reductionism

The reductionist tendency in our culture touches us all, we just do not always know what to name it. Remember that reductionism is the practice of explaining higher things by the use of the lower. Hence, reductionism.

In our culture one of the prime examples of cultural reductionism is the current (and immediate past) argument for abortion on demand. We hear repeatedly that the choice for an abortion is a matter of privacy between a woman and her doctor. Please catch this, wherever you stand on the issue. The matter of ending or continuing life is not between two parents, between a mother and her god. It is not a matter of sanctity of life. It is just a privacy issue (like closing your door at night) made on the basis of a medical decision, like taking an antiobiotic to fight an infection.

Blackmun, the fellow who wrote the majority opinion in Roe made his decision to stretch the privacy issue far beyond any previous legal opinion. In fact, he more or less created the privacy argument ex nihilio. Why? For the very reductionist reason that he did not have friends or admirers on the court and wanted to court favor (yes, a pun) with the more liberal justices. He expected that the privacy clause he invented would be legislated against in state houses around the nation. He was surprised, and some say appalled, when his ruling was not stricken in the state legislatures.

Funny, is it not, the things on which the momentus decisions of history turn? The reductionist argument always, well, reduces things; not to the simplest understanding but, at crucial times, to the most trivial. The hardest thing for a culture to do is raise the level of discussion (not the decibel level of argument, that is really easy) after we agree to lower the moral bar.

So, here we are, reduced to determining human life to the point of an inconvenient invasion of privacy. You (we) can’t get much lower than that one. I guess we should have paid more attention in philosophy of religion class. We could at least have known to say,”That is reductionism and it will take us down, not up.”

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