Sunday, 27 July 2014
Assisted Suicide and the Animalistic Perspectives of the Scientific Mind
Assisted suicide for the terminally ill was discussed in the UK Parliament’s (unelected) chamber, The House of Lords, on Friday July 18th. The debate centred on the Bill, introduced by Lord Falconer, that would legalise assisted suicide in certain situations.
In the run up to the debate, there was a lot of discussion in the media about the rights and wrongs of assisted suicide, with plenty of emotive and rhetorical comments made on both side of the argument. And among all this, the noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking made his own emotional and subjective input.
I, being as I am, a professional writer concerned about the madness of the modern world, and making people more aware of this madness and its impact on future generations, feel obliged to make my own emotive comments. So here goes …
I will focus on Hawking’s remarks in particular, for in a few words he well illustrates what is wrong with western (European) culture, and its products in the form of orthodox (Dawkins) science and the fragmented scientific mind.
Hawking was interview by the BBC and he said, “We don’t let animals suffer so why should your pain be prolonged against your wishes.” He also said that there needed to be safeguards, which one can assume is an acknowledgement of the potential for assisted suicide to become a form of legalised murder.
There is another way of looking at these comments. What Hawking is advocating is treating human beings like animals, and putting them down (that’s the colloquial phrase that people use when they ask vets to give animals lethal injections), when terminally ill humans ask for this. Yet the whole thrust of religion over several millennia, and, in more recent times, secular movements too (such as socialism), has been a fight to stop people treating other human beings like animals. That religion in particular has often failed to do this, and has resorted at times to behaving in an animalistic way, is a measure of the difficulties and challenges involved in freeing the human mind from its inclination towards killing and destruction. And socialism has often done no better.
Here I also briefly note that scientists are the one group that can be singled out as having done more than most to contribute to killing and destruction. And in orthodox Dawkins science, humans are just another species of animal, and you will not find in this type of science, any declaration that human life is sacred, for what differentiates humans from other animals are just biological characteristics determined by genes, which are themselves just the result of a mindless chain of cause and effect. And this is what is packaged and presented in what is called evolution (which is in fact, just another creation myth – but this is something for another moment).
As for the matter of safeguards; have you not noticed over the past ten years and more, all those news items involving failures of safeguarding systems: Example 1: The serial killer GP Dr Shipman (we still do not know how many patients he killed – no doubt he would have liked assisted suicide!); Example 2: The Financial Services Authority and – here the list is quite long so I mention only few – the failure of Equitable Life; The Royal Bank of Scotland affair and the damaging actions that contributed to the Global Financial Crisis …; Example 3: All those cases where vulnerable children known to be at risk from their families and placed on local, Social Services at-risk registers, who were, despite this, abused and killed by family members; Example 4: elderly people in care who have been abused by their carers; Example 5: The abuse by Jimmy Savile at the BBC over an extended period … Need I go on? There are no safeguards other than not allowing assisted suicides. And I add here that I have personal experience of the psychological bullying tactics of relatives in dealing with elderly people, and I know too that the caring professions, who are working under pressure and short of resources, are not able to give the time that is needed to deal with such matters.
Yet again I ask the question why scientists are so smart yet so dumb? It seems to be a defining characteristic, the product of a mind that is no longer able to see matters in the whole, to recognise that science is just one very limited way of seeing the world, and also one, no more worthy of special emphasis than any other. And I add, one that has little worth saying about matters most important to humanity. And the more science moves towards being an instrument of government and business interests, the more this will be so. So, as I say in my book, A Tale of Two Deserts, “whatever you may chose as a name for yourself, you are Epimetheus and are indeed well named.”
And as for the matter of assisted suicide what can be said?
We live in a very dysfunctional society, where alcohol and drug abuse are rife, where the making on money has dominance over respect for people and the environment, where family breakdowns are endemic, and where disparities in wealth and opportunities remain as a sore on the body of society. It is also a society where it is becoming increasingly apparent that child abuse is widespread, where there is little respect for the elderly, and where the emphasis is on the image of being fit, young and healthy. And anything that does not fit with this image needs to be placed out of sight, removed, and disposed of. Some might say that assisted suicide is just a mirror of this attitude and the perverse nature of the society that we live in. They are probably correct in taking such views.
What I would say is that assisted suicide is a form of convenience killing. It is a personal final solution. And the road from optional convenience killing to compulsory convenience killing, from the personal final solution to the collective final solution, is shorter than many might think. All it takes is the creation of the right social, economic, environmental, and political conditions. The very conditions that the modern western world is well on its way to creating. Yes you may well convince yourself that assisted suicide is acceptable. You will ensure that it appears to be so by making it a medial procedure, as has been done with abortion. Yet both are examples of the normalisation of evil, and in a future blog I will explain what this means in terms of behavioural characteristic (it has nothing to do with religion) of human beings. And this is part of the hell on earth that I mention towards the end of my book Encounter with a Wise Man.
To conclude, I also note that, in some versions of The Bible, in the Old Testament, there is a commandment that says “Thou shalt not kill.” In other versions of The Bible, it looks as though the absolute command has been found to be too inconvenient and the wording has become “Thou shalt not commit murder.” It could be said that contemporary society now finds this commandment as inconvenient, and is proposing a new wording of the form, “Thou shalt not kill unless it is convenient to do so.”
Towards the end of my book Enigma, I write: “All human life is sacred and the taking of a human life is wrong: there are no exceptions.” Surely as a society we should be embracing this as an axiom, a self-evident truth requiring no justification, and finding ways to ease the suffering of the terminally ill through other non-animalistic means, which of course science can help to deliver. But as long as scientists behave in a way that is driven by the belief that human life is not sacred, and that we are just animals, biological machines, the view that convenience killing is acceptable will prevail and we will not attain the desirable goal of living our lives according to the aforementioned axiom. And I have also come to understand that until we change science, and shape a different type of scientist, we will continue with our dysfunctional way of living, and we will, ultimately, have to face the consequences, which we have already had a taster of in the 20th century, through the thoughts and actions of people like Hitler and Stalin. This is why I work to reinvent science, which is without doubt a most important of subjects, but so is religion too. And a resolution of the conflicts of minds between the two is possible, and in ways most surprising. The construction of new paths does indeed start in the most unusual of places (a reference to a line in my book A Tale of Two Deserts).