THE HUMANITIES’ HOLLOW HUMANITY
How Pro-Lifers Are Saving Higher Education

September 2015By Jason M. Morgan

Jason M. Morgan is a Ph.D. candidate in Japanese legal history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently in Japan on a yearlong Fulbright grant. His writing has been published in Japan Review, First Things’ On the Square, The College Fix, Education About Asia, Modern Age, College Insurrection, and Human Life Review.

A recent feature at the website of campus-affairs watchdog The College Fix revealed an alarming trend. According to anecdotal data collected by pro-life groups Created Equal and Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust at Purdue, the University of Minnesota, the University of Central Florida, and Ohio State, there has been a marked increase among college students in support not only for on-demand abortions but for so-called partial-birth abortions, in which a child is aborted as he emerges from the birth canal. In addition, these groups found a rise in the number of college students who support infanticide up to an average age of around four or five years. How is it that young people on campuses across the U.S. have come to adopt so chilling a view?

The College Fix article cites the influence of such figures as Princeton University bioethicist Peter Singer. Singer has openly advocated for, among other things, the application of a Benthamian calculus in order to determine who should be allowed to continue to live, according to a rubric that uses people’s degree of self-awareness to position them along a sliding scale of societal value. College students routinely parrot the bullet points of Singer’s research when justifying their support for partial-birth abortion and post-natal infanticide, even the “infanticide” of children entering primary school. These students also cite Singer when supporting the “mercy killing” of senior citizens and disabled persons who have slipped below the threshold of self-awareness and societal utility that Singer has set up as the benchmark for Lebensunwerten Leben (“life unworthy of life”). Singer, in short, has taken over the role of Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche as the theorist behind the latest iteration of humanity’s never-ending hecatomb of the weak. It is very reasonably argued, then, that it is the out-rippling influence of Prof. Singer and his supporters that has fixed the debate in these common terms.

But attributing these disturbing statistics to a single professor, or even to a group of professors, seems overly reductive. How do we explain other trends on campuses that mirror these overt assertions of the fungibility of human life? The answer requires us to take a step back and assess the extent to which humanity, broadly conceived, perdures within the humanities. Singer and his ilk did not emerge in a vacuum, after all. And the fact that he is an employee in good standing — as an ethicist, no less — at one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. suggests that it is the milieu, and not just the man, that has gone rotten.

Consider the state of the humanities on most campuses. Programs in gender studies, for example, emphasize a subsumption of the whole human person within a narrow aspect of the incidental personality. One’s humanity is flattened in proportion as one locates ever more of one’s self within one’s sex. Sexuality was not designed to bear the burden of the entire personality, but the gender-studies extremists seem willing to sacrifice the totality of the human person for the sake of their gender-utopian ideology. In successive waves, the gender Jacobins cross the previous ne plus ultras of sexual redefinition and move into ever more forbidden territory. Now pornography is the stage on which intellect and sexuality meet, but soon even this will be outgrown and something even more taboo will have to be found to accommodate the grand remaking of the human body to suit our own passing fancies. (Calls for mass polygamy and polyandry, as well as for “interspecies” marriages and even the naturalization of pederasty, are indicative of where the gender warriors will head next.) This is the classic pattern of sin: the insatiable drive for ever-worse transgression to fill the void that the previous round of sinning could not. At a practical level, too, all of this repacking of the identity is itself thrown into further chaos by the assertion that one’s sex, and not just one’s gender, is open for re-negotiation. Mutilated personalities inhabit mutilated bodies, and the gender-studies departments wave rainbow flags in triumph.


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