David Wainwright Evans, MD, FRCP: Rest in Peace

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David Wainwright Evans was a good man, a good scholar, and a good friend. His vita would be impressive by any standard: service in the Royal Air Force in World War II, both as a bomber pilot and a fighter pilot, Fellow of the Royal Society of Physicians, Consulting Cardiologist, Papworth Hospital, UK, and Fellow Commoner, Cambridge University, UK. I first met Dr. Evans via e-mail in 1996. I was planning to edit a book of scholarly articles in opposition to brain death criteria for declaring a person dead. Dr. Evans immediately agreed to contribute to the volume, and he wrote a fine chapter, “The Demise of ‘Brain Death’ in Britain.” He worked with a number of scholars and physicians on article on brain death and on ethical issues that arise if brain death is not death. This has obvious implications for the ethics of organ donation. Dr. Evans believed, as I do, that removal of unpaired vital organs from the “brain dead” individual is the taking of innocent human life and is therefore morally wrong. Dr. Evans remained true to his values even when pressured to change, and he retired early from cardiology in order to express openly his beliefs. That takes a great deal of moral courage, and I admire Dr. Evans for that. He was also an opponent of war, having seen its destructiveness as an RAF pilot. Dr. Evans was a fine Christian gentleman, a member of the Church of England who was faithful in his duty to God.

I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Evans twice in person while visiting England, first to attend a conference, and next on vacation (or “holiday” as the British call it). He and his wife, Rosemary, were gracious hosts and both visits were pleasant for me and (in the second visit) for my wife as well. Dr. Evans and I exchanged hundreds, perhaps thousands, of e-mails, in an excellent personal and professional friendship. The suddenness of his passing was a shock, but he was well into his eighties and died peacefully in his sleep. He is in the hands of God now, and I hope to see him again one day in a far better world than this one. Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithfully departed in Christ, rest in peace. A-men.

(Im)moral Monday in North Carolina

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Location map of North Carolina, USA

Location map of North Carolina, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a strange phenomena in America when people hell-bent on supporting murdering the unborn protest on what they call “Moral Monday.” Initially these protests involved the usual suspects from the Left protesting budget cuts and districts set up by the Republican state legislature. The latter will not change due to the recent (and finally sensible) U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifting some of the unfair restrictions of the Voting Rights Act from the states (especially the Southern states). The latter–well, to the left, any cut in government is intrinsically evil. It is the protests against the restrictions on abortion passed by the North Carolina senate that I find particularly ironic.

Any law regulating abortion clinics has been opposed by the pro-abortion lobby despite abuses that occur that have physically harmed or caused death to some women having abortions. This gives the lie to the pro-abortionists’ claim that they are concerned about women’s health. Their actual concern is their own selfishness, a selfishness and pride so perverse that it leads them to think that babies are “parasites” (as two of my students once put in) and that murdering them is just another form of birth control. The shrillness of the voices at Monday’s protests were ear-splitting, far worse than the shouts of any Fundamentalist preacher. The pro-abortion crowd at the protests were Fundamentalists, with their religion being abortion, and the worship services of their religion the sacrifice of innocent life on the altar of selfishness. In the past I have tried to be careful to separate the position from the person–no one is wholly evil, since even the most evil person in the world is still a creature made in God’s image. However, when I saw the shrill protestors on the news yesterday supporting the destruction of unborn life in the name of the “health of the mother,” I was hearing the voices of evil.

What makes the situation worse is North Carolina’s RINO governor, Pat McCrory, refuses to sign a bill putting any further restrictions on abortion. That is so typical of the Charlotte country-club Republican crowd–and it is nauseating to see. In addition, where was there any coverage in the news on the pro-life position? I thought the WRAL reports were so one-sided as to constitute advocacy of the pro-abortion side–but this is typical of the mainstream media.

