Therefore, heresy is so-called from the Greek word meaning choice, by which each chooses according to his own will what he pleases to teach or believe. But we are not permitted to believe whatever we choose, nor to choose whatever someone else has believed. We have the Apostles of God as authorities, who did not themselves of their own will choose what they would believe, but faithfully transmitted to the nations the teaching received from Jesus Christ. So, even if an angel from heaven should preach otherwise, he shall be called anathema. – Bishop Saint Isidore of Seville, Spain
The letter below was written by St. Athanasius of Alexandria (296 AD – d. 2 May 373) to the early Christians of the 4th century who refused to accept the Arian heresy, Christians who had lost their Church buildings to the heretics, but Christians who kept the faith.
“May God console you! … What saddens you … is the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises — but you have the apostolic faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the faith dwells within you. Let us consider: what is more important, the place or the faith? The true faith, obviously. Who has lost and who has won in this struggle — the one who keeps the premises or the one who keeps the faith?
True, the premises are good when the apostolic faith is preached there; they are holy if everything takes place there in a holy way …
You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the faith which has come down to you from apostolic tradition, and if an execrable jealously has tried to shake it in a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis.
No one, ever, will prevail against your faith, beloved brothers, and we believe that God will give us our churches back some day.
Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church but in reality they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray.
Even if Catholics faithful to tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ.”
(Coll. Selecta SS. Eccl. Patrum. Caillu and Guillou, Vol. 32, pp 411-412)
In the 126th Psalm, King David warns us, “Unless the Lord builds the house: they labor in vain that build it.” Houses must be built on foundations that are slide-rule perfect, lest they tilt. King David’s teaching, of course, goes beyond houses. He means that without grace, whatever we do is in vain.
Philosophy is like this, and especially so. There must be no flaws, it must be perfect. In his Epistle to the Colossians, St. Paul’s words about philosophy are interesting in this regard:
“Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men according to the elements of the world and not according to Christ” (2:8).
Writing about the mentality that overthrew the Middle Ages, Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira noted that by the 15th century, “The appetite of men for earthly pleasures [was] transformed into a burning desire. ” They were increasingly attracted to “a life filled with delights of fancy and the senses.”
The professor went on to say what happened when this mentality penetrated the intellectual sphere:
“This moral climate produced clear manifestations of pride, such as a taste for ostentatious and vain disputes, for inconsistent tricks of argument and for fatuous exhibitions of learning. It encouraged old philosophical tendencies, over which Scholasticism had already triumphed.”
Now then, it matters nothing whether it be “old philosophical tendencies” or new ones that lead men into error. Scholasticism’s foundation was slide-rule perfect, and therefore blocked the program of Progressivism. It had to go, and in the wake of Vatican II it was replaced with something new. Why, exactly, was Scholasticism perfect? And what, exactly, took its place?
It was perfect because it brought “harmony between the laws of being and the laws of thought. Objectivity of our knowledge in the light of being.”
Important words, these. When we examine a thing, we do so as it exists in being. The method of this examination must be divorced from the clutter of our subjective thoughts. Any method of inquiry that seeks the truth must place the object first, and this is exactly what Scholasticism does. For this reason Pope St. Pius X said that Catholicism cannot be understood scientifically without utilizing the major theses of St. Thomas Aquinas, the father of Scholasticism.
The philosophy of John Paul II, known as Phenomenology, replaced Thomism, and locked Catholics globally into the progressivist New Church. Its method directly violates the principle of placing the object first, by taking “consciousness as its starting point, as Descartes did.” This is a problem of vital concern, because “for knowledge to be objective it is essential that things, not thoughts, be known first.” Whereas, “phenomenology sees reality as essentially relative and subjective.”
Fr. Karol Wojtyla wrote his philosophical doctoral dissertation on Max Scheler, an associate of Edmund Husserl. About Husserl the following was written:
“Existentialism is a philosophical movement characterized by an emphasis on subjectivity. It was inspired mainly by the German philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. It, like the rest of the pus-filled growth on the back of philosophy called post-Modernism, should be disregarded by any philosophy that has a desire to know what is true and what is false.”
