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April 29, 2009

by Wesley J. Smith

side bar side bar side bar side bar side bar side bar When Aldous Huxley wrote his prophetic 1932 novel Brave New World, he envisioned a dystopian future in which mankind would become, in the words of bioethicist Leon Kass, "so dehumanized that he doesn't even realize what has been lost."

Huxley believed we would evolve into a society steeped in radical hedonism—where drugs would be used to erase every negative emotion and promiscuity would be not just the norm, but the expected. He also saw our future as becoming profoundly utilitarian and eugenic, depicted in his novel by genetically engineered babies being decanted through a cloning-type process rather than being born, a society without families, without the old and sick—who are done away with rather than being cared for—and without real purpose other than experiencing transitory pleasure. It is a world in which human life has been objectified and thereby made less than human.

Looking around, can there be any doubt of Huxley's prescience across the board? Look at what is happening in the field of biotechnology as just one example. Despite breakthroughs in ethical stem cell research—such as the induced pluripotent stem cell that is made from normal skin or other cells—scientists continue to insist that they need to clone human beings for use in experiments and to develop medical treatments. Political pressure is growing to have the taxpayers foot the bill for cloning research, with editorials in the New York Times and the science journal Nature promoting public funding. A bill will soon be introduced in Congress to do that very thing.

Meanwhile, some bioethicists promote creating fetuses through cloning and gestating them in artificial wombs from which to harvest body parts— a proposal that would be explicitly legal under New Jersey law. Fertility doctors have already announced that they are striving to bring cloned babies to birth (although at this time it is almost certainly not technically feasible).

The brave new world agenda marks a Rubicon in human morality. Not only does it—as in the bad old days of slavery—redefine some human beings as mere natural resources, but for the first time in history human beings are being created with the explicit purpose of destroying and harvesting them like a corn crop.

Ironically, as we objectify and depersonalize vulnerable humans, powerful social forces strive to personalize and raise the moral status of animals—and even nature itself.

  • Peter Singer's Great Ape Project that seeks to create a "moral community of equals" between human beings and chimpanzees, gorillas, and other primates, is now the public policy of Spain.
  • Pregnant pigs have been given the constitutional right not to be kept in crates by the voters of Florida. (That may be proper animal welfare policy, but pigs should not be granted "constitutional rights").
  • The European Court of Human Rights has accepted an appeal from Austria's Supreme Court's refusal to grant formal personhood to a chimpanzee.
  • Switzerland has declared the "intrinsic dignity" of plants.
  • Ecuador has given "rights" to "nature" in its new constitution that are co-equal with that of human beings.
  • A-list Hollywood movies have adopted the anti-humanism of the Deep Ecology. (a radical ideology that, among other agenda items, seeks to reduce human population to 500 million). The remake of old science fiction The Day the Earth Stood Still exemplifies these disturbing changes. In the original, the alien came to earth to save humankind from itself. In the new version, the alien—played by mega star Keanu Reeves—comes to earth to obliterate the human race, literally, to "save the Earth."

All of this—and more—are parts of the ongoing coup de culture that is mounting an unprecedented assault on Judeo/Christian moral philosophy and "human exceptionalism," the belief that moral value comes simply and merely from the status of being human, an essential foundation for the intellectual defense of universal human rights.

But human exceptionalism isn't just about our rights. Equally important, the principle also promotes human duties—to each other, to our posterity, and to the natural world. Indeed, in the known universe we are the only species that can be held morally accountable if we fail to do the right thing.

Which brings us to a seemingly unconnected event: American Humane's annual "Be Kind to Animals Week," sponsored by the group every year since 1915 to "commemorate the role animals play in our lives, promote ways to treat them humanely, and encourage others, especially children, to do the same."

Be Kind to Animals Week promotes pet adoption, gives information on shelters, teaches proper pet care, and promotes proper and humane care of all animals, with special emphasis to instructing children in this important human duty.

