Has Man Already Been Abolished?

By Dwight Longenecker Published on July 25, 2019

Is humanity doomed? It depends what you mean by “humanity.” Humans have been distinguished from animals by the term homo sapiens which means “wise, discerning humans.” In other words, we are different from animals because we are capable of rational thought. We use logic and language. We are self conscious.

Animals, on the other hand, respond only to instinct. Your dog can be trained, but the training depends on either fear or his hunger for food and affection. Despite the intriguing story line in Planet of the Apes, animals don’t have language. They are incapable of abstract, logical thought. Even when apes are taught basic sign language, they are learning a trick to get a reward. A gorilla may signal for a grape, but he cannot write a sonnet.

Relativism Dissolves Everything

In 1943, C.S.Lewis wrote one of his most important books. The Abolition of Man explores the problem of relativism. That worldview claims there is no such thing as truth, or that if there is truth you can’t know it for sure. You can’t express it with certainty. Lewis attacks the notion that value judgments about beauty, truth and goodness are merely personal opinions. If “truth” is no more than a personal opinion, then there is no such thing as truth.

If there is no such thing as truth, then logical thought is impossible. Why? Because logical thought must be based on a foundation of truth. You can’t come to logical conclusions if you don’t start with truth. You have to build your house on solid rock, not quicksand.

If logical truth is impossible, we are left with the shifting sands of personal opinion. Without a foundation in truth those opinions are actually nothing more than individual emotions. This is why in our society today everyone goes by what they “feel” rather than what they think.

This is also why tolerance has become the only remaining virtue. If “truth” is no more than personal opinions and feelings, then “your truth” must be as valid as “my truth.” If so, there is no point in argument or discussion. All we can do is agree to disagree, smile, hope for the best and plead for tolerance.

Put Us All in Cages and Throw Us Peanuts

Where does this lead us? Three places. First, it leads to the abolition of man. Humanity is destroyed. If we are incapable of thinking, then we are no longer homo sapiens. We have descended to the level of animals. We don’t think. Like animals, all we can do is respond emotionally to our most basic feelings and instincts.

The second result of this degradation of humanity to the animal state is that we do what many of the higher animals do. We join a pack or a troop. For security, we merge with a tribe of others who respond emotionally in the same way we do. It might be a political tribe. Or it might be a religious tribe. It might be an ideological tribe. Whatever tribe doesn’t much matter. Thought is put to one side and we gather with the tribe to reinforce our opinions and emotions. The tribe becomes a pack of wolves or a flock of sheep.

Time for Tyranny

At the end of his book, C.S.Lewis predicts the third outcome of a humanity without values. It is dictatorship. If there are no values or truth, chaos is the result. Without truth there is no conversation or debate. But mankind cannot live without the structure of truth. People force their opinions on others. Tolerance cracks. Relationships break down. Tribes war against one another.

We are on the verge of this abolition of man in America today. When you see politically correct opinions enforced through lawsuits, legislation and police action you are seeing the fulfillment of C.S.Lewis’ prophetic book.

If there is nothing more than personal feelings, some greater power must determine what is the right or wrong opinion. Furthermore, that greater power cannot use persuasion or reasoning (which no longer exist). The greater power must use force to control opinion.

The Dictatorship of Relativism

We are on the verge of this abolition of man in America today. When you see politically correct opinions enforced through lawsuits, legislation and police action? You are seeing the fulfillment of C.S.Lewis’ prophetic book. And when you see irrational feelings about human sexuality being imposed in schools and promoted in the media? That’s the result of relativism. When you see insane lifestyles parading in the streets and defended by educators, politicians and even clergy? You are experiencing the abolition of man. When you see huge crowds chanting tribal slogans and raw rage rioting in the streets, you are witnessing the triumph of emotion over rational thought.

The only answer is that there must be some source of truth that is greater than individual opinion. This source of truth might be called “The Foundation of All That IS.” We can discover this “Foundation” through the use of our natural ability to reason and think. And we can see the world around us and discern its structure and plan.

We Need Reason and More

However, this alone is not enough. In addition to our ability to observe the world and discern the truth we need something more. We need revelation. The unique idea within the Judeo-Christian tradition is that “The Foundation of All That IS” reveals himself to individuals.

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He walks with Adam and Eve in the garden. Then He makes a contract with Abraham. He reveals His name “I AM” to Moses at the burning bush. He gives the law and speaks through the prophets. Finally He reveals Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who says very clearly, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Two Wings

These two wings — Reason and Revelation — enable man to fly. They allow us to rise above the animals. These two gifts empower us to be homo sapiens —humans who think. From the gift of rational thought came all our great accomplishments: the cathedrals, symphonies, technologies, science, literature and art. Reason let us eradicate diseases, develop great civilizations and learn to worship.

The Christian religion imparts to humanity the gifts of reason and revelation which are the foundation of Truth.

Without truth there is no thought. Without thought there is only emotion. If we have nothing but personal feelings and opinion, we can do no more than respond to basic instincts. If we live at that level we are less than human and if we are no greater than the animals, we will need to be controlled from outside. Those hungry for power will prove more than happy to oblige.


Fr Dwight Longenecker is a Catholic pastor. Read his popular blog, listen to his podcasts and browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com

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