To repeat, a house built on a bad foundation will end up tilting. This means tearing the building down and beginning over. Phenomenology begins with self, which was the temptation of Lucifer. When God commanded adoration and reverence from the angelic realm, it caused a temptation for Lucifer, for he “was divided in his will between himself and the infallible truth of the Lord. Simply put, Lucifer violated the rule later codified by St. Thomas Aquinas, whereby focus on the object must be pure; it must not become entangled with self.
The house of God has been tilted for a long time. The progressivist New Church has to come down, its existentialist foundation has to be jack-hammered and buried in the hinterland.
Ninety years ago on July 13, 1917, Our Lady of Fatima warned us that “several nations will be annihilated.” Perhaps the present foundation and its tilted house must wait until then to be removed. In the Reign of Mary, her children will return to consulting the slide-rule to check its calculations, returning the foundation of St. Thomas Aquinas to its rightful place in the Catholic Church.
“Typical of adolescents the mass media display impulsivity and unstable moods; alternation between hedonism and blaming; between aggression and cowardice; sarcasm and sentimentality; impossible idealism and indignant charges of hypocrisy; wild recklessness and paralyzing guilt; snide arrogance and hero-worship — is obsessed with novelties, fashion and peer approval; is extravert (needing continual external stimulation); and is emotionally cold, selfish and manipulative while burning with resentments, bursting with personal entitlements, prone to self-pity, and zealous for abstract ‘justice’ which other people fail to live up to.”
“Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.”
― Benjamin Franklin
According to a recent survey, the average college student’s idea of Tyrannosaurus rex is modeled on Barney the purple dinosaur. Accurate portrayals in movies and textbooks make no difference: students continue to believe T. rex stood upright instead of pitched forward like the real thing.
Once people get ideas in their heads it takes very little to keep them there, and the problem applies to Catholicism no less than paleontology. A veteran professor of history [John Rao] at a Catholic university [St. John’s, Staten Island, New York] notes that despite their terror concerning grades in my courses, almost all of my students completely ignore the pro-Catholic, record-straight-setting information I give them, and recite the dominant errors and mantras aimed against the Faith on tests. As far as I can determine, this is in no way due to deeply-rooted conviction on their part. Rather, it merely indicates the power of the propaganda fed them from practically every social channel since early youth. They simply cannot expel the erroneous and hostile words from their heads. [For more, see comment below]
So how do we drive the historical and philosophical equivalent of fluffy purple dinosaurs out of discussions relating to the Faith when information doesn’t penetrate, discussion doesn’t help, pleading doesn’t work, and nothing we say seems to make any difference? What’s needed, it seems, is shock and awe, or at least their closest literary equivalent: paradox, aphorism, and other forms of pointed statement or questioning that disrupt settled expectations and stick in the mind where they can continue to do their work.
Among their other benefits, such verbal devices could provide snappy responses to anti-Catholic talking points. The assumptions of public discussion presume liberal secularism. They are part of a comprehensive outlook on man, society, the world, and reality itself that most people don’t exactly believe but don’t know how to escape. The result is that Catholics get tongue-tied, or give up points they shouldn’t, because they’ve already accepted their opponents’ basic principles and don’t know how to avoid one objectionable consequence after another. We need the verbal equivalent of jiu-jitsu to turn the assumptions and discussion around. Paradox, aphorism, and pointed inquiry seem to fit the bill.
G. K. Chesterton was a master of the strategy as applied to everyday public discussion, and I think that’s at least half the secret of his popularity. Nicolás Gómez Dávila was another great Catholic aphorist, although one who worked at a less popular level. And at a higher level still, thinkers like Pascal and Simone Weil said things suitable to shock almost anyone out of his torpor.
In an age of memes, tweets, and spin the tradition of aphorisms that transfix and transform seems to have vanished. It’s not at home in a world that rejects boldness and truth in favor of focus groups and what seems likely to sell to this demographic or that. The anonymous English scholar who blogs as Deogolwulf has composed some good aphorisms that debunk the errors of secular progressivism. He doesn’t present himself as Catholic, though, and his recent compositions are all in German, so the rest of us need to step up as well.
