We often speak of the “dignity of man.” In fact we tacitly assert man is the only creature to which we ascribe “dignity”. We may love various animals, and we may even establish “animal welfare” organizations. But we don’t attribute to thoroughbred dogs and horses the sacred and inviolable dignity we ascribe to man.
Humans appreciate dignity
Indeed, we detest certain human behaviors beings as beastly. We do not detest animals that relieve themselves in public, as we would a human being, whom the law might punish for such behavior. In fact, one definition of pornography is displaying in public of what is essentially private.
No civilized person who has looked in awe at a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo will say, as the American Supreme Court has said in effect, that what is pornographic to one individual is beautiful to another.
For a long time people have assumed that the criteria for beauty is largely cultural, and therefore learned rather than innate. Recent studies by psychologist Judith Langlois at the University of Texas, Austin, have totally overturned this conventional wisdom.
Dignity does not depend on culture
Langlois first had adults rank pictures of both white and black females for attractiveness. His staff showed the pictures in pairs (one more attractive than the other) to infants in two age groups – two to three month and six to eight months old. Infants in both age groups tended to gaze longer at the faces ranked more attractive. Similarly, one-year-old infants tended to play for a significantly longer time with facially attractive dolls.
Other studies tested for changes across cultures. Psychologist Michael Cunningham found an incredible consensus in the judgment of facial attractiveness of women of different races by men of different races. The agreement persisted even when Cunningham considered different degrees of exposure in Western mass media.
Studies that crossed geographical and ethnic boundaries (e.g., with Chinese, Indian, South African, and North American men) produced very similar results. Taken together, all these studies seem to indicate that there do exist universal criteria for attractiveness, and that attractive faces enjoy a far-extending appeal that emerges very early in life and is consistent across cultures.
The beauty detectors may not be quite innate, but the human mind may have innate basic rules from which it constructs templates of attractiveness.
The Source of dignity
Although this trashes the rulings of American as well as Israeli Supreme Court Justices on the subject of pornography, we have a more serious matter to consider, since we are here dealing with the dignity ascribed to man vis-à-vis beasts.
That some university-educated or half-educated judges complacently rest their judicial decisions on the subjectivism and aesthetic relativism prevalent in decadent liberal democracies, is worthy of no more than passing reference to this writer.
Civilization is crashing all around us. Muslims use children as human bombs and still enjoy the support of liberal academics in America and Europe. We need to probe deeply into this malaise.
The source of human dignity is nothing other than the concept of man’s creation in the image of God. The Book of Genesis pronounced it. The Book of Genesis is also the source for the moral unity of mankind and the only solid foundation for international peace.
However, this Judaic concept of man’s creation in the image of God is rejected by Muslims tainted by Islamic theology. It is also rejected by Liberals tainted by atheism.
Many of these Liberals disregard logic by outwardly siding with Muslims against Jews. This hostile attitude toward Jews, which is ingrained in Islam, makes genuine peace with the disciples of Muhammad impossible.
No one should let the devious pronouncements of politically timid and intellectually shallow Jews like Benjamin Netanyahu mislead them. Such leaders insult Muslims by offering a political quid pro quo of “territory for peace”. This democratic quid pro quo tacitly degrades the religiosity of both Jews and Muslims! And when it does that it also degrades their dignity.
Toward a politics of dignity of man and God
We need to transcend the mentality of democratic politics. The sordidness of that politics reached new heights in America’s 2016 presidential campaign. This shameless display of democratic politics makes nonsense of the dignity of man.
We need a new politics. It should uphold not the dignity of man, now in shambles, but the awesome dignity of God! The biblical backdrop for such a politics is Psalm 8:3 of David:
When I behold the heavens and the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, what is man, that you are mindful of him? You have endowed man with dignity and majesty. You have made him the ruler of the works of Your hands.
But when David adds,
HaShem, our Master, how powerful is Your Name and glory in this world
he gives us to understand, as the Gaon Rav Chaim Zimmerman (z”l) also notes, that
the glory of the Creator is manifested through the intellect of man, God’s highest and most noble creation.
We need a God-oriented politics. This is the paramount purpose of my book A Judeo-Scientific Guide for the Perplexed: Rescuing America from Nihilism. The book interfaces knowledge of science and the wisdom of Torah. I hope it can restore in America a normative and dignified political philosophy.☼
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