For the last seven years, the delta smelt, a small silvery fish, has been pitted against farmers in the Central Valley of California. There’s a widespread drought going on, and water to the farmers (mostly low-income and Hispanic) could mean extinction for the fish. Weighed in the balance between smelt survival and as a living for the farmers (as well as food for other humans), the smelt is so far tipping the scales. Meanwhile, in the pages of The New York Times, a columnist applauds the coming age of “animal dignity,” whereby higher animals will achieve rights on a par with humans, based on their ability to experience comfort and pain.
Also in California, public school kids are now allowed to decide what gender they identify with and make use of restrooms according to choice, not anatomy. This holds even for the handful who decide their gender from week to week. In a few years these bathroom-cruising kids may join a small but determined band of college students spearheading the effort to purge all gender boundaries. They identify as both, or neither, or one or the other depending on what day it is, and when introducing themselves in group meetings they always include their preferred gender pronouns (PGPs): “ze,” “sie,” “e,” “ou,” “ve,” or “they” used as a singular. One hopes one’s PGP is included on one’s name tag, otherwise one could not keep everyone’s PGP straight.
How much foolishness can we afford?
We’re all familiar with Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” This is the most common translation, also rendered as “God does not exist” or “God is gone.” But if you’re reading a King James or New King James version, you see the words There is in italics, meaning they are not in the original Hebrew, but have been added for clarification. So it could be translated as, “The fool says in his heart, ‘No God (for me)!’” God does not exist is an intellectual position. No God! is a statement of defiance—and probably closer, given the context, to the intended meaning.
No God for us! No natural or divine standards, no “assigned genders,” no human exceptionalism, no distinction between rights and responsibilities, no truth that “everybody knows.” Nobody knows anything, because truth is not a matter of accepted standards or even physical qualities. Truth is entirely a product of the imagination. Thoughtful men and women predicted the rise of relative moral standards when God was declared dead, but few could foresee the rise of relative facts. To philosophers in the first half of the 20th century, good might actually be bad, and vice versa, but male couldn’t be female unless it was in a circus sideshow. Nor could fish trump humans.
These aberrations are the product of excess. Not just too much luxury and debauchery, but too much, period: technology; leisure time; diversion; space; also too much insulation from nature, manual work, and practical problem-solving. As the younger generation grows up in an imaginary world mediated through movies and games and electronic community, they can bend the world to suit themselves. Or think they can.
What’s the harm in that, besides a generation of solipsists who live a good part of their lives in their own heads? We can’t afford it, in money, lawsuits, wasted time, and wasted minds. College grads are already discovering a “real world” that does not conform to their dreams of a lucrative career in activist journalism or performance art. This world won’t conform to notions of a genderless, valueless, limitless society either, for God sets limits: “Thus far shall you come, and no farther” (see Job 38:11). He was talking about the sea, but limits apply everywhere; we just haven’t seen how far we can go.
I expect we will soon enough. Stein’s Law, formulated by economist Herbert Stein, states, “What cannot continue, won’t.” Eventually the piper sticks out his hand for payment, and—economically and socially—we’ve racked up quite a bill. Thankfully, God himself is limitless, in grace and in truth.