A good paradox or aphorism requires imaginative and literary talents, and few of us can match Chesterton in that regard, let alone some of the others I’ve mentioned. Still, as GKC himself said, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” So with that in mind, and to do what little I can to help get things started, I’ll list some snappy questions I included in my book The Tyranny of Liberalism, and append some items a friend gleaned here and there on the internet. Others can and should add their own.
Given where they appeared, mine have to do with secular liberalism, the movement that has given us Benedict’s “dictatorship of relativism.” So they don’t cover everything we must deal with, but may nonetheless be useful against a major fortress of anti-Catholicism:
■If liberalism is tolerant, why all the propaganda and reeducation programs?
■If it’s based on consent, why the emphasis on judges, experts, bureaucrats, and theorists?
■If it’s skeptical and empirical, why the demand for radical transformation of all social arrangements everywhere?
■If liberalism unleashes creativity and emphasizes the individual, why does it make everyone and everything the same?
■If it lets people choose their values, how can it prescribe their opinions of other people’s values?
■If choosing my values is good, why does it become bad if I choose cultural cohesion and somewhat traditional sex roles?
■How can “diversity” (respecting differences) and “inclusiveness” (eliminating the effect of differences) be the same?
■What can freedom in private life amount to if government insists on the reeducation of children and radical reform of family life?
■Equal celebration of cultures means that particular cultural standards must be driven out of social life, since otherwise one culture will dominate others. How is that different from the abolition of culture?
■What’s the difference between saying someone has to treat beliefs about God and morality as equally worthy, and saying he has to treat his own beliefs as personal tastes and thus not beliefs about God and morality at all?
A friend has gathered other aphorisms and pointed comments from the web. Again, they’re mostly political, but that can be hard to avoid at a time when secularism makes all things political:
■What gives us freedom of spirit without self-control is disastrous. (Goethe)
■Liberalism bases human dignity not on having a human essence, but on having an active will.
■When liberty is worshipped as an end in itself, it results in the vulgarizing inclination merely to do what one likes.
■The leftist is fashion-sensitive precisely because fashion provides the stimulating novelty that alone dulls the pain and boredom of life in a Godless, meaningless universe.
■In the absence of virtue the soul gorges on imitations of virtue such as liberalism.
■Liberal society—forever trying to turn anomalies into the norm.
■License is no friend to the poor.
■The real dichotomy is not between democracy and other types of government, but between an authority based on the will, and an authority based on something transcending the will.
■The Great Lie is none other than the promise made by the serpent in Genesis 3:22—the promise that by joining the cosmic revolution against God and His order man could become a god unto himself, defining reality itself by will alone.
■As a lie accrues power, it seeks to obliterate any vestige of the truth that could expose it.
■It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. (Upton Sinclair)
■Modern Man is ashamed of innocence and prides himself on understanding evil, while the Christian is ashamed of his knowledge of evil and seeks understanding of Good.
■The faithful believer experiences a deep and abiding inner assurance that cannot be transferred to another person and is thus quite baffling to those without it.
■A coincidence is an event in which God chooses to remain anonymous.
The youth world, he said, has changed “radically,” but the church “is still offering what it has been offering for the past 500 years.”
The Vatican’s culture ministry warned Thursday that the Catholic church risks losing future generations if it doesn’t learn how to understand young people, their language and their culture.
The Pontifical Council for Culture invited sociologists, Web experts and theologians to a three-day, closed-door event Feb. 6-9 aimed at studying “emerging youth cultures.”
According to a working paper released ahead of the meeting, the church risks “offering answers to questions that are not there” if it doesn’t learn “the cultural reality of young people.”
A study released in October by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed that young people are increasingly disconnected from religion, with one in three Americans aged 18-29 describing themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, undersecretary of the Vatican’s culture department, said in an interview that the church’s youth problem is not just “quantitative” — evidenced by a decline in key indicators, such as baptisms and church attendance — but also “qualitative.”
The youth world, he said, has changed “radically,” but the church “is still offering what it has been offering for the past 500 years.”
“We keep on giving the same answers but the way questions are posed is now totally different.”
Even if youth culture is often marked by individualism, superficiality and hedonism, the council’s president, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, said during a Thursday press conference that its “diversity” is “not only negative” but “contains surprising seeds of fruitfulness and authenticity.”
