Earlier this year, I did a podcast interview with Kevin Allen, who runs a very fine feature on Ancient Faith Radio called The Illumined Heart. It mostly dealt with human exceptionalism, and it has now been abridged (with my permission) into a written Q and A in Salvo magazine. From the interview:
KA: What is “human exceptionalism,” and how does it relate to bioethics?
WJS: It’s a term that I may have coined [Me: I think I then said, but have tried to popularize], and it refers to the sheer moral importance of believing in the unique value of human beings. We seem to be entering an era in which humanity is viewed as irrelevant by many very powerful political and cultural forces. Does human life have intrinsic moral value simply and merely because it is human life? Our answer to this question will tell us all we need to know about what sort of society we’ll be looking at in the next couple of years. If the answer is “yes,” then we can create a bioethics that stands for the sanctity and equality of all human life. If the answer is “no,” then we need to ask an additional question: What is the attribute that confers moral value?
KA: How are people answering this second question?
WJS: Well, Princeton professor Peter Singer, who is the world’s foremost proponent of infanticide, insists that what actually matters is having sufficient cognitive capacity or being self-aware over time—that sort of thing. Thus, fetuses and embryos are not people, nor are newborn infants. People such as Terri Schiavo, who have lost these capacities, are also deemed nonpersons. You can now find advocacy in the literature of bioethics to either remove the right to life from so-called nonpersons or use them as natural resources—for organ harvesting or in experimentation. Once you accept the premise that being human is not what gives you value, then you’ve thrown universal human rights out the window. If you do not accept the concept of human exceptionalism—the innate value of human life—then you are letting those in power decide who has value. Might is making right.
Read this blog and my other writings: Is any of that deniable? The quality of life ethic is distorting medicine throughout the West. Biological colonialism has the rich preying on the poor for their organs in the destitute world, while scientists and bioethicists are seriously considering eventually engaging in fetal farming. But with few exceptions, no one is connecting the dots on these matters. That is why I spend so much effort here.
I was speaking to what I knew to be a Christian audience, many, if not most, of whom would agree with me. And so I said:
These are very dark days that we are entering, which means that people must not only stand up for what is right in the public square, but when things become legal, they must continue to do what is right, regardless of its legality.
That’s where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? What do you do when cloned embryonic stem cell research might relieve, say, your MS, but you believe that cloning is immoral and destroying embryonic life for instrumental purposes is immoral? If you are like my friend Mark Pickup, you say no. But many would say yes. And none of us know into which category we really fall until the time of testing.