‘Sci­en­tist’s pride’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

“Ac­cord­ing to Aris­to­tle, man is the only ra­tio­nal an­i­mal, the only be­ing ca­pa­ble of choos­ing his own path or con­tem­plat­ing the cos­mos in which he lives. Ac­cord­ing to the He­brew Bi­ble, man is the only be­ing cre­ated ‘in the im­age of God’; ca­pa­ble of sin, aware of death, with long­ings for im­mor­tal­ity, he is also ruler of the other an­i­mals. While the phi­los­o­phy of Athens and the rev­e­la­tions of Jerusalem dif­fer greatly on what el­e­vates man, they agree that hu­mans be­ings are, or are meant to be, su­pe­rior to ev­ery­thing else on earth.

“Mod­ern science, by con­trast, is not so cer­tain. Its rad­i­cal am­biva­lence about man is trace­able to the mixed mar­riage that gave it birth. First came Descartes, who treated the whole ma­te­rial world, in­clud­ing the hu­man body, as a col­lec­tion of aim­less stuff to be mas­tered and ma­nip­u­lated by the hu­man mind, which stands high above it all. Then came Dar­win, who as­sim­i­lated the whole of man, both mind and body, to the rest of bi­o­log­i­cal life in a seam­less con­tin­uum. Taken to­gether, mod­ern science treats man as both rad­i­cally sim­i­lar to and rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­thing else in na­ture.

“Thus [. . .] mod­ern bi­ol­o­gists aim to con­vince us that man is just an­other an­i­mal. [. . .] The sci­en­tist’s pride in his bi­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies is hum­bled only by his be­lief that pride and shame and ev­ery­thing else are just Dar­winian sur­vival mech­a­nisms repack­aged in hu­man form.”

Eric Co­hen, writ­ing on “The Hu­man Dif­fer­ence,” in the De­cem­ber is­sue of Com­men­tary

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