In his effort to understand young people’s language and feelings, Ravasi confessed to listening to a CD by the late British pop singer Amy Winehouse, noting that “a quest for meaning emerges even from her distraught music and lyrics.”
In a first for a Vatican meeting, the event will be opened by a rock concert by Italian Christian rock band The Sun.
Participants, mostly bishops and Catholic lay leaders, will also hear from young Catholic activists from countries such as Indonesia and Madagascar, while American blogger Pia de Solenni will speak on the “emotional alphabet” of young generations.
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” –Saint Augustine
A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.
Psychologist Jean Twenge, the lead author of the analysis, is also the author of a study showing that the tendency toward narcissism in students is up 30 percent in the last thirty-odd years.
These data are not unexpected. I have been writing a great deal over the past few years about the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories.
On Facebook, young people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. They can choose to show the world only flattering, sexy or funny photographs of themselves (dozens of albums full, by the way), “speak” in pithy short posts and publicly connect to movie stars and professional athletes and musicians they “like.”
Using Twitter, young people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame.
Using computer games, our sons and daughters can pretend they are Olympians, Formula 1 drivers, rock stars or sharpshooters. And while they can turn off their Wii and Xbox machines and remember they are really in dens and playrooms on side streets and in triple deckers around America, that is after their hearts have raced and heads have swelled with false pride for “being” something they are not.
On MTV and other networks, young people can see lives just like theirs portrayed on reality TV shows fueled by such incredible self-involvement and self-love that any of the “real-life” characters should really be in psychotherapy to have any chance at anything like a normal life.
These are the psychological drugs of the 21st Century.
As if to keep up with the unreality of media and technology, in a dizzying paroxysm of self-aggrandizing hype, town sports leagues across the country hand out ribbons and trophies to losing teams, schools inflate grades, energy drinks in giant, colorful cans take over the soft drink market, and psychiatrists hand out Adderall like candy.
All the while, these adolescents are watching a Congress that can’t control its manic, euphoric, narcissistic spending, a president that can’t see his way through to applauding genuine and extraordinary achievements in business, a society that blames mass killings on guns, not the psychotic people who wield them, and—here no surprise—a stock market that keeps rising and falling like a roller coaster as bubbles inflate and then, inevitably, burst.
That’s really the unavoidable end, by the way. False pride can never be sustained. The bubble of narcissism is always at risk of bursting. That’s why young people are higher on drugs than ever, drunker than ever, smoking more, tattooed more, pierced more and having more and more and more sex, earlier and raising babies before they can do it well, because it makes them feel special, for a while. They’re doing anything to distract themselves from the fact that they feel empty inside and unworthy.
Distractions, however, are temporary, and the truth is eternal. Watch for an epidemic of depression and suicides, not to mention homicides, as the real self-loathing and hatred of others that lies beneath all this narcissism rises to the surface. We had better get a plan together to combat this greatest epidemic as it takes shape. Because it will dwarf the toll of any epidemic we have ever known. And it will be the hardest to defeat. Because, by the time we see the scope and destructiveness of this enemy clearly, we will also realize, as the saying goes, that it is us.
Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable. –G. K. Chesterton 1909
Each year in America fewer and fewer disabled infants are born. The reason is eugenic abortion. Doctors and their patients use prenatal technology to screen unborn children for disabilities, then they use that information to abort a high percentage of them. Without much scrutiny or debate, a eugenics designed to weed out the disabled has become commonplace.
Not wishing to publicize a practice most doctors prefer to keep secret, the medical community releases only sketchy information on the frequency of eugenic abortion against the disabled. But to the extent that the numbers are known, they indicate that the vast majority of unborn children prenatally diagnosed as disabled are killed.
Medical researchers estimate that 80% or more of babies now prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. (They estimate that since 1989, 70% of Down-syndrome fetuses have been aborted.) A high percentage of fetuses with cystic fibrosis are aborted, as evident in Kaiser Permanente’s admission to the New York Times that 95 percent of its patients in Northern California choose abortion after they find out through prenatal screening that their fetus will have the disease.
