Monday, August 7, 2006

Common Dehumanator

Sixteen-year old Abraham Cherrix has been ordered by a judge – against the wishes of both he and his parents – to undergo chemotherapy to treat his cancer. Public outrage toward the judge’s decision, at least as it is being reported in the mainstream press, is muted. At first glance, the fact that Abraham is being explicitly told what he can do with, and to, his body, seems to stand in sharp contrast to the pro-abortionist creed that “no one should be able to tell a woman what she can do with her body.” Isn’t this just a little inconsistent?

One might assume that the appearance of hypocrisy stems from the fact that Abraham is a minor who lacks the wisdom to make a rational, informed decision about a fate that is so agonizingly personal. That is, unless you have heard Abraham speak. He is an articulate, well-informed young man who has thoroughly researched his options and has chosen to pursue a less nauseating, natural cure for his disease. Beside that, Abraham’s parents have agreed to support his decision and have publicly defended it in repeated interviews.

No, the fact is that there really isn’t any inconsistency at all. Both views share a common denominator – a belief in the supremacy of science and its ability to answer all our questions and overcome all our problems. Both views are the logical products of an anti-religious scientism that pervades our culture. Abraham, like the pro-life proponents who the media also disdain, is always portrayed as a fundamentalist Christian zealot who would be happy to live in a theocracy of his own making. Because religion has been cast as a purely personal preference with no legitimate voice in the marketplace of ideas, the practice of de-legitimizing religious ideas has become accepted without much objection -- even from religious believers.

If you want to see this paradigm in action, just read this story about the debate over the so-called "morning after" pill.
Scientists long ago concluded that the "morning-after pill," marketed as Plan B, is both effective and safe enough to be sold over the counter without restriction. Seventy leading medical and public health groups have told the agency so for years. The pill lowers the risk of pregnancy by nearly 90% when taken within 72 hours of sex and could cut in half the nation's 3 million unintended pregnancies each year ... But rather than follow the medical evidence, as it is mandated to do, FDA has catered to groups that believe, without convincing evidence, that Plan B promotes teen promiscuity and causes abortions.
Notice that invoking the conclusions of scientists is deemed sufficient reason to end all debate about the subject. Like Abraham Cherrix, whose doctors' opinions trump his personal convictions, science not only has the last word, it is allowed to define the terms of the debate. We see this same assumption at play in the debate about embryonic stem cell research.

Unfortunately this tendency to seek and accept science as the arbiter of our morality has been tacitly accepted by the religious community as well. As Francis Beckwith points out in his essay in Darwin's Nemesis, even "opponents of philosophical naturalism ... [sometimes] with the noblest of intentions, believe they are advancing the cause of fairness or 'balanced treatment' by offering policies that absorb the premises of scientific materialism without knowing it." (106) These are usually policies that "presuppose that religion or theology is not a branch of real knowledge." (114)

There are much smarter people than I who make a living disassembling scientism's philosophical weaknesses. But for the rest of us it is a simple task to turn the tables on those who demand we accept their scientific paradigm by forcing them to take a dose of their own medicine.

First, they claim that Abraham Cherrix will be better off by being forced to undergo chemotherapy. By what standard do Abraham's doctors or the judge determine what "better off" is? It would seem that declaring one outcome for Abraham as being more desirable than another is a value comparison -- just the kind of comparison a materialist claims is not valid. By strict materialist (Darwinist) standards, Abraham should not be treated at all. Having contracted a deadly disease, Cherrix would be more properly branded a target of natural selection who is meant for extinction. Though that is the logical endpoint of the naturalistic worldview, there are very few (but there are some!) who would accept such a conclusion.

Second, the non-reality of moral imperatives inherent in the naturalistic paradigm, denies any limit on human autonomy. Yet, the the doctors (of law and medicine) are denying Abraham Cherrix the autonomy their own worldview demands he should have.

The point is that the naturalist cannot live within his own worldview. He must either borrow objective morality, or suppress it to serve his own purposes. In either case, he dehumanizes himself or those on whom he seeks to impose his worldview against their will.

Science is not the enemy. The idolizing of science -- the acceptance of science as having the final say in matters like these while simultaneously denying the objective reality of moral judgements -- is the common denominator in a worldview that dehumanizes us all.

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