Martin Luther King was one of the three primary inspirations in my formative years (the other two being Ralph Nader and JKF). He was all about expanding inclusion in the human community, and alas, we now see many in bioethics and in other disciplines seeking actively to shrink it by rejecting human exceptionalism. We we will never know for sure, of course, but I have little doubt that King would have rejected such dangerous reductionism. Indeed, he embraced the importance of simply being human, stating:

Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Measures of Man, 1959

That seems incontrovertible to me. We are the only truly moral species, a crucial intrinsic attribute unique to our nature as a species:
Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh. Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, 1963

I will never understand the desire to deny our exceptionalism. It doesn’t lead to hubris, as the unexceptionalists claim, but to benevolence and duty.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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