Monday, September 10, 2007


“One would think that the generation I have the honor of living in must be a kingdom of gods. But this is by no means so.; the vigor, the courage, that wants to be the creator of its own good fortune in this way, indeed, its own creator, is an illusion, and when the age loses the tragic, it gains despair. In the tragic there is implicit a sadness and a healing that one indeed must not disdain, and when someone wishes to gain himself in the superhuman way our age tries to do it, he loses himself and becomes comic. Every individual, however original he is, is still a child of God, of his age, of his nation, of his family, of his friends, and only in them does he have his truth. If he wants to be the absolute in all this, his relativity, then he becomes ludicrous.” –Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, Part 1, “The Tragic in Ancient Drama”, I-123, (p. 145).

“Now, what will this human voice say? It will say: Man must be biologically re-bred. The obsolete apparatus of the created human organism must be modernized. ‘Biometrics’ (as this new method is called) will take these long-since outworn designs of the Creator, this hoary and antiquated old dodderer, and breed the new man, the space man. Why do I mention this story? Because it expresses a feeling about life which is shared more or less by all of us, even though it may not be stated as drastically as it is here. We can describe this feeling by reference to an idea which has already become almost a commonplace: we are convinced that we can make anything. Good heavens, what have we not made with out technology! We can see things that happen a thousand miles away, [etc.]…why shouldn’t we be able also to change the biological construction of the author of all these things, man himself? After all, this is what the Marxists have always wanted to do. All you need to do- this is their formula- is to change the social conditions and man will change. Then you can turn him from a person with an unpredictable will and an unmanageable conscience into a compliant marionette, indeed, into an insect which will conform without friction to the termite state. The possibilities are endless. No rules are laid down for us, nothing is prescribed as far as creation is concerned; we are not limited by any alleged Lord of the world. “Everything is created,” you say. Nonsense! Everything can be made!... They have their proper place in it because all this concerns our soul. For anybody who holds that everything can be made must want to make everything. And anybody who has taken everything into hand must then keep on moving that hand. He can no longer be still. Our overactivity, which constantly keeps us on the merry-go-round and yet, no matter how fast we go, gets us nowhere but only makes us dizzy, is not caused by the fact that we were so nervous or that we had no time. It is just the opposite. We are nervous and we have no time because we think everything will stop without us and because we think we are so tremendously important- we parvenus in this old business of creation! And this is why we can never let anything get out of our hands and be entrusted to others. That’s why we hold on to everything convulsively and thus wear ourselves out all over again. Undoubtedly, all this is connected with the ultimate decisions of our life and not so much at all with medicine or with the problem of our modern way of life. And because we have thus taken over the management of the bankrupt assets of creation, because now we do everything ourselves and therefore must always be producing something, we never get away from constant care and concern. For anybody who takes everything upon himself finds that everything depends on himself…Luther once said, ‘While I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer the gospel runs its course.’ That is truly the finest and most comforting thing I have ever heard said about beer and trust in God….The fanatics who believe that man can “make” everything are really fools at bottom. They are not realistic at all, even though they have the cold, sober eyes of hardheaded men of fact. But the man who has grasped the mystery of the seed growing secretly and, like the farmer in the parable, goes out and does his part of the job and then commits the fields to God and lies down to sleep in his name- that man is doing not only the most godly thing but the wisest thing. For godliness and wisdom are far more closely related than out philosophy and the wisdom of the ‘managers’ ever dream.” –Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father: Sermons on the Parables of Jesus, (1959), “The Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly”, p. 84-85.

"Of course, there was always a certain oafish audacity in Fletcher’s degenerate driveling about “morons” and “defectives,” given that there is good cause to suspect, from a purely utilitarian vantage, that academic ethicists—especially those like Fletcher, who are notoriously mediocre thinkers, possessed of small culture, no discernible speculative gifts, no records of substantive philosophical achievement, and execrable prose styles—constitute perhaps the single most useless element in society. If reproduction is not a right but a social function, should any woman be allowed to bring such men into the world? And should those men be permitted, in their turn, to sire offspring? I ask this question entirely in earnest, because I think it helps to identify the one indubitable truth about all social movements towards eugenics: namely, that the values that will determine which lives are worth living, and which not, will always be the province of persons of vicious temperament. If I were asked to decide what qualities to suppress or encourage in the human species, I might first attempt to discover if there is such a thing as a genetic predisposition to moral idiocy and then, if there is, to eliminate it; then there would be no more Joseph Fletchers (or Peter Singers, or Linus Paulings, or James Rachels), and I might think all is well. But, of course, the very idea is a contradiction in terms. Decisions regarding who should or should not live can, by definition, be made only by those who believe such decisions should be made; and therein lies the horror that nothing can ever exorcise from the ideology behind human bioengineering. Transhumanism, as a moral philosophy, is so risibly fabulous in its prognostications, and so unrelated to anything that genomic research yet promises, that it can scarcely be regarded as anything more than a pathetic dream; but the metaphysical principles it presumes regarding the nature of the human are anything but eccentric. Joseph Fletcher was a man with a manifestly brutal mind, desperately anxious to believe himself superior to the common run of men, one who apparently received some sort of crypto-erotic thrill from his cruel fantasies of creating a slave race, and of literally branding others as his genetic inferiors, and of exercising power over the minds and bodies of the low-born. And yet his principles continue to win adherents in the academy and beyond it, and his basic presuppositions about the value and meaning of life are the common grammar of a shockingly large portion of bioethicists. If ever the day comes when we are willing to consider a program, however modest, of improving the species through genetic planning and manipulation, it will be exclusively those who hold such principles and embrace such presuppositions who will determine what the future of humanity will be. And men who are impatient of frailty and contemptuous of weakness are, at the end of the day, inevitably evil.

“I repeat: Let no one take me as a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with any who enslave you or exploit you or take advantage of you or push themselves forward or slap you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!” 2 Corinthians 11: 16-21

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