Culture, Ethics, Philosophy, Theology

The Perfectibility of Human Nature

EucharistThe perfectibility of human nature is only possible with divine intervention. The Incarnate Christ is the intervention needed to redeem a fallen human race. The sacrifice of the holy Mass, by partaking in the Eucharist, is how we are united to the propitiatory sacrifice of the Cross. The Real Presence of the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, when consumed, unites our imperfect being to what which is perfect being, indeed that which is perfect Being itself in the Triune God. This participation furthers our justification and sanctification. The sacramental means of perfection finds its end in the beatific vision. All of this is initiated by, and only possible through divine intercession. Man does not possess the power to perfect himself outside of the grace of God.

When God is rejected, the fallen nature of man remains in need of an appropriate remedy. Our distinctly rational and teleologically laden consciousness recognizes the need for a process of perfectibility. When the divine is not recognized as the source of atonement, man must raise another means for their salvation. What is offered in our technocratic era is the monstrosity of a statist bureaucratic panel of “experts” and scientific tinkering with human nature.

When the true remedy of a fallen humanity is rejected for “scientifically” devised Utopian machinations, the only thing standing in the way of a technologically perfectible humanity is the gospel itself. In a quasi-Marxist sort of way, the gospel is viewed as an enemy of “progress” because it blinds the human person from their actual nature; rather than created being participating in the divine source of finite reality, man is evolved being participating in the blind, non-teleological forces of physics, chemistry, and biology. So understood, the manipulation of nature via bureaucratic scientific mandate inevitably becomes the “god” of culture.

Must I point out the evil, tyrannical regimes fixated on social eugenics in order to manipulate the evolutionary process?

I say all of this to introduce this article by Richard Weikart:

“What is the Goal of “Moral Enhancement”?

Savulescu’s project of moral enhancement never defines its goal. He often uses vague terminology implying moral progress, such as “better,” or “human welfare,” or “human well-being,” or “benefit.” However, he rarely indicates what any of these terms might mean, or what we might be progressing toward. In one article he observes that, “from our human perspective, happiness and flourishing are primary goals.” But what constitutes happiness and flourishing? In several venues, he has sidestepped this objection by arguing that moral enhancement is congruent with a variety of ethical philosophies, including utilitarianism, desire fulfillment theories, and deontological ethics.

I must admit that I am still left scratching my head. According to his account, morality is the product of biological evolution, and he seems to agree with most biologists and evolutionary psychologists that these are mindless, purposeless processes. If a non-teleological process produced human morality, then how can we find a measuring rod for morality outside of nature that allows us to prefer “moral” behaviors to “immoral” behaviors? Savulescu insists that we can “liberate ourselves from evolution,” but it is unclear where we can acquire the moral fulcrum to do that.

Savulescu has no objective grounds for choosing which specific behaviors to favor. Like many evolutionary psychologists, he discusses the evolutionary advantages of various altruistic behaviors, but he rarely mentions that selfish behavior, wars, racism, atrocities, rape, and many other kinds of immorality are also a natural part of human history. Indeed, there are evolutionary explanations for these kinds of behavior, too. If both selfishness and altruism have evolved simultaneously, and both have benefitted individuals in the struggle for existence, why should we think that one is superior to the other? Indeed, some biologists have insisted that selfishness is every bit as important as altruism in advancing the well-being of individuals or species.

What if these biologists are right? What if making our children more selfish would help them in the struggle for existence and human flourishing, providing them a healthier, happier life? In that case, according to Savulescu’s own teaching about designer babies, we would have strong moral reasons to genetically engineer our children to be more selfish. Savulescu thinks that increased cooperation is preferable to selfishness, but how does he conjure up a rationale for it, since he seems committed to a naturalistic understanding of the origin of morality?

If we examine other moral characteristics, we run into the same problem: what grounds do we have for preferring one over the other? For instance, in one article Savulescu notes that compared to men, women have a lower tendency to harm other people. Because of this, he suggests that “we could make men more moral by biomedical methods by making them more like women.” Even if this sexist version of evolutionary psychology proves to be accurate, why should we prefer female empathy to male aggression? Why assume that empathy will lead to greater human thriving and welfare than aggression?”

Here is the rest of the article – Can We Make Ourselves More Moral? 

 

– Lucas G. Westman

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