Menu Close

Science as Salvation – A Cautionary Tale7 min read

Listen to this article

Leon Kass, former chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002-2005, has a nice lecture on the University Channel Podcast.  He is also the author of many books, including Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics.

We are largely unaware  that we have, as a society, already embraced the eugenic principle, “defectives shall not be born.”  Because our practices are decentralized, and because they operate not by coercion, but by private reproductive choice.

In Part I, he begins by discussing the traveling exhibit on Nazi Germany called Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race. He outlines the exhibit’s three stage progression to Nazi eugenics, and emphasizes that the “science as salvation” value system is very prevalent in the west, and we should take note.

  • The aspiration to human perfectibility through science
  • The biological State through in which eugenics and ‘racial hygeine’ become implemented
  • The final solution – mass murder

Is there any connection between our ethics-free quest for perfection and murderous eugenics?  He argues, like many others have over time, YES, there are logical and historical connections between eugenics and the tendency to look to science for salvation.   NOTE that he is not anti-science, just warning against a total faith in science.

You can also read his paper at, Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Human Improvement

Is this the unavoidable end for those of us who worship science as the only arbiter of truth?  It doesn’t have to be, Kass argues.  Science in itself does not lead to such horrors, but the Nazi use of medical science was less a perversion, and morea logical conclusion from dubious premises and attitudes in their scientific outlook and the role of science in human affairs. Is there something deadly wrong in looking to science for salvation?

The essence of the peril, he argues, lies in the pursuit of the perfect human.

“Eugenic vision and practice are gaining strength, all the moreso because they grow out of sight, behind the fig leaf of the doctrine of free choice.  We are largely unaware  that we have, as a society, already embraced the eugenic principle, “defectives shall not be born.”  Because our practices are decentralized, and because they operate not by coercion, but by private reproductive choice.

Genetic knowledge, we are told, is merely providing information and technique to enable people to make better decisions about their health or their reproductive choices.  But our existing practices of genetic screening and prenatal diagnosis show that this claim is at best self-deceptive, at worst disingenuous.  The choice to develop and practice genetic screening, and the choices of which genes to target for testing, have not been made by the public, but by scientists, and not on liberty-enhancing, but on eugenic grounds.  […]

Many practitioners of prenatal diagnosis refuse to do fetal genetic screening in the absence of a prior commitment from the woman to abort any afflicted fetus.  And many pregnant women who wish NOT to know prenatal facts must withstand strong medical pressures for testing.”


“Not surprisingly, in the face of these practical possibilities, prominent intellectuals are now providing justification for this view of life.  The current journals of bioethics, no less, are full of writings that sweetly sing the song of Binding and Hoche, albeit without the menacing German accent.  But not all are so reticent.

Here for example, are remarks from the writings of the Decant Professor of Bioethics (Princeton) on the subject of killing infants with serious but managable diseases such as hemophelia:

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects for a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed.  The loss of a happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second.  Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse affect on others, according to the total view, it would be right to kill him.

In a recent magazine interview, the professor was asked, what about parents conceiving a child specifically to kill him, take his organs, and give them to their ill older children.

Professor:  It is difficult to warm to parents who take such a detached view, but they are not really doing something wrong in itself.

Interviewer:  Is there anything wrong with a society in which children are born for spare parts on a massive scale?

The Princeton professor of bioethics replied “No.”

Do not underestimate what it means for us that such coolly lethal opinions, regarded since 1945 as barbaric, are today again treated with seriousness, and that promoters of such opinions can occupy professorial chairs of ethics like Princeton’s.

These three lectures are each over 90 minutes long, but really full of information. What I really find interesting is that the ties between Darwinism, eugenics, the devaluing of human life, and the logical and historical connection between the salvific science and Nazism are so clear, yet so vehemently and blindly denied by anti-faith and pro-Darwin leaders and sheep.

I also find interesting Kass’s point that this devaluing of “imperfect” humans is happening hidden behind our extreme “choice” morality – not via compulsion, but via personal liberty gone awry.  Freely chosen euthanasia, like the current abortion of most Down’s Syndrome kids, can easily lead to forced euthanasia if we let the Darwinist, science as God moralists lead us.  Forced euthanasia is already happening in Holland.

Kass also asks some great questions for the second and third lectures, including:

  • Will human life really be better if we turn to biotechnology to fulfill our deepest human desires?
  • Will those desires be properly satisfied?
  • Will our enhanced activities be better, and better humanly?

Here’s a nice concluding statement from Kass:

The question we must therefore put to the human enhancers and the post-human futurists is this – “What knowledge of the human good do you have that entitles you to gamble the human future on your hunches that these proposed alterations will in fact make us better or happier?” It is a question that science and technology can not answer, and worse, that our bio-prophets do not even think to ask.  No danger we face in the coming age of biotechnology is greater than the danger of careless and shallow thinking.