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Friday, July 25, 2008

Why humans are, and need to be, special

Historian of the Nazi era Richard Weikart explains:
Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who endured the horrors of Auschwitz, astutely commented on the way that modern European thought had helped prepare the way for Nazi atrocities (and his own misery). He stated, "If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. I became acquainted," Frankl continued, "with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment--or, as the Nazi liked to say, of 'Blood and Soil.' I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers."

[ ... ]

A few modern thinkers specifically criticized the "anthropocentric" view that humans are special, made in the image of God. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the famous German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel, for example, blasted Christianity for advancing an "anthropocentric" and dualistic view of humanity. Today the famous bioethicist Peter Singer, along with the atheistic Darwinian biologist Richard Dawkins, argue that based on the Darwinian understanding of human origins, we need to desanctify human life, divesting ourselves of any notion that humans are created in the image of God and thus uniquely valuable. An evolutionary ecologist at the University of Texas, Eric Pianka, fights overtly against anthropocentrism, even expressing the wish that 90% of the human population will be extinguished, perhaps by a pandemic.
But remember, the Texas Academy of Science distanced itself from Pianka's ravings (oops, views). So then it's all right, apparently.

Oops, no, wait. The "we're just animals" view is obviously raving wrong. For one thing, once we believe that, mass murder ensues. Otherwise not. So there must be something wrong with the story.


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