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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 6:20 pm 
Als u het leven te ernstig neemt, mist u de betekenis.
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Wikipedia wrote:
In many religions and parts of philosophy, the soul is the immaterial part of a person. It is usually thought to consist of one's thoughts and personality, and can be synonymous with the spirit, mind or self. In theology, the soul is often believed to live on after the person’s death, and some religions posit that God creates souls.
For once, a reasonable summation.

My question, to both religious and non-religious people is, do some other higher-order animals possess souls? Christianity doesn't think so. Some other religions do, but not in the mainstream.

When I saw my old dog cowering at me because it peed on the carpet, did it know it had done wrong under the value system I had imposed on it, or was it an automatic response to the pain it thought it would endure as a punishment? Are the two the same?

Are humans, ultimately, any different? Is that all a soul really is? Have we constructed an artifice to distinguish ourselves from the Savage? Yes, we can feel good inside about doing the right thing such as returning the discarded manuscript of the Twilight sequel or being in a position of power and not abusing it, but is the joy in that really just self-satisfaction - the pleasure that under our own cogniscence we have avoided punishment from the values imposed on us? Is that what a soul is? Does that extend to animals, but we don't see it, only the negative when they do pee?

Are we the Gods to (some of) our soulful pets? Hamsters and goldfish excluded.

I have no answers or opinions. Only puzzlement.

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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 6:34 pm 
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I don't think of a soul as being synonymous with a spirit at all. To me, a soul is simply your mind, will, and emotions. If you define it as such, then it's obvious to me that animals possess a soul. In fact, the word "animal" comes from the Latin word for "soul" (anima).

Whether we and/or animals possess a "spirit" - that's where I waver.

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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 7:03 pm 
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Lidless wrote:
Are we the Gods to (some of) our soulful pets?

Well, what makes a god? You mean the world to your pets, but it takes more than that to make a god, I think. Honestly, I think gods begin where our understanding leaves off, so I guess one has to start with how much your pets understand.

To me, a soul is that something that separates the living from the dead. It's more than just metabolism or movement - I've seen people unconscious and I've seen people freshly dead and there's a difference you can see with your eyes before you even touch them. And that's true for animals as well.

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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 8:03 pm 
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Lidless wrote:
When I saw my old dog cowering at me because it peed on the carpet, did it know it had done wrong under the value system I had imposed on it, or was it an automatic response to the pain it thought it would endure as a punishment? Are the two the same?


My answer to that spesific question: I'm sure it's shame. Our dog reacts in exactly the same way when she has peed indoors. It happens very, very rarely, but I remember well the times I came home from school and found a dog so shameful it was almost painful to watch. We have never ever punsihed her in any way, and never spoken stricly to her when she has peed indoors. We know it’s been accidents. So she couldn't be expecting anything unpleasant, any reaction of anger or punishment from us. And yet the enormous amount of shame, the clear knowledge that she had done something wrong/something we did not want her to do.

The soul question… Being an atheist, I don’t really believe in a soul, at least not in the more religious sense. And I can’t say I’ve given much thought to the question, because I believe that when we die, that’s just it – so it doesn’t really matter whether we have a soul or not, we’re gone anyway.

I suppose that I could use the word “soul” as a term for a person’s “extended personality”: everything that makes you you and is not a part of your physical body (including things that have a physical origin, so to speak, since I’m sure our personality has much to do with how our physical brain is built). Much like Jude’s “mind, will, and emotions”, I suppose.

Do some higher-order animals possess souls? Well, they sure possess personality. My dog’s a real one. It’s not just that she’s smart, she’s really got personality. I believe that higher-order animals are very much like us. Not as if they are humans in animal form, but in their own way. Humans probably have more well-developed personalities than animals (because we are more intelligent, I suppose), but they do have personalities.

And they can love. I know they can. A dog loving its owner of a lifetime. An elephant mother grieving for her dead child. And I think that love is strongly connected to having some sort of soul, because love means that you can’t just replace one individual with another. It’s an emotion that is more than instinct. I don’t think you can love if you haven’t got a personality, and since some kind of extended personality is the closest thing to a soul I believe we have, yes, I’d say higher-order animals have got souls.

