Apologetics to the Glory of God

An Informal Introduction to Covenantal Apologetics: Part 32 – Human dignity.

By C.L. Bolt

Ethics and morality are tied up in an understanding of human dignity, worth, or value. Unbelievers have difficulties making sense of human dignity and hence lose their ability to appeal to morality in the context of debate or everyday life. A consistent non-Christian worldview will posit that humans are not superior in value to any non-human animal. Lest we think that superiority in terms of value is due to the potential and actual higher reasoning capabilities that humans possess we should remember that even some of the lowest animals are better suited to find their way about in the world than some human infants. Such non-human animals would thus be superior to some infant humans, but we are not really concerned with these kind of opinions about reasoning capabilities and the like. Rather, we are concerned about dignity, worth, or value. Humans are no doubt extremely biased when it comes to this subject, as they tend to view themselves as superior in all of the aforementioned categories, but again, this is inconsistent with the non-Christian story. Some more consistent unbelievers have likened this tendency to exalt humans above non-human animals in terms of dignity, worth, and value to a form of racism, or specieism.

This view may come across as intuitively odd but given the non-Christian worldview separating humans from animals as possessing more value is inconsistent. Non-human animals have the same value as human animals given a more consistent non-Christian worldview. If life in general has value then it should also be respected so that even plants are considered as valuable as people. Thus the distinctions between humans and other living things break down and assumptions concerning human dignity become rather arbitrary. The perplexing question becomes why humans or anything else should be considered to have dignity in the first place given its arbitrary assignment to different entities. If everything possesses dignity then everything is on par with everything else in terms of value, but then why assume that there is any such thing as dignity or value in the first place?

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