. They have beliefs, they have intentions, they have desires, they have sensations--or they appear to. Since these things are not physical things, they are non- physical things and they must exist in the animal in the non-physical space that is real. That non-physical place is a soul. Ergo, animals have souls like human beings have souls.

But there are different kinds of souls--even in human beings. I think female souls are different than male souls. This is what encourages our valid generalizations about the differences between male and female, because the differences that we point out are soulish differences, not differences merely in plumbing or chemistry. Also, animals have different kind of souls than human beings. Human being souls are made in the image of God and they live forever, they are everlasting. Animal souls are not made in the image of God, and we have no evidence that I can tell that they are everlasting.

Just some fun thinking about the nature of the soul.

This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. --1994 Gregory Koukl

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