Tina Fey, impersonating Sarah Palin, joked, “I can see Russia from my house.”
I can see the next holocaust from my house, and it is no joke.
In the decades leading up to one of the most horrific chapters in human history, the leading lights of the day openly discussed bringing about those horrors. Eugenics was posited as the rational position of all intelligent, well-meaning individuals. In journals, newspapers, academic conferences, public health offices and elsewhere, they talked about sterilizing people with or without their consent, segregating them from society, or even exterminating them. And that was in America.
In a book written in 1920 by two German experts and applauded by American experts, it was argued that it was allowable to destroy the ‘life unworthy of life.’
Who was regarded as ‘life unworthy of life’? The handicapped, the disabled, the diseased, the mentally ill, the ‘feeble-minded.’ Really, just about anyone the experts decided was ‘unfit’ could be deemed ‘unworthy of life.’ When eugenics morphed into the Holocaust, many of its proponents quietly went to ground. Some asked ‘What went wrong?’ but few arrived at the right answer.
Fast forward sixty years. Enter Julian Savulescu.
You probably don’t know who Julian Savulescu is, just as your average American off the street in 1910 wouldn’t have known who Charles Davenport was. You probably don’t know who Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva are, just as your average American in 1920 wouldn’t have known who Alfred Hoche and Karl Binding were.
But you may recall a few months ago when two ‘ethicists’ quietly submitted an article in an ethics magazine arguing that the logic of abortion does not cease after the child has fully exited the birth canal. For all the reasons that abortion on demand was justified, so too, the two ‘ethicists’ Giubilini and Minerva argued, was infanticide. Of course, they preferred to call it ‘after-birth abortion.’
I hope that nobody misunderstands me: Giubilini and Minerva were correct in their analysis. If they are to be faulted for anything, it is for stopping at the newborn.
When people heard about this article there was outrage, and not a little of it spilled over onto the journal that printed the article in the first place. That journal was “The Journal of Medical Ethics.” Flabbergasted, the editor defended the publication of the article, saying:
“As Editor of the Journal, I would like to defend its publication. The arguments presented, in fact, are largely not new and have been presented repeatedly in the academic literature and public fora by the most eminent philosophers and bioethicists in the world, including Peter Singer, Michael Tooley and John Harris in defence of infanticide, which the authors call after-birth abortion.”
Yes, that is quite right. The arguments presented were not new, and have been ‘presented repeatedly.’
He continued, “What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”
This embattled editor of a renown journal of medical ethics is named Julian Savulescu.
Whatever else Mr. Savulescu is, he’s certainly consistent. He is an avowed (modern) eugenicist. In 2009, he delivered a presentation at a conference called the “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” titled “Genetically enhance humanity or face extinction.” (By the by, at the upcoming 2012 “Dangerous Ideas” conference, Minverva and Giubilini are scheduled to speak, arguing that the ‘fetus’ is not a person. As if that matters to them, given their other arguments.) But it is Savulescu’s latest remarks that I want to draw your attention to. Were you even aware that he had spoken?
In the September 2012 UK edition of “Reader’s Digest” in an article titled “It’s Our Duty to Have Designer Babies” Savulescu says that he believes that “within the next five years we may be able to screen for every gene that determines who we are physically and psychologically.”
The idea of screening for ‘psychological’ features is something I recently described as ‘eumemics.’ Obviously, on his materialistic worldview, everything really does need to reduce to ‘stuff,’ including psychological attributes, thought patterns, and, I suppose, abstractions such as 2+2=4. The irony is that earlier in his article he complains that 20th century eugenicists made their mistake when they “tried to use selective breeding to weed out criminals, the insane and the poor, based on the false belief that such conditions were caused only by genetic disorders.” (emphasis mine)
This is the same man who in the same article suggests we weed out “potential alcoholism, psychopathy and dispositions to violence.” Indeed, he goes on and insists, ” that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.”
Are these caused only by genetic disorders? The inconsistency is so brazen that only the editor of a major journal of medical ethics could fall into it.
What is particularly troubling for our present day and age is his assessment of where the Nazis went wrong:
“But what was especially objectionable about this movement was the coercive imposition of a state vision for a healthy population. Modern eugenics, from testing for diseases to deciding whether you want a girl or boy, is voluntary.”
