Out of the Dark Ages...maybe
When it comes to the Dark Ages, the 8th Century was probably the darkest of all. Those who dared to challenge orthodox thought were persecuted and even put to death. One of this observer’s favorite left-handed compliments is to say that someone has “one of the finest minds of the 8th Century.”
But, thanks to the Renaissance that followed, human achievement flowered and began to be seen, not as an invention of the devil, but as God revealing Himself through the human experience. One of my intellectual cousins explains our slow, but steady, progress in medical science by saying: “It is like a huge onion which God allows us to peel one layer at a time.”
Human progress is a layer-by-layer process. Yet, while stem-cell research, cloning, gene replacement therapy and the computer are leading us into breathtaking breakthroughs in medical science, human longevity and quality of life, we are, at best, only a 15th Century people.
As one who has been a pilot for 34 years and who has worked in the general aviation industry as a consultant for 15 years, I see this 15th Century phenomenon almost every day. Deep, deep down, many humans simply do not accept the idea of human flight. These aviation Luddites range from those who are convinced our lunar space walks did not actually take place (they were produced on a secret sound stage in Hollywood), to those who harbor an inexplicable dislike of airports and have a personal fear of flying.
Some of these attitudes about aviation actually go back to the 8th Century belief that if God Himself or Herself isn’t doing it, then humans shouldn’t try it. This sentiment is found in the ancient tale of Icarus who took off from Crete and flew his wax wings too close to the Sun causing them to melt. Some feel Icarus got what he deserved. We also hear this anti-aviation attitude when someone is referred to with the pejorative term: “high flyer.”
Moreover, the Frankenstein Myth is alive and well today in our fears about what medical science is doing with regard to stem-cell research, cloning and gene replacement therapy. We hear it in the nutty stories that AIDS was created by the Army in a secret laboratory at Ft. Detrick, Maryland. But our fears are rightfully fed by the outrageously cruel experiments on humans conducted by Hitler’s Dr. Mengele and the so-called scientists of Imperial Japan in the 1930s and 40s.
We worry about microbes creeping out of laboratories to inflict existence-threatening plagues upon us. Someone even wrote a song about “The Eggplant that Ate Chicago”. Yet, some flinch at eradicating the colonies of Prairie Dogs that bear Bubonic Plague. Go figure.
The recent announcement by President Bush that federal funds can be used in embryonic stem-cell research, as long as it does not involve the further taking of human life to obtain the stem cells, is a step forward out of the 15th Century. We may soon discover that umbilical cords contain all the stem cells we’ll ever need. Hundreds of miles of umbilical cord are discarded every day as part of the miracle of life. How efficient of God to not only grant us life but to include a repair kit along with it.
Meanwhile, the enviro-nuts value the suckerfish over the livelihood of farmers in the Klamath Basin. Recently, four fire fighters died because the Endangered Species Act prevented them from taking water from a stream to fight the fire that killed them. And, when the eagles come down from Alaska and Canada to winter in the Klamath Basin, they will find no water. Many eagles will die.
The Far Right and the Far Left come together when the Far Right applies 8th Century thinking to stem-cell research and the Far Left sacrifices farmers, fire-fighters and eagles on the altar of environmental extremism. If only we could all live together in the 21st Century.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist and the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn.
©2001. William Hamilton.