From the editor: November 8, 2013
Angels & Men
I write from South Bend, Indiana, today, while attending the annual fall conference of the Notre Dame Centre for Ethics & Culture, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Body & Human Identity.
Last evening Gilbert Meilaender spoke on "Age-Retardation, Life-Extension, and the Relation Between the Generations." It was a fine talk, ending with the central role of faith, hope, and love in the formation of families and how quests for earthly longevity and immortality subvert human "generativity," something given to us by God as a gift.
In the Q & A follow-up, a professor suggested that evolutionary biology could help us get to morality and the "faith, hope, and love" spoken of by Meilaender. He talked about social interconnectedness, human fertility, fluctuating male testosterone levels, the role of bull elephants in keeping young males in line for the sake of the herd, and other things to make a biological case for his point, which, I admit, I couldn't follow.
I've heard lectures about deriving "conservative" moral principles from evolutionary biology. Honestly, I wonder, "why bother?" I know you can crack an egg by constructing a Rube Goldberg device of astonishing complexity—and there is no limit to the components you can use to build it—but isn't it easier to crack the egg using your hand and the hard edge of a bowl or pan? Who wants to enjoy the company of one's grandchildren while thinking of all the "evolutionary" biological components and hormones that supposedly led up to this profoundly personal and happy experience?
"Fearfully and wonderfully made," in the Biblical phrase of the Notre Dame conference's title, we human beings are a little lower than the angels, and a little higher than the beasts. Spiritual and physical, we may either put the physical first and let it inform the spiritual (if it can) or put the spiritual first and let it inform (literally, in-form) the physical. I can't see another option. We can let science drive faith or let faith drive science. Human beings are incapable of NOT having both faith and science (desire to know) inside their heads. This includes atheist scientists who believe in the scientific method, the intelligibility of the cosmos, and the value of their scientific opinions.
In the former case—putting science ahead of faith—we essentially confirm the decision of Adam and Eve to seek knowledge of creation without God. We chose to know good and evil above knowing God (and now use our experience of evil to question the existence of God!) When Adam and Eve did this, God did not lose Adam but only asked him "Where are you?" as a way of alerting Adam to the fact that he and Eve were now lost and didn't know where they were any longer. God knew exactly where Adam was, but Adam no longer had direct communion and access to God, having left him behind to pursue knowledge without him.
The call of the Christian life is to re-turn in the right direction. Face Christ. Everyday. Face the angels, not the beasts. Face the spiritual before the physical. Out of our hearts arise evils, not from our genes. For our hearts are weighed down by "worldly cares," the physical things our Lord spoke of—what to eat, drink, wear, our houses, and things—but we are made for communion with the Lord. Those who know and live this, they will inherit the earth; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
—James M. Kushiner