The frequent use of eugenic abortion can also be measured in dwindling populations with certain disabilities. Since the 1960s, the number of Americans with spina bifida has markedly declined. This dropping trend line corresponds to the rise of prenatal screening. Owing to prenatal technology and eugenic abortion, some rare conditions, such as the genetic disorder Tay-Sachs, are even vanishing in America, according to doctors.
“There really isn’t any entity that is charged with monitoring what has been happening,” says Andrew Imparato, head of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), “A lot of people prefer that that data not be collected. But we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg. This is a new eugenics, and I don’t know where it is going to end.”
“I think of it as commercial eugenics,” says Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment. “Whenever anybody thinks of eugenics, they think of Adolf Hitler. This is a commercial eugenics. But the result is the same, an intolerance for those who don’t fit the norm. It is less open and more subtle. Try to get any numbers on reproductive issues. Try to get actual numbers on sex-selection abortions. They are always difficult to get. If you are involved in that commerce, do you really want people to go: So you aborted how many disabled children? That’s the last piece of information people want out there.”
Indeed, intellectual arguments in favor of eugenic abortion often generate great public outcry. Princeton professor Peter Singer drew fire for saying, “It does not seem quite wise to increase any further draining of limited resources by increasing the number of children with impairments.” Bob Edwards, the embryologist who created the first test-tube baby through in vitro fertilization, has also drawn protests for predicting that “soon it will be a sin of parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease. We are entering a world where we have to consider the quality of our children.”
But these comments, far from being unthinkable, reflect unspoken mainstream attitudes and practice. Only through political gaffes (and occasional news stories) is eugenic abortion ever mentioned, such as the time in 2003 when a blundering Hillary Clinton objected to a ban on partial-birth abortion because it didn’t contain an exemption for late-term abortions aimed at the disabled. Women should not be “forced” to carry a “child with severe abnormalities,” she said.
In an interview with TAS, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania recalled his 2003 exchange with Hillary Clinton on the Senate floor in which she endorsed eugenic abortion. “It was pretty revealing. She was saying there had to be an exemption for disabled children being aborted as opposed to healthy children being aborted,” he says. “When she realized what she was advocating for, she had to put in the general niceties. But I don’t think you can read her comments and come to any other conclusion than that the children with disabilities should have less constitutional protection than children who are healthy.”
He added that “the principal reason the Democrats defended the partial-birth abortion procedure was for pregnancies that have ‘gone awry,’ which is not about something bad happening to the life of the mother but about their finding out the child is not in the condition that they expected, that it was somehow less than wanted and what they had hoped for.”
What Hillary Clinton blurted out is spoken more softly, though no less coldly, in the privacy of doctors’ offices. Charles Strom, medical director of Quest Diagnostics, which specializes in prenatal screening, told the New York Times last year that “People are going to the doctor and saying, ‘I don’t want to have a handicapped child, what can you do for me?'” This attitude is shared by doctors who now view disabled infants and children as puzzling accidents that somehow slipped through the system. University of Chicago professor Leon Kass, in his book Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, writes that “at my own university, a physician making rounds with medical students stood over the bed of an intelligent, otherwise normal ten-year-old boy with spina bifida. ‘Were he to have been conceived today,’ the physician casually informed his entourage, ‘he would have been aborted.'”
The impulse behind prenatal screening in the 1970s was eugenic. After the Roe v. Wade decision, which pumped energy into the eugenics movement, doctors scrambled to advance prenatal technology in response to consumer demand, mainly from parents who didn’t want the burdens of raising children with Down syndrome. Now prenatal screening can identify hundreds of conditions. This has made it possible for doctors to abort children not only with chronic disabilities but common disabilities and minor ones. Among the aborted are children screened for deafness, blindness, dwarfism, cleft palates, and defective limbs.
In some cases the aborted children aren’t disabled at all but are mere carriers of a disease or stand a chance of getting one later in life. Prenatal screening has made it possible to abort children on guesses and probabilities. A doctor speaking to the New York Times cited a defect for a eugenic abortion that was at once minor and speculative: a women suffering from a condition that gave her an extra finger asked doctors to abort two of her children on the grounds that they had a 50-50 chance of inheriting that condition.
