ASPAC 2017 – “The Cultural Revolution: How it threatens family and society…We should care.”

Speech from ASPAC 2017 (Bangkok, Thailand)

 

gender
Fr. Francesco Giordano, HLI Rome Director (R) with Fr. Andrea Ciucci, Coordinating Secretary, Pontifical Academy for Life (L)

Binary Sexuality and Gender Ideology

This semester, I am teaching a course on Gender and Transhumanism. Why the two themes? Essentially, it is because confusion in Gender is part of the larger transhumanist project, so I begin the course with a simple topic, man as the image of God. Man is indeed in the image of God, and the sexual differentiation that makes man either man or woman is key to this image. Man perfects himself with a woman and vice-versa. Such sexual complementarity is a paradigm that contradicts what the evolutionary model wants. As Prof. Timothy Fortin writes in his 2008 Doctoral Dissertaion, Fatherhood and the Perfection of Masculine Identity, “The evolutionary paradigm is almost literally narcissistic : the goal is to produce a perfect genetic reflection of the self. The ideal system is closed and contains only a gene and its replicas. An other is naturally a rival, another genotype seeking ascendancy in a given ecology. Sexual reproduction by contrast orders one individual to another who is unlike the self. The ordering to the common good is corporate, collaborative, and complementary. The offspring is not a perfect replica of one parent but rather a combination of two that entwines the lives of two notably different individuals.”[1] Aside from all of the interesting logical and metaphysical distinction that Fortin takes from Aristotle’s Categories and Metaphysics, this gets at the core of the gifts of sexual reproduction and differentiation that is a fundamental quality of the human person. It is all tied to the natural family, its common good and the common good of society as a whole. It is for this reason that in my course, I address the family as one my starting points.

If we play with sexuality and family too much, we risk a lot. In fact, we risk extinction. Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP, another great moralist whose work I use to teach an Introduction to Moral Theology course, reminds us what St. Thomas Aquinas says are the five natural inclinations of man: 1.) The inclination to the good, 2.) The inclination to self-preservation, 3.) The inclination to sexual union and the rearing of offspring, 4.) The inclination to the knowledge of truth, 5.) The inclination to live in society.[2] Guess what? It is not just the second and the third inclination which is being attacked when we put man at risk of extinction, but it is each and every one of these inclinations. It is no wonder that people are disoriented, sad, and depressed today. They are being bombarded with lies that attack their most basic natural inclinations.

Gabriel Kuby writes a book that summarizes the sexual revolution that is at the heart of this problem and raises our awareness and concern. She is not the only author who writes about such a problem, but I find her work honest, direct, and persuasive enough to recommend to pro-lifers fighting for human life and family. In her book, The Global Sexual Revolution, Gabriel Kuby traces the development from feminism to gender ideology. She shows how gender has been corrupted. She shows the pathology, not the physiology, of gender and how these distortions are being pushed by science, politics, economic interests by ideologically-driven people. She writes:

“For the first time in history, power elites are claiming authority to change men’s and women’s sexual identity through political strategies and legal measures. They had previously lacked expertise in social engineering. However, today this is happening before our eyes on a global scale. The strategy’s name: gender maintstreaming.”[3]

Before writing this, Kuby has already expressed who the trailblazers are in such mainstreaming: Thomas Malthus (1766-1834); Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) and the Eugenics Movement (which has since become even worse with what is now dysgenics)[4]; Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895); Alexandra Kollontoi (1872-1952); Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957); Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935); Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Jung (1875-1961); John Watson (1878-1958), Edward Barnays (1891-1995) (Freud’s nephew), and Bernard Berelson (1912-1979); Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956); John Money (1921-2006); Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), and Judith Butler (1956-). Kuby continues:

“With the Communist opposition to early capitalism, a socialist current arose in the nineteenth century. Women’s issues were taken up by Marx and Engels and converted into a class issue. In his book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, for instance, Engels demanded the abolition of the family, the identical integration of men and women into the workplace, and the collective rearing of children in institutions run by the state.”[5]

This sounds very common nowadays as we hear presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton demanding that the State educate children. Backed by the Sartrian existentialist idea espoused by Sartre’s lover, Simone de Beauvoir, that “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman” these social revolutionaries could work their strings and maneuver the public as they wished. Of course, one notices that science is really used at whim because what Simone de Beauvoir affirms about women the gay movement certainly does not affirm about being gay. In fact, to prove its case, it affirms that one is born gay, and all of this is in the name of science. It is no wonder that people today are skeptical of everyone. If what is supposed to be objective science and news is so subjective, what is one to think? It is no wonder that people are willing to listen to so-called conspiracy theories with more willingness today. They are trying to find the logic to the madness they see around themselves.

The radical feminist leaders from the latter part of the 20th-century have not been fighting so much for equality between men and women as much as they have been fighting against marriage, Kuby claims, because they are generally against women as mothers and for the complete deregulation of sexuality. This is where the whole gender theory emerges. In order to destroy the family—and ultimately weaken individuals so as to make them more easily malleable—there was the deconstruction of binary sexuality. Enforcing this social policy required a new word: Gender. Why create a new word? In a nominalist world like ours, reality is created by language. Truth is no longer adaequatio intellectus et rei dicitur[6], so it is in this context that the word “gender” is coined so as to allow for more than two sexes. After all, with the word “sex” one can only answer male or female. Maybe one ought to use her term as he would use the term “sex.” While we can certainly say that there are variables to be considered among different people, we cannot eliminate the substantial reality of male and female, just like we cannot eliminate day and night. Yes, at 4pm in the winter in Rome, the sun is not as strong as it is at noon, but it is still day. Every hour and every minute cannot get its particular definition. If that were the case, it would make communication itself more difficult. Language is made to simplify our grasp and communication of reality, not to complicate it.

