Human Exceptionalism

Murder in the First Villain Demonstrates Peril of Anti-Human Exceptionalism

My wife Debra and I have been enjoying the new TNT television crime drama, Murder in the First. Last night, the villain spoke his value system–and it is pure anti-human exceptionalism.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t seen the program or final episode yet.

The villain admits to a friend that he killed his pregnant girl friend. ( I will not name the characters.) From the script:

Friend: She was carrying your child!

Villain: She was carrying a fetus. I told her to get rid of it but she refused…

Friend: So, you just killed her.

Villain: Look at it like this, Bill. Two-thirds of all human conceptions are spontaneously aborted by nature. Ten million women die every year in childbirth. I just nudged Cindy toward those probable outcomes, right? It was sloppy, but effective.

Now, the way that I killed my father, that was a work of art…

Friend: You killed your lover, you killed your child, you paid your grandfather to kill your father, and then he turned the gun you gave him on himself. So, you killed them all.  

Villain: I didn’t kill my grandfather. That’s not on me. That was his choice. He was dying of cancer, Bill. He wanted to go out on his own terms, one more final act of defiance. If I was in his position, doomed to a slow and meaningless death, I’d do the same thing.

Friend: Boy, you are insane!

Villain: No, I’m just evolved. Human life isn’t as valuable as you think it is, Wilkie. You know that there are 7 billion people walking around on this planet and we’re growing exponentially year by year. Humanity is on the vertical part of the S-curve.  It is completely unsustainable…We’re going to have to cull the herd, pick the winners. People are going to have to die for the rest of us to survive.  I’m just getting a head start.

Insane? How often do we see these very ideas–not the acts of murder, but the values embraced by the villain–espoused in bioethics discourse, assisted suicide/euthanasia advocacy, radical environmentalism, animal rights, and other public policy controversies?

Of course, people who deny human exceptionalism aren’t going to go out and murder their enemies. But the logic of the scene is impeccable. When societies accept these premises–and they have in history and some do now–evil soon follows.

Think about it: Eugenics, social Darwinism, the Holocaust, China’s One Child policy, the ISIS pogrom against Shia Muslims, Christians, and the Yezidi–the list could go on and on.

All of these evils are only possible by denying human exceptionalism. Or to put it the other way around, decency, morality, and universal human rights depend on adherence to human exceptionalism, both our unique value and our obligations to each other as humans. 

So, good for the writers of Murder in the First: In the scene quoted above, they sure captured an important truth.

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