Ho-kay, let’s see…
Ah, yes — the promised lowdown on the MonT-SteR.
I was going to go into a great bit of detail here, but I’ve reconsidered. Who wants to listen to a MonT-SteR prattle on about himself anyway? You probably didn’t even know that MonT-SteRs can prattle on and blather away, but it’s true (I’m proving it right now). Come to think of it, I seriously doubt that MonT-SteR prolixity was a pressing issue for you before you visited The MonT-SteR REPORT. Now that you have come to tMR, I’m sure that it’s still a matter of little consequence to you. Nevertheless, you are a witness to it. Congratulations.
The MonT-STeR is me, and I’m Rob. How did I come to be the MonT-SteR? Well, when my wife and I attended Church on the Rise near Cleveland, OH, the senior pastor was kind enough to allow me to preach a few short messages. One time, he introduced me to the congregation as “Rob ‘The Monster’ Monti.” I loved it. A short time later, I realized that I could spell “monster” with a little play on my last name, i.e., “Mont-ster.” At that point, a transformation occured. No longer was I merely mild-mannered Rob. I was The MonT-SteR, able to help people to my opinions without a single moment’s thought — a super-power that has generated lively discussion (at best) and gotten me into all sorts of trouble (at worst).
That’s enough for now — I’ll let you know a little more about myself in subsequent posts. Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
I mentioned in the last post that I wanted to talk about what Christopher Reeve and PETA have in common. They both like veggie burgers, you say? That may be, but I’m thinking about some commonality they have on a deeper (and more pernicious) level.
One of the things about postmodern thought that rankles me to no end is this business of moral equivalency. In my mind, moral equivalency is one of the logical ends of atheistic materialism. Whenever I’ve heard Christian theists and atheists debate, the discussion inevitably turns to the issue of morality. Atheists deny the notion that any sort of objective moral law exists in the universe, because there is no ultimate Lawgiver — only insentient Evolution. Since people are the accidental result of autonomous chemical and physical forces at work over the course of billions of years, categories such as logic and morality are simply constructs that “emerged” as a result of the development of the human mind. On what foundation, the Christian theist then asks, does an atheist base his morality? The response is almost always an incoherent appeal to cultural convention. The West has a set of firm ethical conventions based on culture, as does the East, and the Middle East, and so on. The problem with this is that it pushes the very notion of morality into the nether regions of subjectivity. If morality is merely a human convention which arose from mindless evolutionary processes, nobody can point at a behavior or a system of thought and say with objective certainty, “That is immoral.” Atheistic ethics make no room for objective moral certitude, and they’ve exerted palpable influence on our culture. American ideas about morality are such a slushy, subjective mess that people have difficulty differentiating between right and wrong, good and evil. This has given rise to moral equivalency: the unsustainable notion that nothing is absolute; that any given culture, behavior, or worldview is the same or just as good as another; or that it is irrational and meaningless to champion an idea, culture, or behavior as morally or intellectually superior to another.
Case in point #1: Christopher Reeve had some negative things to say recently about President Bush’s position on embryonic stem cell research. He complained that the President’s refusal to fund embryonic stem cell research with federal dollars was pandering to the Catholic church. “Well,” said Mr. Reeve (and I’m paraphrasing), “what if Jehovah’s Witnesses had the President’s ear, huh? They think it’s a sin to have a blood transfusion! Just where would we be if he was listening to those religious wackos? All sorts of people would die because there would be no blood transfusions!” Mr. Reeve wants embryonic stem cell research because he sees in it the possibility of a cure for his own condition. The influence of religious lobbyists, he asserts, has nixed his only hope for a cure, and as a result he and others will continue to suffer. His derisive little analogy concerning JW’s is meant, in part, to decry the (dangerous?) influence of people of faith on the government. The way I see it, though, he’s got some moral equivalency problems:
- Personally, I question the notion that President Bush’s position on stem cell research is due solely to the influence of Catholic lobbyists. But for Reeve, it doesn’t matter. Religious influence is all the same, whether Catholic, or JW, or Mormon, or Evangelical. Opposition to embryonic stem cell research by people of faith is no different than religious opposition to blood transfusions. Never mind the veridicality of the unique suppositions that undergird each point of view. It’s all unreasonable because it has to do with religion. So Reeve’s Catholic/JW analogy fails to grapple with the rationality or irrationality either position. He simply assumes that they’re both equally irrational, and dismisses them with equal prejudice.
- Reeve has also equated embryonic stem cell research and blood transfusions. From his perspective, they’re simply medical procedures that save (or have the potential to save) people’s lives. This is unfortunate, because there are some ethical issues related to stem cell research that just don’t apply to blood transfusions. People willingly donate their blood all the time. Need a blood transfusion? Call a blood bank. Nobody’s will is violated, nobody has to forfeit life or happiness. Not so with human embryos. I firmly believe that an embryo is fully human life. But even if you only accept that it has the potential for life (which is incontrovertible), you have to destroy that potential in order to harvest stem cells. In so doing, you’ve caused the certain and premature cessation of a human life. Definitely NOT the same as a blood transfusion.
On one level, I can understand why Christopher Reeve is upset. He suffers from a terrible condition that, he believes, can be fixed by the benefits of embryonic stem cell research. Given his assumptions about how irrational the religious opposition to stem cell research is, it’s no wonder he’s mad at Dubya. After all, here are these crazy fanatics bending the President’s ear on embryonic stem cell research, and look how deadly their influence is — it’s just as bad as denying blood transfusions to sick patients on religious grounds! As much as Reeve has suffered, however, I have to take issue with his position because of its problematic dependence on moral equivalency.
Well, after all that, I’m too tired to talk about PETA. I’ll have to save that for a later post. Stay tuned, tMR readers, more food for thought and fun to come.
aka The MonT-SteR