What Judith Butler and other deconstructionist feminists have done is to use language to destabilize and deconstruct the binary sex or gender identity. Kuby summarizes: “For her the experience as a lesbian of taking on the masculine role at one moment and the feminine at another seems to determine her nature more than the fact that each of her cells, the composition of her body, her organs, and her voice are feminine and are recognized by anyone as those of a woman.”[7] Rather than adhere to what nature limits, Butler believes that there are fictive categories of sexual identity constructed through language.[8] Post-structuralist literary critics and philosophers, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault (1926-1984), and Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) have in common the use of developing new language which shakes the very foundations of society. In this case, Butler uses language to construct confusion through the multiplication of gender identities. As Kuby writes, “If her views were expressed in simple words, anyone would see that she has lost touch with reality, but because she clouds her destructive ideas with highly philosophical terminology that is hard to understand, readers and listeners reverently nod their heads.”

With the methods of propaganda developed by the likes of Edward Barnays and the very clever work in higher education system by the likes of Michel Foucault,[9] it is no wonder that this objective has been reached in many ways. Just think of how the UN and the EU have been giving millions of Euros to LGBTI organizations that are pushing gender mainstreaming. There are many, many articles out there on the propaganda in the schools. In Italy alone, there is a weekly news alert Osservatorio Gender that informs citizens of these news updates. All areas of society, especially those that govern society at large, are now filled with this agenda. As Kuby summarizes, “For the clever ones among the homosexuals, the academically trained, a career was opening in international organizations, universities, the media, and the courts.”[10] It is now extremely evident that the objective has been reached, but it is not too late to change the tide. What needs to happen is to have a unified effort on all fronts of people of good will, i.e. those who have the desire and knowledge of what is true and good.

To begin one can develop arguments against these positions not tire to teach with these  persuasive arguments to people willing to listen. Kuby’s work, for instance, is laudable. She reveals what is happening by “connecting the dots” between these different thinkers and schools. She also shows how illogical someone like Butler is. At one point, for example, Kuby writes: “If there is no such thing as sexual identity, then the feminists fighting for female supremacy have a problem. There is a choice of expanding women’s power at the expense of men or of completely abolishing binary sexual identity and leaving it up to individual choice. Butler is aware of the problem and asks “whether feminist politics could do without a ‘subject’ in the category of women.”[11]…But dissolution of sexual identity is really the goal, because not until then will the individual be emancipated from the dictatorship of nature and realize complete freedom of choice, the ability to reinvent oneself at any time.”[12] Here we have the connection between gender and what is now transhumanism.

In order to bring about the reduction to human identity to a freely chosen, mutable sexual orientation and avoid its formation in the countless influences besides sex, the elimination of these other influences—such as family, culture, and religion—are necessary. In fact, Kuby remarks that according to Butler, “families are formed not by the bonds between spouses and children, but by arbitrary acts of momentary belonging. In Butler’s parallel universe, children are not conceived, but “designed” and produced with the aid of artificial technical modes of reproduction, such as sperm donation, egg donation, surrogate motherhood, artificial wombs and gene manipulation.”[13] The “dictatorship of nature” itself is a point of contention in this promethean project, and what is absolutely incredible is that this is all endorsed by the elites. Such is not new to us. All we have to remember is that when the reliability of Alfred Kinsey’s empirical data for his theories were being questioned in Congress in 1951, the very Rockefeller Foundation that funded him, backed away officially, but simultaneously Hays Sulzberger, on the board of the same Rockefeller Foundation, promoted his theories through his influence as editor of the New York Times.[14] Academics and science, in other words, are themselves pawns in the hands of these manipulators of society.

Of course, there are many faces among the feminists. One has only to consider that the first feminists were themselves very much pro-life and that today there are groups of feminists for life on campuses like Georgetown University. There is a growing opposition to such manipulation, and books like that of Gabriele Kuby are a witness to it.

One has only to consider what Camille Paglia, a famous opinion writer who certainly does not stand on same side of the spectrum as Gabriele Kuby does, wrote in a June 2017 interview from The Standard when relating feminism to transgender, for instance.

“Feminists have clashed with transgender activists much more publicly in the United Kingdom than here. For example, two years ago there was an acrimonious organized campaign, including a petition with 3,000 claimed signatures, to cancel a lecture by Germaine Greer at Cardiff University because of her “offensive” views of transgenderism. Greer, a literary scholar who was one of the great pioneers of second-wave feminism, has always denied that men who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are actually “women.” Her Cardiff lecture (on “Women and Power” in the twentieth century) eventually went forward, under heavy security.

And in 2014, Gender Hurts, a book by radical Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys, created a heated controversy in the United Kingdom. Jeffreys identifies transsexualism with misogyny and describes it as a form of “mutilation.” She and her feminist allies encountered prolonged difficulties in securing a London speaking venue because of threats and agitation by transgender activists. Finally, Conway Hall was made available: Jeffrey’s forceful, detailed lecture there in July of last year is fully available on YouTube.[15] In it she argues among other things, that the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life.

Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender. Biology has been programmatically excluded from women’s studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now. Thus very few current gender studies professors and theorists, here and abroad, are intellectually or scientifically prepared to teach their subjects.

The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.