We should thank the good doctor for at least admitting that what he is promoting is truly ‘eugenics’ but his assessment of the ‘especially objectionable’ part is way off. First of all, after arguing that people have a ‘moral obligation to select ethically better children’ he immediately goes on to say, “They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others. That doesn’t necessarily imply that people should be coerced into making a choice, but we should encourage them.”
What a load of nonsense. If the man believes what he is selling, then of course the ‘values of a liberal society’ cannot allow people to bring defective–physically or psychologically–children into the world. He even says earlier in his article that the ‘critical question’ is: “will it benefit the unborn child?” If the State (read: the medley of ‘experts’ who control the State) believes there is sufficient reason to believe the unborn child will be physically or psychologically ‘unfit’ then for its own good and society’s, obviously the parents should be more than ‘encouraged.’
Second of all, he repeats the basic mistake that 20th century eugenicists made: thinking that a ‘compassionate’ society should ‘manage’ it’s population–guided, of course, by Science. Savulescu thinks that by shifting this arrogant assumption from the State to parents, and making the exercise of the ‘selection’ ‘voluntary,’ the enterprise is ethically sound.
However, it is the assumption that was wrong, all along. It is wrong for the State, it is wrong for the parent. It is wrong for whomever you think should be given the task. It is even wrong if the people who act on the assumption do so ‘voluntarily.’
Savulescu believes that at the minimum, this is something that a ‘liberal society’ should be ‘properly’ talking about.
Just like the 20th century American progressives and German Nazis thought a ‘progressive’ society should be having a ‘proper conversation’ about how best to exterminate Jews and blacks and the deaf and dumb and disabled. You know, for their good, and for ours. Right?
Ironically, while Savulescu is putting his money on the ‘voluntary’ nature of his scheme, his ethical compatriots are arguing the opposite. I’m thinking in particular of the ‘ethicist’ Jacob Appel, who, in a 2009 article titled “Neonatal Euthanasia: Why Require Parental Consent?” that was published in the journal “Bioethical Inquiry” wrote:
“As Western society comes to distinguish between those forms of euthanasia that are pernicious and those that are therapeutic—an inevitable consequence of our progress toward liberal humanism—expanded access to neonatal euthanasia appears likely. What is most important is that when the practice does become available, decisions are made by the most suited individuals for the most appropriate reasons. Rethinking and interrogating the need for parental consent in this process—whatever society ultimately decides—is essential for pursuing an honest and meaningful debate.” (emphasis mine)
In the article, Appel points out that the State already acts in some cases on behalf of children against the will of the parents. (see also) The Dutch have rules for killing newborns that are born with a birth defect–such as spina bifida–but require parental consent. (see the Groningen Protocol.) As you can infer from the quote above, Appel believes the parents, when acting on a ‘voluntary’ basis, have too much say on whether or not the disabled child should be whacked, both before and after its birth; he prefers that “decisions are made by the most suited individuals for the most appropriate reasons.”
Hoche and Binding would concur.
But if any of the elites mentioned in my article so far were in the least consistent, they’d realize that stopping their argument at young children is irrational and just our “squeamishness.” If the arguments hold, they hold from conception to death, and all points between.
Today’s ‘leading lights’ think that we should have “an honest and meaningful debate” over whether or not parents should kill their own children, or if instead, experts should make that call. Savulescu does thinks we should have a “proper academic discussion” about the fact that the principles justifying abortion on demand apply equally to people who have already been born.
Savulescu says being able to talk about such things reflects the “very values of a liberal society.”
Appel believes ‘therapeutic euthanasia’ is the “inevitable consequence of our progress toward liberal humanism.”
And they are correct.
On their view of the world, they are right.
They cannot fathom the possibility that in ten or fifteen or twenty years someone might arise on the scene to put their academic conclusions into action–a future Hitler. If history is any guide, today’s leading lights will be flabbergasted that it could have gone so far, but still won’t recognize that the main problem all along was that they were terribly, horrifically, wrong.
Their views may reflect the ‘values of a liberal society’ and killing people for their own good may be the inevitable consequence of liberal humanism, but that is all the more reason why secular humanism must be resisted at every turn. We shouldn’t be doubling-down on this madness. We should be fighting it tooth and nails.
Before it is too late.
Anthony Horvath is a Christian apologist, pro-life speaker, and publisher. To learn more about his latest project aimed at combating the philosophies discussed in the essay below and how you can help, click here.