Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 (6:21 am), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Monday, May 9th, 2011:
A second helping from the wonderful essay by David Bentley Hart: John Paul II Against the Nihilists:
For the late pope, divine humanity is not something that in a simple sense lies beyond the human; it does not reside in some future, post-human race to which the good of the present must be offered up; it is instead a glory hidden in the depths of every person, even the least of us – even "defectives" and "morons" and "genetic inferiors," if you will – waiting to be revealed, a beauty and dignity and power of such magnificence and splendour that, could we see it now, it would move us either to worship or to terror.
Obviously none of this would interest or impress the doctrinaire materialist. The vision of the human that John Paul articulates and the vision of the "transhuman" to which the still nascent technology of genetic manipulation has given rise are divided not by a difference in practical or ethical philosophy, but by an irreconcilable hostility between two religions, two metaphysics, two worlds – at the last, two gods.
And nothing less than the moral nature of society is at stake. If, as I have said, the metaphysics of transhumanism is inevitably implied within such things as embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, then to embark upon them is already to invoke and invite the advent of a god who will, I think, be a god of boundless horror, one with a limitless appetite for sacrifice.
And it is by their gods that human beings are shaped and known. In some very real sense, "man" is always only the shadow of the god upon whom he calls: for in the manner by which we summon and propitiate that god, and in that ultimate value that he represents for us, who and what we are is determined.
Amen. We are not only created in the image of our Creator God, but we are continually shaped in to the resemblance of the gods we worship. This, it seems to me, is pretty much the entire point of the Old Testament.
Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2011 (3:29 pm), by John W Gillis
Quote of the Day for Sunday, May 8th, 2011:
David Bentley Hart, in an excellent essay posted on a remarkably robust “Religion & Ethics” section of the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which highlights the irremediably divergent visions of God inherent in the worldviews of modern, materialist “transhumanists,” and orthodox Christianity – particularly as expressed in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body:
To one who holds to John Paul’s Christian understanding of the body, and so believes that each human being, from the very first moment of existence, emerges from and is called towards eternity, there are no negotiable or even very perplexing issues regarding our moral obligations before the mystery of life.
Not only is every abortion performed an act of murder, but so is the destruction of every "superfluous" embryo created in fertility clinics or every embryo produced for the purposes of embryonic stem cell research.
The fabrication of clones, the invention of "chimeras" through the miscegenation of human and animal DNA, and of course the termination of supernumerary, dispensable, or defective specimens that such experimentation inevitably entails are in every case irredeemably evil.
Even if, say, research on embryonic stem cells could produce therapies that would heal the lame, or reverse senility, or repair a damaged brain, or prolong life, this would in no measure alter the moral calculus of the situation: human life is an infinite good, never an instrumental resource; human life is possessed of an absolute sanctity, and no benefit (real or supposed) can justify its destruction.
This essay does a splendid job of articulating succinctly the great Christian eschatological doctrine of theosis, or deification, and of demonstrating how the most wicked and patently absurd eugenic philosophies and anthropologies emanating from the penumbra of the academy are really just mockeries of the great truth of God’s end for mankind in sharing His glory.
via First Thoughts
Posted: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 (10:31 pm), by John W Gillis
Being “between courses” has afforded me the opportunity to dip back into Recorded Books’ Modern Scholar series of lectures on audio CD. I started listening to these a couple years ago, finding the entries by Thomas Madden to be especially worthwhile listening. Aside from Madden’s, I have to admit that I’ve found the rest of the series hit or miss, but I wanted to give a shout-out to Professor Fred E. Baumann for his entry, Visions of Utopia: Philosophy and the Perfect Society.
This might come across as a backhanded compliment, but I was impressed by the seriousness with which Baumann treated religion in this set of lectures. Not that the lectures focused on religion – religion played a small role – but he understands the importance of religion in the fabric of both intellectual and common history, and did not just simply dismiss it as irrelevant, or regard it derisively, as most modern intellectuals seem to. Not only was that refreshing, but it added a layer of realism and intellectual heft to the discussion that seems sorely lacking so often.
The lectures cover Plato’s Republic, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Rousseau’s Social Contract, the Jacobin implementation of Rousseau’s thought, Marx’s programmatic update of Rousseau, and Skinner’s Walden Two, concluding with some reflections on the continuing relevance of utopian thought, particularly in the bizarre but socially intoxicating supra-eugenicism of the movement at the edge of “progressivism” that calls itself transhumanism.
Baumann is not a strictly conventional thinker on these matters, and I take issue with some of his opinions – especially in the way he reads Rousseau, which seems to me to unjustifiably take him off the hook for the monster he created – but I highly recommend this set of lectures as a thoughtful and engaging exposition on what only a fool would still consider a fringe aspect of political science.