“Personhood Pincer” Threatens Human Rights

Over at First Things I have a piece describing how utilitarian bioethics and animal rights are working as a pincer to destroy human exceptionalism. They are doing this by, on one hand, trying to elevate some animals (later, others) to legal personhood (animal rights), while on the other working to depersonalize some humans(bioethics.). From, “The Personhood Pincer:”

Unlikely as it may seem, utilitarian bioethics is the counterpart to animal rights in the war on human exceptionalism. Rather than seeking to elevate some animals to the level of humans, utilitarian bioethics advocates would reduce some humans to the status of animals—with the concept of “person” again serving as the point of the spear.

Utilitarian bioethicists agree with animal rights activists that it is “speciesist”—unjust discrimination against animals—to treat humans as possessing an intrinsically higher value than animals. As in the chimpanzee cases, moral status is seen as something earned by possessing “relevant characteristics, such as being self-aware.”

Since all human beings are not so capable—some because of immaturity, others due to illness or injury—under bioethics theory, they are not “persons,” and hence, have less moral value than humans (or animals) capable of higher functioning.

If either of these movements prevail, we can kiss universal human rights goodbye, since our intrinsic liberties are based on the unique and objective importance of each of our individual lives. In contrast, personhood is a subjective concept which we can possess one day and not the next:

This is the pincer that seeks to grasp us. One claw is represented by animal rights advocacy to personalize some animals based on their supposed human-like capacities. The other, by bioethicists seeking to depersonalize some people based on their lack of capacities.

If either view prevails, our equal rights would become ephemeral, based on subjective personhood rather than intrinsic humanity. Our value would depend on the moment of measuring, leaving us ever vulnerable to depersonalization and perhaps even the concomitant loss of what today are called universal human rights.

Both animal rights and bioethics are implacable foes of human exceptionalism. Both aim to destroy Judeo/Christian moral philosophy–distinct from religion–upon which Western Civilization is based.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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