As for the La Leche League, they are hardly prepared to take up the cudgels in the bruising culture wars. Awash with the milk of human kindness, they are probably stuck in nurturance mode. Naturally, they snap to attention at the sound of squalling babies, no matter what their age. It’s up to literature professors and writers to defend the integrity of English, which like all languages changes slowly and organically over time. But with so many humanities departments swallowed up in the poststructuralist tar pit, the glorious medium of English may have to fight the gender commissars on its own.”[16

It is always a gratifying to read what people who are not necessarily on the same wavelength as oneself are in agreement about such important matters. This is natural law which beckons, and it is this approach that needs to be taken. It is always helpful to hear the truth proclaims from different sides and even with different words; this is true even though it is clear  that a stronger, metaphysically-founded language has more ammunition when facing some of the errors we see today. Some scholars, like Maria Teresa Russo at Università degli Studi Roma Tre, offer some good alternatives to people like Judith Butler. In a metaphilosophical approach inspired by an old article by Ann Garry, “The philosopher as teacher. Why are Love and Sex philosophically interesting,”[17] Maria Teresa Russo wrote an interesting article recently, “Soggettività, Corpo e Differenza Sessuale Nel Dibattito Filosofico di Area Femminista.”[18]

Russo begins by explaining that after what she defines a long “sexual absence” in western tradition, a tradition which considered the human being as a rational animal without giving much attention to sexual body, we are now seeing a change that is in large part due to the work of feminists. These feminists have focused a lot on the issue of subjectivity in the woman. We can also think of the work which St. Edith Stein contributed in the field, even though she did stress how the soul itself was sexual, and that was in large part due to the influence of Bl. Duns Scotus on her, Heidegger, and other phenomenologists. Russo further explains that feminism is very much a part of the sexual revolution, and she goes further to say that the sexual revolution is unlike other revolutions which aimed to change social structures and the like. This revolution has changed the human person. Here we see the relation between gender ideology and transhumanism, also hinted at by Gabriele Kuby. The effects, Russo continues, are to be found in many areas of the person: procreation (with contraception and reproductive technologies), genealogy (with the new rapports between parents and children, if not the very structure of the family), and sexual identity (with the blurred gender borders). Clearly, all of this has repercussions on the common good, especially as economic and political factors enter the mixture of influences.

Russo brushes over the fact that feminism has different historical phases. She stresses how the first phase of feminism sought equality and therefore ignored the body, and this, according to Elizabeth Grosz, is tied to what she calls a form of somatophobia rooted in ancient Greece.[19] Such a position is in contrast with the dualist position of Descartes and the monist position of Spinoza. Clearly, the Thomist position we stressed earlier shows much more realism in that it links the mind and the body very easily to one another. It is then from the more liberal feminism of those like Mary Wollstonecraft (at the very origins of feminism itself), Simone De Beauvoir, and Shulamit Firestone that we begin to see how the body itself is considered vulnerable, a limit to the woman. What would resolve these limits would be technical procedures, much in line with what Francis Bacon had said in the early 17th-century. In fact, Grosz stresses how such claims, in which the corporeal dimension ends up being accidental in the idea of a more neutral humanity, in fact restore the very somatophobia of the Greeks.[20] Clearly, this is not shared by other feminists like Gayle Rubin, Nancy Chodorow, Adrienne Rich, or Sara Ruddick. In order to overcome such somatophobia Grosz sees how the differences in sex are part of a “mobile and volatile concept,” very much in line with what would have read in Alfred Kinsey fifty years earlier. Can we really agree that sex or gender is such a “slippery and ambiguous” term, as Grosz, Butler and others would like us to believe? While there are certainly accidental divergences, substantially each sex is very, very often easily identifiable. The exceptions are very, very rare, and we cannot build a law based on extreme exceptions. In fact, Russo writes that no matter what we experience individually, there is an impassable materiality of the sexualized body which we simply cannot deny.[21] Russo agrees with Kuby that such fluidity in Butler and other feminists is counter-productive to feminism, to women and to mankind in general.

It is for this reason that Russo turns to the very issue of ontology, just as we did. However, it is in difference that we find our starting point. If there is no difference, we cannot appreciate the individual. Jacques Maritain, in fact, wrote an interesting work in the 1932 on this very subject: Distinguer pour unir ou Les degrés du savoir. If we want to unite beings, we need to distinguish them. Sexual difference is founded on such union. Even the union between the Mediator between God and Man shows a very clear and perfect distinction between the divine and the human natures of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that we appreciate what Russo is attempting in her work. We cannot come to see people as having fluid sexualities as Kinsey, Butler, and others would like. Fortunately, Russo is not alone in seeing this problem. Virginia Held also sees how dangerous they can be for feminism itself.[22] This so-called “feminism of difference” wishes to abandon openly politically polemical tones which see the sexes in a power struggle and to stress instead the differences between the sexes which stress how the sexes complement one another in the way they build the family and society. This really shows the richness of humanity that is already present in nature itself. In this context we find feminists like Luce Irigaray, Iris Young and Sara Ruddick.

Clearly, what Irigaray does when she sexualizes her very being can be controversial from a metaphysical perspective because sex is not itself a quality of being, but the attempt she is making in her context is laudable nonetheless.[23] What is important to note is that she sees difference as fundamental. She sees that the woman is defined by her difference, a corporeal difference which bespeaks of openness and relation. This is strangely not too far from what we would read in St. Thomas Aquinas. He ties very well the principle of individuation to the principle of participation. Just because there are many individual variations does not mean that one does not participate in a specific sex or gender. Just because there are many other individual variations does not mean that these do not participate in a specific race. Just because there are many racial variations does not mean that these races do not participate in the human species. The argument goes on and on.[24] If one does not start from such a clear metaphysical distinction, it is clear that one can find himself in a nominalist trap, like the one we find espoused by Alfred Kinsey.

