In The Abolition of Man C. S. Lewis worried about the effects of replacing sin and forgiveness with disease and therapy. His chief concern is that we would lose our humanity. This remains a great concern.
Recently, one of the Supremes, not Diana Ross but Antonin Scalia, was at Princeton and he made a type of argument called reductio ad absurdum, which seeks to show the falsity of an argument by taking a premise to its logical, absurd, conclusion. According to a news account One of the people present accused him of “dehumanizing” them by using such an argument.
Ann Althouse, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin Law School, responds:
Actually, he’s humanizing you by crediting you with the capacity to comprehend rhetoric and engage in an on-the-fly verbal interchange. But it is easier to dehumanize your adversary. Afterwards.
This is a really important point. Your humanity is not contingent upon my agreeing with you. My disagreeing with you or asking you to think logically does not de-humanize you. Quite the opposite is true. If I make a logical argument that assumes that you can think clearly, i.e., reason from premises to a conclusion, that is the highest affirmation of your humanity! It says, “I regard you as a bearer of the divine image, endowed by God with rational faculties and the will to use those faculties.”
It is the refusal to think logically, to reason from premises to conclusions and the business of replacing rational discourse with emotive speech that dehumanizes people. To be sure, we are more than rational beings. We have affective faculties and voluntary faculties but we are, nevertheless, rational beings. The intellective faculty is essential to the human soul.
We have reason to fear that our culture is coming to a place, to a point, where we are no longer going to be allowed to disagree because all disagreement will come to be considered impolite or unacceptable or not nice. When I say “disagreement” I fear that some will read “vitriol.” That’s not what I mean at all. I mean simply registering dissent, saying, “I disagree and here are the reasons why.” I think conservative Christians have been heading in this direction for some time. Now I am increasingly concerned that the broader culture is heading to a place where the one who emotes the most effectively wins, where theatre and image triumph over word, reason, reality, and truth.