Pray for the unborn, for the millions murdered in the name of convenience, for the people who commit the terrible crime of abortion that they might repent, for a country so twisted and selfish that it has allowed the atrocity of the murder of the most helpless and innocent of its citizens. Pray for those who “call evil good and good evil,” who call the immoral moral and the moral immoral. May God strengthen the forces who fight the darkness of the Culture of Death.

Belgium: The Return of “Useless Eaters”

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English: Skull and crossbones

English: Skull and crossbones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At http://www.france24.com/en/20121218-belgium-looks-euthanasia-minors-alzheimers-sufferers is an article on a proposal that will most likely pass Belgium’s legislature that allows euthanasia for minors and for Alzheimer’s patients. Increasingly secular, godless Europe is finally passing laws that reflect the decline of the remnants of Christian ethics that held on for a while after the decline of religious belief. The phrase “useless eaters” was coined by a Nazi doctor who was discussing Nazi Germany’s euthanasia program. It had no problem killing minors and people with senility of whatever cause. With no clear cut behavioral diagnostic difference between Alzheimer’s Disease and senile dementia in general, the new law, when passed, could de facto be applied to some non-Alzheimer’s senile patients.

What are the limits on the age of minors? Apparently none–any minor deemed “too sick to live” by a doctor and by parents or guardians could be killed. The slippery slope that supporters of euthanasia claimed would not happen is already fact. Next door in The Netherlands, voluntary euthanasia quickly led to involuntary euthanasia, and there was, for a time, a proposal on the table to have a “quality of life threshold” below which a person would no longer have the right to live. It may just be a matter of time before the severely mentally retarded will join the list of “useless eaters” and euthanized. A godless society only gives life a utilitarian value. Although Kant tried to set up a secular system that allowed for intrinsic human dignity, his dream died, at least in some European countries, and the remnants of the Christianity that still influenced Kant died away. Now there is no bar to making decisions regarding euthanasia not based on alleged “mercy,” but on a person’s ability to “contribute” to society. The fittest survive; those considered unfit will be eliminated. The most frightening instances of murder are those murders that use mercy to justify them. The only “mercy” involved may be for the family to get a burden off their back and the state to save on medical bills due to fewer patients requiring long-term care.

The United States, for now, has enough residual Christian belief to avoid Europe’s direction for now. However, given the responses of most of my medical ethics students to questions regarding the moral rightness or wrongness of physician assisted suicide, it seems that those supporting PAS will win in the long run. If they do, it will be no surprise if PAS leads the way into voluntary active euthanasia and eventually to involuntary active euthanasia. Society will be at last be in part of a eugenics movement that will make the earlier movement in the first decades of the twentieth century seem like child’s play. God help us all if that happens–and it will happen in Western Europe (and probably in Canada) before it happens in the United States. But with 30% of young people in the U.S. classifying themselves as “irreligious,” the road toward Europe may be wider than one might think.

Atheists forget, when they catalog the crimes of religion, that the mass murderous regimes of the twentieth century were atheistic: Nazi Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union, Maoist Communist China, North Korea, and Cambodia when it was under the rule of Pol Pot. The sanctity of human life does not make sense in an atheistic framework; the value of human life must be instrumental and not intrinsic in a consistent atheistic system. It is no surprise, then, that Belgium and the Netherlands are going the route toward allowing more and more classes of people to potentially be subject to euthanasia. The Nazi world of alleged “useless eaters,” a world Europe once claimed to eschew for good, is coming back to haunt a godless society. The price paid for such folly will be very high.

True, There Never Was a Golden Age, but….

