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Commitment to Human Rights

January 03, 1988

The article by Charles Thaxton and Stephen Meyer (Opinion, Dec. 27) was well-written and thought provoking, though not wholly accurate.

Thaxton and Meyer write that the concept of inalienable human rights developed from Judeo-Christian philosophy and therefore suppose that human rights rise and fall with the rise and fall of Western religious belief. The concept of human rights outlined by our forefathers was not an interpretation of the Bible or the past but a consensus as to what should be, which is after all the purpose of a political declaration. The forefathers were not interpreting history, they were making it. In this way, neither they nor we are bound by any religious belief in our affirmation of rights.

Thaxton and Meyer correctly write that science has brought into question the veracity of theology. However, the product of this questioning has been a broader--not narrower--interpretation of human rights. When Thaxton and Meyer write: "This loss of what is distinctively human will in time require either promoting animals to the human estate, or more likely, relegating man to the level of animals," they reveal a pessimism that does not match many current events. The rights of women, the protection of endangered animals and environments, the rights of all people in the Third World, the rights of all products of nature on this planet arise from a broader view of life and God than that circumscribed in traditional Western religious thought. And paradoxically, science has helped bring this about.

It is surprising to note that Thaxton and Meyer have overlooked the enormous role science has played in the enlightenment of humankind. The physical and biological sciences have not done this alone. The rise of philosophy, psychology, anthropology and religious study have helped Western thought examine the world and the beliefs of its people with a little less egocentrism. It is not science that has debased our culture, it is egocentrism: The belief that for some reason "our group," "our sex," "our political party," "our field of science," "our corporation," "our belief" is superior enough to deserve precedence over the lives and liberty of others. Such beliefs are the natural enemies of true science.

Any scientist will tell you that God and Soul may indeed exist. If they cannot be measured at this time then they are beyond the scope of current scientific inquiry. But to therefore assume that they do not exist,and to compound this error in reason by stating that rights therefore do not exist runs counter to the inferential logic necessary for scientific inquiry.

In this century we have seen cruelty magnified by the powerful tools of technology. However, we have also seen a growing respect for the struggle and dignity of all life through eyes opened by scientific reason.

SPENCE TEPPER

Los Angeles

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