The current issue of National Geographic has a fascinating article on a miniscule family of insects known as “Tree Hoppers.” [The issue also has a very depressing feature on life for Salvadorans in their home country, but that is a topic for another time.] These insects are masters of mimicry, using their innate camouflage to appear like thorns or leaves or even insect droppings. A picture shows one on the finger of a researcher—about the size of a large mosquito: except that the image is 5x life-size!
They are very “domestic” in that mothers (unlike many other species of creatures) remain with their young to protect them until they are able to fend for themselves. They have sophisticated means of communication by which the young, if they sense danger, can collectively signal their parent who defends them, doing combat with the invader.
These insects and many, many other species of insect are at great risk of extinction because of environmental irresponsibility. But why should we care? They’re too tiny to matter…
Such logic is exactly the thesis of those who advocate uncontrolled and unlimited abortion: after all, the child in the womb is too tiny to matter. But without study of the tiny tree hoppers, we would never have known their subtle ability to communicate or their deeply-rooted maternal instinct. Sea turtles (also endangered) lay their eggs and then leave the hatchlings to fend for themselves; tree hoppers are more familial. What might we learn about ourselves if we were more respectful of human life in the womb? How might recognizing that the baby is in fact a human life, a human person, change our views of ourselves and our personal/social behaviors for the better? Would this exploration not be worthwhile? Or should we simply insist that the infant is “too tiny to matter”?
This actually brings me to an essay by C S Lewis entitled “Vivisection.” In it he makes a powerful argument for the wrongness of such a practice (which was popular in the 1930s—50s, only getting bad press after the horrors of the Shoah were revealed. Lewis’ opposition to the practice of dissecting live animals was not sentimental: it was profoundly moral. If we believe human beings are qualitatively superior to animals, then “…we ought to prove ourselves better than the beasts precisely by the fact of acknowledging duties to them which they [cannot] acknowledge to us.” But he fears that too many in favor of this practice really think of humans as simply at the higher end of the animal world, that man is “simply the cleverest of the anthropoids.” And this leads to a horrible realization: “Once the old Christian idea of a total difference in kind between man and beast has been abandoned, then no argument for experiments on animals can be found which is not also an argument for experiments on inferior men.” Abortion is based on a form of sentiment (as Lewis shrewdly identifies it) that is identical to the justification of vivisection, or the disregard of other species of creature, because they are “too tiny (or inconvenient, or handicapped, or otherwise ‘inferior’) to matter.
This is, sadly, where we are. Is this really where we want to stay?