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Small town Arizona

I enjoy looking through the books other faculty require as reading at the university where I teach–it gives me a sense of the focus of their classes and the gist of the material taught in a particular class. One day I found a book on the 1950s, arguing that it was not a “golden age” for family life, and that families had severe problems then as they do now. My first response was to say to myself, “No kidding.” Only a fool would think that the 1950s or any other decade was some kind of “Golden Age” that bypassed human frailties. Marriages had problems in the 1950s, some spouses were abused as well as some children, and some families were dysfunctional. However, apart from these obvious facts, and apart from useful advances in technology and medicine since the 1950s, it does appear that, despite its flaws, that decade was the last true “Era of Good Feeling” in the United States. It was also the last decade in which a generally Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic was dominant in American thought, even among most Roman Catholics and Jews. Although divorce was sometimes necessary in extreme circumstances of physical and/or emotional abuse or serial adultery, in most cases divorce was frowned upon. Although the Hollywood set would get abortions as well as others, abortion was recognized as a grave moral evil. Only a small minority disagreed. Premarital sex occurred, of course, and the hypocritical aspects of 1950s sexual mores are well known, but at least there was an ideal that the wedding night would be a special beginning of  a new life between two people that is sealed by their first act of sexual intercourse. More extended families existed, especially in the South, the Midwest, and (as is still the case today) in the Italian-American community. Although people moved, outside of the military or of upper business management, extensive moving was rare. The new suburbs, for a time, retained the notion of a “neighorhood” with cookouts and regular visits between neighbors. Small town life, though declining, still flourished in many parts of the country. Alcoholism was a problem, as was always the case, but extensive use of hard drugs such as heroin was rare outside some inner city neighborhoods. There was a growing problem with juvenile crime, but most teenaged social life was tame by today’s “standards.” Although conformity was sometimes taken to an extreme, there was a strong sense that the older generation felt a responsibility to rear a virtuous younger generation. Perhaps the “greatest generation” did not understand the degree to which easy access to material things would create the spoiled and self-serving whiners of the mid-1960s onward, but most tried to rear their children with high moral values. My parents told me that at least in the 1950s a person knew whom he could trust. Today, they said, it is difficult to trust anyone.

The “Great Society” and the destruction of underclass society which arose through their dependency on federal aid, was in the future. The vast majority of children, white and black, were born in stable two-parent homes. A strong work ethic permeated most of American society.

This is not to say that the 1950s did not have deep flaws–struggles over race and the threat of nuclear war, for example. However, I would have rather lived in that kind of culture rather than the upside down world of 2012, in which people “call evil good and good evil” and Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values” took place, though not in the direction of the Homeric virtues as Nietzsche desired. Christian culture is rapidly declining in influence, with a new breed of young secularists coming into view who, as Rush Limbaugh (who is right on this point) notes are both desirous of a government “nanny state” to take care of their physical needs while at the same time desiring that the government let them “do their thing” regarding gay marriage, abortion, and other “choices” they deem “personal.” The rapidity of the decline in American character since the 1950s has been astounding. In my own lifetime the world has turned upside down, to the delight of the anti-Christian left and to the chagrin of the few traditionalists standing against the plague of barbarism overwhelming the country.

No generation is unfallen. Yet most members of the 1950s generation would admit when they did wrong. They might do bad things anyway, but they understood them to be morally wrong. Today people strut immoral activity without believing it to be immoral. Academia has been part of the fuel for the fire of relativism, but it is, ironically, an absolutist relativism that denies traditionalists their right to express their views. The universities have become cesspools of relativism, Marxism, and a stifling politically correct orthodoxy. At least in the 1950s, faculty had academic freedom to express their views. Traditional conservatives may have been a small minority, but they were not censored. The university was generally a place of open discussion of ideas rather than the cesspool of radical orthodoxy it has become now.

It is too late to go back–the United States as I knew it as a child is dying. The sense of anomie I and other traditionalists feel has driven some to emigrate from the country and others to retreat to enclaves of like-minded people. In the 1950s I would have felt at home. Even in the 1980s there seemed to be hope for the future. Now I feel like a stranger in a strange land, and I am sure many other people do as well. There are times I want to go back to my grandparents’ house where my parents lived with my sister and I from 1965-1969 and enjoy the simplicity of it all before the madness of the 1960s froze into place in the 1970s. It may be a good thing for Christians, for it forces us to focus on God as the only One who is eternal, the only One who does not change. Going back to the past is pointless–traditionalists have lost the culture. We can trust in God, try to live good moral lives and be good examples to others, be active in church, and enjoy visits with like-minded people without isolating ourselves from the larger society. We know that God will triumph in the end, but until then, we wait “with earnest expectation” for Christ to come.