Irigaray then advances another idea which is key even to what we read in Joseph Nicolosi’s work on homosexuality.[25] She explains that man and woman do not confront themselves in the same way with their birth and genealogy. This is the reason why the relationship between the daughter and the mother is fundamental. Nicolosi would say that it is easier for the girl and the mother because the boy has to work to separate himself from the mother and identify himself with the father. In other words, it is the time in which the boy or girl identifies himself or herself and comes to know himself or herself in and through this other person. This is the first “other” whom he or she encounters.[26] She then affirms what St. Thomas Aquinas stresses from the beginning, i.e. the generative power. This is what is tied to the sexualized body. We always return to this, and Irigaray is not alone because even other feminists like Sara Ruddick and Hannah Arendt stress this element which is tied to birth, sexuality, and death, the whole of the human experience.[27] Birth, according to Arendt, is key because she considers it the event that saves the world. It amazing to read feminist thinkers who stress the salutary nature of birth. Often times when one thinks of feminists one thinks of women who do not want to give importance to birth because they see it as an impediment to their freedom, to their being. Instead, here we read books by feminists who say that this is precisely where the woman defines her very being! Ruddick stresses the reciprocal relationship between the woman and the newborn with a living being existing within another; a living being emerges from another; a body nourishes another body.[28]

To Ruddick’s rich reading of the intimate relation between the mother and the child in which the child could not live without her but who nonetheless is not her, Irigaray explains  the psychological dimension of the woman understanding from this that there are potentially two in her.[29] In another work, Speculum, Irigaray furthers this analogy by showing the mirror-image the woman has to do with her own mother as she carries her own child in the womb. Some of the wording can be a bit too Freudian for our way of thinking, especially when she talks about the annulment of the daughter’s own rapport with her mother as she substitutes the mother with the new rapport being established with the baby in the womb, a phenomenon that goes on ad infinitum in what she terms a sort of mother earth phallic relation.[30] All of the psychological phenomenology diverts from what we are trying to say, especially since it is in this book that Irigaray is trying to show how the woman stands on her own without what she finds has been a misunderstanding of women in masculine terms, of women defined as a disadvantaged man.

In spite of  this position to which we do not adhere and to which she dedicates a lot of her book,[31] what we find most interesting and important with Irigaray’s work is how she shows the way the person comes to understand her own gender individuation, in spite of whatever variations there may be. This is why this book is particularly interesting. It speaks from the feminist position, but it proves what we are trying to say about gender identification, about the embodied existence. This is key for men and women, and what is interesting is that other such existential phenomenologists who follow Merleau-Ponty come to similar conclusions.[32] Coming from a more Thomistic background we would prefer the term “corporeal” rather than “embodied” because it is a more objective term. What phenomenologists do is typical of most rationalist philosophy since the 18th-century which seeks to use existence as the point of departure, rather than being itself. In an attempt to avoid Cartesian dualism, these feminists prefer to avoid ontological terminology, but we feel that ontological terminology does not put male and female against one another. Rather, it shows how they are part of the same species, and the “gender” differences that stem from the biological differences are not merely accidents like hair color or height would be. If they were, then we would see a plurality of differences and a plurality of genders, which is the risk Maria Teresa Russo also admits.[33] The hylomorphism of St. Thomas Aquinas helps because it places the human form in the soul, and the gendered form in the body. Yes, it is all one form, but let us say that both the body and the soul are ontological. The ontological similarity between man and woman lies in the soul, and the ontological difference in the gender. This way the differences are not merely accidental.

Notwithstanding these different philosophical approaches, the coming to understand the truth about one’s own nature—fulfilling the inclination we all have to come to truth, to come to the adaequatio intellectus et rei,[34]—is particularly interesting about these studies. It shows us that the spectrum of feminism is much more complex than meets the eye. Clearly, there is a dark political and belligerent side to feminism as an ideology, but there is also a side that seeks to understand and to proclaim the truth about the human experience. Such a side we found with the guidance of Maria Teresa Russo who sees the role of symbol, education, and society as a whole in the formation—not destruction—of the person’s sexual identity, one substantially stemming from a biological sex. According to Russo, while she agrees with early feminists that “biology is not destiny,” she does not feel that it is indifferent either. This is precisely what we do not see in Butler’s explicit attempt to destroy binary sexuality; such is not just an attempt to eliminate philosophical dualism stemming from Descartes. Rather, it is an attempt to destroy the person’s identity and to replace it willingly with whatever else comes to mind, with whatever possibilities there may be. With such perversion we come to the different forms of transhumanism present today, all of which can only be won with the clarity of vision a family, culture, and religion with a clear sense of identity—of final causality—can provide. When there is a final cause, then the efficient cause of the world of techne, of technology, can be directed well. It is when such a final cause is not the primary end that we can have serious Frankenstein-like results and prove that Nietzsche was correct in saying that the human species, left to its own, would either double itself or destroy itself.[35]

The Transhumanist Problem and…threat

“Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become post-human, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.[36] Nick Bostrom

With this quotation from the cofounder of the World Transhumanist Association,[37] Nick Bostrom, we can see that at the heart of transhumanism there is a clear plan, a 21st-century form of Eugenics. With a degree from the London School of Economics Bostrom teaches at Oxford University as Director of Future of Humanity Institute and of the Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. Others in the field include Gregory Stock, author of the best-seller Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future (Stock, 2002); Nicholas Agar, Bioethicist who promotes in his book Liberal Eugenics. In Defense of Human Enhancement (Agar, 2004) a form of liberal eugenics via the use of new reproductive technologies; and John Harris from the University of Manchester, who in his book Enhancing Evolution (Harris, 2007) considers it not simply profitable but a moral obligation to “augment man.”

