What’s Normal? | James Kalb | Catholic World Report
Why should we want to be ordered around by social engineers who don’t understand what they’re doing?
The great political, social, and moral issue of the present day is the authority of the natural and normal.
Accepting that authority means accepting a vernacular form of natural law, and thus a belief that the world has an innate way of functioning that is presumptively good. We can understand a great deal about that way of functioning, since otherwise reason would be of little use to us. Nonetheless, many of the details escape us, because the world is complicated and we didn’t create it. It has its own principles, and goes its own way.
For that reason, accepting nature means trusting the world more and ourselves less than is usual today. It means letting most things follow their own course, and dealing with what seems amiss with the aid of informal and inexact kinds of knowledge, like tradition and common sense, that fit situations that can’t be analyzed and resolved precisely.
The liberal technocratic view now dominant is very different. It wants to put individual man wholly in command, and tells us that the way the world is constituted has no authority. We should view everything around us, even our own bodies, as raw material for our purposes, and make things work the way we want them to work without worrying about what they’re for or what’s natural for them.
Another way to make the point is to say that each of us should define his own version of what’s natural. That is the source of the emerging view of transsexualism, which denies that the human body has a nature of its own, and tells us we are men or women only if we agree to be. The effect of such an outlook on public life can be seen in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 Supreme Court case that traced the right to abortion to “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” On such a view, the way the mother defines the world determines whether her baby is a baby. To say otherwise is to violate her liberty.
In support of such views, proponents say that “natural” has no intrinsic meaning, since all events are equally real, and there’s no point claiming some of them are more in accord with the way the world is constituted than others.