Conserving What Exactly?

Secular Conservatism and the Abolition of Man  

 Two months ago, Dave Rubin announced he was having a baby. The fact that Rubin is known as a “conservative” adds a grating dissonance to an already morally disordered situation. In the end, Rubin’s baby transaction—let us call things by their names—heralds what C.S. Lewis called the “Abolition of Man.”

In 1943, Lewis warned us what happens when man, with a kind of demonic hubris, conquers the limitations of his nature:

I am only making clear what Man’s conquest of Nature really means and especially that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off. The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. We shall have ‘taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho’ and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it? For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.

The allusion to Greek mythology is hauntingly apt, for Clotho was one of the three Sisters of Fate who wove the “life-thread” of a man’s fate. Lewis’s point is, the participation in such an enterprise that seeks to dominate nature and redefine it is the same as its destruction.   

Abolition of Woman

One wonders how one might defend Rubin’s type of “conservatism.” As a conservative commentor of the “Rubin Report,” what exactly does he intend to conserve? Not much, it seems, considering that Rubin’s redefinition of the family undermines the very thing we’re supposed to conserve, the most basic standards of what it means to be human.

What good is a conservative political philosophy in which we find ourselves enthralled to a kind of eugenics that might make Huxley blush?               

Jennifer Roback Morse at The Catholic Register summed up the egregious situation well:

The two men who will have legal parenting rights have purchased genetic material from one woman, possibly two. One or possibly two women sold her eggs, meaning, her potential children. Yet another pair of women have agreed to rent their wombs for nine months to gestate children they will surrender at birth. All these women, genetic and gestational mothers alike, promise to have no relationship with their children. These children have not one but two mothers, a gestational mother and a genetic mother, who have been erased from their lives. They will have no mother presence, no legally recognized mother.

She added that “this crime against humanity has been going on for some time.” A mutual agreement for what is called “gestational surrogacy” means “children are the result of a series of commercial transactions among people who will never see each other again and may have never seen each other at all.” This practice is all of a piece with the industry of “designer babies” and its IVF antecedent.

In spite of the ongoing, jargon-laden bioethical debates, it is simple eugenics in the end—and a kind of weapons-grade version of it at that. For when mankind controls human reproduction in almost the same way the “Bokanovskifists” do in Brave New World, we have reached an end, the mass destruction of a human civilization. From here on we can expect society to hit rougher weather ahead, replete with stars falling from the skies and the moon turning to blood.

What Rubin describes—a gay marriage, two men “having a baby” by means of a surrogate womb—is violence against nature, not unlike cloning. There is something diabolical not only in the ghastly arrangement but also in the public announcement of it. Morse notes:

Rubin and his live-in friend are not the first to do this sort of thing. Couples consisting of men and women have used these techniques. Single individuals, male and female, have used these techniques. Rubin did not invent this. But he has taken it to a new level: He has gotten his “conservative” friends in media to publicly congratulate him for erasing women from his children’s lives. We are supposed to believe that the children will be fine. They are so “loved.” They are so “wanted,” that will make up for the irregularities in their conception, this thinking goes.

Making Peace with Chaos

“Irregularities” is a polite way of putting it. It’s the self-congratulatory vanity that we should find shocking as well. Such a declaration reveals a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a conservative, not to mention a deep selfishness. The attempt to gain public approval of sin only makes it worse.    

Declan Leary at The American Conservative put it well:

The normalization of homosexuality, and especially the normalization of homosexual parenthood, necessarily leads to the more radical gender ideology advancing from the left today. If men and women are perfectly interchangeable in sex, and in the role of a mother or a father—those things most closely tied to biological reality—then of course they must be interchangeable in everything else. The premises underlying the acceptance of L, G, and B logically lead to T, sooner or later.

He adds:

A conservative movement that makes its peace with the former three will have to reckon with the latter—with all the torment and chaos it entails. It will also have to answer for the children who became laboratory waste so that Dave Rubin could feel just a little more fulfilled, and the two survivors forced to grow up without a mother. It will bear the weight of an order in which eggs and wombs and babies are bought, sold, and rented, and helpless children made and paid for by the sterile West are left stranded in a war zone.

It is said that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and this ancient war-time proverb seems to govern the strategies of many conservatives in the trenches of our current culture wars. But it’s not enough to simply be against the Left. We must also be for what is good, true, and beautiful, and this means not compromising our humanity. It means that we recognize we have received something of an inheritance: traditional norms rooted in Christian metaphysics. And it means we don’t want to mess that up.

Dave Rubin’s variety of secular conservatism is just another libertarian nightmare, another spectacle of the rise and triumph of the modern self. Even if one supports the free market, is suspicious of big government, and decries the wrongs of communism, the Frankenstein-like attempt to reconstruct marriage and family by means of eugenics only produces a false simulacrum of both.     


Devin O'Donnell is the Vice President of Membership and Publishing at the Association of Classical Christian Schools. He is author of The Age of Martha: A Call to Contemplative Learning in Frenzied Culture (2019). He was the Research Editor of Bibliotheca in 2015 and has worked in classical Christian education for 20 years. He and his family live in the Northwest, where he writes, fly fishes, and remains a classical hack.

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