These transhumanists hope that man become stronger, more intelligent, and happier. When they say “stronger” they mean an elaboration of a body that is more resistant to diseases, to stress, and is able to have better sense capacities. This self-made man, stronger than the one God made, is like a version 2.0 of man, and we see this in cyber soldiers which do not seem too far off of the Terminator sci-fi movies. This man is also more intelligent than man today, and we see this already with medication like Ritalin but more specifically in the technologically-advanced “brain boosters.” While one can be stronger and more intelligent, does that make him happier? After all, St. Thomas Aquinas defines the good as “that which all desire” and which brings them to perfection; this rest of the desire in the final perfection is happiness in rational, intelligent creatures like men. At least that is the way the logic would work.[38] Clearly, these thinkers are not thinking along the lines of St. Thomas Aquinas because they hope to “produce” happiness from the outside with medication. At least that is what we read in David Pearce’s Hedonist Manifesto from 2006.

Clearly, among the first victims of such a philosophy are the down babies. Jean-Marie Le Méné, President of the Fondation Jérôme Lejeune, writes in his book Les premières victimes du transhumanisme that 96% of all down babies are aborted. It may appear like something kind to do to the poor children who would have to suffer their pathologies all of their lives, but this is just another form of Eugenics. Generally speaking, Transhumanism stems from the belief that man is a failed experiment, an idea that is tied to evolutionism. From this, according to Le Méné, we see a market of medicine which is willing to be used to bring about death as well as to fabricate human life in an industrial sort of way. Coupled with legal positivism, which sees law as something changeable according to the needs and not as tied to what is fundamentally just, we find ourselves with a deadly recipe for humanity and for the weakest among us, especially infants in the womb and elderly awaiting their deaths. Le Méné sees how the procreative industry, i.e. that intimately tied to IVF, represents an anticipation of transhumanism, much like abortion, euthanasia and trisonomy or “down” screening.

We are basically faced with a regression into barbarism where we shall see supermen impose themselves on subhumans. Such a scenario can only signal the end of our human race, as is very well evinced in a pro-life Superman movie called Man of Steel, released on June 14, 2013. The opening scene of this movie shows how Superman’s mother is giving birth to Superman naturally in a world where natural birth is illegal and which is now literally falling apart. It is for this reason that Superman gets sent off to another far-off planet, our own. This is not to mention another movie from a few years earlier, Children of Men (2006), which described a world where no one could get pregnant, except one unfortunate lady who was sought after with ferocity throughout the movie. While these sci-fi movies seem crazy, they are pointing out something that is happening in real science. Let us not forget that Man of Steel came shortly after the May 2013 article in the journal Cell which described the successful experiment of cloned human embryos carried through by Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his team at the Oregon Health & Science University.

At the core of this is the immanentism common to Modern Philosophy which basically wants to resolve all our issues humanly. This is what Fr. James Schall makes abundantly clear in his 2017 Holy Week article, “Body and soul: the Resurrection of Christ answers our desire to live forever.”[39] Linking the Jewish Passover to the Christian Easter, Fr. Schall, SJ, attests to the central and absolutely critical belief that Christ rose from the dead in the body. The companion belief – that we ourselves are destined to share in “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting,” as the Creed says – has been affirmed in different ways even by Marxist thinkers and transhumanists, Fr Schall notes:

The truth the transhumanists have grasped is that we do wish to live forever as the unique persons we are. The truth that the Marxist philosophers grasp is that, even in our sins, we are not complete as human beings without the unity of body and soul.

Even so, the resurrection is a challenging doctrine and has always been so. In a beautiful reflection on the gospel account of “doubting Thomas”, Presbyterian Pastor Campbell Markham[40] points out that this is not, in the end, about a lack of evidence:

There is nothing illogical about believing in the resurrected Jesus. There is nothing unscientific about believing this—if God is there, then of course he can raise his Son to life! The problem is not evidential: there is abundant reliable eyewitness evidence, and colossal circumstantial evidence, for the resurrection of Jesus. The problem is that we don’t want to believe.

One can think that if we really want more people to believe, we have to show them that it makes us better, happier, more attractive people. Witnesses to the faith that is in us. If the sceptics can believe in us, they could believe in a whole lot more.

Of course, there are those who look for the betterment of man but who do not hold to the positions of Mitalipov and others in the modality of making man better. Rather, these thinkers look to conserve people as much as is biologically possible. There are the simple bioconservatives. As Nicolas Le Dévédec and Fany Guis explain in an article from November 19, 2013, “L’humain augmenté, un enjeu social,” there are three conceptual approaches we face today in the academic world : transhumanism, bioconservatism, and a bioethical third way which they describe in their article.[41] After all, it is not that strange for us to consider the alteration of mankind today if we but think of the fact that many people are on mood-altering medications of one sort or another. The debate between the Transhumanists and the Bioconservatives emerged at the beginning of the 21st-century. For the transhumanist movement human augmentation represents the opportunity for the human being to become an “artisan” of his own evolution. According to these transhumanist enthusiasts the convergence of technological revolutions marks the beginning of a new Renaissance. The Bioconservatives, instead, see these technological advancements with much more caution. In fact, according to Le Dévédec and Guis, such technological progress is seen as an attack on human nature and on the most fundamental human values. Let us say that I tend to side with the bioconservatives, especially in an epoc when money and other utilitarian-based interests dominate the scene.

