This is another of James Philips letters. You can access the first one here.
This second one (although earlier – from 1968) is as prescient and prophetic as the first. Dealing with the House of Lords, science, technocracy, ‘experts’, the NHS, eugenics, sterilisation, and the need for Christians to be involved in public affairs and politics. Although written 52 years ago it could have been written today!
7 July 1968 – Humanism: The brave new world of Atheistic Scientists
During our holiday one of the items of news that hit the headlines was the revolt of the House of Lords against the Government, and the subsequent declared intention by the Government to modify and curb the powers of the Upper House. The merits and demerits of this proposal could scarcely be thought to be a relevant subject for a Congregational Letter, but a proposal which was given certain publicity during this time is certainly worth a second look because of its sinister implications. It was that the House of Lords should be abolished completely, and a House of Scientists set up in its place as an Upper Chamber. This, it was said, would serve to give the Government the full benefit of the immense advances, technological and otherwise, that have been made in the scientific field – a panel of experts, so to speak elected from every branch of science and the professions, would be able to apply scientific knowledge for the maximum benefit of society as a whole.
Government by Scientists?
It is as well that we should understand the implications of such a proposal, impressive and plausible as it may seem to some. The basic fallacy underlying it is the assumption that scientists as scientists must necessarily be more qualified to rule the nation or the world than other men. One would have thought that the history of the twentieth century with its grim record of scientific destruction would have made most sensible and thoughtful people hesitate to make so uncritical an assumption. One would have thought that the holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 50 – and 100 – megaton tests of the nuclear powers, and the existence of terrifying nerve gases and the possibilities of bacteriological warfare, would tend to qualify the credulous enthusiasm men seem to have for the great ones of the scientific world. But apparently not. And still less does there seem to be any marked misgiving within the world itself. ‘Within this generation’, one scientist is on record as saying, ‘the scientist will cease to be the man on tap, and become the man on top. Many scientists have their hands on the controls of political action. This is one of the most optimistic things about the future of man.’ This is an optimism that we do not and cannot share, but can only view with the deepest misgiving.
And for this reason, among others: Many people will have viewed and listened with interest to the recent programme on the B.B.C. on the Health Service, which has just completed the first twenty years of its existence. Not to mention the many problems involved in maintaining a national service with anything like adequacy (and surely, with all its faults, it serves us considerably better than most other medical services in any part of the world), we simply draw attention to the nature of the comments made on the subject of the prevention of abnormality in children. Now, no-one who has had experience of abnormal children and knows the heartache and distress brought to homes and families by such tragedies could fail to be thankful for any medical research that seeks to alleviate or prevent the long agonies of afflicted parents and children. But research is one thing, the imposition of control (as seemed to be implied in the programme) is quite another. And what was so disquieting was to realise just how far medical authorities would be prepared to go (in the name of scientific advancement) in advocating legislation to prevent parents having children if there was the possibility of their being abnormal.
Brave New World
Unfortunately, this cannot be considered to have been an isolated statement out of character with the mainstream of scientific thinking. There is ample evidence available to make it plain that there is a great deal of thinking of this nature in scientific circles today, which strikes at the very foundation of Christian ethics and Christian ideas of human dignity and freedom. Two or three years ago the CIBA Foundation, a foundation for the encouragement of medical and scientific knowledge, gathered together distinguished scientists from four continents to discuss the future of man. The papers read at this Conference, if the reports are to be believed, were alarming in the extreme: Genetics (the study of heredity) and Eugenics (the production of ‘high-grade’ offspring) should be employed, it was said, to raise the general level of genetic intelligence and increase the number of outstandingly intelligent and capable people needed to run our increasingly complex societies – this from Julian Huxley. Another scientist proposed that this could be done by a Government putting a chemical into our food or water which made everybody sterile, and then provide a second chemical capable of reversing the effect of the first for those whom it licensed to bear children. One question that all this raised was whether human beings have a right to have children. “Is it a general feeling that people do have a right to have children?” asked one scientist, and went on, “This is taken for granted because it is part of Christian ethics, but in terms of humanist ethics, I do not see why people should have the right to have children”. Another scientist agreed with this view, saying, “In a society in which the community is responsible for people’s welfare – health, hospitals, unemployment, insurance – the answer is No….”
This is the ‘brave new world’ to which the men of science hope, and intend, to bring us. And those who do not care much for the idea will receive short shrift:
“Unless the average man can understand and appreciate the world that scientists have discovered, unless he can learn to comprehend the techniques he now uses, and their remote and larger effects, unless he can enter into the thrill of being a conscious participant in the great human enterprise and find genuine fulfilment in playing a constructive part in it, he will fall into the position of an ever less important cog in a vast machine. In this situation his own powers of determining his fate, and his very will to do so, will dwindle, and the minority who rule over him will eventually find ways of doing without him.
This deadly philosophy is not new: it found expression and was put into practice with fateful consequences for the world in the Third Reich in Germany, when Hitler’s megalomaniac dream of a pure Aryan race led, to the appalling genocidal atrocities of the gas chambers and concentration camps all stemming from the philosophy of the superman dreamt up by the brilliant intellectual madman, Nietzsche. One critic at the Conference said, “It is just as well that the first cycle of eugenics did die because we have seen in Nazism where it may lead. I think that it is no accident that the Nazi’s doctrines about sterilisation were closely linked, intellectually and morally, to Nazi doctrines about genocide. That is why I am so alarmed to see what is happening today”.
The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance
Alarmed indeed! Well might we all be alarmed as we see the dangerous and fanatical arrogance of men of science and realise that there are those bemused enough by their intellectual brilliance to think that this qualifies them to rule the country. Long ago, King David uttered timeless words when he said, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Sam 23:3). This is still the Divine prescription today, and it is neglected at our peril. To put man in place of God as the master of things is to abolish all absolute standards of morality and to invite disaster in society and in personal life alike.
This is one more reason why Christian people should be actively involved in public affairs, and take a responsible share in public life, standing for Christian moral values and being prepared to defend them vigorously when they are attacked or subtly undermined. Are we to remain dumb and unprotesting when we see what remains of our Christian heritage contemptuously swept aside by atheistic decadents in favour of this bleak and devilish programme? We must not contract out of this urgent responsibility. In this, as in so much else, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Yours earnestly, James Philip