[source: Mustafa K Anuar’s blog]
Ray Comfort attempts to explain why it is that animals don’t seek retribution whilst humans have such a powerful drive for obtaining justice:
Human beings are not like animals, or birds, insects and fish. Sure, animals, birds, insects and fish all have eyes, a mouth, blood, a stomach, an appetite, and will to live, and we all bed down at night. But there is something absolutely unique about the human race. We are moral beings. Fish don’t have court systems. Neither do animals insects or birds.
If one of their kind transgresses some moral law, they don't seek retribution. They don’t have a judge and jury and punish a guilty one of their kind. But man certainly does. He will go to the ends of the earth and spend billions of dollars to bring the guilty to justice. This is because we are made in the image of God. We have His likeness engraved upon us in that we know right from wrong.
Um … no, Ray. That’s not how it works. The reason we humans have legal systems (and corresponding court and penal systems) when animals and bugs don’t is because we also have the intelligence, wisdom and knowledge to be able to envision those concepts and then bring them to reality. Second, animals don’t have any moral laws to transgress, as such would inherently imply that morality comes from some exterior source, such as some form of higher intelligence. And, given all that we know about the origins and development of morality in humans in contrast to the complete lack of morals and ethics in animals, that’s just silly. Animals don’t seek punishment or revenge because they usually have neither the intelligence, nor the emotional capacity, nor a good enough memory, to hold grudges as humans do. For them, everything is in the now; once the offense has passed, it is quickly forgotten. (If only humans had evolved that way.)
And finally, that someone is obsessed over an offense enough to bankrupt themselves and pursue the alleged offender to the ends of the world for retribution (or “justice”) is probably not something that ought to be claimed in our favor. There is nothing logical or rational about our human and very emotional concept of “justice”, which in 99% of cases is no more than vengeance cloaked in righteousness. Punishing someone because they hurt you, even if his/her offense was terrible and he/she is a cruel and vile individual, simply has no basis in reason. What does hurting someone who hurt you first have to offer? Does it fix the hurt they gave you? Does it change history and prevent it from ever happening? Does punishment inherently lead to the punished regretting their crimes and vowing penance for having harmed you? No. It is vindication and little more. But because revenge is something felt so powerfully by nearly every human alive, it is accepted, even encouraged, over such logical alternatives as compassionate rehabilitation.
(Now, I’m not trying to get on a high horse and declare that anyone who wishes to get vindicated for an offense they suffered is morally wrong. I’m just saying that throwing criminals behind bars, or suing someone who wronged you, or even punching some moron who spoke a bit too freely about your mother, regardless how satisfying it may feel, has no concrete rationale in logic. It’s emotional.)