September 28, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Wednesday, September 28, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Bioethics Journal: Doctors have no right to refuse patients abortion, assisted suicide
The news came yesterday in a headline story from the National Post, that’s a major Canadian newspaper, the headline news is this: it may soon become virtually impossible for Christians in Canada to become physicians or even to become medical students. The article is by Tom Blackwell, the headline is this:
“Ban conscientious objection by Canadian doctors, urge ethicists in volatile commentary.”Show Full Transcript
That word ‘volatile’ is an understatement in extreme. As Tom Blackwell reports,
“Prospective physicians who oppose abortion or assisted death should not be allowed in the medical school urges bluntly worded article. Authorities,” according to the report by Blackwell, “should bar doctors from refusing to provide such services as abortion and assisted death on moral grounds and should also screen out potential medical students who might impose their values on patients.”
The debate behind this headline story is actually in an academic journal entitled Bioethics, no accident there. This is a major and very influential scientific journal in the field of biomedical ethics.
The participants in this debate include different medical ethicists, one of them, Christopher Cowley, has argued for a continuation of what is known as conscience protections for medical professionals and that includes, of course, physicians. Those conscience protections, recognized to some extent on both sides of the American Canadian border, allow doctors to choose not to participate in something like an abortion if it violates their personal conscience. But it is now increasingly evident that on the other side of this great culture shift, on the other side of this moral revolution, as we have been following on The Briefing, the professions are going to be on the front line of what will be closed, culturally and perhaps even professionally closed, to Christians. And now the issue is front and center in this exchange in the journal Bioethics. The two ethicists who argue for the removal of the conscience protections actually use absolutely shocking language,
“The more religious a society is, the more religious values are imposed on people. Many of the conscientious objection protections we are grappling with today were written into constitutional arrangements in times gone by when the influence of churches was significantly more powerful than it is today.”
That’s a very rare and straightforward, a very candid acknowledgment that here you have bioethicists arguing that the entire moral universe has changed. And why? Because of the declining influence of Christianity and the churches in Canadian society. As we note in the United States, that same decline is also present, albeit a bit slower at least in the past when compared to our Canadian neighbors. They go on to argue that what they describe as enlightened, progressive, secular countries like Sweden have actually already rejected these conscience provisions. They require anyone entering into the profession such as medicine to buy into the entire secular progressivist worldview or they are actually barred from entering the profession at all.
Now note that these ethicists are making the straightforward argument in Canada that there should be a screening not just of those who might apply for a medical license, but even a screening in terms of who is allowed into medical school. This means it is an open announcement that if this argument is to prevail, those who believe in the sanctity of human life will be prevented even from entry into a medical school in the nation of Canada. Issue by issue, these ethicists argue against the continuing validity of these conscience provisions. They go on to stipulate, and I quote,
“The scope of professional practice is ultimately determined by society, and that it is bound to evolve over time. That is true not only for the question of what kinds of services must be provided, it is also true for conscientious objection itself.”
Now what we have there is an acknowledgment of the fact that this is a straightforward effort to try to replace a morality based in Christianity, even a vestigial influence of Christianity, with an entirely coercive, modern, secular, progressivist ethic by their own self designation. They call for medical schools to select candidates who are,
“…tolerant, have epistemic responsibility and humility, and are willing to accommodate patient values.”
In other words, they only want medical schools to accept those candidates for medical school admission who are willing to buy entirely into the modern, secular, progressivist ethic and worldview. They then make this absolutely astounding claim, and they do so in straightforward language. I will quote verbatim,
“Doctors must put patients’ interests ahead of their own integrity.”
