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What Does It Mean to be Human?

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
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April 25, 2022 11:38 am

What Does It Mean to be Human?

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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April 25, 2022 11:38 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Dr. Carter Snead to discuss his book What It Means to be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics.

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Policy matters and engaging in weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will fold better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters Tracy to thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters. Despite the noble beginnings in the field of bioethics. One of the world's leading experts says America's bioethics overwhelmingly disregards our human reality and results in consistently putting vulnerable human lives in peril or joint by that expert Dr. Carter Sneed, director of the genetic luck Center for ethics and culture he's professor of law and concurrent professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and he's going to discuss his book, what it means to be human.

The case for the body in public bioethics. Dr. Carter Sneed. Welcome to family policy matters with you.

It's interesting.

I did see that your book was declared one of the top 10 books of 2020. What was it about the book that created such a stir.

I was gratified by that. The Wall Street Journal in particular singled out for that recognition and is very pleased by. I think what people identified with, even though the book is about public bioethics which is a branch of law and public policy that relates to the ethics arising from advances in biomedical science and biotechnology is deeper than that and meant for a much broader audience to really reflect on what it means to be in flourish as a human being, which is I think of everyone to matter what their area of focus Rexford, so what was so unusual about the stance that you took in your book. It was surprising probably to some people that the principal argument of the book, which is the best way to understand the disputes in law and public policy relating to bioethics, and in particular the disputes involving the laws and policies relating to abortion relating to assisted reproductive technologies in the law and policy concerning end-of-life decision-making and assisted suicide. But the best way to understand all of those areas of the law complex, involving science and morality and justice mold related issues that are implicated in those areas is through the lens of what I describe as anthropology and I don't mean by that the modern academic discipline of anthropology people going to faraway countries and studying the habits and practices of people are unfamiliar with what I mean is simply anthropology in its original, which is to say what it means to be in flourish as a human being. I argue in the booklet. All law is aimed at protecting or promoting the flourishing of human person and as a result, the law has to operate from prior assumptions about what a human person is and what human persons flourishing. What constitutes is a thriving as a result of the richest way to understand these areas that implicate our ourselves and our relationships to one another so dramatically as bioethics does where we should start with is the question of what it means to be human.

According to the legal principles and when if you drill down into the laws of these three vital conflicts I've Artie mentioned what I found was the vision of the human person, human identity and human flourishing was woefully inadequate.

False and impoverished had a vision of what a person is it doesn't come close to capturing our lived experience. In particular, our experience as human beings that live in the world as bodies that is as fragile bodies in time.

We are vulnerable we are dependent upon one another and we are subject to natural limits not situate the kind of relationship to one another to take care of each other. But the vision of personhood at the core of the law of abortion in America. The law relating to assisted reproduction. The law connected to end-of-life decision-making that and simply describes and identifies human beings as coextensive with their will.

You and I are defined by our desires by our mind by our capacity to generate directed plans and to pursue them and there is something true about that. That is, that is a feature of some aspects of life, but that doesn't come close to describing the integrity of what we argue, we are and by missing our embodiment by missing the fact that we are vulnerable dependent upon one another, etc. the law. These areas leave behind the week and the vulnerable elderly of the disabled children, both born and unborn and other key members of the human family that the the anthropology of expressive individualism which is the name of the vision of the in-person note that is assumed by those three legal areas fails to capture built understand link takes all the way around that.

So if we have this this basis and are law that basically emphasizes the individual. I guess you could say then how would that Dan has an effect on say an attack on an unborn child were on the cusp. I hope the Supreme Court making serious change in the American law of abortion, but as it stands right now if you look at the president of Roe V Wade planter casing to the two Supreme Court precedents that essentially defined almost the entirety of the law of abortion in America. If you look at the way Justice Blackmun in Roe V Wade defined the human context of abortion and discovered her lips. They invented a right to abortion the way he invented that right to abortion was by describing the human scenario would see the question of abortion arises as a conflict between strangers tween a woman in this strange invading being that is something less than a person mainly her unborn child describes the context of abortion is a conflict among strangers, isolated strangers fighting over the bodily resources in the human future of the woman.

That's how he described the burdens of an unwanted pregnancy are such that there must be a right to abortion in the Constitution, even though it's not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, even though even if you admit that there's a concept of privacy. The operative in the Constitution, the context of abortion is a stretch, even from that perspective. He says no it's so important that women be able to defend themselves against this intruding stranger that dependent upon them that want to make a claim on their body, and will frustrate their future directed plans.

The only thing that we can do is to read into the constitutional right for the woman to use lethal violence to fend off this this aggressor.

This this unborn stranger and right there you see immediately the anthropology of expressive individualism animating Justice Blackmun's reasoning, he does. He doesn't see the world as interconnected beings. He doesn't see the cumin category of parent and child, mother and child what he sees are isolated strangers, isolated individuals who have no natural connection to one another. One is trying to threaten the interests of the other and therefore it's important to give the event the threatened party a license to use private violence and that is the root of the right to abortion. The conceptual roots of the right to abortion, an American law if we described Justice Blackmun instead taken seriously.

The embodied relational nature of mother and child and said over the Sonata a conflict among strangers fighting over scarce resources that belong to one of the two of them.

Instead what this is is a crisis involving a mother and her child.

If you describe it that way you don't get a right of one party to kill the other. What you get is a mobilization or leak to allow for the political branches to mobilize to come to the aid of that mother and child and to provide for the care of books moves forward, then I guess it affecting the hearts and minds of people is a good start, but how does this start to make its way into law. The good news is in the areas in the vital conflicts of this history productive technology law and policy and the issue of end-of-life decision-making is suicide's.

We are in this country at the moment still free to govern ourselves, we can have these conversations in the deliberative branches of government. We can have conversations about and we debate different propositions should should the nano assisted suicide be legal or should not be we can talk about it through the lens of anthropology. Of embodiment we can talk about it. See the connections to the week in the vulnerable and to not simply assume this is just about us and another negative unfortunate example of this is when California legalized assisted suicide a few years ago Jerry Brown, the governor of California issued a statement when he signed the bill into law with entirely self regarding you that I'm very excited them paraphrasing something like, I'm very excited. Signed this bill to give me the freedom to make an existential decision at the end of my life so that I can so that I could choose a pathway to end my own life is my judgment. That's what I need and that's with the end of my story should be an entirely isolated individuated view of what what life is.

He didn't think to consider the week in the vulnerable. Pour the disabled elderly members of racial minorities who were threatened already by aspects of our healthcare system in the didn't think about the dangers that come to them in terms of fraud and abuse and coercion interest when you introduce into that system, the option of assisted suicide where insurance companies won't pay for T-Mobile to pay for drugs free to take your own life will winch the that this sort of epidemic of elder abuse that were experiencing right now this country includes this other mode of exploitation and harm for for for our elders to what we need to survive are networks of people who are willing to make the good of others their own good, and there are certain kind of virtues that we and practices we have to embrace in order to shore up and sustain those networks. We don't need the freedom to kill ourselves we need is sicker understanding of our relationships to one another. We can ask for things from other people and we can understand that other people have claims on us that we don't choose when you talk about assisted suicide. I think a lot of times people say I don't want to put my kids through that I don't want to put my family through that. Do you make the case that that actually that's a good thing for for the children to do is to be required to take care of someone who's dying parents and children have an inexistent kind of relationship to one another where they are obliged by virtue of the national relationship to care for one another and they have claims on one another.

Dr. Ernst will take the other end of life.

For an example of baby doesn't have to earn the right to be cared for by his or her parents and parents at the end of their lives don't have to earn the right to be cared for by the children.

That's is what it means to stand in that kind of natural relationship of parent and child, and you said something very important. A moment ago you said some people want to end their own lives, so that they're not a burden to their children or the principal arguments for assisted suicide is the principle of autonomy and say, well, freedom is the most important thing we can't annoy the person who feels like a burden to another person is not operating at the height of their freedom. They are operating under some kind of internal duress, imagining that there burden someone else and and and. Studies have shown that most people who feel like there burden to their children. In fact, their children don't feel that way at all. And so it seems to me that it's not actually a free choice and is also not an isolated choice to the person taking the life doesn't merely affect them.

It affects the family affects the entire community and can you imagine for a moment if you if you've learned after the fact that your mother father took his or her own life because they were worried about being a burden to you. That would be a an indelible wound in the psyche of of a child so we talked about abortion.

We talked about end-of-life assisted suicide, but you also concentrate in your book on artificial reproduction.

Now why why you included.

So we have a kind of wildly unregulated world of assisted reproduction, which in some ways is the opposite of the circumstances we have in the context of abortion were the Supreme Court of said basically the political branches. You guys can't do anything in the space because we've decided that we are the body that regulates abortion through specious interpretation of the Constitution. It's the opposite effect and that we have nothing but lawlessness in the context of assisted reproductive technology was essentially no limits on what people can do in order to to to have a child that they want and the argument of the book is this state of lawlessness also rests upon a kind of false vision of what persons want about what patients want people who are suffering from fertility what they want the law were to take seriously what people need. What patients need in this context, it wouldn't look like the current landscape looks like right now look at something quite different. When a person suffering from fertility wants is to be a parent not to impose their will. They want to be a parent and it seems to me that you should be paying closer attention and practicing medicine and different way with the idea that is consistent with what the parents want namely to be parents facility. When the first lawsuit that every single step you take in that process should be mindful of the consequences for the child who will be born as well as for the mother who was being intervened in it. Using these techniques, but that's not how the laws configured right out the law operates according to the assumption of what people want and need is simply unbridled freedom without any interference from the law at all and I think that's not an accurate picture of what IVF patients want or what they need. We are just about out of time for this week though. But before we go. Dr. Sneed where listeners go. If they just need to learn more about your work. The book itself, what it means to be human in the case of the body in public file can be found ready for people like to buy their books Amazon or the Harvard University press website and in my own work. Also, people can just Google me Carter Sneed at Notre Dame and NC is other things I've written in this space and if they want to submit email Dr. Carter Sneed.

Thank you so much for being with us on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plenitude in again next week to listen to the show online insulin more about NC families want to inform, encourage and inspire families across Carolina go to our website and NC family.award that's NC family.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family


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