Thursday, October 14, 2010

Innocent Until Defined Otherwise

I think I'm about to abandon this site and start something different, so I'm going to lay out another land mine just to see what happens...

I've been having some fun reading through all sorts of bioethical journal entries, religious debates, other moral relativistic types of sites, and well, I'll just admit it - baseball statistics. I came upon an interesting Time article quoting a Catholic ethicist, Daniel Callahan, as writing

"To say, for instance, that God forbids the taking of 'innocent' life while conceding — as I think we must — that it is left up to a man to define what an innocent life is, is to fail to see that the only possible meaning this rule can have is the meaning human beings choose to give it . . . To place the solution to these problems in the hands of God is to misjudge God's role and misuse human reason and freedom."

I can feel another onslaught of fire and brimstone coming, but are we capable of making judgments on our own moral absolutes with God as a guide as Potts seems to argue in this article, or do we surrender all rationality to a higher authority?


1 comment:

Bea said...

Ok, I'll go.

There are always going to be too many edge cases for the answers to always be clear in advance. When the question isn't urgent (as in on-the-spot, snap-decision must be made) it's common to have local authorities with whom followers can consult (and these people can often consult with higher authorities as necessary/appropriate). Still not exactly making the decision in isolation, without any "higher authority". (Although most of us are comfortable acting on the advice of any number of authorities in day to day life - car mechanics, doctors, IT professionals, etc etc, so it shouldn't horrify us that people go to specific experts for help with moral dilemmas as well.)

In more general cases (eg where the Bible doesn't specifically mention a new technology so you go looking for what it does say that's relevant) then I think there's sometimes more than one arguable interpretation there, too. The Church has been known to review its policies. Of course, Church authorities who have made extensive studies and spent a lot of time debating the matter are more likely to have the correct and most logical interpretation compared to the average joe on the street. However, in practice there tends to be a degree of faith involved in believing that the interpretation is correct, that God is indeed speaking through a particular authority.