Now never before, honestly, have I seen this kind of argument made straightforwardly, certainly not by an ethicist. Indeed the entire field of ethics has been premised upon the understanding that integrity is paramount. What goes into the definition of integrity is often a matter of ethical debate. But notice that these ethicists, as they style themselves, writing in the journal Bioethics, are actually saying that doctors should forfeit their own personal integrity in order to put what they define as the interest of their patients ahead. And let’s note the interest of their patients are here entirely isolated to those issues of great moral concern, including abortion and assisted suicide or even euthanasia itself. In justifying their position, again a straightforward argument,
“If society thinks contraception, abortion and assistance in dying are important, it should select people prepared to do them, not people whose values preclude them from participating. Equally, people not prepared to participate in such expected courses of action should not join professions tasked by society with the provision of such services.”
Now what we see in that language is not merely a reversal of the entire trend of professionalism in the United States and in Canada, but it is also an entire moral system turned upside down. Straightforwardly, candidly, we have people who are saying that doctors must set aside their own personal integrity and furthermore, we have the claim that medical schools and medical societies should accept only those who are willing to do everything society might at any point mandate or furthermore even allow legislatively as now moral, even when it was recognized as being immoral in the very recent past.
Once again, the radically shocking nature of this article, which has caught deserved attention in Canada in particular, is the fact that these authors straightforwardly describe what they call as false moral beliefs. One of those false moral beliefs is belief in the sanctity of every single human life, and furthermore, one of those false moral beliefs identified by these ethicists is believing that life should not be ended at the whim of a human being by assisted suicide or by euthanasia. We need to note that the logic of this argument is absolutely unbreakable, that is to say that the logic of this argument made by these ethicists is that if a society deems anything to be moral, then those who have professional sanction and licensure or even are allowed into medical school must be preselected as those who are willing to do whatever the society authorizes.
Now you would think that would lead to an immediate question, what about the Nazi doctors? What about the Nazi medical ethics? What was Nazi society if not a society that had decided on its own to reject a Christian understanding of medical ethics and to replace it with something that served its own state interest? But here the authors of this journal think they have a way out by saying that the things that were undertaken by the medical practitioners of Nazi Germany were outside medical practice and therefore should and could rightly be resisted. But that’s the fatal flaw in their logic, because they had just admitted straightforwardly earlier in their argument that medical practice is a social category, that society decides what the standards of that medical practice would be. And thus, by their own logic, Nazi Germany had every right to establish the set of moral norms and ethical norms for medicine that it did. Because after all, there are no enduring permanent moral truths.
If nothing else, this article shows us just how evil an argument can be made by one who is identified and academically recognized as a professional ethicist. If you think that’s an overstatement, then just consider one of the paragraphs on the final page of this journal article in the journal Bioethics:
“It is entirely clear what euthanasia is and what it will achieve. And it is likely to be very good value for public money when the alternative is continued medical or social care given against a competent patient’s considered wishes.”
That is a recipe for the culture of death set loose with all of its ruthlessness. Here you have a straightforward argument that assisted suicide and euthanasia will be a good value for public money. As Blackwell writes in the National Post, the screening that is called for in terms of even admission to medical school in the case of these authors,
“…might exclude people of certain religious beliefs from becoming doctors, but there is little evidence that would be detrimental to patients, the commentary says.”
This is the cold, candid, calculating language of a society that is entirely rejecting its Christian inheritance, and not just rejecting it, but responding in open antipathy and hatred towards those very principles of Christian morality that made the society and the civilization possible. But we’re noticing that the immediate effect would be to exclude Christians in particular from professions, in this case the profession of medicine. And in this very explicit language, these ethicists are saying that kind of screening against those who might be pro-life, who might be Christian, who might be against assisted suicide, had better start right now before more of those people get admitted to medical school and just might end up in medical practice.
We’re seeing the constricting of the culture in so many ways, the closing of so many doors to those who are confessionally and convictionally Christian. And we are seeing this across the professions, first and foremost because the licensure of those who hold this kind of professional status, either a license to practice law or a license to practice medicine, similar kinds of licensure, this is where immediately a regulatory society can begin coercively to enforce this kind of moral revolution.
