Reductionists say that human experience, including what we think of as being part of the soul or ‘metaphysical’, are actually just molecules and atoms running willy-nilly in our bodies. So, they explain an emotion like love as merely certain chemical reactions in the brain and those experiences we might think of as supernatural, like God, prayer, beatific vision, divine healing etc.; are just peculiar manifestations of molecules and atoms moving about willy-nilly in the world outside our bodies. Such is the nature of this kind of reductionism, to take the complexity of human existence and reduce it to material substances interacting according to the ‘laws of science’; in other words, all things supernatural are just natural, all things metaphysical are just physical.
If this sort of reductionism is correct, we human beings are merely aggregates of molecules and atoms and the idea that we have intrinsic value given by a Creator is a groundless, even delusional, belief. Since we are at bottom merely physical, natural things among other things, our value can only be derived from them, whatever they might be. In our culture, people are increasingly viewed as things among things buying things. We have been monetized and given the title ‘consumer’ and our value are determined by how much potential profit we generate for the producers of goods and services. When human life is reduced to a profit or loss motif, it becomes merely a commodity, another thing among things in a universe of things. If this all sounds a bit far out, consider that you are a target for advertizing with the singular goal of separating you from your money. All the hoopla recently about Google’s privacy policies and advertizing is a good case in point.
Reductionism is becoming the predominate world-view and it is, at least to me, cruel because re-defining a person created in the image of God into a thing makes them no different from a washing machine or any other such appliance. Consequently there exists no moral obligation to treat a person any different from appliances which can, and does, open the door to horrible and cruel abuse. And the most glaring instance of this cruelty is reflected in the opinion of two Australian ethicists about abortion, after- birth abortion specifically, who question at what point we should ascribe personhood to a fetus or a new-born. Obviously, the question itself presumes that the fetus/new-born is not a person and therefore, only a thing. The monetary part becomes a factor if the fetus/new-born has some sort of birth defect, costly to both parents and society. Here is a quote from the article:
The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in
the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution
of a right to life to an individual.
Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and
potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of
‘subject of a moral right to life’. We take ‘person’ to mean an
individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence
some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this
existence represents a loss to her.
“Potential Persons” in the “After-Birth Abortion” Article
Ethicists in Australia Call for “After-Birth Abortions” | LifeNews.com
The upshot is this: a fetus/new-born is not by their definition a ‘person’ so any protections usually given to ‘persons’ is no longer required. The human-being/potential person is language that glosses over the idea that a fetus/new-born is actually an object, a thing, and can be killed/disposed of without fear of repercussion, especially.
Because of this increasingly accepted devaluing of human life (even for the elderly now) It is not enough to just preach about the value of human life from conception to the grave. We must also actively take care of and protect those we call brothers and sisters in Christ. And this circle extends to the homeless, the sick and the poor who have always been the target audience of Christianity from the very beginning.
In other words, if we truly believe that we, and all human beings (from conception to grave), are created in the image of God and therefore, in spite of sin, still possess intrinsic value, then we need to resist all reductionist policies. This means, at the very least, loving one another as Jesus loved us and realizing that devaluing others by actions, conversations, or attitudes, devalues us at the same time. Overcoming this devaluing cruelty with kindness and love along with active and determined resistance is the moral high ground we occupy as sons and daughters of God.