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What Is Human?

Beyond same-sex marriage, and beyond transgendered bathrooms, the issue is about identity, and sources of the self

Googling around a bit more on political scientist Dale Kuehne, I came across this reaction of his to the Obergefell ruling last year. I think this is really important to understand. Excerpts:

By the time last Friday came, the same-sex marriage debate was no longer about sex and had very little to do with marriage. Rather it was anchored in a redefinition of human identity itself. In the new world order, it is the individual, not biology or God, who determines identity. We are now “selves” of an increasing number of varieties and we are decreasingly male or female in a biologically meaningful sense. One day soon people will cease to use “same-sex” as adjectives for marriage. Every marriage will be the same: Selves who take vows. Two selves. Perhaps even three selves or more.

Moreover, “selves” won’t be limited to human relationships. Professor Sherry Turkle from MIT has written of the question of marriage to a robot. Marriage with animals is tomorrow as well, because it is already today in some places.

Accordingly, tomorrow’s political headlines will be of two variants. One variant are headlines that announce the expansion of the rights of transgender people as well as those whose identity goes beyond gender. Transgender is the next civil rights movement. The second set of headlines will concern the issue of religious freedom for churches and religious institutions whose views on traditionally-accepted morality are deemed discriminatory to “selves.”

“Transgender is the next civil rights movement.” He wrote that about 10 months ago. He was right. More:

Yesterday’s discussions were about sexual morality and marriage. Tomorrow’s discussions are about human identity and purpose. If anyone wishes to revisit yesterday’s discussions, the road goes through tomorrow’s discussions on identity.

So let’s begin. I believe the prevailing cultural notion of identity, as something each of us can only discover by looking within ourselves is logically flawed. I do not believe it is possible for any of us to understand who we are merely by looking within because none of us can know who we are without a reference point outside of ourselves. The question we face concerns not whether we require reference points outside of ourselves, but which ones. Teaching needs to include the examination of external reference points to help people avoid getting lost in the abyss of the self.

If I am right, then our regime is wrong. If the regime is wrong then the consequences for ourselves, our children and coming generations is enormous. If the regime is wrong then we are embarking on a course that is destined to fail by teaching something about identity we know not to be true: that the only way we can figure out who we are is to look exclusively within.

Read the whole thing. Again, this is not simply about who gets to use which bathroom. This is about something as fundamental as human identity. You may choose to ignore or to dismiss this. But it’s not going to ignore or dismiss you. As Kuehne put it last year, this is where the debate actually is. It is now down to the fundamentals of human identity.



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