Among these bioconservatives, we can think of Francis Fukuyama, Leon Kass, and Michael Sandel in this group. All members of President’s Council on Bioethics created in 2001 by President George W. Bush, their 2003 report Beyond Therapy, can be considered a bioconservative approach to Transhumanism.  They basically seek to re-establish health in individuals who have undergone major injuries on the workplace. They are looking out for the rights of man. They see the risks of Transhumanism and stress how the human being defines himself according to his nature in the biological sense of the term, and they link this with the religious experience. Sandel’s The Case Against Perfection shows the risks of a promethean desire to control nature, especially human nature. He stresses the importance of looking at life as a gift. He writes:

I do not think the main problem with enhancement and genetic engineering is that they undermine effort and erode human agency. The deeper danger is that they represent a kind of hyperagency – a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, including human nature, to serve our purposes and satisfy our desires. The problem is not the drift to mechanism but the drive to mastery. And what the drive to mastery misses and may even destroy is an appreciation of the gifted character of human powers and achievements.”[42]

According to this perspective, medicine cannot substitute nature. Rather, its role is to accompany nature, to be therapeutic in helping nature reestablish its proper order. However, what is the distinction between therapy and betterment ? This is where the debate stems, as we read in philosophers like George Canguilhem. Another matter that such philosophers consider is the distinction between the individual and the common good. They often show that transhumanism is the result of a strong indvidualism which does not take into consideration the negative effects such measures have on society as a whole. We have but to consider Fritz Allhoff and his colleagues at the National Science Foundation who stress the betterment of man and his freedom. However, who is to judge this? Would what Lance Armstrong’s doping to better his performance be considered ethical? If we were to follow these transhumanist positions, we could not deny him his right to take steroids, but something about the justice of the matter in sportsmanship stops us from going there. This is where we must always consider the effects—even extreme—of our premises to see the validity of these premises, and Aristotle makes this abundantly clear in a number of his works. In other words, some regulation is necessary, and we go back to the big moral debate of today by showing yet again that freedom cannot be absolute.

In terms of drugs, we cannot simply stop at the problem of steroids, but we see that psychological medications that alter or augment our human capacities are quite normal today, but what are the real necessities and side-effects of such drugs ? Are economic reasons pushing them too far ? This happens in many cases of people who do not even need such drugs, and the studies to prove this are plethora. At the root of these problems one can consider the very large definition of health proposed by the World Health Organization in 1946 : “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and does not only consist of an absence of disease or infirmity.” With such a large definition, it is no wonder that we now find ourselves in disagreement about the limits of well-being. In such a context, people have the false freedom to choose whatever such health indicates. For instance, we think of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer using the slogan “Better than well.” We see the abuse people make of Ritalin. Why not simply try to reduce one’s many activities, especially in children? This is where traditional norms of virtues like temperance fall in. Granted, sometimes it is needed, but it cannot become the only means to “normality.”

As we know, this also clearly connects with prenatal diagnostics and everything else that implies. We begin to choose how we want our children to be, and this is just the starting point. There is no telling how far these elastic moral principles will take us. This is what is scary about Transhumanism. As Rachel Hurst correctly sums up, “The cultural and political ideologies underpinning the new genetics work to a medical model of disability, seeing disabled people as solely consisting of their impairments – not their intrinsic humanity.[43]

Theologically speaking, if the human becomes trans-human or post-human, then this would mean that the false Gnostic illusion that man can come to salvation by knowing or doing something particular has come to prevail, Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi reminds us in an editorial he writes for the Bollettino di Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa.[44] The Archbishop continues by affirming that technology, or more specifically the “techne” mentality, which ends up overcoming and denying nature, cannot be where man finds his salvation. The alarm bell about which His Excellency  warns is precisely the number of currents that finance and sustain such transhumanism with enormous financial resources. The Church can rightfully see this problem because it is not new. Not only do we have the Titan Prometheus in Greek Mythology, but we have the Tower of Babel in Genesis. Basically, it is man trying to be God, and this is given a philosophical order in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis comes to mind.

In his book Peace among the Willows, published in 1968, Howard B. White analyzed Bacon’s New Atlantis[45] claiming that this work provides the fullest sense of Bacon’s political theory, especially regarding what he calls the secularization of politics and the glorification of the power of science to serve the interests of the secular state. Looking at Bacon’s use of religious themes, White sees how Bacon manipulates them “in order to subvert Christian ideas and transform them into a culturally acceptable justification for a preoccupation with luxury and materialism.” This is basically the transformation of man’s quest from the search for the “heavenly city” to the quest to create his own earthly city. This would entail a change in the philosophical quest from an effort to understand God, His Creation, and man’s place in this Creation to a pursuit to understand what men can make on their own. Others take the same position. For example, Jerry Weinberger, Marina Leslie, and David Innes are considered in this group. Studies by Charles Whitney, Amy Boesky and others see Bacon’s thought as the primary source for political ideologies that underlie different forms of nationalism and imperialism. While Bacon’s thinking can certainly be seen along these lines, others like Steven McKnight argue that “Bacon’s program of utopian reform, as presented in New Atlantis is grounded in genuinely and deeply felt religious convictions, which serve as the foundation for his program of political and social prosperity through the advancement of learning.”[46] McKnight compares Bacon’s version of the myth of Atlantis to the one found in Plato’s Critias and Timaeus. He claims that “Bacon uses this primordial history to portray a golden age that has been virtually lost from memory; as a result, humanity has been left with a truncated account of its past achievements. Bacon refers to an ancient wisdom that has been lost and replaced by impotent, inferior philosophies. Yet the purpose of the Platonic myth in “New Atlantis” is to instill hope that this knowledge can be recovered and the state of civilizational excellence restored.”[47]

Notwithstanding McKnight’s very persuasive argument, we cannot fail to see that there are other interpretations of Bacon’s work, and many historians who cover the field of the history of ideas see the epochal shift which has taken place since the Enlightenment. One has only to think of Paul Hazard and Christopher Dawson to see this. We can also think of the recent 2014 work by Charles T. Rubin, The Eclipse of Man or C.S. Lewis’ famous The Abolition of Man to think that there is a justification for concern when one sees the secularization of man tied to his own destruction. The use of science as a merely efficient cause without bearing in mind the importance of final causality is what is particularly dangerous because it is blind use of power. It is like putting certain perfectly normal instruments in the hands of someone unable to use them. Any mother can say that the knife she uses to cut the meat which feeds her child could be the very knife the child uses to harm himself. It does not take much to understand such a self-evident truth.

