Stop the Rainforest!
Patrrick West echoes South Park in a magnificent demolition of the argument from nature, In praise of the unnatural
Who cares what happens in nature? As far as I'm concerned, nature is not our friend - it is the enemy of humanity. Earthquakes, cancer, death, wisdom teeth, short-sightedness: these are natural. Penicillin, antibiotics, heart surgery, toothpaste, the spectacles I wear as I write this: these are the innovations of man. Our ability to defy, defeat and overcome nature is what makes us human. Thanks to our tampering with the natural order of things, most people in the Western world can now look forward to dying in their beds.
Sterling stuff. He calls Jean-Jacques Rousseau the "godfather of modern anti-modern whining" and puts the boot into the idea of the noble savage with Millwallian precision. He champions the Western humanist ideal, which, he points out, has been totally abandoned by the left. Good point.
Rand Simberg e-mails to point out this excellent post
he made on his weblog a few weeks back. I remember being impressed by it at the time, and apologize to him for it slipping my mind. It deserves to be read in conjunction with the Spiked article.
On a related issue
, philospher Robin Fox had an excellent attack on the modern interpretation of the idea of "natural rights" in The National Interest
a while back. His argument that if rights are to be based on what is natural then nepotism is a human right is an important one. Frank Fukuyama took issue with him in a subsequent issue (only a tiny portion online here
) but I think Fox had the stronger case. As he says:
The cherished rights enshrined in the Constitution, the Declaration of the Rights of Man, theUNCharter and human rights declaration, and all the treaties and commissions up to the Helsinki Accords and the establishment of the International Criminal Court—all of these are highly evolved political and social rights that derive from the Western Enlightenment tradition, with its basic values of equality and universalism. Many of them are peculiar to the Christian tradition. Despite attempts to base these rights on "nature", in most cases they—by their very design—either run counter to nature or, at best, concern things about which nature is strictly neutral.
Rights are essentially cultural, not natural, to my mind. Trial by Jury is one of the most important rights I can imagine, but it is nonsensical to try to base it in nature (the parliament of rooks?). It emerges because that is the way we have settled on to underpin our social dealings (and that is why it is guaranteed by Magna Carta/ the US Bill of Rights and not just by a law). It should be defended where it has been accepted but then comes under threat from would-be tyrants, but it is not the sort of thing you can impose on people who don't want it.
Is the "right to life" similar? I think it may be, although I'm not entirely sure yet. I've argued before that we should thing of rights more as traditional liberties. I'd be grateful for comments on this theory (especially references to other people who've argued the same).