I know that may sound like a no-brainer, but, seriously. . . Why don’t we eat humans?
When I try to imagine eating human flesh, I start to get this gag-reflex-thing going on in my throat—It’s awful.
I remember seeing this movie in the 90s called Alive, which was a story about a South American soccer team whose plane crashed into the Andes mountains in 1972. Well, to survive they ended up eating the flesh of some of their dead soccer mates. I know—sick. But they had to do it to survive.
What does the name Hannibal Lector make you think about? Do you want some fava beans with that?
Anyway. In a recent pod-cast episode of Unbelievable, the host had a Christian apologist and an atheist in the studio to discuss the existence of God. The Christian is a lawyer from Texas, and I think the atheist was an Aussie or a Brit . . . I don’t recall. At one point, the topic of morality came up. Now, I don’t remember exactly what was being said. I just remember the part when the Christian lobbed a grenade-shaped question on the atheist in mid-speech, saying, “So, why don’t we eat humans?”
It stopped the atheist dead in his tracks. It was not a long stop, but it threw him off. “What do you mean, ‘why don’t we eat humans?'” he said. And then he continued, saying we don’t need to because we have pigs and cattle and what not. He said a few other things, but you could tell he was not ready for that one.
The Christian responded and said (paraphrasing), “With all those people who are hungry all over the world, why are they not eating the dead? What a waste of good protein. We donate our organs to science, why not donate our bodies to feed the hungry.”
It was really funny listening to this atheist trying to recover. He just said a few words and tried to brush it under the rug and proceed on with his other arguments.
But, the Christian’s point was in regards to our human dignity. He asked the atheist what makes us more dignified than other creatures, and the atheist said it was our intelligence. I don’t think he had fully recovered from the grenade yet because his knee-jerk response just opened the door to a litany of objections that quickly buried him.
I am sure you can think of a few yourself.
So, this is where I will end with their debate.
The answer, however, still needs more ‘flesh’ on it (pun intended :)).
Where do we get our dignity?
Lets define dignity. One dictionary says, dignity means, “Inherent nobility and worth.”(1) And specifically regarding human dignity, “a being has an innate right to be valued and receive ethical treatment.”(2)
Robert P. Kraynak , in his essay from the Presidents Council on Bioethics, says, “When we speak about ‘human dignity’ or ‘the dignity of man,’ we usually mean the special moral status of human beings in the natural universe as well as the respect due to individual humans because of their essential humanity.”(3)
In looking at the first definition, I have to ask what gives humans this inherent and innate right to such a status? Is it what society says? The government? Or, is it just on an individual basis?
Kraynak’s definition (I don’t mean to imply it is his) tries to mash aspects of two conflicting worldviews together—special moral status and natural universe. Morality cannot be accounted for in a naturalistic worldview (I don’t believe he is meaning naturalistic per se, but this fits the secular mold, which is that of a naturalistic worldview).
But, just read the definition again…. Why should humans get special respect because of their essential humanity? When it comes to a materialist, Darwinian worldview, the concept of innate self-worth or inherent value has no place in such a way of life. It can’t be accounted for. All the atheist can say, though he will try decorate it with big words, “it is because it is,” but that is arbitrary (see my pastor and good friend Stephen Feinstein’s blog post of such a conversation we had with an atheist). There is an elephant in the room that the naturalist doesn’t see.
Getting back to the definitions. What is obvious about these statements is that worth can only be placed on something by another. Regardless of using adjectives such as special, innate, or essential, humans have a value that supersedes any other material object. Furthermore, in understanding how worth and value are placed on something, we can deduce that there is something, rather someone that gives humans this value. Value and worth is something only persons understand and can give. One has to have a personal, relational, cognitive mind to recognize worth and to attribute it to something.
However, if humans give humans value, then humans can take away that value. That is what we are truly left with, if we are merely nothing more than mud and molecules.
And we have seen humans commit plenty of horrific and atrocious acts to other humans, devaluing and demoralizing them, treating them like animals (i.e., human trafficking, slavery, rape, etc.). We say like animals because there is a vast difference between humans and animals, and while there are those who on the surface think otherwise (like naturalists), they don’t truly live their life that way, holding moral convictions that reflect such an ideology.
So why do humans have inherent dignity?
Because God made man in his image after his likeness (Gen. 1:26).
The only way to account for a universal, intrinsic moral worth is because One who is eternally and infinitely moral, The Moral Lawgiver, made mankind to have such a value.
That is why we don’t eat humans.
(And no, its not because we can get the Kuru disease if we do. That is not the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about it).
1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dignity (accessed, 1/2/2014)
2.http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/human+dignity (accessed, 1/2/2014)
3.https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/reports/human_dignity/chapter4.html (accessed, 1/2/2014).