As Salvino Leone correctly asserts at the end of his editorial piece, we are dealing with an ethical prospective that is evermore related to metaphysics. He writes that it is a line that is always more difficult to define as we approach the infinitely which is at the origins of mankind. He correctly writes: “Di fatto l’uomo non sarà più oggetto passive, quasi spettatore dell’evoluzione su se stess ma artifice diretto, protagonista, soggetto, potendola determinare e orientare in un senso o nell’altro. Non occorrerà solo scienza e coscienza ma anche e soprattutto sapienza.”[48] Indeed these are wise words! It is with these words that I turn to a recent article by Prof. Giovanni Turco, professor of political philosophy.

Turco stresses how this is all the natural consequence of modern philosophy. We have gone from René Descartes and Francis Bacon to Darwin, Nietzsche, and Teilhard de Chardin, from the theories of eugenic betterment to those that deal with the cybernetic intellect. The last phase is precisely this phase of going beyond man himself, even using hybernetics to do so. It is the admixture of man and non-man to make a superman. It is all constructed and artificial, of course, and what is crazy about all of this is that while in the 19th-century, the Church had to fight for the supernatural against outright naturalism, she is now finding herself having to defend natural law. The cause for this is clearly the move away from God. Once one forgets God, one will eventually forget his creature, man. According to the Fathers, after the sin, man is still in the image of God but has lost his likeness to God. Now, it appears that we are trying to eliminate even the image, and man is becoming a brute, much like what St. Thomas describes in the De Veritate q. 24. However, even in the Summa Theologiae, the Angelic Doctor thinks of such a key distinction. The Angelic Doctor further made a distinction between the brute and man saying: “The souls of brute animals have no per se operations they are not subsistent. For the operation of anything follows the mode of its being.”[49] This implies that the soul of man is subsistent since God directly created it and that of brute animal is contingent for it has no life after this life. Is this what we are seeking to do with Transhumanism? Is this even possible? Are we just dealing with the body? Does not this have an influence on the soul? These are the questions that loom in the background as we confront such Transhumanism that tries to dominate nature and man in this epoch of the primacy of praxis which wants to render the eschaton immanent. In such a context freedom becomes a freedom from nature and being itself. What are the implications? Is what is left of man after such experiments even human anymore?

Turco shows how the Cartesian binomial res cogitans-res extensa is at the root of this ideology and that the body in such a philosophical approach is no longer harmonious with the mind but an object that can be malleable according to the whims and wishes of the mind. This is the extreme conclusion of such an approach. In a classic worldview, rather, we see the rational soul (guided by the intellect) which in turn orders the animal and vegetative souls. The closer the rational soul is to God and the Truth, the more ordered the other “parts” become. This is by no means a mechanistic vision. After such a mechanistic vision, even matter is surpassed as we are now seeing in the postmodern world, a world in which we see Sartre’s primacy of existence over being coming to its logical conclusion. No wonder Simone de Beauvoir who was so influential in the new gender theories so close to someone whose philosophy would easily confirm what we are now seeing in the Transhumanist perspective which unites many modern philosophers, from Descartes and Bacon to Spinoza, Hume, and Bentham. After all, for Spinoza, Turco affirms, nothing is determined any longer because of the one substance, and for Hume we are nothing but a bundle of perceptions. Bentham is then the practical, utilitarian, and legal positivistic conclusion to such a vision of man. If knowledge if power, as Bacon would stress, then the limits of this power grow ever more as technology permits. Turco shows how all of this has Gnostic roots in man’s desire to save himself.

[1] Timothy Fortin, Fatherhood and the Perfection of Masculine Identity: A Thomistic Account In Light of Contemporary Science, PUSC, Rome 2008, p. 349.

[2] Servais Pinckaers, OP, The Sources of Christian Ethics, Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C. 1995, p. 407.

[3] Gabriele Kuby, The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom, Angelico Press, Kettering, OH, 2015, p. 42.

[4] One has but to consider the controversial books by Richard Lynn, but while he takes on the approach of defending eugenics because of genetic deterioration in modern populations which Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin) had himself seen in the 19th-century when he developed Eugenics, the dysgenics we see today is monstrous. There is a case, for instance, of two deaf Lesbians who want to have a child together but select only the sperm of a donor who is himself deaf so as to have a deaf child. With the choice of “knowledge is power” and the voluntarism that is rampant today, people are really trying to become like gods. This is at the root of the problem: men trying to be like gods. It is the Myth of Prometheus; it is the first temptation of Adam by the serpent.

[5] Gabriele Kuby, Ibid., p. 43.

[6] St. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1.

[7] Gabriele Kuby, ibid, p. 45.

[8] Cfr. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, New York 1999, p. 8

[9] Cfr. Keith Windschuttle, The Killing of History: How literary critics and social theorists are murdering our past, Encounter Books, New York 1996, pp. 131-171. Also, read a recent polemical article in The Federalist on the war being waged to change this tide in education: Inez Feltscher,  “State Lawmakers Need to Increase Dramatically School Choice Now or America is Over,” in The Federalist, February 14, 2017. http://thefederalist.com/2017/02/14/state-lawmakers-need-dramatically-increase-school-choice-now-america/

[10] Gabriele Kuby, Ibid, p. 44.

