Magazine article The Human Life Review

Symposium: Truth-Telling in the Public Square

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Symposium: Truth-Telling in the Public Square

Article excerpt

In the Winter/Spring 201 1 issue of the Review, Wesley Smith, in his article "The Bioethics Threat to Universal Human Rights," proposed that in arguing for human exceptionalism one ought to utilize secular terms, because "human dignity can be well defended from secular bases." To base the defense on religious terms, Smith said, gives the non-religious an excuse to dismiss the arguments entirely. The Rev. W. Ross Blackburn disagrees; he wrote us last fall to see if we would be willing to publish his reply. His thoughtful article, "Arguing for Human Dignity in Bioethics & Public Policy: A Reply to Wesley J. Smith," was published in our Winter 2012 issue. Blackburn stated that his response was "written principally for Christians":

I write as one who has a deep appreciation for Smith's serious, persistent, and toughminded work for many years in defense of life of the vulnerable. But here I think he is wrong, and furthermore that his position actually works against the ends he is pursuing. In the end, a secular argument cannot do the heavy lifting that will be required to (re) establish that human beings are exceptional, that we do have inherent dignity and intrinsic worth, and that therefore human life should be honored and protected.

We spoke to Smith about Blackburn's article, and the idea of a symposium was born. As you will see, while all of the nine contributors to "Trum-Telling in the Public Square" agree on the inviolability of human life, each comes at the question of how best to argue for it in the public square from their own unique, and engaging, angle. Some come down on the side of the secular, some the sacred, and some think each argument makes sense ... to a point. Some question whether one can persuade through argument at all.

We are honored to begin with His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sets the tone by stressing the importance of what we are doing, not merely "preparing for a debating contest" but considering a question which "goes to the very essence of what it means to be human and how we are to live with one another." "We are not mere creatures of reason or appetite or interest," writes His Eminence. "Science alone cannot speak the full truth about human nature. …

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