Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Quid est veritas?

Nature in the news. In today's New York Times, Thomas Cahill shamelessly hangs out his ignorance for all to see. The entire column is an incredible, histerical fantasy fueled by crumbling liberal confidence, but this paragraph particularly caught my eye:

Despite his choice of name, John Paul II shared little with his immediate predecessors. John Paul I lasted slightly more than a month, but in that time we were treated to a typical Italian of moderating tendencies, one who had even, before his election, congratulated the parents of the world's first test-tube baby—not a gesture that resonated with the church's fundamentalists, who still insist on holding the line against anything that smacks of tampering with nature, an intellectual construct far removed from what ordinary people mean by that word.

(Thanks to Craig Kelleher for bringing Cahill's piece to my attention.)

Let's pass over the historical charge that the Pope shared little with his predecessors, and skip to his charge about the Church's notion of nature being

"an intellectual construct far removed from what ordinary people mean by that word."

Let's say for the sake of argument that ordinary people have the same conception of nature as Mr. Cahill. So what? If a majority of people in a country thought that a certain race or class of people were sub-human, would that justify their eradication? If a majority of people (or an apparent majority—it's so hard to count large numbers especially when a minority is disproportionately vocal) desire the death of an innocent man, does that justify the magistrate's concession? When democacy (or demagoguery) decides right and wrong, might makes right, and truth claims will only win a dismissive, "What is truth?"

On the actual merit of Cahill's notion of nature, as I've written before, it is actually the modern version of nature that is a construct—initially an intellectual construct for the most part, but increasingly also a social-cultural construct. The modern idea models nature as a machine. Not surprisingly this conception rose with the ascent of technology and man's increasing isolation from nature's power. Nature as machine lacks any internal dynamic or meaningful purpose: nature is inherently chaotic and can only have order imposed on her by "mind," the purposive element of the world that is definitionally exclusive of nature. In this conception, any forming element or purpose can only be "unnatural"—as if an unruly child were more "natural" than a cultured adult.

The classical notion conceives nature after the natural, organic world of living things. It acknowledges nature's internal dynamics and inherent purposes. She possesses inner principles that bring about development. Thus an oak tree is at least as natural as an acorn, in some sense more so; a cultured, self-controlled adult is more natural than an unruly child.

Cahill's notion of nature is decidedly modern. Thus he thinks that chemically tampering with a woman's hormonal cycle to avoid conception is no less natural than abstaining. This Baconian project casts nature not as a spouse to be cherished, a partner to dance with, but as an object of desire to be taken advantage of, used, and discarded. Is it any surprise then that our modern culture objectifies women? Is it any surpise that a woman's fertility is not something to be valued as part of who she is, but a potential obligation (plus lifetime committment!) to be avoided? Is it any surpise that women in the workplace are expected to be men?

So in truth, it is Mr. Cahill's conception of nature that is an intellectual artifice, one that abuses nature, and abandons the objective world for subjective fantasies.

It's always interesting to see the degree of delusion among the liberal elite (are the words "liberal elite" redundant?). And they are incredibly consistent about it too: whatever they observe about somebody else—when examined fairly and objectively—actually reflects more about themselves than about their ostensible subject. It's almost as if they live in a mirrored room and can only see their own reflections.

Like so many of his generation, Cahill's considerations begin not with what is but with what "I want." These pitiful people have become trapped within the cell of their own ego by abandoning the truth for a lie.

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