[11] Judith Butler, Ibid, p. 209.

[12] Gabriele Kuby, Ibid, p. 46.

[13] Gabriele Kuby, Ibid, p. 47.

[14] Gabriele Kuby, Ibid., p. 33.

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTPgmTVt5_Q

[16] Jonathan V. Last, Weekly Standard, “Camille Paglia: On Trump, Democrats, Transgenderism, and Islamist Terror,” 15 June 2017.

[17] Ann Garry, “The Philosopher as teacher. Why are Love and Sex philosophically interesting?,” in Metaphilosophy, 11/2, April 1980, pp. 165-177.

[18] Maria Teresa Russo, “Soggettività, Corpo, e Differenza Sessuale nel Dibattito Filosofico di Area Femminista,” in Acta Philosophica, II, 25, 2016, pp. 257-271.

[19] Elizabeth A. Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism, Indiana University Press, Bloomington 1994, pp. 5-18.

[20] Cfr. Maria Teresa Russo, Ibid., p. 260.

[21] Cfr. Maria Teresa Russo, Ibid., p. 261.

[22] Cfr. Virginia Held, Feminist Morality: Transforming Culture, Society and Politics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1993, p. 22.

[23] Cfr. Luce Irigaray, Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un, Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1977.

[24] St. Thomas Aquinas, In duodecim libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis expositio, lectio 10, 4: “…quod singulis speciebus attribuuntur multa individua univocorum, idest multa individua univocae speciei praedicationem suscipientia et hoc secundum participationem; nam species, vel idea est ipsa natura speciei, qua est existens homo per essentiam. Individuum autem est homo per participationem, inquantum natura speciei in hac materia designata participatur. Quod enim totaliter est aliquid, non participat illud, sed est per essentiam idem illi. Quod vero non totaliter est aliquid habens aliquid aliud adiunctum, proprie partecipare dicitur. Sicut si calor esset calor per se existens, non diceretur partecipare calorem, quia nihil esset in eo nisi calor. Ignis vero quia est aliquid aliud quam calor, dicitur partecipare calorem.”

[25] Cfr. Joseph Nicolosi, Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2009.

[26] Cfr. Luce Irigaray, Key Writings, Bloomsbury Publishing, London-New York 2006.

[27] Cfr. Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking: Towards a Politics of Peace, Ballantine Books, New York 1980. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1958.

[28] Cfr. Sara Ruddick, Maternal Thinking…, Ibid., pp. 256-257.

[29] Cfr. Luce Irigaray, Key Writings, Ibid., p. 287.

[30] Cfr. Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman, Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1985.

[31] This is especially the case with her critique of Plato’s myth of the cave. She sees it as a metaphor that is at the root of the exclusion of meaning for women.

[32] Cfr. Toril Moi, What Is a Woman?: And Other Essays, Oxford University Press, New York 1999; Iris Marion Young, On female body experience. “Throwing Like a Girl” and other essays in feminist philosophy and social theory, Introduction, Oxford University Press, New York 2005.

[33] Cfr. Maria Teresa Russo, “Soggettività, Corpo e Differenza Sessuale,” Ibid., p. 269.

[34] Cfr. De Veritate q. 1.

[35] Russo agrees with this sort of conclusion since she herself cites J. Baudrillard’s L’échange impossible, Galiléé, Paris 1999, p. 42. Two other good recent articles on this subject in the English-speaking world are the following: Margaret H. McCarthy, “Gender ideology and the humanum,” in Communio, summer 2016 ( http://www.communio-icr.com/articles/view/gender-ideology-and-the-humanum); and Michael Cook, “Radical individualism is at the heart of gender theory: what does this mean for democracy and the family?”, Mercatornet, March 6, 2017 (https://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/radical-individualism-is-at-the-heart-of-gender-theory/19441).

[36]  Bostrom, Nick, “Transhumanism FAQ: A General Introduction, version 2.1”, 2003 on line:  http://humanityplus.org/philosophy/transhumanist-faq/

[37] Founded in 1998, the WTA was renamed Humanity+ in 2008.

[38] Cfr. St. Thomas Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae II, 9 and ST I q. 59, a. 1.

[39]https://www.mercatornet.com/mobile/view/body-and-soul-the-resurrection-of-christ-answers-our-desire-to-live-forever

[40] https://www.mercatornet.com/mobile/view/unbelieving-the-resurrection

[41] Nicolas Le Dévédec et Fany Guis, « L’humain augmenté, un enjeu social  », SociologieS [En ligne], Premiers textes, mis en ligne le 19 novembre 2013, consulté le 26 janvier 2017. URL : http://sociologies.revues.org/4409. Here is the citation on the first page : D’un côté, l’opposition entre « transhumanistes » et « bioconservateurs » procède d’une conception naturalisée de l’humain. De l’autre, la position des penseurs bioéthiciens se revendiquant d’une « troisième voie » pragmatique relève d’une approche gestionnaire.

 

[42] Michael Sandel, The Case Against Perfection, Belknap, Cambridge, 2009, pp. 26-27.

[43] Rachel Hurst, “The Perfect Crime”, in J. Wilsdon & P. Miller (dir.), Better Humans? The Politics of Human Enhancement and Life Extension, London, Demos 2006,  pp. 114-121. This quote is found in p. 117.

[44] Crepaldi, Giampaolo, “All’inizio non era la gnosi ma il Verbo,” Bollettino di Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa, no. 2, anno xii, aprile-giugno 2016, p. 45.

[45]McKnight, Stephen, “Francis Bacon’s God,” The New Atlantis, Fall 2005.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Leone, Salvino, ibid. , p. 6.

[49] ST I q. 75, a. 3.

 

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