 

The Fetus, Parasites, and Narcissism

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This is am image of a fetus about to be vacuum...

When I stop thinking that I can be shocked by what another person says in this narcissistic society, someone proves me wrong. I was part of a group discussing the issue of whether the man should play any role in decision making concerning abortion. Both males and females took one side or the other in about an equal ratio. One woman, however, burst into the discussion and said in an angry tone, “No man is going to make me carry a parasite in my womb for nine months!” Taken aback, I wondered how people would respond to her—and a woman with children said that children already born were parasites. If she had used a joking tone of voice that would have been fine. She was serious. This illustrates how far the “cultural of narcissism,” a term coined by the Christopher Lasch, has penetrated into the psyche of some Americans.

It was after artificial contraception became common that children ceased to be considered a gift. I am not opposing artificial contraception—there are cases in which it is the best option—but the mentality that children are burdens rather than gifts has been a toxic byproduct of the ready availability of the pill. The notion that carrying a child in the womb for nine months is “carrying a parasite” ignores the fact that half the parasite’s chromosomes came through the mother. We are not talking about an alien life form sucking away the essence of the mother. The opposition to the natural bond between mother and child represents an attitude that is wholly oriented toward the self and not toward a dependent being. What would this person think about old people in nursing homes, the homeless, or people on welfare. Anyone wise would shudder at such attitudes among some Americans today. What is more disturbing is the willingness to share such a selfish view. Do people lack the ability to discern when they come across as self-centered spoiled children rather than as adults? Do others listening to comments calling a fetus up to the ninth month—or even a born child—a “parasite” realize that there is something seriously flawed about such an attitude. Too many people do not hide their narcissism. Abortion is the ultimate instance of narcissism, especially considering that the vast majority of abortions are done for the purpose of birth control. People desire the pleasure of sex, and when that results in conception, then they have the “parasite” killed as if they are killing a paramecium rather than a person. The devotion to the autonomous self and the rejection of natural bonds are characteristics of modernity, and with the decline of Christianity in late modernity there are no restraints on narcissism. 1.2 million abortions a year are only one symptom—the increasing acceptance of physician assisted suicide among young people is another. One hopes that T. S. Eliot’s version of the end of the world will not come to pass, but extreme narcissism always results in violence. May God help us.

Why I am Eating at Chick-Fil-A Tomorrow (August 1)

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Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dan Cathy, owner of the Chick-Fil-A chain of restaurants, recently voiced support for the traditional view of marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Because of this, some supporters of same-sex marriage called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A, and the chain has been banned in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and at Indiana University South Bend–those are the places about which I know–there may be others. Now any citizen who wants to boycott Chick-Fil-A because they disagree with Mr. Cathy’s views may do so–that is that citizen’s right as an American. Any citizen who wishes to eat at Chick-Fil-A for the food or to support free speech can do so without penalty. Frankly, I am tired of the intimidation tactics used by some supporters of same-sex marriage to try to close any public debate on the topic by force. Any officer in any company has the right to state the principles behind the organization. The attempt by some governments to punish Chick-Fil-A is the product of the totalitarian view that government can force a private business to go against its fundamental values–or at least to remain silent. One good thing about the backlash is that it has finally awakened not only conservative Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others who oppose same-sex marriage; it has also forced secular civil libertarians to rethink their views or at least squirm in their seats when they support a forced ban of Chick-Fil-A. The problem with traditional Christians is that too many are not willing to make the same effort in the culture wars as those who support sexual immorality and a false view of marriage. Perhaps from now on they will be more alert to the threats to their freedom of expression by the secularists and revisionists “Christians” who support same-sex marriage.

