By Jonathon Van Maren
Those of us who are paying close attention have long detected a trend on the progressive Left. First, they decry and deride Christian concerns about ground-breaking new policies as stupid fearmongering. Then, once those things actually happen, they defend them loudly while attacking the Christians who sounded the warning in the first place. This took place with the debate surrounding gay marriage, with LGBT activists insisting that there would be no impact on religious liberty—and then announcing they didn’t believe in religious liberty anyways once evangelical bakers started getting their businesses shut down. Sometimes it doesn’t even take that long—I once saw a suicide activist go from insisting that Death With Dignity was only asking for limited euthanasia for those dying in horrible pain to admitting that he wanted those with mental illness to be able to utilize the service within the space of a two hour debate.
The same is true with abortion. For decades, pro-lifers have warned that the only real difference between abortion and infanticide is location. Infanticide is a regular occurrence within the abortion industry, as a complication to the abortion procedure called “live birth” can suddenly result in a living baby that the attending physician had been hired to ensure was born dead, and most likely in pieces. There are actually a handful of abortion survivors who escaped the fate assigned to them–many of them go through life with deep scars or missing limbs. They are the human beings our society tried to kill, and their very existence is a rebuke to our Culture of Death. If a number of philosophers—Dr. Peter Singer of Princeton being one of them—had their way, they’d be dead, because legalized infanticide would have given the would-be butchers another crack at the insolent infants.
In a recent blog post, Dr. Jerry Coyne argued just that, insisting that society will eventually legalize infanticide and that we should probably just get on with it. A professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, Coyne muses that we should follow the path of the Netherlands, which implemented the 2004 Groningen Protocol in order to lay out the guidelines for dispatching severely disabled newborns. Disability advocates, Coyne notes, have a tendency to squawk about Singer’s unpopular views, but people have overcome their resistance to assisted suicide, so surely society can get used to the idea of infanticide, as well. Coyne literally compares it to putting a household pet to sleep:
It’s time to add to the discussion the euthanasia of newborns, who have no ability or faculties to decide whether to end their lives. Although discussing the topic seems verboten now, I believe some day the practice will be widespread, and it will be for the better. After all, we euthanize our dogs and cats when to prolong their lives would be torture, so why not extend that to humans? Dogs and cats, like newborns, can’t make such a decision, and so their caregivers take the responsibility. (I have done this myself to a pet, as have many of you, and firmly believe it’s the right thing to do. Our pain at making such a decision is lessened knowing that dogs and cats, like newborns, don’t know about death and thus don’t fear it.)
The use of the German word “verboten” may have just been a Freudian slip—Coyne recognizes that the fundamental reason societies have frowned on killing people for so long is that people see human beings as special and entitled to human rights—in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as created in the image of God. Such believes are inconvenient, says Coyne, because they slow progress:
The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion—in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul. It’s the same mindset that, in many places, won’t allow abortion of fetuses that have severe deformities. When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.
Unfortunately, Coyne is correct, although it’s surprising that he’s willing to admit it. Many secularists, atheists, and agnostics don’t realize that their worldview, driven as it is by a belief in macro-evolution and natural selection, does not possess the framework needed to allow for any coherent philosophy of human equality or human rights. I discussed this at length in Chapter 6 of my recent book The Culture War:
With Darwin’s theories of natural selection providing the supposedly definitive evidence that human beings were not fundamentally equal and therefore did not need to be treated as such, eugenics became all the rage. God did not make mistakes in creating humans, but natural selection certainly could. This mean that the mentally ill, the handicapped, and the constitutionally weak were not created in God’s image. They were defective accidents of nature.
In Chapter 5, I detailed what amounts to the historical evidence for Coyne’s assertion that when religion wanes, practices like abortion, infanticide, and the killing of the old become more common. At least three times in the last two thousand years such practices have become the norm in the West, and the dedicated work of Christians has been necessary in each instance to save those sentenced to death by a society that, like Coyne, sees some human beings as no more valuable than an aging household cat.
Those who are eager to bid Christianity farewell should perhaps take note of what academics like Dr. Peter Singer and Dr. Jerry Coyne are saying. Religion, to these men, is the last barrier between society and the practices of infanticide that will allow them to extinguish those newborns who are not considered to be up to par. For a time, this will be called “mercy-killing.” After a while, “eugenics”—which is Greek for “good birth”—will not be such a dirty word anymore. And then, it is very possible that the people who cheered the receding Sea of Faith will shudder at the awful things left in its wake.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.