Reflections on Darwin, Nietzsche, Chimeras and the Image of God
I've been reflecting on various articles in the news and notes in my archives. What follows is, what will likely be, an excerpt from next Sunday's sermon:
In 1859, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. Now, I won’t be offering a sermon on creationism, evolutionism, creative evolutionism or evolutionary creationism; we’ll save that for another day. But the one issue surrounding Darwin with which I do want to take issue is the belief that he denied a divine being had anything to do with our origins. Though, he may, in the first edition of Origin, have decided not to include creationism in his scope of scientific discussion, he—nevertheless—mentions the Creator. And in the 6th edition of Origin, he insists that just because we don’t understand how something can evolve does not mean that the Creator wasn’t behind it.
Even Darwin gave a nod to the Creator who spoke these words to His servant Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
Because every person is originally God’s idea, no one is ordinary. Governments come and go. Cultures and civilizations change. Not a single corporation has any real permanence; it is rare for one to last a hundred years. Even theories move in and out of favor. But each person will last forever. When you looked in the mirror this morning, you were gazing at an original and lasting creation of Almighty God.
More than a century ago, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that the idea of God was dead and, that if the world were to be without this sense of divine order and attaching moral principles, it would be left with nihilism – no meaning, no purpose, no intrinsic value. Nietzsche attributed two central principles of Western civilization to Christianity: all people are created equal and human life is precious. It is because we are created equal and in the image of God that our lives have moral worth and that we share the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As Dinesh D'Souza has noted, "Nietzsche’s warning was that none of these values would make sense without the background moral framework against which they were formulated. A post-Christian West, he argued, would have to go back to the ethical drawing board for a reconsideration of its values."
Given that reality, it is not at all surprising to come across the honest, yet definitely unpalatable views of Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer. Singer argues that we are not creations of God. We exist, he says, on an unbroken continuum with animals and so must reject the privileged position assigned to human beings in Christianity.
Singer writes: “My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others.” Singer argues that pigs, chickens, and fish have more signs of consciousness and rationality – and, consequently, a greater claim to rights – than do fetuses, newborn infants, and people with mental disabilities.” Singer resolutely takes up Nietzsche’s call for a “transvaluation of values” with a full awareness of the radical implications.
Dinesh D’Souza, in a Christianity Today article entitled “Staring into the Abyss,” concluded that Singer’s thinking is the natural progression of intellectually honest atheism. So, should we really be surprised in the least by today’s transhumanist movement or by scientists who are creating embryos that are both animal and human? The latter hope these embryos, known as chimeras, could eventually help save the lives of people with a wide range of diseases. One way would be to use chimera embryos to create better animal models to study how human diseases happen and how they progress. Perhaps the boldest hope is to create farm animals that have human organs that could be transplanted into terminally ill patients.
But some scientists and bioethicists worry the creation of these interspecies embryos—inserting human embryos into the uteri of pigs--crosses the line. "You're getting into unsettling ground that I think is damaging to our sense of humanity," said one professor of cell biology. "If you have pigs with partly human brains you would have animals that might actually have consciousness like a human," Newman says. "It might have human-type needs. We don't really know."
"One of the concerns that a lot of people have is that there's something sacrosanct about what it means to be human expressed in our DNA," opined a bioethicist. "And that by inserting that into other animals and giving those other animals potentially some of the capacities of humans, that this could be a kind of violation — playing God."
It is crucially important for us to affirm that we were created by God and that we were not only created by God but we have been made in the image of God. Made in the image of God. We are spiritual, rational, moral, and immortal creatures. Though sin has soiled and distorted the image, we are still reflections of Almighty God. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).
Remove God from the picture and human values sink like a rock, leaving us staring into the abyss. If God is dead and there is no divine order, no intrinsic value to a human being, no meaning to life, no purpose to our existence, then it’s a short step to the removal of all protections from those a powerful elite might view as rejects, as non-contributors, as the potential subjects of lab experiments.
Shades of Dr. Moreau.
Featured image: A chimera, scanned from Robert Chambers' Book of Days, 1st edition (in the public domain). Georgian-era (1824) Mermaid, a fake made up of various body parts from other animals.