You can only wonder what most Canadians are thinking when they now must recognize that this is an argument that has reached their national attention and is being made in such a way that it is politically likely that this kind of proposal will actually gain traction, especially under the newly elected Liberal-Labour government there in the nation of Canada. In recent decades, Canada has been markedly more secular than the 50 American states to the south. But one of the most interesting trends of recent years is that the United States has been catching up with Canada on the score. It will not be safe, nor would it be honest, for Christians in the United States to say that this is a debate that is safely across our northern border. On issue after issue in the moral revolution, the United States has followed Canada in terms of adopting many of these very same secular moral proposals. With the acceleration of this moral revolution, you should expect this kind of argument to show up on this side of the border in very short order.
In the beginning: Geologist admits scientific community's origin myth relies on faith, not verifiable
Next from The Atlantic, one of the nation’s most influential magazines, a story with the headline,
“Rewriting Earth’s Creation Story.”
And then a quote from an authority cited in the article,
“We as a scientific community created an origin myth that has no more intellectual value than Genesis.”
This story should have our attention. Rebecca Boyle writes that,
“Humanity’s trips to the moon revolutionized our view of this planet. As seen from another celestial body, Earth seemed more fragile and more precious; the iconic Apollo 8 image of Earth rising above the lunar surface helped launch the modern environmental movement. The moon landings made people want to take charge of Earth’s future. They also changed our view of its past.”
Then she writes,
“Earth is constantly remaking itself, and over the eons it has systematically erased its origin story, subsuming and cannibalizing its earliest rocks. Much of what we think we know about the earliest days of Earth therefore comes from the geologically inactive moon, which scientists use like a time capsule.”
This again is something that many Americans simply do not understand. Much of what is presented as geological evidence for the origin story of the earth is actually drawn from the moon as if the moon is a time capsule of planet earth. And based upon the evidence from the moon, scientists have tried to reconstruct even retrospectively the history of planet Earth, arguing that the planet was itself shaped and reshaped by cataclysmic cycles that included volcanic activity and earthquakes in all kinds of ocean catastrophes that have left scars on planet earth. But as this article in The Atlantic points out, all of those supposed stars have been wiped out by what’s interpreted as being subsequent volcanic or earthquake activity, and thus scientists have been re-creating their story of the creation of planet Earth by taking evidence from the moon. But now as Rebecca Boyle writes, scientists are beginning to wonder if indeed it is fair and accurate to take the moon as a snapshot of the history of the creation of planet Earth.
Scientists at Arizona State University and UCLA are arguing in a new research paper that the isotope dating methods that were used by these cosmologists that,
“…too many assumptions about a late bombardment [of planet Earth]. The rocks might not have been hit just once, but many times since their formation. Multiple impacts could make the rocks appear younger than they really are. What’s more, the Apollo samples cover only about 4 percent of the moon [much less the planet Earth].”
In the words of one of the scientists,
“It is very easy to throw ejecta around the moon; if you pick up a loose rock on the moon, you can’t be certain that rock came from that region. How do we know we didn’t just pick stuff up that was affected by the same impact event?”
This is a convoluted story, but the bottom line importance is this: here you have cosmologists who were beginning to admit that it just might be that they and their fellow scientists made up the story, the creation story of planet Earth, and it actually wasn’t based upon any bona fide scientific evidence. Mark Harrison, a geologist of University of California at Los Angeles, that’s UCLA, said,
“Maybe the joke is on us.”
He went on to say,
“There is absolutely not a single scrap of observational evidence that requires that scenario ever took place.”
That is the prevailing model in the scientific community of how the earth was formed. He went on to say,
“We as a scientific community created an origin myth that has no more intellectual value than 1 Genesis [or Genesis Chapter 1. ‘Although we’re very quick to criticize those that operate on faith, that’s exactly what we did.’”
In terms of worldview analysis, this is a priceless gift. Here you have major research scientists at schools like UCLA acknowledging that cosmologists and geologists and other scientists basically have made up the history of the world, the history of planet earth in particular, the history of the cosmos by extension, that has become the staple science taught not only in colleges and universities, but taught right down to elementary school level. The Christian worldview reminds us that every single worldview has to answer the question, why is there something rather than nothing? Every worldview has to come up with some explanation for why planet earth in particular came to be and came to be as it is.
