Friday, April 18, 2008

Nothing Special

Over the past century, our society has undergone a radical transformation in world view with the rise of secular humanism and all its philosophical baggage.

This is news to no one.

What's interesting about this shift in thinking is the practical impact it's had on our culture's view of ourselves-- human beings, that is. Philosophically, we are told that we are the product of random chance, sheerly biological entities who just happen to be inhabiting this planet for the past two millenia or so. We are told that there is no real right or wrong, so we cannot truly condemn the actions of another no matter how offensive to us. Pedophilia is just another form of human sexuality. Murdering an unborn human being is an exercise of female choice. Even such tragedies as terrorist bombings and even the Holocaust are "contextual"-- they are wrong to us but to the participants, in their time and place, the actions were what was right to them.

Philosophically, the value of human life is no more than that of any other animal--- important, perhaps, given the circumstances but also just as easily dismissed under other circumstances.

But ironically, this is not our society's practical stance towards humanity. While our culture's attitude toward the value of the human shows the negative influence of modern philosophy-- just visit an abortion clinic-- overall the dominant attitude is that human lives are intrinsically worth something because they are human. Many object to the war in Iraq due to the human cost, both military and civilian. Thousands protest the Bejing Olympics due to the way that country has treated human beings in Tibet. And it's not just about global or national issues-- such institutions as welfare and child protective services are in place because our society thinks that a jobless single mom or a battered five year old are worth the money required to care for them. We lock up violent people so they won't do anyone else violence. Sometimes we even kill them.

It's an everyday tension between what the scholars say is true in theory and what regular people on the street believe in pratice. Even academics will rarely come out and state the full conclusion of the amoral values they claim. But once in a while, someone thinks secular humanism through to its logical end and has the guts to say where our modern worldview really means.

And interestingly enough, such logic comes from an alien hunter.

This article discusses the so-called "failure of the planet of the Apes hypothesis" which is the brainchild of Charley Lineweaver, a scientist with the SETI Institute. These guys get paid to scour the universe in search of intelligent, human-like life but Lineweaver had an epiphany. What's the big deal about being human anyway? He thinks we're making a mistake by "assuming that there is something about humans that is unique or special."

Finally-- someone acknowledges the elephant in the secular humanist living room. Any hard look at modern philosophy (or post modern, or post-post modern or what have you) will show that it gives no reason why we should care about human beings at all, other than self-preservation and species preservation. Any decent behavior is just a construct, a leash to keep back the animal that wants to rip out the throat of the guy who cut us off in traffic.
But here's the thing-- people don't really want to believe that. We want to believe that we special, that we are unique. That something intrinsic to us beyond simple biology makes us different than Joe Amoeba.

Cue the truth.
When the benevolent mask of secular humanism slips, we should be there to point out the gargoyle beneath. Ignore the disdain of the smug college professors in their academic towers, forget the scientists with the impressive white coats and clipboards-- they've already decided we're retarded, or insane, or both. We truth-bearers in a truth-forgotten world want to reach those people on the street who are finding that amoral worldviews are awfully empty beneath the promised freedom. We can tell them, on an individual basis, that their suspicions are right. We are of eternal value. We are hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind works of art.

If we say it in humility and boldness and compassion, if we say it enough, people will listen. So stop reading and go do something about it.

1 comment:

Wesley Wilson said...

Well said, Karen. I don't know if you are familiar with Wesley J. Smith, but he often argues for human exceptionalism against those who claim humans are just another species, rather than uniquely created in the image of God.