from The Worldview Literacy Book   copyright 2009            back to worldview theme(s) #44


 #44A: Sanctity refers to the quality or state of holiness, sacred-ness, or inviolability that something possesses.  Here the something is life, as in "the sanctity of life."  This phrase is more meaningful to monotheists (theme #8A) and those who believe in "Vitalism" (theme #5B).  They may conceive of God the Creator breathing life into inanimate matter, or supplying the vital spark.  In contrast, scientific materialists (theme #5A)  conceive of creating life in the lab!  By itself, "sanctity of life" implies all life.  Consider two groups of people—one real, the other imaginary—who fervently believe in the sanctity of life: Jainist monks and progressive bakers.

     The former walk barefoot and take precautions to avoid killing insects or microscopic life; the latter have formed "The Anaerobe Liberation Front" with motto "Defend all life, from greatest to least, from human to yeast!"  The Jainist monks eat a vegetarian diet and typically boil water and cool it before drinking; the bakers use leavening agents other than yeast.  Sadly, despite their efforts to not hurt any living thing, neither have succeeded.  The Jainists routinely kill many species of bacteria that live in water when they boil it; the high temperatures the bakers use kill those bacteria, an occasional airborne wild yeast microorganism, etc.  Such experience suggests it is not practically possible to be human and never kill at least some microscopic living thing.

     Those who value life must practically decide what it is they value.  Adding the term "dignity"—meaning a quality or state of being worthy—adds a "worthiness qualifier" to the life being considered.  So those who embrace "Sanctity and Dignity of Life" draw lines and make distinctions as to what life is deserving of their protection.  Many who respect this theme (see Figures #44b, 44c) draw the line at protecting innocent human life from the moment of conception: when egg and sperm unite.  They see all abortion as morally wrong: a crime. 

     Yet many of them do not view capital punishment—the government legitimized killing of a (not so innocent) criminal—in this way.  In fact, many who oppose abortion in any form support capital punishment.  Others show a consistent valuing of human life and oppose ending it in any way: whether by abortion, capital punishment, suicide, euthanasia, etc.  Those who extend this to birth control efforts to prevent conception and oppose contraception often do so from a religious viewpoint. Thus the Catholic Church argues that contraception is contrary to human nature and natural law.  Church fathers and others typically oppose anything humans do that resembles "playing God" in matters of life and death.  In their list of morally reprehensible technologies many such people would include eugenics, human cloning, and genetic engineering, gene therapy or stem cell therapy involving human genes or cells.

     Others consistently value human life—not from a religious viewpoint—but from a human rights viewpoint.  In opposing


abortion they point to the rights of unborn children (see Figure #44b).  Pro-lifers argue that such rights—the most fundamental being the right to life—begin with the beginning of life.  Some equate that with the moment of conception.  Others argue that fetuses eight weeks or older (when major body organs have formed) have rights; some won’t grant those rights until fetuses develop enough to be viable outside the uterus—after twenty-five weeks or so.  Some with environmental concerns—associated more with the pro-choice than pro-life movement—value quality of human life in the future.  They  ask, "Is it morally right to bring more children—especially unwanted children—into an increasingly crowded world?" They advocate population and family planning. (See Figure #38c.) 

#44B: While some extend their respect for life to include animals—the majority who buy into theme #44A do not value theme #44B.  One can hypothesize that those who do, also embrace "Belonging to Nature" (theme #27), while those who don't—limiting their sanctity concerns to human life—go with "Anthropocentrism" (theme #25).  While there are deep ecology reasons to support animal rights (Figure #44a) or be a vegetarian, there are also ethical and practical environmental considerations.  With respect to ethics, if we link morally wrong to evil, evil to pain, pain to certain behavioral reactions we see in higher animals, then it's wrong to fail to extend ethical treatment to animals.  As for the latter, raising cattle for human consumption is inefficient protein production!    

Figure #44a: PETA

     People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with more than 1.8 million members and supporters, is the largest animal rights organization in the world.  PETA focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: on factory farms, in laboratories, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry.                           

Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos.  We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved.  For whatever reason, you are now asking the question:

                                   Why should animals have rights?

  • Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
  • Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
  • Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
  • Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
  • Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way


 Figure #44b: View of Pro-Life Woman

I am obviously against people trying to control women or their bodies.  But the fetus is a completely separate life from the woman.  It has a completely different blood type and genetic code; it is not just part of the mother's body.  It is temporarily residing there, and birth is just the change of residence...Just because the unborn is dependent on the mother for nine months, does that give anyone the right to choose to end its life?  Being dependent on others should not deprive a helpless human being the fundamental right to live, as we do not base human-ness on whether another person is around to take care of that life. Trying to justify abortion by arguing that the unborn does not have this right is a form of discrimination based on age and the fact that they cannot speak for themselves.

excerpted from "My Views as a Pro-Life Woman," by Carolyn Gargaro, posted on her Abortion Issues website

Figure #44c: The National Right to Life Committee

The ultimate goal of the National Right to Life Committee is to restore legal protection to innocent human life.  The primary interest of the National Right to Life Committee and its members has been the abortion controversy; however, it is also concerned with related matters of medical ethics which relate to the right to life issues of euthanasia and infanticide.  The Committee does not have a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, capital punishment, and national defense.

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