The law and its indulgence of every conceivable form of litigation has also advanced the new eugenics against the disabled. Working under “liability alerts” from their companies, doctors feel pressure to provide extensive prenatal screening for every disability, lest parents or even disabled children hit them with “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” suits. In a wrongful birth suit, parents can sue doctors for not informing them of their child’s disability and seek compensation from them for all the costs, financial and otherwise, stemming from a life they would have aborted had they received that prenatal information. Wrongful life suits are brought by children (through their parents) against doctors for all the “damages” they’ve suffered from being born. (Most states recognize wrongful birth suits, but for many states, California and New Jersey among the exceptions, wrongful life suits are still too ridiculous to entertain.)
In 2003, Ob-Gyn Savita Khosla of Hackensack, New Jersey, agreed to pay $1.2 million to a couple and child after she failed to flag Fragile X syndrome, a form of mental retardation caused by a defective gene on the X chromosome. The mother felt entitled to sue Khosla because she indicated on a questionnaire that her sibling was mentally retarded and autistic, and hence Khosla should have known to perform prenatal screening for Fragile X so that she could abort the boy. Khosla settled, giving $475,000 to the parents and $750,000 to the child they wished that they had aborted.
Had the case gone to court, Khosla would have probably lost the suit. New Jersey has been notoriously welcoming to wrongful birth suits ever since the Roe v. Wade decision, after which New Jersey’s Supreme Court announced that it would not “immunize from liability those in the medical field providing inadequate guidance to persons who would choose to exercise their constitutional right to abort fetuses which, if born, would suffer from genetic defects.”
According to the publication Medical Malpractice Law & Strategy, “court rulings across the country are showing that the increased use of genetic testing has substantially exposed physicians’ liability for failure to counsel patients about hereditary disorders.” The publication revealed that many wrongful birth cases “are settled confidentially.” And it predicted that doctors who don’t give their patients the information with which to consider the eugenic option against disabled children will face more lawsuits as prenatal screening becomes the norm. “The human genome has been completely mapped,” it quotes Stephen Winnick, a lawyer who handled one of the first wrongful birth cases. “It’s almost inevitable that there will be an increase in these cases.”
The combination of doctors seeking to avoid lawsuits and parents seeking burden-free children means that once prenatal screening identifies a problem in a child the temptation to eugenic abortion becomes unstoppable. In an atmosphere of expected eugenics, even queasy, vaguely pro-life parents gravitate towards aborting a disabled child. These parents get pressure from doctors who, without even bothering to ask, automatically provide abortion options to them once the prenatal screening has diagnosed a disability (one parent, in a 1999 study, complained of a doctor showing her a video depicting the rigors of raising an afflicted child as a way of convincing her to choose abortion), and they feel pressure from society at large which having accepted eugenic abortion looks askance at parents with disabled children.
The right to abort a disabled child, in other words, is approaching the status of a duty to abort a disabled child. Parents who abort their disabled children won’t be asked to justify their decision. Rather, it is the parents with disabled children who must justify themselves to a society that tacitly asks: Why did you bring into the world a child you knew was disabled or might become disabled?
Andrew Kimbrell points out that many parents are given the complicated information prenatal screening yields with little to no guidance from doctors. “We’re leaving parents with complete confusion. Numerous parents are told by doctors, ‘We think there is some fault on the 50th chromosome of your child.’ A number of polls have shown that people don’t understand those odds.”
“There is enormous confusion out there and nobody is out there to help them,” he says. “This is a huge tangle. And it leads people to abort out of confusion: ‘I guess I better abort, because I don’t know. It sounds really bad and I don’t know what the percentages mean.'”
The New Eugenics isn’t slowing down but speeding up. Not content to wait to see if a child is fit for life, doctors are exploring the more proactive eugenics of germline genetic engineering (which tries to create desirable traits in an embryo) and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which is used to select the most desirable embryos after extensive genetic testing has been done before they are implanted in mothers’ wombs.
“The next stage is to actually start tinkering genetically with these embryos to create advantages such as height,” says Kimbrell. PGD is a “gateway technology” that will advance the new eugenics to the point “where children are literally selected and eventually designed according to a parent’s desires and fears,” he says. (Meanwhile, doctors are simultaneously reporting that children born through in vitro fertilization are experiencing higher rates of birth defects than the average population, suggesting that for every problem scientists try to solve through dubious means they create multiple new ones.)
