Evolutionary Ethics Teeters on Brave New World
What happens when science pursues whatever it can do, unfettered by moral standards? Three recent news stories should cause all futurists to ponder the ramifications:
- A BBC News story this month asked, “UK scientists are seeking permission to place human nuclei into animal eggs in a bid to create stem cell lines. Why do researchers believe the intermingling of species could be vital to science?” The article describes how research on animal-animal chimeras is turning toward human-animal chimeras, such as implanting human cells in mice to see what happens. The research is ostensibly for the purpose of understanding development and curing disease, but further down, the article vacillates about the moral dilemmas involved:
One of the latest chimeras to hit the headlines was created by scientists in Korea. They sparked controversy when they injected human embryonic stem cells into developing mouse embryos.
The finding that these the cells were then distributed throughout the mouse’s body, including the brain, caused public outrage, and the scientists later abandoned the experiments as the protests increased.
But as ethically difficult as this research seems, these scientists said they believed it could add a great deal to our knowledge of how embryos develop.
The creation of chimeras forces us to reconsider just what it really means to be human, and the answer to this is not clear cut.
- Another BBC News announced that a lab in London has applied for a license to create human-cow embryos. While implanting animal tissue in a human, such as a pig heart transplant, has only a mild “yuck factor,” these experiments involve embryos with the full complement of DNA to constitute an individual. But is a chimera considered a person? If the embryo is grown only for harvesting its stem cells for medical research, does the end justify the means? Not all think so. Calum McKellar of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics is concerned about blurring the line between humans and animals. “In this kind of procedure, you are mixing at a very intimate level animal eggs and human chromosomes, and you may begin to undermine the whole distinction between humans and animals,” he said. “If that happens, it might also undermine human dignity and human rights.”
- Richard Dawkins recently said that eugenics might not be so bad. Nancy Pearcey commented on his statements. The prominent atheist stressed that we need to “lay this spectre to rest,” speaking of Hitler’s plan to breed a master race. He feels that “if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability?” Lawrence Ford also wrote a commentary on this item for ICR.
The history of the early 20th century shows that eugenics began with good intentions. Many philosophers and scientists wanted to prevent needless suffering. Social Darwinists were concerned about harmful traits corrupting the human gene pool. This led to attempts to prevent breeding by those with genetic diseases, mental illnesses and criminal records. When that didn’t work, thousands were forcibly sterilized against their will and without their consent. Hitler began his infamous purges modestly. He first eliminated the mentally ill and others who were considered a drain on healthy society. Once the precedent was set of considering some human beings unfit to live, the campaign expanded to eliminate other “undesirables.”
Speaking of chimeras, according to the current issue of Creation magazine, Stalin once sent a leading Russian scientist to Africa to try to breed humans with apes. The plan was to create an ideal fighting force. Presumably such “cannon fodder” could be thrown at the enemy in large numbers without qualms about human rights. Stalin became an atheist and evolutionist after reading Darwin’s Origin of Species at a seminary where he was studying to become a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. Years later, as Russian dictator, he was said to have considered the slaughter of human beings for the purposes of the state as no different than mowing a lawn.
On November 14, a new group of scientists calling itself the Center for Inquiry issued a “Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism.” It denounced creationism, intelligent design, religious moral influences on medicine and science, and the rise of “religious fundamentalism.” The statement specifically denounced conservatives who impede embryonic stem-cell research and promote abstinence or faith-based programs for birth control or health, or who doubt global warming. The list of signatories is a Who’s Who of secularists and evolutionists, including Steven Weinberg, Paul Boyer, Daniel Dennett, Ann Druyan, Donald Johanson, Lawrence Krauss, Paul Kurtz, Steven Pinker, Peter Singer and E. O. Wilson. Peter Singer has also publicly advocated eugenics and euthanasia.
The mad scientists must be stopped. They can and will bring about another holocaust. If you doubt it, remember that Hitler did not act alone; he was surrounded by the most brilliant scientists of Germany (all secular evolutionists), who willingly joined his program to purify humanity. To them, the Third Reich heralded a glorious future, a new age that would usher in unprecedented health and prosperity. It was all for the ultimate good of society, they felt. After the devastation of World War II, they argued that everything they did was perfectly legal within their own social and political context. That was their defense at the Nuremberg trials. They had not broken any laws. The judges appealed to a higher law that they should have obeyed: their conscience – presupposing a universal standard of morality.
It’s time to call our modern secularists what they are: Social Darwinists who have not learned from history. Don’t trust for a moment those who believe morality evolves and is a mere social convention. Don’t think the consequences of their policies will be nicer this time around. If you get on the wrong side of the consensus, there will be no sanctity of your life. It will be perfectly legal to use your body parts for the improvement of those deemed more valuable, or to eliminate you to make space for the fittest. Those whom the new Social Darwinists have bred will, of course, be more fit, with all their mathematical ability or athletic prowess or whatever. Naturally, they will be more worthy to consume limited resources than you, with all your diseased genes and “irrational” beliefs. If secular science stands at the helm of moral consensus of the world, what Nuremberg will stand in judgment of them? If the top scientists of the 1930s supported Hitler, would not today’s Dawkinses and Singers prefer, and readily support, the next smooth-talking, idealist fuhrer – the next antichrist? Undoubtedly such a leader will entice them with all the stem cells they want, and liberal funds for cloning and chimera research. In a secular political state, would they not consider the systematic elimination of “fundamentalists” a necessary step for the sake of planetary health and global evolution?
Granted, the Hitler comparison gets overused. But Hitler was a Social Darwinist, and the supporters of Hitler were Social Darwinists! The shoe fits. Today’s Darwinists have very overt social and political agendas based on their secular evolutionary beliefs. What, pray tell, has changed? Describe for us, Wilson, Dawkins and Singer, on what basis you would have protested had you been Berlin professors in 1935 when things were looking so up and up. Tell us on what basis you will protest any future slippery-slope developments defended by your fellow secular evolutionists. At what point would you say, as an individual, that enough is enough? What moral arguments will you use? On the contrary, Dawkins says we need to “lay the spectre to rest” of past abuses of eugenics and Social Darwinism, implying he’s tired of hearing “we must never forget.”
Spectres do not lay to rest. They must be cast out and replaced with a holy spirit. A spectre kicked out of a secular house will return, finding it empty, swept and in good order, and will bring with him seven spectres more wicked than itself. The final condition of that house will be worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation, prophesied a son of man quite knowledgeable about spectres and their ways.