One of the tests of any worldview is whether or not it can consistently answer these questions, and there the Christian worldview consistently answers the question based upon divine revelation in what’s identified in this article as 1 Genesis, or Genesis chapter 1, and furthermore, not just Genesis chapter 1, but the entirety of Scripture. But this article’s real value is demonstrating that at least some scientists are beginning to acknowledge that the story itself that is being told in so-called now mainstream science is not actually based upon any kind of observational evidence. It was instead an inference that was drawn by those who are operating from their own secular worldview, trying to come up with a story of how the world came to be, how the cosmos came to exist, that was explicitly free of divine revelation or any claims of the Christian worldview as found in Genesis and all of Scripture.
In terms of the article that was published in The Atlantic and again for our purposes, it’s really important that this article appeared in The Atlantic. It’s important to have this UCLA scientist quoted again who said,
“There is absolutely not a single scrap of observational evidence that requires that scenario [that’s the mainstream scientific information] ever took place.”
Even when he writes,
“We as a scientific community created an origin myth that has no more intellectual value than Genesis 1.”
What’s really important is to recognize that here you have a scientist who does dismiss Genesis 1, but he also recognizes that mainstream science came up with its own explanation he describes as an origin myth that was just as based on faith as is the acceptance of divine revelation in Genesis 1. This also is important from a Christian worldview perspective because it reminds Christians that when it is demanded of us that we somehow abandon Scripture and just base all of our assumptions upon evidence, that kind of geological and cosmological evidence, what’s really clear is that evidence doesn’t itself tell the story. It’s not sufficient to tell the story, and that means that someone is going to have to make up the story and somehow argue that it’s based upon this kind of geological evidence, even if it does come from the moon.
If you really don’t believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, you’re still going to have to believe in some kind of origin story. And if it’s not based in Scripture, it’s going to be based in something else. How many Americans know, including American Christians, that the so-called mainstream science that’s presented in America’s classrooms today and accepted as absolutely a matter of unassailable fact by the intellectual elites was basically made up by inference from moon rocks? It’s worth repeating the final words by this scientist in this article, and I’ll let them be the final words on this topic,
“Although we’re very quick to criticize those that operate on faith, that’s exactly what we did.”
Did civil religion die Monday night? Politics in a post-Christian America
Finally it’s worth noting another story that appeared yesterday in The Atlantic, this an analysis piece after the very first presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. The article is by Yoni Appelbaum, and what’s important about this article is that it points to what was absent in that debate that many people probably didn’t recognize. What was missing was any real reference by either of the candidates to anything that could even be identified as merely civil religion. Civil religion is what is left when convictional and confessional religion leaves. In other words, it’s what’s left when people reject biblical truth but try to continue to use biblical language, or they reject all religious truth and try to still use some kind of religious language. Why is it so important? It’s because in the debate that was held on Monday night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there was no religious language, not even the kind of vague, inoffensive religious language that has been more common in recent political debates and from recent political and presidential candidates. Appelbaum writes,
“Civil religion died on Monday night.
“For more than 90 minutes, two presidential candidates traded charges on stage. The bitterness and solipsism of their debate offered an unnerving glimpse of American politics in a post-Christian age, devoid of the framework that has long bound the nation together.”
An amazing insight published in The Atlantic. Neither candidate invoked any higher moral authority than themselves. Neither candidate invoked any higher moral value than that which they could supply in a purely secular argument. Both of them basically pointed to themselves and themselves alone as the solution to the nation’s problems. We may not be able to see quite clearly the future of America, but we got a glimpse of it on Monday night, and Appelbaum is exactly right. What we saw by absence was an American politics in a post-Christian age, in his words,
“…devoid of the framework that has long bound the nation together.”
When analysts look at the 2016 presidential race and say we have entered a new era in American politics, they probably don’t even realize just how true and how accurate that statement turns out to be.