This episode is rated M for mature audiences. We will be discussing some of the darker cultural trends in contemporary society in an explicit manner with very frank descriptions involving abortion and killing people for there organs. If you find these subjects too upsetting you may want to skip this episode.
Killing has dominated the news for the last few weeks. An angry debate has raged juxtaposing the harvesting of fetal body parts by Planned Parenthood abortionists with the trophy hunting of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion. Both stories provide fascinating incites into our society’s moral state. As I’m sure most listeners know Cecil was hunted, if luring a carnivore with a carcass can be called that, to obtain a triumphant photo and a head to mount on a wall.
As I discussed in our last episode this kill cannot be justified on animal welfare principles. Of course the animal rights crowd has gone to predictable extremes. The ever radical People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, called for the hunter to be, “preferably hanged”. PETA seems to believe that killing Cecil was no different than murdering a human being, but an animal can’t be murdered. We believe murder is defined as a homicide. Which this wasn’t. Even more important, we should never equate the killing of an animal, no matter how cruel the method, to murdering a human being. The evil of murder is far greater and we must not diminish it by the inapt comparison. There is one final piece of the Cecil imbroglio we do need to consider.
Why precisely were so many people so outraged at his particular killing. Humans respond very powerfully to visual imagery. Cecil was a magnificent specimen of a majestic animal. The mature lion, king of the beasts. Had the now despised trophy seeking dentist hunted a wart hog instead far fewer would have much cared. The same impotence is at least to some degree responsible for the depth of outrage of the recent Planned Parenthood scandal involving the harvesting of aborted fetal body parts. Consider how many anti-Planned Parenthood stories and social media posts were accompanied by sweet pictures of babies, but human organ harvests are nothing new.
Over the years there have been multiple stories of born people being killed and reaped. In China, for example, Falun Gong and other political and criminal prisoners are widely thought to be tissue tipped and executed for their organs in the country’s odious black market organ trade recently reported to be worth 1 billion dollars annually. Where is the flaring outrage over that. People don’t support such crimes to be sure. But the victims are anonymous, of course so are fetuses but there are no sweet awe inducing images of babies to stand in these peoples’ stead which might explain why protests against the Chinese organ harvests have not gone viral like those decrying Planned Parenthood.
Based on the raw emotions expressed in these stories one might conclude that killing Cecil was worse than harvesting fetuses and both far more odious than killing people for their organs. That is why we can’t rely solely on emotions judging right and wrong, but the wisdom of repugnance, a term coined by the splendid bioethicist Leon Caste certainly has its place. In this regard consider how Planned Parenthood apologists defend fetal scavenging as providing an essential good for medical science. As if that were the only consideration.
Indeed if utilitarian benefit is all that matters why not conduct experiments on living fetuses? Think about the scientific knowledge such research could provide. Oh, Wesley, we would never go that far. Yes we would. In fact we already have. In the late 1960s scientists openly experimented on living fetuses even receiving federal funding for the work.
These unethical studies were revisited in Pamela Winnick’s fine 2006 book A Jealous God: Sciences Crusade Against Religion. One such experiment was described by Winnick, “A 26 week old fetus weighing more than a pound was obtained from a 14 year old girl presumably from a therapeutic abortion. Along with 14 other fetuses it was immersed in a liquid containing oxygen and kept alive for 5 hours.” Appallingly the researcher won the 1968 foundation prize award from the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology. When these experiments came to public light there was an uproar to the point that the National Institutes of Health cut off further funding in 1974 after a concerted pressure campaign led by the Kennedy family.
Would there be such universal condemnation today? I doubt it. The experiments mostly took place before Roe v. Wade when most people still believed that unborn life had significant moral meaning. 42 years and more than 50 million abortions have since withered our moral sensibilities. Or maybe it’s just a matter of numbers. Stalin famously quipped about his starving countrymen,” A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” Perhaps in the twenty first century that aphorism also applies to lions and to fetuses.
If you are interested in these themes particularly as they apply to current events, please visit my human exceptionalism blog hosted by National Review Online found at www.nationalreview.com. My twitter address is #At Forced Exit. I also invite you to check out the center on human exceptionalism at the discovery institute at which I am the co director. We can be found at www.discovery.org, where I can also be contacted. My public speaking is arranged by Orthodox Speaker Bureau. Each and every one of us is a truly exceptional human let’s all act that way.