Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Deadly Paradox of Humanism

This week’s VA topic is “Glory to Man In The Highest: The Dangerous Claim of Humanism” and is being hosted at Razor’s Kiss. Thanks again to Joshua for doing so much leg work on apologetics and the blogosphere.

My take on the topic this week is colored by some recent research I have been doing in the area of biotechnology and bioethics. One does not need to be a scientist to follow the ethical and technological implications involved in the ‘biotech century’ and frankly, the possibilities are frightening.

My basic thesis is that due to the excessive value placed on the progress of the human being, a natural result of Humanism, we have reached a place of deadly paradox. This paradox is currently highlighted by the conflicting realities of frighteningly amazing medical advances capable of extending life well beyond a point which used to be considered ‘natural’, and the morally horrific circus which is the Terri Schaivo case.

Humanism has, all at the same time, glorified the potential of the human being and debased its nature altogether. The basic thesis that the human can ‘do whatever is possible’ has reached a point where the inoculation of science is necessary. It is clear that we cannot live forever; enter genetic modification. It is clear we cannot stop disabilities; enter prosthetics and nanotechnology. It is clear we cannot stop disease; enter genetic modification of the environment. And it is exactly because we have learned that we cannot stop the decay of life that we have tried so hard to eliminate nature’s most difficult cases; we have learned to abort and euthanize what we cannot control.

As a result of Humanism, human nature has become infinitely malleable. And here the old saying is true, “Where everything is human nature, nothing is human nature.” We are beginning as a society to decide that the natures we have been given as a divine right are no longer good enough. Athletes need unnatural enhancement; models and actors need ‘plastic’ surgery (what a telling term for plastic careers!). And more and more we are all buying the Faustian bargain.

On the other side of the coin is human nature as defined by Christian tradition and our creation as beings in God’s own image. Our decaying physical bodies are only a portion of our natures, and to be honest, learning how to deal with that decay is an important part of the development of our humanity. Being created in God’s image means, at least in part, that my inner life is crucial, and there is nothing scientific which can modify my spirit. No gene therapy will ever enrich my soul; no nanotechnology will ever make me a better person.

I am more than my genes, my zits and my myopia. I have a nature given by God endued with His image, and destined for eternal communion with Him.

3 comments:

Bill Wallo said...

Nice post. Very insightful.

Phil Steiger said...

Thanks for the kind words!

Mike Bennett said...

Phil,
Great thought provoking post! I have always wondered why the pro abortion and euthanasia folks are so passionate about killing their fellow humans. You said, "And it is exactly because we have learned that we cannot stop the decay of life that we have tried to hard to eliminate nature’s most difficult cases; we have learned to abort and euthanize what we cannot control."

Pretty insightful. I guess we want to get rid of reminders that we are not gods.

God Bless,
Mike <><