Defending Dignity

Christianity Today, May 23, 2002.


Condensed from an interview with Leon Kass, head of President Bush’s Advisory Council on Bioethics, and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The interview was conducted by Nigel Cameron and published in Christianity Today, May 23, 2002.

CT: It’s hard now to remember that when the President spoke to the nation in a televised speech on August 9 a little more than a year ago, the focus was not on al-Qaeda but on bioethics, as he named you chair of a new advisory council. Tell me how you see the potential of the council.

KASS: The biological revolution, of which we have seen only the very earliest stages, is a matter of momentous and lasting importance. Extraordinary powers are being gathered to intervene in the bodies and minds of human beings. These powers were sought initially for the laudable purposes of healing disease and relieving suffering. But they also force us to consider, in the most profound way, the basic elements of what it means to live a human life. They can make inheritable changes in human nature. They can intervene in all aspects of living. They touch birth, they touch death, they touch questions of bodily integrity as one moves organs around or implants other things in the human body.

We stand at a critical point. It is given to this generation to decide whether we will shape these powers and use them for limited flourishing, or whether these powers will increasingly be used to push us down the road to a “Brave New World” What’s wrong with Huxley’s Brave New World is that it has pushed our humanitarian principles to cure disease, reduce poverty, eliminate war, and relieve suffering and grief to their logical conclusion, with the result that life has been robbed of almost everything that makes it worthwhile. There is no love, no self-governance. It’s a world of trivial pursuits and shallow attachments.

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