Many countries have banned PGD. But American fertility clinics are offering it. Two-thirds of fertility clinics using PGD in the world are in the U.S., says Kimbrell. “Reproductive technology is an unregulated Wild West scenario where people can do pretty much anything they want and how they want it,” he says.
Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, coined the term eugenics in the 1880s. Sparking off his cousin’s theory of evolution, he proposed improving the human race through eugenics, arguing that “what nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.” As eugenics passes through each of its stages — from sterilizing the enfeebled at the beginning of the 20th century to aborting the disabled at the end of it and the beginning of the 21st — man is indeed playing God but without any of his providence or care.
Andrew Imparato of AAPD wonders how progressives got to this point. The new eugenics aimed at the disabled unborn tell the disabled who are alive, “disability is a fate worse than death,” he says. “What kind of message does this send to people living with spina bifida and other disabilities? It is not a progressive value to think that a disabled person is better off dead.”
Ever wonder if you remembered to take your pills this morning? A medical tech startup has a novel solution: Swallow a computer chip that will help you keep track.
Proteus Digital Health scored a big victory this week when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted approval for the company’s “ingestible sensor” invention. The 1 square millimeter device — roughly the size of a grain of sand — can relay information about your insides to you, and if you choose, to your doctor or nurse.
The chip works by being imbedded into a pill. Ingest it at the same time that you take your medication and it will go to work inside you, recording the time you took your dose. It transmits that information through your skin to a stick-on patch, which in turn sends the data to a mobile phone application and any other devices you authorize.
The system’s goal is to overcome our forgetful impulses, says Andrew Thompson, the CEO and cofounder of Proteus.
“People live busy and complex lives, and as a result often don’t take their medicines correctly,” Thompson says. “We wanted to develop a solution that would help make existing medicines more effective in real life.”
The European Union approved Proteus’ system device in 2010, according to the company. The Redwood City, Calif., company plans to bring its first product, called “Helius,” to market later this year in the U.K. in partnership with the Lloydspharmacy chain.
Helius includes Proteus’ mobile health app, a supply of its stick-on patches (they last seven days, then need replacing) and a stash of its sensor-equipped placebo chips. The company declined to comment on the system’s planned price tag.
The first wave of Proteus products will rely on placebo pills taken at the same time as the patient’s medication. The company hopes to eventually get its sensors built straight into common medications, Thompson says.
Proteus’ spent four years working through the FDA approval process. Now that it’s got a green light, it plans to begin working on a U.S. version of its Helius system.
“Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they’re so frightfully clever. I’m awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don’t want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They’re too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I’m so glad I’m a Beta.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Professor Julian Savulescu said that creating so-called designer babies could be considered a “moral obligation” as it makes them grow up into “ethically better children”.
The expert in practical ethics said that we should actively give parents the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children as it meant they were then less likely to “harm themselves and others”.
The academic, who is also editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics, made his comments in an article in the latest edition of Reader’s Digest.
He explained that we are now in the middle of a genetic revolution and that although screening, for all but a few conditions, remained illegal it should be welcomed.
He said that science is increasingly discovering that genes have a significant influence on personality – with certain genetic markers in embryo suggesting future characteristics.
By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos, it should be possible to influence how a child turns out.
In the end, he said that “rational design” would help lead to a better, more intelligent and less violent society in the future.
“Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?” wrote Prof Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor in practical ethics.
“So where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice.
“To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality.
“Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.
“They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others.”
“If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should.”
He said that we already routinely screen embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome and couples can test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes.
Rational design is just a natural extension of this, he said.
He said that unlike the eugenics movements, which fell out of favour when it was adopted by the Nazis, the system would be voluntary and allow parents to choose the characteristics of their children.
“We’re routinely screening embryos and foetuses for conditions such as cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome, and there’s little public outcry,” he said.
“What’s more, few people protested at the decisions in the mid- 2000s to allow couples to test embryos for inherited bowel and breast cancer genes, and this pushes us a lot close to creating designer humans.”
“Whether we like it or not, the future of humanity is in our hands now. Rather than fearing genetics, we should embrace it. We can do better than chance.”