SHOCKING. I've got to give a hand to John Derbyshire's editors at the New English Review, who published the piece Matt cites. The gap in quality between this piece and the writings of someone with the same name and professional history at National Review's The Corner could serve as a case study on the dangers of turning to blogging when you should really just be writing articles, and of the difference between carefully constructed thoughts and tossed off asides. Derbyshire actually deserves to be quoted at some length here, and not just because of his disagreement with Ramesh Ponnuru. He actually has something interesting to say about the right to life movement (or RTL, as he calls it), and its cult-like qualities:
I wonder again: Who, actually, is the Party of Death? Here I see a woman who, having missed her period and found herself pregnant, has an abortion, comes home, downs a stiff drink, and gets on with her life. With her life. Here I meet a man whose loved wife has gone, never to return, yet her personless body still twitches and grunts randomly on its plastic sheet, defying years of care and therapy. Let her go, everyone begs him, and his own conscience cries; and at last he does, whichever way the law will permit. Here I find a couple who want a lively, healthy child, but who know their genes carry dark possibilities of a lifetime�s misery and an early death. They permit multiple embryos to be created, select the one free from the dread traits, and give over the rest to the use of science, or authorize their destruction.
The RTL-ers would tell me that these people, and the medical professionals who help them, are all moral criminals, who have destroyed human lives. They support their belief with careful definitions, precise chains of reasoning, and -- I do not doubt it -- sincere intentions. Yet how inhuman they seem! What a frigid and pitiless dogma they preach! -- one that would take from the living, without any regard to what the living have to say about it, to give to those whom common intuition regards as nonliving; that would criminalize acts of compassion, and that would strip away such little personal autonomy as is left to us after the attentions of the IRS, Big Medicine, the litigation rackets, and the myriad government bureaucracies that regulate our lives and peer into our private affairs.
For RTL is, really, just another species of Political Correctness, just another manifestation of the intellectual pathology, the hypertrophied and academical egalitarianism, the victimological scab-picking, the gaseous sentimentality. that has afflicted our civilization this past forty years. We have lost our innocence, traded it in for a passel of theorems. The RTL-ers are just another bunch of schoolmarms trying to boss us around and to diminish our liberties. Is it wrong to have concern for fetuses and for the vegetative, incapable, or incurable? Not at all. Do we need to do some hard thinking about the notion of personhood in a society with fast-advancing biological capabilities? We surely do. (And I think Party of Death contributes useful things to that discussion.) Should we let a cult of theologians, monks, scolds, grad-school debaters, logic-choppers, and schoolmarms tell us what to do with our wombs, or when we may give up the ghost, or when we should part with our loved ones? Absolutely not! Give me liberty, and give me death!
John Derbyshire, a humanist. Who knew?
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