In chapter one of The Great Gatsby, the character Tom, spoke at a party and discussed the early twentieth-century science of racial theory. He said, “Civilization’s going to pieces...if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved…”
The science that Tom was discussing, was based on Darwinian theories of evolution and natural selection. Darwin, in The Descent of Man explained his idea of natural selection over the "savage races" such as Black Africans. He said this explains why the “highest races and the lowest savages” differ in “moral disposition” and “intellect” (36). Blacks, according to Darwin, had “low morality,” “insufficient powers of reasoning,” and “weak power of self-command” (97). Darwin even differentiated humans from the "lower animals" when he said: “No one supposes that one of the lower animals reflects whence he comes or whither he goes,—what is death or what is life, and so forth” (62). In other words, science elevated the white and dehumanized the black. Scientifically, animals.
Darwin was not the only one to claim that Blacks were inferior "animals." The idea of scala naturae, or the scale of nature, taught that God intended to elevate the white race and that Blacks, legally enslaved in some states, was due, in part to their inferiority as a race.
Science supported the idea and our national laws reflected that racial science. Human slavery was an American institution from the beginning, and it was scientifically proved. Eventually, with the Thirteenth Amendment, and much later through the Civil Rights movement, laws would change and science would no longer be used to enslave or oppress Black men and women. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution read, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States..."
Slavery, based on race, was made illegal. Surely, people had a scientific explanation for why this ammendment was not necessary in the United States. A Constitutional right—the right to enslave Blacks—was taken away. Was Black enslavement defensible by the current science of human evolution and natural selection?
What is not always clear though, is that science and philosophy—or science and worldview—are both considered when determining whether something is morally correct in society. Blacks were enslaved, beaten, raped, and murdered; not because science found them to be sub-human or on the bottom of the scala naturae, but because men’s philosophical and worldview positions were justified through the lens of science.
Science became the scapegoat used to justify ideas such as race-based slavery and the willful owning and harming of another human.
In other words: “My slave, my choice.”
This week, another debate of philosophy in the name of science, was pushed to the forefront of the American mind with the leaked draft decision of the Supreme Court ending the national protection of abortion rights. The fifty year sacred cow of the political left appears as thought it will be overturned by the current Supreme Court of the United States of America. The right to an abortion will no longer be vaguely found in the US Constitution under “the right of privacy,” but would go back to the States for debate and deliberation.
As the debate concerning abortion has heated up in the media, including social media, those who are anti-abortion are being accused, in part, of being against science.
Being “pro science” when it comes to abortion sounds good—it sounds right. Why would any be opposed to science?
But science is not worldview.
Science is not philosophy.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines science as, "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
In other words, science is a method used to discover what appears to be true in the natural order, it is not truth itself.
Strictly speaking, science concerning abortion would show that a fetus is a baby human. One’s worldview or philosophy may come to a differing conclusion-including answers to the ethical question as to whether that fetus has a right to be born. “It is not a baby, it’s a fetus” is not a statement of science of philosophy or worldview.
As you discuss, read media reports, follow Twitter debates, and exchange ideas concerning the current abortion discussion, ask yourself if what is being discussed is science or philosophy; science or worldview. You will find that much of what is discussed in the name of science is not science at all.
This is not the first societal discussion of worldview in the name of science; and if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it is not the first time those who have been determined to be philosophically sub-human will gain the dignity they deserve as image bearers of God.
One’s philosophy or worldview may support abortion, but science does not. Tom said, “It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved…"
Has it Tom?