“The Stupidity of Dignity”

Steven Pinker has a very good essay on The New Republic online, “The Stupidity of Dignity.” It examines the uselessness of the concept of dignity in bioethics, particularly the Catholic-inflected “theocon” version of bioethics that has become very influential in the US government.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16415287407278685717 Lamar

    I also think that there is a serious problem with the way the left sometimes uses the concept of dignity (though they don’t use that particular word).

    Some of the irrational resistence to things like genetically modified grains is a good example of what I mean. It just seems “wrong,” even though there is no good reason to say so.

    This type of reasoning is going on on the side of the theocons who denounce things like gay marriage for the sake of the “dignity” of marraige. Things that Catholics and other theocons call immoral are merely called that way becuase they just seem “wrong” to those people, though they have no good reason to back themselves up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    The word “honor” is also utilized in a similar way. Defenders of government support for Boy Scouts characterize themselves as defenders of Boy Scout honor. Some of the most outspoken defenders of the no atheist membership policy claim to be defending Boy Scout honor everytime they write on the topic. The Catholic church is also involved here, they appear to support the no atheists membership policy and are one of the largest sponsors of Scouting units.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05501109533475045969 Explicit Atheist

    The word “honor” is also utilized in a similar way. Defenders of government support for Boy Scouts characterize themselves as defenders of Boy Scout honor. Some of the most outspoken defenders of the no atheist membership policy claim to be defending Boy Scout honor everytime they write on the topic. The Catholic church is also involved here, they appear to support the no atheists membership policy and are one of the largest sponsors of Scouting units.

    In contrast, I have never heard the left use the word dignity or honor when opposing genetically modified food, regardless of how emotionally rooted that opposition may be.


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