Nearly two decades ago, a friend of mine attended a conference in Washington, D.C. The meeting had the theme of “supercomputing and the human person.” Most of the attendees were medical doctors, computer executives, mathematicians, biologists, chemists and other scientists. A few philosophers took part as well. My friend was there on behalf of the apostolic nunciature. He came away with three main impressions.
First, there was a lot of talk about supercomputing, and almost none about who or what the human person is. Second, the nickname for the human body among the attendees was “wetware,” or more crudely, “meat puppet.” Third, when participants learned that my friend and his wife practiced NFP, they were genuinely fascinated – fascinated in the same way Margaret Mead studied pre-modern tribal islanders.
Anyone - Qualms - Birth - Control - Something
Most found it baffling that anyone might have any moral qualms about birth control, and especially about using something as simple as the pill. The idea of a married couple freely choosing to avoid sexual intimacy when a technology could prevent the worry of a pregnancy seemed weird. Abnormal. Unnatural.
Of course, in the years since that conference, the question of what is and what isn’t “natural” for the human person has been obscured by an even more basic confusion about what is and what isn’t human. To borrow a thought from the scholar Michael Hanby, “man’s technological dominion [has] not only given us the [birth control] pill and some new moral dilemmas . . . [but] also put the truth of the human person – and his future as human – radically into question.” In the space of a few generations we’ve moved from seeing the human body as an integral part of our human identity to a kind of clay container for our wills. Our flesh is now simply the raw...
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