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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 8:38 pm 
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Just to throw this into the mix - if the soul is tied in with personality, then there's no doubting that my mice have a great deal of it. It's very obvious with dogs, even to a non dog-owner, but observing my mice over time has shown that even they have highly different reactions to each other in everything they do. Nel Tu is shy with humans, and if taken out of the cage, she just wants to hide in the collar of the person holding her. However, she's aggressive with her sister, and often tries to chase her. Yachiru, on the other hand, used to be afraid of humans to the extent that she'd bite anybody who tried to hold her, but eventually she grew out of it. Now she runs up the side of the cage with excitement if I get near to it. She came off as being aggressive, but she's much more even-tempered than Nel.

She's also the most uncoortinated spastic little creature I've ever seen fail to work up the rythym to properly run in a wheel. :roll:

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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 9:24 pm 
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Lidless wrote:
Wikipedia wrote:
In many religions and parts of philosophy, the soul is the immaterial part of a person.


By that definition, I'd see "soul" and a term like "life force" as interchangeable which is pretty much how I think of the soul concept these days. And since, until some smartass scientist proves me wrong :p, I think life itself is something more than material (ie. physical/chemical), then any living thing, from bacteria to redwood, could be thought of as having a soul.


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PostPosted: Wed 20 May , 2009 9:27 pm 
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I think one's soul is part of the mechanism by which our higher selves interact with this physical world. Souls control chi energy which animates nervous systems. :shrug: Thus, everything alive has to have a bit of soul in it, or it couldn't *be* alive.

I don't think personality survives death, since the personality in this life is transitory and tied to the personality type your body is born with- but information about your life certainly persists back to the higher self after termination. Where else would it go? What would be the point of the exercise otherwise?

The higher self is much more complicated than any individual person, being the accumulated knowledge of mulitple lives and different sexes and species. That said, I don't think we have to treat animals the same as humans. They are at a different level in the game and have different goals and expectations.

Humans have already leveled up many times in the game of life. It remains to be seen if we are the apex, or there is more.....

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PostPosted: Thu 21 May , 2009 1:41 am 
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MariaHobbit wrote:
Thus, everything alive has to have a bit of soul in it, or it couldn't *be* alive.


Though I use "life force" where you use "chi", that's pretty much my thoughts on it too. :)


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PostPosted: Thu 21 May , 2009 1:53 am 
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~100 years ago, there were two schools of thought in biochemistry, roughly divided among the French and the Germans. The French believed that there was some sort of mystical life force that permeated all living things and therefore you couldn't replicate an enzymatic reaction in vitro. The Germans believed chemicals are chemicals no matter where they come from and you can, in fact, purify and reconstitute a biochemical reaction in a test tube. Experiments showed that the Germans were right about that. But, as a well-respected professor in my former department pointed out, the French hypothesis has not been fully disproven. And, until someone can come up with a good definition for a soul or life force and some means of looking for such things empirically, science will never address either. Like art and beauty and other rather abstract concepts, the soul lies outside science. You can't prove it's there, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

This is part of why I, as a scientist, feel comfortable stating I believe in souls. If there were good, clean empirical proofs souls did or did not exist (my personal experience at attempting to bring back the dead doesn't count for multiple reasons, the lack of controls being one of them), I wouldn't need a belief one way or the other. I'd know.

So we can just leave science out of this. :)

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PostPosted: Thu 21 May , 2009 2:19 am 

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I don’t believe in soul or spirit or anything of the sort - I see humans, and all living things for that matter, as being purely physical. And until someone can explain to me what souls or spirits are made of, how they are formed, how they don’t disperse and how they are capable of complexity then I place them, along with gods and angels and demons and the like, in the ‘physically impossible’, or least 'excluded my Occam's razor' category. I view myself as an extremely advanced gene replicator and nothing more.

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PostPosted: Thu 21 May , 2009 9:52 am 
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I don't think that what distinguishes animals from humans is soul. An animal clearly has a soul, feelings and emotions and some even values (like not peeing in the house or not biting your master). It has personality.

For me what distinguishes men from animals is culture and the ability to transmit knowledge to more than one generation and in other ways than directly. It is the intellectual capacity and not the soul. Or to say it differently: If a dog could write, I think it could write as beautiful love poems as a human being. The lack of ability is not about not knowing love, it is about not knowing how to write.

