Abortion and Dehumanization (Pearcey)

 I’m very much enjoying Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Love Thy Body.  I’ll come back to it again later, but for now I wanted to share an insightful observation of Pearcey’s in the first chapter:

If you favor abortion, you are implicitly saying that in the early stages of life, an unborn baby has so little value that it can be killed for any reason – or no reason – without any moral consequence. Whatever your feelings, that is a very low view of life. Then, by sheer logic, you must say that at some later time the baby becomes a person, at which point it requires such high value that killing it would be a crime.

The implication is that as long as the pre-born child is deemed to be human but not a person, it is just a disposable piece of matter – a natural resource like timber or corn. It can be used for research and experiments, tinkered with genetically, harvested for organs, and then disposed of with the other medical waste.

The assumption at the heart of abortion, then, is personhood theory, with its two tiered view of the human being – one that sees no value in a living human body but places all our worth in the mind or consciousness.

Personhood thus presumes a very low view of the human body, which ultimately dehumanizes all of us. For if our bodies do not have inherent value, then a key part of our identity is devalued. What we will discover is that this same body/person dichotomy, with its denigration of the body, is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related ethical issues.

Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body, p. 20.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Worldview: Idols Have Consequences (Pearcey)

 So far I’m very much enjoying this book by Nancy Pearcey: Finding Truth.  It’s a great Christian resource for evaluating various worldviews in light of Scripture.  In this book Pearcey gives five biblical principles for unmasking idolatrous “-isms” like atheism, secularism, materialism, and so forth.  This morning I was reading the section where Pearcey noted that many people who reject God live, think, and act in illogical and inconsistent ways.  Here’s one example:

When God gives people up to their idols, they experience a growing conflict between their worldview and their lived reality.  When I teach these concepts in the classroom, an example my students find especially poignant is “Flesh and Machines” by Rodney Brooks, professor emeritus at MIT.  Brooks writes that a human being is nothing but a machine – a ‘big bag of skin full of biomolecules’ interacting by the laws of physics and chemistry.

In ordinary life, of course, it is difficult to actually see people that way.  But, he says, “when I look at my children, I can, when I force myself, …see that they are machines.”

Is that how he treats them though?  Of course not: ‘That is not how I treat them…. I interact with them on an entirely different level.  They have my unconditional love, the furthest one might be able to get from rational analysis.’  Certainly if what counts as ‘rational’ is a materialist worldview in which humans are machines, then loving your children is irrational.  It has no basis within Brooks’s worldview.  It sticks out of his box.

How does he reconcile such a heart-wrenching cognitive dissonance? He doesn’t.  Brooks ends by saying, ‘I maintain two sets of inconsistent beliefs.’  He has given up on any attempt to reconcile his theory with his experience.  He has abandoned all hope for a unified, logically consistent worldview.  He has no defense.

Later Pearcey notes that this illogical type of worldview will eventually erode since inconsistencies give way.  For example, “If the leadership classes in a society genuinely think people are machines, that conviction will eventually erode political liberty.  Idols have practical consequences.”  Exactly.  For example, see what Paul says in Romans 1:18ff!

For the above quotes, and to note how Christianity answers the call for a logical, consistent worldview, see chapter 3 of Finding Truth.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI