Steps to Recovery: Defending Life


Some issues we face in this era of modernity / postmodernity be illuminated by wisdom that predates our era: the sanctity of life is one such issue. Here we (very) briefly consider the critique of abortion arguments, the definition of “life,” when it begins, its characteristics etc. as presented by Loyola Marymount University Philosophy Professor Christopher Kaczor in The Ethics of Abortion (2014).


Kaczor presents a number of definitions and characteristics,  The larger issue at stake is surprisingly simple and relevant to the phenomenon of Modernity (and Post Modernity): is this thing we call life simply a physical process, or is it in some sense the handwriting of God on the wall of human history, and thus to be treated with respect.  With that in mind, let’s look at this passage from Kaczor, section 2.5 “A Critique of Neo-Lockean Personhood:”

Defenders of infanticide characteristically hold a neo-Lockean definition of a person. For example, Peter Singer defines a person as a being which has

  • an awareness of his or her own experience
  • over time, and in different places
  • the capacity to have wants, and
  • plans for the future…

“The necessity of self-awareness or consciousness for personhood is open to at least three interpretations. First, taken literally as stated – a being is a person if and only if it (actually) has awareness of his or her own existence… Taken literally, the proposition that consciousness is necessary for personhood is ridiculous …” [1]

One indicator of the marvel that is life, for which I looked through the book but could not find any references, is DNA and RNA.  Such physical evidence causes even the most ardent atheists to admit of a wonder in the human creation. For instance, in Mind and Cosmos, atheist Philosopher of Science Thomas Nagel states that there is no current evolutionary  account to explain “how a system as staggeringly functionally complex and information-rich as a self-reproducing  cell, controlled by DNA, RNA or some predecessor, could have arisen by chemical evolution alone from a dead environment.”[2]  The Christian Romantic poet Coleridge hinted at it when he claimed a waterfall was not merely pretty, but sublime.[3] And the topic is addressed in depth in Ravi Zacharias’s Recapture the Wonder, with observations such as “Philosophers question the dream that life must experience enchantment, while Romantics dream away the question.”[4]  The wonder of life surely must begin at the very molecular level, when the DNA and RNA are formed, the physical code to which so many materialists attributes so much about us.  As the Psalmist states, “You created my inmost being, you knit me together in my womb”[5] The whole aspect of wonder is missing when we argue over the exact state in which this marvellous creation achieves certain milestones in its development. Just as the earth is considered full of wonder and worth many an effort to preserve, so is the glory that is man; as the Psalmist further states, “What is man that You are mindful of Him? … for you have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.”[6]

  1. Christopher Kaczor, The Ethics of Abortion (New York: Routledge, 2015), 30.
  2. Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012), 131.
  3. S .Lewis, THe Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1986), 14.
  4. Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 19, Nook.
  5. Psalms 139:13
  6. Psalms 8:4

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