I do not believe that we are Gods to our animals, because our animals have a living proof of our existence and our love. But then, in my belief system, I come to the conclusion that anyway God only exists because humans exist who wonder about him and the most divine in the world is the human capacity to imagine something like a God. So in some way, you could say that I believe that we are Gods to ourselves.

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PostPosted: Fri 22 May , 2009 1:04 am 
Als u het leven te ernstig neemt, mist u de betekenis.
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I am of the same opinion as LM and Nin.

I have, thanks to evolution, a consciousness "with science?", which gives me, without Freudian compartmentalism, an ego. Without any evidence to the contrary, it is this consciousness that defines who I am, a natural state of quarks becoming protons, electrons and neutrons, of the latter becoming molecules, of molecules becoming self-sustaining molecules?

It is a natural compounding of the algorithms which makes Me, but I see no empirical evidence to the contrary *whatsoever*.

My talking of us as Gods to our pets as opposed to Creationist Gods I must admit are Greek-based, where they often persisted that their Gods lived and talked amongst them - setting rules of Good and Evil as opposed to creators of the universe.

So have we become Greek Gods to our more sophisticated pets? Is soul just a complex algorithm based on brain complexity and an ability to communicate across the generations? Is soul just a realisation that there is Me as opposed to everything else?

Is the question really, what It's Really All About? Is religion an artifice, a natural part of the evulutionary equation of quarks to fundamental particles to molecules to self-replicating molecules to consciousnesness? To an idea of belonging that maximises our genes?

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PostPosted: Fri 22 May , 2009 6:28 pm 
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Lidless wrote:
My question, to both religious and non-religious people is, do some other higher-order animals possess souls? Christianity doesn't think so. Some other religions do, but not in the mainstream.


Do they possess a soul? They possess something--some kind of life force, though I do think it's different than what humans possess.

It may not be a popular idea nowadays, but I do think it's pretty plain that humans are unique. That is not to say that animals are unimportant or less worthy of our love and care. It's just that they're, well, not human. Do they have personalities? I think so. Do they have feelings? Yes, I think so, some more pronounced than others. Do they think? Some do, yes, but it's not the same as human intellect. (Some of the higher order animals may come close, but they're still not quite on our level.)

I don't think the Bible specifically addresses the idea of what happens to an animal's life force when it dies. Therefore, I won't really speculate. Who knows?

And I do think that our souls are more than just some sort of system to avoid punishment and pain.

Quote:
Are we the Gods to (some of) our soulful pets? Hamsters and goldfish excluded


That's an interesting question from a Christian perspective. God gave this world, including animals, to humans for us to govern over. (I guess the hope was that we'd do so wisely. :suspicious: ) In a way, maybe we are demi-gods, but God has the ultimate authority over this world.

I found this interesting account based on the Biblical accounts (emphasis mine):

Quote:
So according to Genesis 2, God formed both man and animal from the ground, any difference being that man was formed from "dust from the-ground" while animal was formed "from the-ground" proper.

One might argue for a distinction between man and animal by saying that God breathed the breath of life into man, and not into the animals. Whether God also did that to the animals is not stated, but neither is it explicitly denied.

Note that after God breathed into the man the breath of life, he became a "living being" (nephesh chayyah), Genesis 2:7. In Genesis 1:24, God says re: the creation of animals: "Let the earth bring forth living beings." It's the identical nephesh chayyah as in Gen. 2:7, and in both cases "living" is a feminine singular adjective, modifying the feminine singular nephesh (often translated "soul").

Thus, a case could be made that there is no distinction between the creation of man and animals: i.e., both were created/formed/made to be a "living being" and both were formed from the ground - save that Man was made after God's image and likeness, and [the other] animals were not.

Thus it appears that the primary difference between man and animal, according to Genesis 1 & 2, is that man was made in the image and likeness of God.


[An aside: The word usually translated "formed" (yatzar) is not used in Genesis 1:26-27, which uses asah (made) and barah (create). Genesis 2, which does use yatzar, does not mention man being made in God's image. Likewise, Genesis 5:1 only uses "create" and "made" when referring to man/Adam being in God's image. The passages referring to man being made in God's image do not use the word "formed."]

