The Gray Lady sells herself out to secular materialism once again.
I would like to propose Shea’s Iron Law of New York Times Science Coverage: When Christians write about science, they are imposing their religion on the free pursuit of truth. When scientists pontificate about religion, they are innocently writing about science with no agenda at all. Nope. None whatsoever.
American and European researchers have made most of the progress so far in biotechnology. Yet they still face one very large obstacle — God, as defined by some Western religions.
The mysterious East! A paradise of religious toleration, free of all the superstitious hobgoblins that hamper Science in the West. (Just ask the involuntary organ donors in Chinese prisons.)
That’s why the Times turns, not to a theologian or a philosopher, but to just such a desacralized technocrat to pontificate on religion. Silver informs us,
And if a country as respectful of creation and human dignity as China is doing it, can Americans afford to quibble over these dumb Abrahamic superstitions? The Times continues:
Why on earth would a nation like Germany have hesitations about playing God? Must be that damned Judeo-Christian religion again. If only Germany could find some final solution to completely extirpate the influence of this Judaic tradition in its midst, it too might be free to pursue science as the Chinese do! I can’t imagine what would make Europeans so timid about all that.
"Most people in Hindu and Buddhist countries," Dr. Silver says, "have a root tradition in which there is no single creator God. Instead, there may be no gods or many gods, and there is no master plan for the universe. Instead, spirits are eternal and individual virtue — karma — determines what happens to your spirit in your next life. With some exceptions, this view generally allows the acceptance of both embryo research to support life and genetically modified crops."
Prescription: Continue laboring to extirpate the Judeo-Christian tradition in the Americas and urge Euros to exorcise its last ghostly influences. Or else we lose the race to cannibalize the fetus for fun and profit. And since whatever happens to the reincarnated one is what he deserves, it is just as reasonable to ask, "Why limit the cannibalization to fetuses?"
Um, no. In the Christian tradition, human beings have rational souls. Non-human living things have souls appropriate to their nature. A turnip has a turnip’s soul, a dog a doggie soul, etc. Nature is not, in the Catholic view, just a pile of exploitable raw materials for us to do with as we will. It is sacred and sacramental, because it is God’s creation. Our dominion is not absolute, it is conditioned by the command to tend the earth and care for it, since it is ultimately the property of our Father.
Ah, the useful word "taboo." In Press-speak, it means "irrational prohibition we should sweep away in the name of Progress." Note also the use of scare quotes around "lower." It does not mean, "Creation is sacred and we do not have unlimited license to screw around with it" (a perfectly Catholic statement). It means, "Humans are just as much raw materials for us to screw around with as all the rest of Creation is." It’s true that there is nothing wrong, in principle, with cloning a non-human life form. It doesn’t mean it’s always and everywhere a good idea. And this goes a fortiori for genetically modifying living things with no clear idea of what will happen when those modifications hit the biosphere.
Note the deployment of the word "dogma." It is used here as a synonym for "taboo" or "irrational religious belief." What this passage means is, "Everybody knows that any emphasis on the dignity of the human being is ultimately a piece of religious belief. Some people try to kid us this is not so with bafflegab, but they are just blowing smoke."
Similarly, some leading opponents of embryo research for cloning, like Leon Kass, say they are defending not Judeo-Christian beliefs, but "human dignity." Dr. Kass, former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, says the special status of humans described in the Book of Genesis should be heeded not because of the Bible’s authority, but because the message reflects a "cosmological truth."
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily
It is not so easy, though, to defend supposedly self-evident truths about human nature that are not evident to a large portion of humanity.
It turns out that the "all men are created equal" stuff in the Declaration of Independence was not "self-evident" at all. It was a piece of mystical dogma that was widely accepted in provincial European culture because provincial European culture was rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Mark P. Shea is a senior editor atwww.CatholicExchange.com and a columnist for . Visit his blog at..