Personhood and the Law

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by Dr. Alan Keyes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 5, 2018   

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Dr. Alan Keyes

This week, I received an email that included a notice urging me to sign a petition in support of the "Life Begins at Conception" Act (S. 583). The petition is addressed to members of the U.S. House and Senate. It asks that recipients join Sen. Rand Paul and others as co-sponsors of the proposed legislation because:

This law would simply define the terms: HUMAN PERSON; HUMAN BEING. The terms "human person" and "human being" include each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.

The email goes on to show that the proposed law is strictly required by the Constitution because it implements the 14th Amendment, which states "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This is the same dicta explained by Justice Henry Blackmun in Roe V. Wade, who said, "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."


I found myself moved to sign on to the campaign in support of S. 583 because of its forthright good intention. It aims to implement the U.S. Constitution's respect for the premises of God-endowed unalienable right. In light of those premises, the people of the United States justly asserted the sovereign authority to govern themselves, which they exercised when they ordained and established the U.S. Constitution. I could not help but notice, however, that the language of the proposed law omitted all reference to the transcendent basis for justice and rights which the American people clearly invoked when they first asserted their independent self-government.

By omitting reference to the sovereign whose will substantiates all claims of unalienable right, S. 583 leaves open the possibility of legislation "like the Laci Peterson law of 2004, Title 18, Chapter 1, §1841 and Title 10, Chapter 22 §919a. While rightly defining the child as an individual person, the language allows the killing of certain classes of those innocent persons via the practice of human abortion."

The above-quoted description comes from an optional second fax for members of Congress. It supports two proposed amendments to S. 583, one of which aims to remove from the U.S. code all self-contradictory laws like the Laci Peterson law, because without such removal S. 583 "accomplishes little beyond mere posturing."

This latter "whited sepulcher" effect is, in fact, prefigured by S. 583's neglect to acknowledge the Creator, God, as the transcendent sovereign authority for human government. In their Declaration of Independence, which is the primordial component of the organic law of the United States, the representatives of the American people hold that the Creator's will substantiates the endowment of right and rights inherent in human nature. God sets in order the code (which the Declaration alludes to as "the laws of nature and of Nature's God") that orders the development of each and every human being, from the moment of conception.

The email I received obliquely takes notice of this when it says, "Science has proven that life begins at conception, when a unique set of DNA is created for the first time in a Mother's womb." But in fact, the scientific observation of this fact depends on the operation of natural laws which govern and direct the creative activities being observed. The code these laws execute is antecedent to such objective observation. It is what allows for the orderly activity scientists ultimately recognize as likely or established fact when they analyze their observations.

[S. 583] aims to implement the U.S. Constitution's respect for the premises of God-endowed unalienable right.

These days we ought to understand the significance of this encoding better than at any time before in human experience. As I write this, I am using a word processing program that orders the activities of my computer so that my thoughts appear as words on the computer screen. Was the program I'm using conceived in the computer, or in the machine that implements it? In one respect, the mind of the programmer is the locus of conception. But since the program has to take account of the particular architecture of the machine, conceived in the mind of the one who designed it, that architect's mind also had a role in determining the content of the program. Both programmer and architect contribute to the appearance of the letters and words on the computer screen. But if someone were to ask you when the article you're reading was conceived, what would your answer be?

With no disparagement to the computer architect's design or the computer programmer's skill in producing code, the article you're reading began as a concept in my thinking. However, the structured exposition of that thinking takes account of rules that govern the orderly arrangement of the ideas it represents. Those ideas emerged from somewhere in my mind, wherein initially inarticulate insights took shape, which then called for suitable words to express them. That whole process, like the processes taking place in the computer, or the word processor informed by the programmer's code, was governed by an ordering that I had to follow, an ordering that, at each stage of reasoning, dictates the path it has to follow.

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Stephen Hawking

This ordering of the mind shapes to the design of the computer. It informs the coding of the word processing program. It informs the paths (dots) and rules (lines of reasoning properly connecting the dots) the author's mind must follow to write the words. It also ordains the rule of reason one must follow to analyze and think through the results, concluding in some understanding that is the goal or purpose to be achieved.  

At every stage, one is mindful of an aspect of being, as we experience it, that governs and accounts for the whole process. Itself observable only in effect, this being's activity substantiates and comprehends all stages, from beginning to end. It does so regarding some end, which must be taken into account at every step along the way.

When asked to account for the beginning of the cosmos as science knows it, the self-professed atheist Stephen Hawking once replied that "because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing." But from whence the programming of the forces that structure the behavior labeled "gravity?" Philosophers try to account for the logic increasingly evident to human sciences with words like "History," "Reason," "Probability" and so forth. But all these labels simply hide the thoroughly un-scientific view the stuff just happens. Such labeling is a vain effort to deny the assumption that a resourceful personality informs the observable consequences of intelligent mind and will human science always has in view.

We Americans presently are learning from hard experience in our own country, that the view of power that banishes personal righteousness leads to the disregard of human personality.

The American Declaration of Independence refers to God, Providence, and the "Supreme Judge of the World." It truthfully acknowledges the resourceful personality logically required as the sovereign source of the rules and tendentious ordering one perceives in the cosmos. But for that perception to be construed in favor of justice, right and rights, including liberty, for all sentient and self-consciously thoughtful beings like ourselves, requires that it be a righteous personality, acting for the good of each and all.

The impersonal rule of power, impervious to right may be suitable enough for self-idolizing, forceful tyrants, and the people enslaved by their self-willed manipulations of power. But no people determined to live in the "liberty wherewith Christ has made us free" should ever be content with them. We Americans presently are learning from hard experience in our own country, that the view of power that banishes personal righteousness leads to the disregard of human personality, and legally enforced of disobedience to the righteous and personal God responsible for the substance of right.

Such legal coercion drives people to choose life and material goods over the penalties inflicted on those who truly love God and therefore resist the willful impositions of self-willed human power. Such resisters will not consent routinely to disobey the Creator's commandments. For they know that by doing so they may cut themselves off from His kingdom now and, in the fullness of time, forevermore.

Dr. Alan Keyes served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations under President Ronald Reagan, and ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard, and writes at his website Loyal to Liberty.

 

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