Do Animals have Souls? What 7 major religions have to say.

Do animals have souls?

Of course, this begs this question: do souls exist?

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume that they do — most of us having gleaned that information from our religious beliefs and texts.

So let’s take a look at those.

Of the six top organized religions by number of followers, three of them — Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism — believe in reincarnation, that is, a cycle of death and rebirth.  This rebirth takes place in both humans and animals.

Hindus and Sikhs believe that both humans and animals have eternal souls that through this process of rebirth can be purified.   Buddhists do not believe in eternal souls per se, but do believe that both human and animals have a Buddha-nature and therefore the possibility of becoming enlightened.

All three believe that reincarnation holds for both humans and animals and that all creatures are on the path to purification or enlightenment.

The other three religions, the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, are more nuanced in their approaches.  But in their sacred writings all of them assert that animals praise and glorify God and that He watches over them.  (See quotes below.)  I’ll leave the question open as to whether the knowledge and ability to praise God is scriptural evidence of a soul, but the implication is unmistakably there.

Lastly, St Francis, easily the most popular Christian with those outside the religion, thought all creatures had souls – they were all in his ‘brotherhood’ – and he often preached to the birds.  It stands to reason that he wouldn’t be preaching to them unless he had a reason to be.

Quotations:

Christianity:
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.   (Matthew 10:28)

Islam:
Each one (i.e. all beings) knows its own prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do.  (Quran 24:41)

Hinduism:
Deer, camel, donkey, monkey, rats, creeping animals, birds and flies — one should consider them like one’s own children, and not differentiate between one’s children and these creatures.  (Bhagavata Purana 7.14.9)

Buddhism:
All beings tremble before violence.  All fear death, all love life.  See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt?  What harm can you do?  (Buddha)

Sikhism:
Nature in species, kinds,  colors.  Nature in life forms.  All nature is yours, Oh powerful  Creator.  You command it, observe it and pervade within it.  (Guru Granth Sahib)

Judaism:
The beast of the field shall honor me. The wild beast of the field shall glorify me.  (Isaiah 43:20)

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

Who is that Dolphin in the Mirror? (Dolphin Consciousness)

Are dolphins conscious?

In my novel, The Last Island, an animal rights activist, Kerryn, thinks so and is willing to risk her life to prove it.

But is there evidence for this assertion?

Consciousness is notoriously difficult to define, and we can get bogged down in definitions until we ourselves start to lose it – first by falling asleep and then, ultimately, by dying.

I think most of us would agree that if we can’t define something satisfactorily for ourselves, we certainly have no right to deny to any other creature. That is, I can’t say that humans or animals don’t have ‘something’, if I don’t know what that ‘something’ is.

But for the purposes of this post, let’s define consciousness as what most of us intuit it to be: the state of being aware of the world around us. But that doesn’t seem to be enough, does it? Mere ‘awareness of the world.’ So let’s set the bar higher.

Let’s go beyond mere consciousness and ask ourselves if dolphins possess self-consciousness (or subjective consciousness), which can be defined as an awareness of one’s own self or an awareness of one’s own awareness — a sort of dual awareness, if you will.

Dolphin’s exhibit at least two distinct behaviors that demonstrate self-consciousness.

The first is their keen interest in mirrors. They know when they are looking at themselves and, like us, are fascinated. This could be either narcissism or because their inner sense of themselves doesn’t quite match their outward appearance. But both are demonstrations of consciousness of a self.

A second and more powerful demonstration of self-consciousness is that dolphins have been known to commit suicide. (There is some debate about this, but a preponderance of evidence indicates that they do.) For a creature to commit suicide, they need to have an awareness of their awareness (or consciousness) as something that can be extinguished — in the same way that you must know a candle is lit before you can put it out.

And there you have it: two demonstrations of dolphin self-consciousness.

Here’s the Cambridge Declaration On Consciousness in Non-Human Animals, which was signed by a number of prominent scientists on July 7, 2012. It was late in the day for such a declaration, but better late than never.

In my next post, I’ll raise the bar even higher — to a metaphysical level — and address whether dolphins have souls.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

Death Penalty for Killing Dolphins? (Dolphin Intelligence)

In my novel, The Last Island, an animal rights activist claims that dolphins possess intelligence, consciousness and even souls.

But is there any evidence for this?

Let’s start with dolphin intelligence.  Dolphin brains are at least as large and well-developed as our own, and they and their ancestors have been ‘brainier’ for a lot longer.  That said, we humans are proud of our technological society (despite the harm it may doing to the planet) and take it as a measure of own superiority or ‘dominion’ over the animals.

But if a technological society is proof of an intelligent species, why haven’t dolphins developed one?

An answer may be found in Isaac Asimov’s remarkably concise, Asimov’s Chronology of the World.  Asimov writes that “water is so viscous a medium that it tends to enforce streamlining on any organism that wishes to move quickly within it.  Fast-moving organisms are smoothly ‘fish-shaped’ in one way or another, and rarely have irregular shapes.”  But in air, a less-viscous medium, irregular shapes are not such a problem.  The result is that humans developed hands to manipulate the Universe about them, while dolphins did not.

In addition, the foundation of all technology, fire, can’t exist in water.  So without fire and hands, no technological society is conceivable in water, which is the reason dolphins haven’t developed one.

The truth is: there’s no good reason to believe that dolphin intelligence isn’t superior to ours.

It was a capital offense to kill a dolphin in Ancient Greece.  Maybe it’s something we should consider…

In a later post, I’ll address dolphin consciousness.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.