The text does not say that the animals did NOT have life breathed into them by God. That both man and animal were given life and both were termed nephesh chayyah - and man was not called nephesh chayyah until God breathed into him the breath of life - suggests that God likewise breathed the breath of life into animals, too, so that they, too, could become nephesh chayyah.

However, people might still argue as another distinction between man and animals that animals only have a body and soul, whereas man has a body, a soul and a spirit.

Granted, God breathed into man the breath of life, and man thus became a nephesh chayyah, a "living being." The word nephesh is the word that's often translated "soul." So one could perhaps translate Genesis 1:20 ("living beings") and Genesis 1:24 ("living beings") and Genesis 2:7 ("living being") as "living soul(s)," and not "living being(s)." This also suggests that God doesn't give man a soul; rather, man is a soul. And the Hebrew use of nephesh supports the idea that it refers to the totality of a creature's being, not one-third of man's nature (assuming a trichotomous view of man), or one-half of man's nature (assuming a dichotomous view of man).

(Thus, nephesh doesn't have the mystical inner-part-of-man’s-nature sense that our word "soul" tends to convey. People have likely drawn some incorrect inferences about man's spiritual makeup by an inadequate understanding of the frankly mundane meaning that nephesh commonly has, as seen by these verses and other uses of nephesh in the Hebrew Scriptures.)

The common Hebrew word for "spirit," ruach, is also the word for "wind" or "breath," just like the Greek word pneuma also means "spirit/wind/breath." Some say that God breathing the breath of life into man gave man a spirit, which made him distinct from animals. In Genesis 2:7, however, the word ruach (breath, spirit) is not used. The Hebrew states: "wayyippach b'appayw nishmat chayyim - and he-blew/puffed in-his-nostrils breath (n'shamah*) of-lives (pl. of chayyah)." There is no mention of spirit/ruach here. While one might infer that this is what happened, ruach is not said to be imparted to man in the text, and God's ruach is not explicitly involved.

* This word n'shamah (translated here as "breath") is frequently used with the same meaning as nephesh in rabbinic literature. In the Kaballah, it is used for the part of man that is higher than the nephesh, i.e., the intellectual and spiritual aspects as opposed to the instinctual and physical aspects.

Since man didn't become a nephesh chayyah until God breathed into him the breath of life, and animals, too, are designated nephesh chayyah, one cannot rule out that God breathed into animals the breath of life also, just like He did to man. Genesis 7:21-22 reads:

"And-died all flesh that-moved on the-earth with-the-fowl and-with-the-beast and-with-the-living-[things] (chayyah) and-with-all the-creeping-thing the-creeping on the-earth and-all the-man[kind]. All which breath (n'shamah) of-spirit (ruach) of-lives (chayyim) in-his-nostrils from-all which in-the-dry-land they-died."

It thus appears that n'shamah ruach chayyim (breath of spirit of life) and n'shamah chayyim (breath of life) may be interchangeable terms, which suggests that man also received ruach when God breathed into him. And because the same language used here with respect to all living things is the same language that was used with respect to man in Genesis 2:7, it suggests that birds and beasts and all living things also received n'shamah [ruach] chayyim at some point in order for them to have life. This again supports the idea that the primary difference between man and animal is that man was made in the image and likeness of God, and other animals were not.

In John 20:22 where Jesus blows and tells the disciples to receive pneuma hagion (holy spirit), it says that Jesus enefusesen (3rd person singular aorist active indicative of emfusao). It's the identical word (same tense, person, etc.) as used in the Septuagint (ancient Greek translation of the Pentateuch) in Genesis 2:7. Some have thus seen a correlation between Jesus blowing (the) Holy Spirit into(?) the disciples at John 20:22 and God blowing breath of life into Adam at Genesis 2:7. It may be from this that the idea comes that God imparted "spirit" to Adam when he blew/puffed breath of life into his nostrils. However, because it caused Adam to become a nephesh chayyah, and the animals are also termed nephesh chayyah after they are created, if one argues that in Genesis 2:7, based on the words used and not used, that God breathed "spirit" into man/Adam, one could argue that He likewise might have breathed "spirit" into animals to cause them to have life. (See also above comments re: Genesis 7:21-22.)

