Saturday, July 24, 2004

Intellectual Giants, Moral Midgets

SpiderwebsAmy Richard's article on her selective reduction in the NY Times Magazine (registration required) has recently been discussed on National Review Online (see also here) and elsewhere. It should be read by everyone with an interest in the abortion debate, or the general state of the culture wars in 21st century America.

At every level, Ms. Richard's story displays the moral vacuousness of the contemporary secular mindset. First, there is the impermanence of the relationships which will bear and raise children. She never indicates any consideration of marriage to her boyfriend, either while anticipating a pregnancy or after her child is born. Then there is the casual nature of the decision to have a child. She stops the pill because of hormone-driven moodiness, nobly deciding to keep the inevitable trophy child rather than suffer the agonies of monthly menstrual misery. She never once considers the implications for her child, or the society he will inhabit, inherent in her decision to raise him in an intrinsically unstable and uncommitted parental relationship. Finally there is the stunning reflex decision to terminate one or more of her unborn children when the serpent jaws of a self-gratifying lifestyle arise like the heads of Hydra. No thought of a moral or ethical dilemna ever crosses her mind as she clutches at the salvation of a potassium chloride syringe.

And let us not forget about the professional, clinically detached physician who delivers the death syringe to carefully selected unborns. The lifesaving miracle of high resolution ultrasound and fetal intervention selecting those twins whose crime was being one day too young.

Despite the high-minded rhetoric about "choice" in the abortion debate, at its heart abortion is about unfettered sex, or in the larger moral context, the pursuit of self-gratifying behavior while refusing to accept its inevitable consequences. Spiritual principles, much like the laws of physics, cannot be violated without consequences. No matter how fervently I believe I can fly, flapping my arms while jumping off tall buildings will always make me an undesirable client for my life insurance company. Violating spiritual laws results in even more pervasive effects, since the spiritual tsunamis roll not merely through our own lives, but those of everyone we touch, both near and far. Unlike the violation of physical laws, however, the consequences are far more easily denied, rationalized, and minimized when they are in the realm of the spirit.

In the secular mindset, sexual "freedom" trumps all; the death of the unborn fruits of this behavior is not considered too high a price to pay. Any moral qualms about the ghastly consequences to the child can be mitigated by redefining language - an unborn child becomes a "fetus", a "product of conception" - to move us a few steps farther away from the uncomfortable and convicting truth. Then we change the subject to a more defensible arena: abortion is about "freedom", and "choice", and "women's health", and "rights" - all straw-man targets far harder to attack than the crumbling and indefensible edifice at the core of the issue: snuffing out a unique, defenseless human being to promote and enable a self-centered, self-gratifying way of life. Amy Richards has given us a rare, inadvertently honest look into the dark soul of secularism. We should look long and hard, and never forget, what the inevitable outcome of contemporary secularism will produce: shallow, empty humanity, exterminating our young to preserve our shopping preferences.

Our culture is advanced beyond the wildest imaginations of those even a century ago. We clone sheep; take stunning pictures of Saturn from its rings; perform surgery robotically; retrieve information in seconds with web browsers that formerly took years to acquire, if ever. We as a society are intellectual giants in history. Yet as our knowledge increases exponentially, our wisdom withers: we are just as truly moral midgets.