Some were surprised when I linked Christianity Today’s new semi-simian Adam and Eve with involuntary euthanasia. But the link is much more direct than some suppose.
There is, first, the whole, huge question of adjusting our thinking from the idea that we are descended from Adam and Eve to the idea that we are ascended from them. That is essentially a different religion from Christianity, and I was indeed surprised that Christianity Today failed to observe the fact. Would they have given over their pages to the proposition that perhaps Christians should be Buddhists? It would make more sense. Buddhism is not a dishonorable creed; far from it. Christians don’t think that Buddhism reflects ultimate reality. But there is world of difference between, say, Buddhism and Darwinism. Darwinism not only doesn’t reflect ultimate reality, it defaces it.
But here I want to focus on the argument for euthanasia. It was succinctly captured in the title of a movie some years back: They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
I rarely meet a convinced Darwinist who does not support euthanasia (and abortion, and human embryonic stem cell research).
I rarely meet an anti-Darwinist who does support them.
The strength of one’s Darwinism is a far surer guide in these matters than is the political party one votes for. The effect is also independent of specific claims about religion. Traditional Christianity and traditional Buddhism make strikingly different claims about the nature of ultimate reality, but tend to speak with one mind on questions of this type.
Euthanasia pro or con is also not a gauge of morality. Many supporters of euthanasia have informed me that they are more moral than I am because they care about the suffering of intelligent entities. As a traditional Christian, I decline the contest. I concede that perhaps they are more moral. But it either makes no difference or strongly supports my contention that fallible individuals like me (probably the majority) should not have the power of life and death over each other.
The game changer is not separate creation. One could believe that God created each species separately but still see no essential difference between people and animals. No, the critical aspect is the Darwinian belief that humans differ from animals only in degree, not in kind. Darwinism exists to foster that assumption. An assumption now brayed from every educational establishment, and soon, it seems, every forward-looking pulpit. And the theme of a surprisingly large number of articles in New Scientist, my favourite source of tabloid science news.
Once we accept Darwinism’s assumption about origins, distinctions between the way we treat humans and the way we treat animals become increasingly difficult to defend. The political philosophy or theology becomes ever more tenuous because it is not backed by an underlying assumption that humans are different in ways we can only acknowledge, never change. Going by traditional assumptions, when I rule out euthanasia, I merely acknowledge a fact. The fact explains why the local “Old Folks’” empties by natural causes only. Under new, Christian Darwinist assumptions, I argue for one position among many. Given economic constraints, the local Old Folks’ will empty at an accelerated rate.
Please understand. I am not saying that when we switch over to Darwinian thinking, we become less moral; if anyone tells you I said that, you can privately know that they were not reading carefully. I am observing that we then necessarily assign different values to the factors in moral decisions.
Re euthanasia, for example: Traditional Christians never assigned the highest value to preventing suffering because Christians affirm that suffering can be redemptive. But redemptive suffering assumes that what is redeemed is of unique value. Take that assumption away, state that we differ from animals in degree only, not kind – and the heart of the religion becomes a grand metaphor for some other grand metaphor, and a creative thesis in search of another creative thesis. If heaven is an ivory tower, consider the church down the street closed. Animals, advanced or otherwise, don’t need churches.
I assume that Christianity Today was floating a trial balloon, but if we are going to float a trial balloon, we should be sure it isn’t made of lead. There’s no point even testing that one.
* “Christian evolution”: I prefer to call it Christian Darwinism, because Darwinism is the only kind of evolution these people are interested in promoting to the Christian public. Not lateral gene transfer. Not convergence. Certainly not design. None of those mechanisms make plain that humans are just evolved animals; they don’t really touch on the question at all because they are formulated to answer science questions only, not to remake religions.