How does "Be Kind to Animals Week" differ from the Great Ape Project and other animal rights advocacy? It supports human exceptionalism by encouraging us to fulfill our human duties to animals, without undermining our unique moral status by according "rights" to animals. And that is a distinction with a huge difference. After all, if being human—in and of itself—is not what gives us the sacred obligation to treat animals properly, what does?

Those who seek to knock us off the pedestal of exceptionalism believe that once we see ourselves merely as one of infinite parts of nature, we will improve our care for flora and fauna. But the truth is the mirror opposite. If we ever come to see ourselves as merely another animal in the forest, that is precisely how we will act—both to nature and toward each other. The ongoing objectification of vulnerable human life—also justified by its proponents by denying human exceptionalism—is a warning of this truth that we dare not ignore.

Responses to Unmasking Bart Ehrman:

Benjamin Wiker Responds: "There is a constant confusion, that goes back to Darwin's time, that one must choose between a kind of direct creation of all living things as we find them (often called creationism), and entirely blind, godless evolution. On this view, any evolution at all entirely contradicts and renders null and void the notion of a Creator, whether it is the evolution of men from monkeys, or just a slight difference in coloration or bone structure. But if we do not accept this either-or position--and we at tothesource do not [insert (and most creationists do not either!)]--but rather believe that evolution did happen and that God exists, finding evidence in the genome for evolution does not harm belief in God. What we at tothesource object to is (1) a materialist, reductionist approach to evolution that excludes divine action, and (2) the notion that evolution as a science is entirely complete, and no difficulties and gaps that exist need to be explained."

Dear Dr. Wiker, First of all, I want you to know that I appreicate the work of the Discovery Institute. I appreciate the fact that many scientists are stepping out on a limb and questioning Darwinism publicly. However, I am what you would call a creationist. I feel offended when you mischaracterize what most creationists believe and I feel that happened in this previous post. I would like to interact a bit with the answer you gave to the guy asking about the monkey genome. I am not a scientist which you will be able to tell from my answer, but my main point here is that you are misrepresenting creationists. This I would appreciate if you would correct. You say this about creationists: one must choose between a kind of direct creation of all living things as we find them (often called creationism), " Now there may still be a few creationists out there who really believe that, but you would have to look long and hard to find them. At least I am not aware of any, although I haven't looked very hard to find any either. Most creationists, or at least the leading crationists, actually allow lots of room for evolution to have worked as long as that evolution is confined to the original created kinds that God tells us about in Genesis. If by evolution you mean microevolution, evolution within kinds, then we are on the same page here. However, if you mean that the DI believes molecules to man evolution took place with God's help, then we are on a different page. Anyway, to explain the creationist stance on the fixity of species, I have copied a portion of an an article from one well known creationists site explaining this. To read the whole article, click on the link: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2009/03/16/fixity-of-species

"After Linnaeus, both of these words (species and genus) were commonly used in modern biological classification systems with slightly different definitions. In the mid-to-late 1700s, species began taking on a new, more specific definition in scientific circles as a biological term (that definition is still being debated even today). But by and large, the definition had changed so that, instead of there being a dog species (or dog kind), there were many dog species. In the lay and church sense, the word species was still viewed as the biblical “kind.” But as the scientific term gained popularity, this led to a problem. When theologians and church members said “fixity of species” (meaning fixity of the biblical kinds) people readily saw that there were variations among the species (by the new definition). They thought, “But species do change!” Of course, no one ever showed something like a dog changing into something like a cat. Dogs were still dogs; cats were still cats, and so on. However, a bait-and-switch fallacy had taken place. Christians were teaching fixity of species (kinds), but the definition of species changed out from under them. So, Christians looked ignorant when people began observing that species—by the new definition—do change. Of course, in reality, this was merely variation within the created kinds, for example, dogs could be observed changing into something different—still dogs, but not looking like other “species” (by the new definition) of dogs. So, it appeared that the created kinds were becoming new species (new definition), even though the animals did not change into a different kind of animal. It appeared that the church was wrong. Perhaps the most influential critique of fixity of species came from Charles Darwin, whose book On the Origin of Species tackled the misunderstood idea of fixity of species (though it never used the term “fixity”). Mr. Darwin studied many creatures during his travels and realized there was variation and not fixity of species (by the new definition)."

