“Love people. Use things.” It’s a slogan that’s made its way around the internet, from The Minimalists to countless different memes. It’s a timely message for our 21st century culture which is so addicted to amassing, and then eliminating, objects that it turns subjects into them too. And that came to mind when I read two different, yet connected, articles yesterday. One was from the BBC, about UK scientists being given a green light to genetically modify human embryos. The story reported,
“Dr David King, the director of Human Genetics Alert, said: ‘This research will allow the scientists to refine the techniques for creating GM [Genetically Modified] babies, and many of the government's scientific advisers have already decided that they are in favour of allowing that. So this is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.’”
So what’s going on here is much like buying a car: You decide what features you do, and do not, want; then, the manufacturer will build the model to your specifications. The problem here is people aren’t cars. Cars are things. We use things. We shouldn’t use people—at least, that’s what slavery, child labor, and human trafficking are supposed to teach us.
But that memo got lost on the UK’s fertility regulator. The article further reports, “The researchers will alter… genes in donated embryos, which will be destroyed after seven days.”
One person has no right to “donate” another person; a person can only donate that which they own, which would be an object, a thing. Since human embryos are unrepeatable and irreplaceable souls, it is barbaric to claim ownership of them and then destroy, i.e., kill, them. A country like England with its horrible history of slavery should really know better.
But with that sentiment unfortunately pervading much of modern-day society, it shouldn’t be surprising what the National Post reported yesterday. A Canadian woman and her husband had been trying for four months to get pregnant; they finally did, but now are worried their “object” is damaged: A recent trip to Brazil has them fearful the pregnant mom may have contracted the Zika virus and they are concerned about the subsequent possibility that their pre-born child could have a small head. The reality of having a child with microcephaly is not on the table, as they are “completely unwilling to take the chance,” says the mom, who, along with her husband, is considering abortion on their possibly-less-than-perfect “object.”
It’s like they’d been waiting for months for a new mattress, but when it arrived they weren’t sure it would give them the comfortable sleep they desired, so they consider sending the object back to the manufacturer until they can find something better that satisfies (although mattress purchasers are more civil than this couple who, to keep the analogy analogous, would be like someone cutting up an undesirable mattress rather than have it be used by anyone else). The point is this: people aren’t mattresses. We are to use things and love people, not love things and use people. When we get that mixed up, we get dehumanizing results.
I’ve always been intrigued by the language used by the aviation industry when reporting on plane crashes. They speak about “the number of souls on board” (and they always focus on the loss of life, not the loss of baggage). It seems the world of reproductive science could learn a thing or two from the world of aviation. Not only should we prioritize people over things, but we should acknowledge that people, unlike things, have a soul, which demands reverence and respect.