By Jonathon Van Maren
Some of you reading this may remember a time when the word “ethics” was a meaningful term and “ethicists” were people who sought to discover and define right and wrong. In these modern times, however, our society lurches back and forth with breakneck speed from moral relativism to progressive totalitarianism—everything is moral, except for telling someone that their behavior is immoral. In this post-modern society, the task of ethicists is now to find ways to justify nearly everything. They are explorers without compasses or maps—because we no longer have any objective authority on what is right or wrong in the first place, ethicists must instead attempt to soothe the guilt of the masses by assuring them that everything they wish to do is “ethical.”
There are a few examples you will probably be familiar with. Peter Singer of Princeton is a so-called expert in bio-ethics who promotes infanticide as a moral way of dispensing with unwanted babies. The Journal of Medical Ethics featured an article advocating for the same thing back in 2012 with the charming title, “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” Ethicists have also been called upon recently to justify euthanasia, assisted suicide, and other forms of “mercy killing.” Many seem happy to oblige, and cheerfully offer up evidence that the Judeo-Christian principles that formed the foundation of Western Civilization are hopelessly outdated. Killing the innocent used to be “unethical,” but it turns out we were wrong about that. More such discoveries are sure to follow.
And as ethicists discover that nothing is really wrong, things are getting weirder. Armin Navabi, the founder of Atheist Republic and the author of Why There Is No God as well as a co-host of the Secular Jihadist, tweeted yesterday that there are a few moral barriers in our society (now liberated from the belief in God and thus any concept of objective morality) that must fall. “There is nothing wrong with incest if it can be guaranteed that it doesn’t result in procreation,” he wrote. “This means that homosexual incest among consenting adults is okay and attempts to separate two sisters or two brothers who are attracted to each other are unethical.”
As shocking as that sounds, this isn’t the first time this has cropped up. In 2014 an Australian judge noted that pedophilia and incest might no longer be considered “taboo,” and noted that if a brother and sister should conceive, they could simply abort the baby. The same year, the National Ethics Council of Germany voted two-to-one to call for the decriminalization of incest, explaining that, “Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo. The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.” Fortunately, Chancellor Angela Merkel ignored the advice of her ethicist luminaries.
And so it goes. Nothing is wrong anymore, and so everything must be right. The field of ethics has been, in many cases, reduced to a snarl of confusion as scholars attempt to justify the proclivities of a sex-crazy culture and the extermination of any hapless offspring that come into existence as the result of casual coitus. Infanticide, euthanasia, suicide, incest—more is sure to come. There are no brakes on this train, and I strongly suspect that we will not be happy with where it takes us.
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.