Even today, an objection commonly leveled at the Bible is that it claims that species are fixed. A good response would be: “To which definition of species are you referring?” By the old definition (as a kind), creationists would agree, but would probably better state it in modern English as fixity of the created kinds so as not to confuse the issue. The idea of one kind changing into another can be argued against based on the fact that no such change has ever been observed. (Many DI scientists would also question this type of evolution I believe.) After Darwin’s book, many churches gave up fixity of species (by either definition) and began taking compromised positions such as theistic evolution (basically giving up Genesis for molecules-to-man evolution and then picking up with Abraham). Realizing that the church had been duped by a bait-and-switch fallacy, provides a valuable learning tool. When people fail to understand history, they often repeat it. Surely, you have heard this before haven't you Dr. Wiker? Do you really think that creationists actually believe that God created things exactly as we see them now? If so, you are way off base here and you must think creationists are really stupid and anti-science. By far the vast majority of creationists believe that God created the original kinds with a genetically rich genome that provided all the genetic information necessity for the current diversity of species that we see within the original created kinds, such as the dog/wolf/dingo/etc. kind. This fits the evidence much better than common descent. Even Behe wrote a book showing where the Edge of Evolution is. Common descent between created kinds is ruled out by the Bible and scientific evidence seems to fit this.

Probably it happened like this. The original created kind, male and female, had babies and the babies obviously did not inherit all of it's parents genes. Genetic drift took place. The animals slowly separated from each other as they spread out on the earth and in doing so, much of the original genetic information that was originally present in their parents was LOST. It got filtered out by chance and natural selection. This was the impetus for new species. And natural selection would naturally eliminate the weaker ones or the ones with traits that didn't suit the particular new environment the animals found themselves in. Creationists do not believe in the fixity of species! Please don't accuse us of something that is false. Even if you would say "Only a very few creationists believe this anymore" or put some kind of a caveat in your answer, that would have been better than mischaracterizing creationists as people who believe this obviously false and unscientific idea. Plus the above explanation seems quite helpful in clearing up this problem of believing in the fixity of species. It depends on what definition of species you are using. When the definition got changed, creationists were made out to be idiots. We are brothers in the Lord and although we do not agree on what God is telling us in Genesis or on what scientific assumptions to accept as valid, we should at least attempt to accurately represent what the other side is saying. May I ask you to please remember this in the future when you have an opportunity to answer an e-mail like this? You may distance yourselves from us as necessary, but please be accurate about how you characterize your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Thanks so much. Here is another good article on this. http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/cfol/ch2-species.asp Sincerely, - Jim

Two glaring flaws in Mr. Ehrman's book stare at me. Do they stare back at you, too? For one, I have known all of these facts about the Bible for most of the thirty-five years I've been a Christian. And I never studied in any seminary. It must not be that big a secret. Secondly, why do men who plan on being professional Christians continue on that path after attending seminary and finding out that The Bible is not trustworthy? Why don't they all start studying computer science or dentistry instead? How do they go on for so many years in the low-paying and mostly thankless job of pastoring a church when they could easily quit and do something else? They must find out something about God that Mr. Ehrman has missed. He used to be a stupid fundamentalist. Now, he's a stupid agnostic. As my wife says, "You just can't cure stupid." - John White

