The Next Step Toward the Brave New World

Wesley Smith wrote a short news item on “The Corner” in National Review Online, and linking a longer article in First Things, in which he mentions that in New Zealand and India, a few rivers have now been granted formal rights, allowing them, through their lawyers, to sue on behalf of themselves.  They were legally declared persons under law.  (See  I saw this coming almost 40 years ago, in a couple of articles in law reviews as well as a book by Joseph Sax.  But I honestly did not believe it would finally come to fruition.  It did.  Here is what Smith wrote in his longer article about the legal development:

“We live in truly surreal times. In an age when all human beings still do not have access to human rights—and when some of the world’s foremost bioethicists declare that the unborn and cognitively disabled are not persons—radical environmentalists and others are agitating to grant “rights” to objects in nature. In the latest phase of this descent into metaphysical madness, two rivers have been declared to be legal “persons” endowed with human-style rights.” (“Rivers Declared to be ‘Persons. ‘“ First Things, March 31, 2017).

I think that summarizes it pretty well.  Imagine now, as the author does, that rivers can now “sue” under almost any theory or allegation of harm.  Now just to make it more interesting the rationale for this designation was religious, that is, that the rivers themselves were sacred to some religious groups.  First, there is not a touch of irony in any of this.  But perhaps there should be.  If a Christian group wanted the state to designate some “sacred” item (Smith suggests “the host” in Roman Catholic communion), imagine the howls from all those invoking the separation of church and state. Now of course this happened elsewhere, but New Zealand is not known for its religious zeal.  And I have heard nothing from any American legal experts.  Of course there is also the obvious and utter lack of concern for the unborn or the aged in this respect.  No, we speak of them as non-life (the “foetus” or the useless and valueless older people or disabled people).  Oh the utilitarian blasphemy–except when it comes to rivers (as of now), when suddenly, we have forgotten the cost of this move to millions living near or on these rivers, their possible starvation and death.  But who cares?  These are just people.  Rivers are better than people (I forgot even some of the so-called “people” are not people at all).

But aside from the religious element, as I said above, it is possible now to imagine lawsuits for all sorts of alleged violations, by environmentalists.  Radical environmentalists (for the non-discerning reader I used the word “radical” and not “all” environmentalists) would allow people to die allegedly to protect a river that may not even need any protection at all, and if it die, not the kind accompanying the conferral of rights.  Smith adds:

“Taken to its logical conclusion, nature rights would prevent us from truly owning property in the first place. We would become, at best, fiduciaries for all of the life forms on and of the tracts of land that we no longer truly owned. Such self-destructive policies would have a particularly pernicious impact on the developing world, where granting equal rights to bushes, mosquitoes, viruses, and swamps would thwart people’s ability to liberate themselves from destitution.” (Ibid.)

Again, Smith hits the nail on the head.  I do hope this legal theory does not come to the United States, but I am very sorrow for all those who will be so affected in other nations, the very places where the residents can ill afford to be stifled in their efforts to emerge from poverty, starvation and economic misery.

In the end I can only muse of the philosophical pretzels we have created in our zeal to escape the authority of God.  Since man “crowned” himself ruler around the time of the Enlightenment, this process has been slowly but surely encroaching.  Christians also, beware that in your zeal to be a good steward of God’s natural world, you lose sight of the creation that is only a “little lower than the angels.”

4 thoughts on “The Next Step Toward the Brave New World”

  1. I will take your criticisms more seriously if you would honestly answer two questions:
    (1) Should insurance companies be able to refuse to ensure those with pre-existing conditions, which include cognitive disabilities?; and
    (2) Should Medicaid and Social Security be preserved in part to help those with disabilities?

    I tire of people who pay lip service to those with disabilities while seeking to abolish social programs that directly help, if not save, their lives.

  2. Valuing a river more than human life is disgusting. However, that is from my perspective. The only way that I could justify this is if I understood the environmental protection that is embedded in these other country’s government. In the US, we have regulatory provisions from the EPA, but do these other countries have similar agencies? I would assume that they do not, so granting human-like rights to these objects in nature would be one of the only ways to clean them up. That is why I do not foresee these regulations coming to the US. Assuming that the EPA survives this presidency, that is.

  3. I would have never thought to equate abortion issues of today with this issue, nor property rights. So interesting but it makes sense! The complications of this issue show how sad this issue really is. This issue also shows how powerful worldview is: how religion is so engrossed in other governments (something in America that is so actively sought against, and yet, every country bows to its beliefs in some way??)

  4. It is an event like this that gives new meaning to Romans: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” I’ve begged the question before about where we draw the line and call this asininity for what it is; I think this qualifies. I honestly do not believe that this idea deserves anything less than ridicule. It is not grounded in history of law. It does not make logical sense. It does no justice to fellow human beings. It is an abomination of language and its meaning. Most importantly, though, it is a direct assault on God and his creation. I join you in hoping this never comes to the US.

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