My discussion of tramautic insemination and the problem of natural evil elicited a range of responses. But I’d like to focus on the response from David Marshall. He writes:
As for bugs and their sorrows, frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn. Sorry, but it’s not like they have feelings.
Wow, that’s even stronger than Rhett Butler. While Butler doesn’t give a damn, Marshall couldn’t give a damn. And the reason he couldn’t give a damn? Because bugs don’t “have feelings”.
Sentimental and substantive ways not to give a damn
Now there are two ways to think about Marshall’s response. We can call them the sentimental and the substantive.
The sentimental response would mean that whether or not “bugs” suffer is not emotionally moving. It’s like seeing the animal rights activists at the lobster festival and retorting “As for lobsters and their sorrows, frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn. Bring on the melted butter!” (However, I would advise that lobster eater to read this finely crafted and disturbing essay from Gourmet Magazine.)
The fact is that whether or not a person is emotionally moved by the plight of another living creature is hardly the final word on whether the plight of that creature constitutes a defeater for theism.
The other, and much more interesting take, would be what I’m calling the substantive response. According to this response, we don’t have to worry about the lives of bugs because, as Marshall says, “it’s not like they have feelings.”
Unfortunately, the language is misleading. The really substantive claim, and the one that I will charitably interpret Marshall to be making, is that bugs are not sentient. This is an interesting claim, and one that I shall return to in a subsequent post. But for now it is fair to ask Marshall how he can be sure of this.
The Real Issue: Natural evil and a “good” creation
Now for the real issue. The previous post was not ultimately about whether bat bugs suffer through traumatic insemination. The issue, rather, is that traumatic insemination is not the kind of thing we should expect if the world were created and sustained by an omnibenevolent and omnipotent deity.
Just think about it. Imagine that Adam’s in the garden before the fall. While he’s lounging on the grass eating some grapes he sees one bug climb on top of the other and, as the other bug struggles in apparent distress, the “aggressor” pierces it in the abdomen. Adam is shocked. “God!” he cries out, “Look what that one bug is doing to the other.” And God replies, “Oh, that’s just how I made them to reproduce.” Adam is puzzled. “But you declared your creation good. This seems so needlessly violent.”
Indeed, it does. It is not the kind of thing you should expect to see in a pre-lapsarian world.
So then a person might want to say this: “Perhaps traumatic insemination is a result of Adam sinning by eating the fruit. It could be that their coital practices only became violent after the fall.”
Yes, that may be possible. But to think it is plausible one would hope for some kind of conceivable causal connection between the two. How would it be that a human moral action would lead to the alteration of physiology and behavior of a bug thereby resulting in traumatic insemination? This certianly is not the kind of effect one would expect to see.
So we have a two-fold problem. Traumatic insemination is not what you would expect to see before the fall and it is not what you would expect to see as a result of the fall. And to the extent that it is not, the presence of the behavior within the natural world provides a defeater to the claim that the world was created and is sustained by an omnibenevolent and omnipotent deity.