Hi I am not a believer but if I am wrong I want to learn about why I am wrong. However Dr Wiker's article doesn't help. He doesn't unmask Ehrman and although he probably is right to claim that Ehrman was wrong in his timing of Modern biblical criticism (I am not qualified to judge), this doesn't change whether Ehrman is right or wrong. I am curious, is the dating of the criticism to the 17th Century absolutely correct. It fits is with Dr Wiker's claims about the "fathers of modern scriptural scholarship" and their desire to make the world safe from Christianity (although safe from war could also be the objective). Couldn’t there be other starting points based on other criteria? Dr Wiker critisises Ehrman for saying nothing new, but is that a fatal flaw - does the Bible say anything new? Isn't there always a need to represent ideas to new audiences? Surely Dr Wiker is not saying that most people read Hobbes and Co. on a regular basis and if not these ideas need to be presented anew. Whether this particular book needs to have been written and published, I do know until I read it, which I will not that it has been brought to my attention thank you - kevin burke

Dear To The Source, I am greatly interested in Schroeder's work and I came across your articles on the Genesis Project and The Age of the Universe. In the introduction letters you guys (Schroeder and Walker) speak of a "book" which I assume are the 6 relevant articles, plus the bonus article concerning the age of the universe. I have taken the liberty of creating a PDF file for myself, in it I include the intro letters by Schroeder and Walker, as well as sourcing all the relevant links from your website I used, followed by the 6 articles and the article concerning the Age of the Universe. I only did that because I couldn't find on your website an article which would include all of it together in one document. Do you have a book, one document? If not, do you mind if I send my simple PDF file to a few mates or people I come across (like Atheists) in the future? You won't find my name or details on the doc, I've just basically copied and pasted into word, edited the format slightly, and put it into a PDF file. By the way, from a Christian perspective, the 6 days of creation also match the last 6000 years of man's history. Day 1 Adam walked in the light of God, Day 2 was marked by Noah's Flood (a separation by water), Day 3 the Torah was given and Abraham was promised to be a father of many, Day 4 is the age of the prophets (stars), Isaiah named Satan (the moon, fake source of light) by the name of Halal ben Shacher, and the Messiah (Yahshua - Jesus) was born just before the close of the 4th millennium, Day 5 was the age and establishment of the great religions Judaism, Constantine's Christianity and Islam (all of them being great reptiles), and Day 6 is the age of man, man has filled (almost 7 billion people) the whole earth and the religion of man, that of Humanism, has flourished in fulfillment of Psalm 14 (this Psalm tells us Atheism will rise up towards His Second Coming). In 2 Peter 3 where are told by Peter to understand the creation account (Peter uses Day 2 concerning the separation of the waters) and relate it to the last 6000 years of mankind (Peter uses Noah's Flood in the 2nd millennium since the fall of Adam) to know when the Messiah returns, the phrase "one day is like a thousand years" is telling us that not only is Genesis scientifically accurate but it is also prophetically accurate and that we must understand that from Adam's fall there will be exactly 6000 years. It's why God constantly reminds us of His Sabbath rest, we shall work for 6 days (6000 years) and will rest on the 7th (Millennial Sabbath). Great work, - Matthew Burns São Paulo, Brazil.

Editor's Note: Dr. Schroeder is a tothesource reader and will likely read your request.

I am in the midst of starting a running for charity organization much like Team in Training for Leukemia, but that focuses on Parkinson's Disease and other diseases that would be affected dramatically by the success of Adult Stem Cell Research. Are you aware of any charities that raise money for this type of research without crossing over into ESCR? This is very important to us and we want to help charities that are raising money for Adult Stem Cell Research only. Any guidance would be appreciated! Thank you! - Mark Davis

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

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wesley smith   Wesley J. Smith
Award winning author Wesley J. Smith, the associate director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, is a senior fellow in human rights and bioethics at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His book Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (1997), a broad-based criticism of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement was published in 1997. His book Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, a warning about the dangers of the modern bioethics movement, was named One of the Ten Outstanding Books of the Year and Best Health Book of the Year for 2001 (Independent Publisher Book Awards). He is currently writing a book about the animal rights movement.
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