Marlowe's Shade

Friday, April 29, 2005

Euthanasia and Secular Humanism

In my last post I meditated a bit on the connection between leftist politics as embodied in the career of Bill Moyers and the right-to-die movement. I've been steeped in politics since the inception of this blog and I tend to operate with a number of assumptions about the political and ideological landscape in which this drama is playing out. I thought it might be useful to re-examine some of the influences on the thought life of the right-to-die/euthanasia movement.

I've already sketched out in part how strongly the Culture of Death resonates with the New-Age Movement

I don't think I've sufficiently treated another aspect of the right-to-die value set which is base one what I think can most accurately be described as secular humanism. The roots of this philosophy go deep but I'm focusing mostly on it's influence on traditional American culture. The more general aspects of humanism predate the founding of our country and I think it's influence was felt even in the early Nineteenth Century but for this discussion I think we can start with the work of John Dewey and the impact of the Humanist Manifesto.

Certainly the teachings of secular humanist rockstars like Darwin, Freud and Marx had already infiltrated academia. But I think I can show that Dewey's work had a greater impact on the culture as it reached young minds as their worldviews were being formed. The Catholic Church had long recognized the value of molding the thought life of individuals as early as possible. Much can be said about Dewey's influence on our educational system, but the key feature was replacing an absolute moral code with a relative one. He also substituted a scientific worldview for a supernatural one. This has had a profound affect on our education system, particularly on the National Educational Association who promotes a secular "progressive" agenda for our public schools. The implementation of Dewey's relativistic ethical theory and secular approach to education was carried out within the NEA through the agency of William Kilpatrick and Kurt Lewin. Even at that point, progressive education's track record was terrible. Dewey's social experiments in Communist Russia was declared a disaster by even the Soviets [who charged his theories with the creation of a generation of hooligans], and on their own progressive schools never caught on. But this didn't prevent the NEA from applying these ideas in an increasingly more militant way since the late 30's. The result by the 70's were triple digit increases in pregnancies, venereal disease, delinquency, drug and alcohol use and suicide. And the generation that was initially affected by this experiment in social engineering was the Baby Boomers.

The implication of this on the right-to-die movement are too numerous to treat in one post. As we saw in the career of Bill Moyers the right-to-die position relies at the very least on an underpinning of secular humanist philosophy, it that case as embodied in liberal politics. I'll probably do a case study in a future post of how this educational legacy plays out in the careers of the bioethicists who are now making policy on end of life issues. But one thing that is already apparent is to morally justify the agenda of the euthanasia movement a brave new world must be created to supply the philosophical freedom to tinker with social institutions and take on the authority to make decisions that were previously left to Deity. Secular humanism has made stunning progress to achieve this high position in our culture.
papijoe 6:23 AM