Anhubris: Theological False Modesty

I don’t have time for a real post tonight, but here’s a quick thought: Hubris is badly underrated. People jump to “don’t play God” far too quickly, far too often.

In almost any situation where “hubris” is invoked, it shouldn’t be. For example:

“Don’t create life. Only God gets to; for Man to try is hubris.” Admittedly, creating life may be a bad idea for other reasons; for example, it would be a legal nightmare, and the ethics would be hell to sort out. But “hubris”?

The hubris argument here is often backed up with religious claims, which generally imply that there’s only room for one Creator, and it would be downright rude for us to try to put God out of business. Doesn’t God get credit for our work? We’ve been thanking him for artistic and scientific advances for millennia.

Other arguments claim that it would be improper, that we wouldn’t be knowing our place or our limitations. That one’s even less well-founded; it consists of applying hierarchical social norms to theology: “If every class of person has their social limitations, then so do humans as a species.”

There’s nothing noble about “knowing your place,” and there’s nothing immoral about pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible. As a culture, it would do us some good to throw out “Don’t Meddle” and replace it with “Proceed With Caution” — but above all, Proceed.


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