Plumb Lines

July 30, 2009

The Unconservative Fury of the Crunchy Con

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 11:26 am

Erin Manning’s strange attack on environmentalists reminded me of another Crunchy Con post from long ago, in which Rod approvingly cited an article by Wesley Smith called “The Silent Scream of the Asparagus,” about the decision of a Swiss ethics committee that plants have their own dignity.

A funny title. But a foolish article. A highlight of the committee’s report:

A “clear majority” of the panel adopted what it called a “biocentric” moral view, meaning that “living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive.” Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim “absolute ownership” over plants and, moreover, that “individual plants have an inherent worth.” This means that “we may not use them just as we please…”

Wesley called this “enough to short circuit the brain.” “Asinine,” Rod chipped in. It’s astonishing that people who call themselves conservative should not recognize the panel’s statement as deeply Aristotelian and deeply Christian. Of course plants have an inherent worth. Didn’t G-d pronounce them good before humans were even created? Of course they have dignity, which is just to say there is a certain way of treating them that is appropriate for the kind of thing that they are. Of course life itself is sacred, as such. The people who disagree with these statements are disagreeing with a whole worldview — the worldview of Aristotle, the Bible, and all of Western Culture until quite recently. In what sense is it conservative (much less crunchy) to attack the sanctity of life and the dignity of the created order?

David Schaengold



  1. Smith’s worry, as I’m sure you know, is that such efforts obscure the unique worth of human beings who bear the image of God. I think you’re on surer footing in seeing little to object to in this Swiss statement, but I’d like to see how Smith answers your argument.

    Comment by Matthew Schmitz — July 30, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  2. I second Matt’s point, David. Let’s look at the broader cultural and philosophical context of this statement before simply approaching a brief passage with a “deeply Aristotelian and deeply Christian” perspective and conclude there is nothing with which to disagree.

    Comment by P. Langdale Hough — July 30, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

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