Also, Psalm 104:29 says with respect to the animals: "Thou dost hide Thy face, they are dismayed; Thou dost take away their ruach (breath? or perhaps spirit?), they expire and return to their dust." This indicates that animals, like man, might have a ruach, and they, like man, return to dust (aphar), indicating that they, too, were probably formed from dust.

This further supports the conclusion that the primary distinction in Genesis 1 & 2 between man and animal seems to come down to man being made in the image and likeness of God. To argue that other differences include that man was "formed" whereas animals were "made," or that man came "from the dust of the ground" whereas animals only come "from the ground," or that man has a "spirit" but animals do not, is difficult to prove or conclude from the text, as the Hebrew Scriptures use basically identical wording for the creation and giving of life to both man and animals.


Something to think about anyway! I think it's that part about being made in God's image that makes us unique from the other animals and gives us what one might call our soul or our spirit, as well as our intellect.

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PostPosted: Fri 22 May , 2009 6:51 pm 
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Maria and Yov pretty much summed up how I view things.

But I also believe "God" or whatever higher power being gave us animals to help us learn to be better humans. I think in our movement through this existence that it is important that we learn to be gracious with all living creatures be it animals, plants or planet. I think it matters to God how we treat those life forms lower than we are, not only for the sake of those lower life forms but for the sake of our own souls. I think we also piss God off if we are not thankful for the animals and plants we eat and use, but that's just me.

And I take the approach to animals having as soul muck like Maria, I think they have a soul, it's not like our human spirits or souls, but they have one. But I also think Planets are living things with souls. :)

And yes I do see how animals would consider us humans to be gods. Thus I think it is important that we be kind gods.

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PostPosted: Sat 23 May , 2009 7:57 am 
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My view of the soul of any animal from the crafty human to the curious meerkat is the same as my view on ghosts, god, and invisible pink unicorns--they don't exist anywhere but our minds. As far as I know, dogs don't think souls exist either, but then I was never very good at foreign language. Just as humans invented god as the comfort food of the unknown, so was the soul invented. It feels nicer to think that we have an immortal side that gets to spend eternity in the celestial playground, but the delusion is in the same place that we think gives the delusion weight--our minds.

With respect to our standing as the god of dogs, we have to think of humanity's dependence on the mythical man in the sky (regardless of religion). People say that this man created all that we see... for our dogs, we save them from the sad life of living in a pound. People thank this man for providing the food on the dinner table... for our dogs, we buy the Alpo, we regulate when it lands in the dish. People kill over interpretations of this man... for our dogs, many protect their owners with little regard to their future. I think we might be the god of dogs in their eyes. Again, my foreign language skills are not up to snuff.

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PostPosted: Sat 23 May , 2009 9:30 am 
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I don't think we are like Gods to our dogs. I think they view their familiy as their pack. And then they may be the lowest member of the pack, but that's still about a million miles away from any God-thing. Also, even apart from the fact that I don't think animals think like that, why should they think that we have created the world around them? Okay, perhaps the house, but let a dog loose in the woods, and it's full of smells and sounds and life that has no connections whatsoever with humans.

As for other animals, which may not be pack animals, I don't think they believe we are anything like Gods either. One look of disdain from your cat, and you've never felt less God-like. :P

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PostPosted: Sat 23 May , 2009 9:40 am 

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That is an interesting point - a lot of discussion on dog behaviour and dog training that I've heard focuses on making the dog look at you as being 'pack leader'.

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PostPosted: Sat 23 May , 2009 1:53 pm 
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What is a god if not the pack leader? The role of pack leader (as a human) is to be the provider, and disciplinarian, which is similar to a god in a religion although the practical stuff is imaginary.

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PostPosted: Sun 24 May , 2009 12:49 am 
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I don't think a God and a pack leader is the same thing. A pack leader is part of the collective, and though he may be, as you call it, a disciplinarian, he's still subject to the pack's rules (though he may be the one to channel them back to the group). He's not supreme without limits. He's - well - a leader, not a God. A God, in my opinion, is far more and something quite different from a leader. He's outside and different from the collective, and above its rules - which, I suppose, he is making, but does not need to follow. And then add the mythical stuff...

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PostPosted: Tue 26 May , 2009 12:57 pm 
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In most traditions a god is indeed a superman or superwoman, but it's also invisible and intangible. So no; I wouldn't say that pets think of their owners as gods.


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