By Corrine Fischer, 16 years old, St. John’s College, Brantford, Ontario, Winner 16-18 yr. group
In the February issue of The Interim the last two paragraphs of Ms. Fischer’s essay were inadvertently removed. It is reprinted in full below with apologies to Ms. Fischer.
“It’s dramatic. It’s emotional. I don’t say I kill. I terminate. I end. I interfere. I intercept.” The Newspeak employed by Dr Peterson, a highly established and widely known abortionist, suggests that the 1984 projected by Orwell is by no means completely devoid of fact. His words are symptomatic of a destructive transition that is presently occurring in our society, undermining the basic dignity of human life, and promoting technological exploitation for the benefit of a few select individuals.
Recently, I had an opportunity to read an extremely enlightening book written by the well known and highly respected scholar, C.S. Lewis, disclosing his views on the increasing control man has recently assumed over human life as a result of advances in the area of technology. He made the valid argument that “if, in reality of course, any one age attains the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are patients of that power — they are weaker, not stronger. For though we many put wonderful machines in their hands, we have pre-ordained how they are to use them.” If we use our technology as we are presently, to destroy all life that fails to conform to our expectations or to our desires, we will have reduced ourselves to the level of mere nature, the label used to identify anything over which man has assumed jurisdiction. Thus, rather than strengthening our position, we will have wakened it. The image of one dominant age resisting the mentality of previous generations and their conservative attitudes, while irresistibly and successfully dominating all subsequent ages, comes to mind when reference is made to the attempts of scientists experimenting with human life so as to make it more compatible with human desire. As Lewis contends, “the final stage in man’s destruction comes when he achieves by means of eugenics, prenatal conditioning, education and propaganda, total control of himself.” There is an imminent danger in our superficial society, which fails to contemplate with the implications of new technology that we may evolve into a race of conditioners, imposing our design on subsequent generations at will. Scientific advances, by equipping us with the means of achieving this end, will likely promote this trend.
The nature of this dilemma raises a vital question which must be addressed before any attempts are made in the direction of enhancing human control over human life. What kind of conscience will govern the conditioners of the future? And what kind of conscience will they produce within the conditioned? Once they have succeeded in conquering nature and thus in asserting ultimate independence, once they move from a state of being governed by natural processes to a state of employing them as tools for enhancing the well-being of mankind, to what and to whom are they responsible? What happens to man’s concept of duty when he assumes a status superior to that of nature, and is thus no longer governed by natural instinct? The conditioners of the future, if they desire to be makers of conscience rather than subjects of it, will be forced to reject all moral principles. The conditioners, reluctant to submit to conscience and feeling themselves no longer obliged to do so, will behave impulsively. For to submit to duty would be to resign to the very natural instincts over which they have attempted to assume control. And yet, in resorting to emotion, to impulse, and the conditioners not also resigning to nature? Unquestionably so. Given this dilemma, it is obvious that man’s conquest of nature is in effect nature’s conquest of man. We reduce an object to mere nature when we assume jurisdiction over it and adopt an impulsive approach towards it. Thus, as emphasized before, in assuming complete jurisdiction over man and adopting an impulsive approach to his conditioning, we will have resigned ourselves to the very force it was our initial intent to overcome. Man, in assuming the status of nature, would evidently lose his capacity for self-control.
What can be done to reverse this trend so as to avoid this fate? What is essential is a complete change in attitude within the scientific community. Recognition must be given to the true scientific spirit, which dictates that scientists are not mere technicians and that when they examine the parts of an organism they must not avoid addressing the needs of the creature as a whole. There is a persistent danger, that if our quest for knowledge continues in its present mode, we may lose perspective, and the sense of awe and mystery which traditionally characterizes the medical profession. The purpose of comprehending something, of reducing it to transparency, is to assess that which lies beyond, regarding it with reserve and a sense of awe and mystery. The purpose of a window, in the same way, is to reveal to us the opaque material which lies beyond. If we reduce everything to transparency, however, we will not only lose sight of reality, but all sense of awe and mystery associated with reality, a loss that will encourage scientists to deny human dignity, the basis of all respect of human life so vital to society’s existence.
In conclusion, if human life continues to be sacrificed to and exploited by science and the medical profession as a result of the development of new technology, a very imminent danger awaits us. Unless efforts are made to restrain the generic manipulation of human life which abortion had done so much to promote, we are justified in fearing that the 1984 projected by Orwell may be realized in a far more threatening and detrimental respect, culminating in the loss of human dignity – not only in time, but in space.
1 The Abolition of Man: C. S. Lewis; Penguin Books; 59pp; 1945
2 The People Shapers; Vance Packard; Little, Brown and Company; 398pp; 1977