Thursday, May 24, 2018

Life Without Roots

One of science's most difficult inconsistencies is the question of life itself. Without anything to ground its inquiry in something solid and unchangeable, even life comes into irrationality when science attempts definition. And this ought to set all of us on edge.

Men have invested trillions of dollars in exploring our solar system, and our current emphasis is on what we may find on Mars. What we're hoping, I guess, is that we find a planet that is hospitable to life, and the truth is that when we find even the tiniest microorganism that may represent a capacity for life at all, the entire scientific community rejoices. We have rejoiced over molecules that may have once been water, and we have rejoiced over molecules that we know are present in some forms of life on earth. We rejoice over microbes, and you can hear our shouts of triumph from the heavens.

Back on earth, we find an eagle that has laid eggs in a nest, and we set up a webcam so that the world can watch as the young eaglets hatch into ugly birdlings that we know will become majestic eagles. And we're rapt with this. We really are. We are glued to our computer screens, livestreaming days and weeks of nothing at all on our phones, because we know that we're just a breath away from baby eagles. 

And how long did we all watch a giraffe we were told was pregnant with a baby giraffe before she finally gave birth? It's life. Let us celebrate life!


Take a couple of those microbes and put them in a human uterus, and it's not life yet. Take just one of those eggs and fertilize it in a woman's womb, and it's nothing at all. Take pictures and show us that this thing inside of the woman looks just like her and her husband. It's human in form...but it's not yet life. 

This is the kind of thing that only science can do because it doesn't have any grounding to determine that what is life is always life; it makes its own rules. 

Voters in Ireland are currently being asked to consider abortion laws, letting the act become legal in their country for the first time. It is currently legal in the United States, but a number of restrictive laws are currently being passed, no doubt in an effort to bring Roe v. Wade back before the nation's highest courts in the hopes of overturning it. And science, of course, has stepped up to say how bad of an idea that would be. Abortion, they say, must be legal. And it must be legal on the grounds that the life inside the woman is no life at all. 

Just read the comments sections on these kinds of stories, and you'll see the troubling arguments that science uses to justify horrific acts like abortion. It usually starts by saying it's about a woman's right to choose what happens to her body, but look at any ultrasound and you can plainly see that it's not the woman's body any more. Even before the child starts to take on a human shape inside the woman, it has its own unique DNA. Science has even been able to record the moment that a spark of electricity passes through the cells and ignites them into life. This baby has its own heartbeat. It is forming its own brain. It is contained in its own skin. What about its right to choose what happens to its body? 

Some say it's not a life until it is perfectly formed, meaning that if it has any defects whatsoever, it is not a valid human life. Who among us is perfect? Who among us has nothing they'd like to change about their own body? I could tell you a number of things about my own physical existence that are not perfect. Does this make me not human, my life not a life?

Others will say that it's not a life until it can enjoy things like poetry. I'm thirty-three years old, and let me tell you - I don't enjoy poetry. I've tried, and I just can't. Does that make my life not a life? What if I don't enjoy nature? Or if I don't laugh often? What if I don't smile or laugh or dance or play in the rain? If these are the measures of quality that make a valid life, then we could abort anyone who doesn't do them, whether that person is in the womb or eighty-four years old.

Yet others will say that it's not a life until it can survive on its own. Okay, but what's the benchmark for that? A birthed baby cannot survive on its own; it still needs someone to feed it. It needs someone to clothe it. It needs someone to shelter it. It has no ability to do this on its own. A person up to the age of about 14 needs someone to provide for him/her, as children are not allowed to work in our society. Thus, they have no access to resources to survive unless someone else provides for them. What about the elderly? What about someone who becomes so enfeebled they can no longer hold a spoon to feed themselves? They can't survive on their own, either. Are we okay to abort them at that point?

By these definitions, science can't tell me if I'm alive right now...or if I "should" be.

See, the trouble with science not having a ground for life, not having a root system to hold it firmly to one good definition of life across all spectrums of it, is that it leaves us with these incredibly difficult, impossible, moral questions - and no way to answer them. I am scared at all to live if science is the one defining what that means, for the very moment that I fail to measure up, I can be aborted. And if you think that's dramatic, read a little bit about human history, particularly in the past 200 years - humans have been doing it. We have been picking and choosing who lives and dies based on an ever-changing definition of what life is. 

Because it's not the same for every microbe, apparently.

What if we held the same standard for human life that we held for Mars, that the tiniest microorganism represented life itself and was to be celebrated? What if at the moment of conception, we shouted in celebration and all the heavens heard our joy? 

What if we had the same enthusiasm for human life that we have for bird eggs? What if we watched in great anticipation for the next thing to happen, for one little arm to push out and wave hello to the world? 

What if we had the same expectation for human life that we have for giraffes? What if we knew that inside that womb was a brand new human being about to burst forth onto the scene? What if we had that streaming in our pockets 24/7? 

What if we didn't have to make any quality judgments to justify it? 

That's what faith offers us that science never can. Because faith has roots that ground us to the very beginnings of life itself, all the way down through the ages to in the beginning. And in faith, there is a beginning. 

It's what guarantees us a future. 

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