Abstract

A previous essay (Erde, 1988) tracked the influence of the major Western historical paradigm of the great chain of being through various positions taken about abortion. This essay shows the paradigm's influence on our language – especially in animating the use of “god” and phrases like “playing god”. This is important given the prevalence of religious values in bioethics debates and the pervasiveness of the language. I hunt unsuccessfully for a meaning that could serve as a moral principle, and I show how these phrases are rooted in the paradigm. I conclude that all that such language can do is offer the pretense that there is a specific absolute ground for forbidding something which could otherwise be morally acceptable. But such language is nearly senseless, and worse still, it is immoral in that it cuts off reflection and debate.