It is to support freedom of expression for Mr. Cathy and others in business that I will follow Mike Huckabee‘s lead and purchase food at Chick-Fil-A tomorrow. Those on the other side of the issue who wish to peacefully protest without harassing customers may, of course, do so. This is a small step for traditional Christians who are in more danger of having their freedoms taken away than they realize, not only by politicians in the Obama administration but also by means of intimidation and bullying by opponents of traditional Christianity. I am proud that Mr. Cathy has been open about his Christian views. Other Christians should follow his good example–and I encourage all people who support freedom of expression to eat at Chick-Fil-A tomorrow, August 1.

Students Cheating and American Subjectivism

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Ethics class

Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)

Students cheating in school is not a new thing, but it has become an epidemic in recent years. The Internet has made cheating easier, with thousands of term papers students buy and pass off as their own work. Cell phones are now used by students to get answers from their classmates or to look them up on a website. What is most surprising is how many students see no moral problem with cheating. Sometimes irate parents will visit a high school principle or college dean and complain that their child did not cheat, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against the student. Is it any surprise that there are so many scandals in business and in government? Children are emulating the values of their parents, who reflect the terrible trend in American culture to want something for nothing.

The rampant relativism to which students are exposed on television, by celebrities, by the media, in the K-12 school system, and in colleges and universities makes it easy for students to become subjectivists on ethics. “Whatever floats your boat” or “Whatever I think is right is right for me and whatever you think is right for you” becomes the mantra of many students today. The most dogmatic relativists are as closed-minded as any religious fundamentalist. The fact that they become angry and try to cut a professor off when he argues against subjectivism reveals that they only want their views to be heard. Apparently the position held by the professor and by other students that everyone, including the professor, has the right to speak his mind has not sunk into these students.

I am at a loss to determine how to get beyond the impasse of relativistic propaganda in society. When the United States accepted a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic, as it did from the Second Great Awakening in the late eighteenth century through around 1963, one could argue from a common morality held by the vast majority of Americans. With the decline of Christianity and the proliferation of different religions and cultures, one could try to find common values between them–and between deeply devout people of all major religions much commonality in moral beliefs is present. Radical secularism, agnosticism, and atheism can try to develop a non-relativistic deontological or utilitarian system, but other secularists who desire to do what they want without restraint could say, “Okay, there’s a common morality needed for the good of society, but I don’t care about the good of society. There’s no God to stop me from being a self-centered ass. So that’s what I’ll be.” Without transcendent meaning, how strong is the force of the “ought” in ethics (I am borrowing this point from George Mavrodes). Students may intellectually believe in some kind of deity, but the secular relativism they have been taught from kindergarten onward has already sunk into their psyche. This fact, along with the inherent immaturity and selfishness of youth, make for a combination that will inevitably result in rampant cheating. I have had students of all grades brag to me about how they successfully cheated in school. It is a matter of pride to them. It is a matter of shame to American society that its cultural rot since 1964 has destroyed any notion of transcendent meaning (beyond trying to find it through pleasure), has promoted self-centeredness, has promoted “success” by any means necessary, and has lied to people by telling them they should be proud of their accomplishments even if they did not earn them. With churches catering to the relativist, postmodern young person without trying to correct their relativism, all that results is high recidivism and young people who leave church with the same twisted values they previously had accepted. Without a large-scale religious revival, which I do not see coming in the United States, growing irreligiosity will cause societal destruction in the U.S.–Europe had enough residual tradition to withstand falling into chaos when Europeans gave up on Christianity, but how long will that last? I expect more cheating in the future by students. Some will get caught, most will not care unless they are caught (and even then for selfish reasons), and the shred of integrity left in the American educational system will be threatened.

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