by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.
Killing unborn human babies is okay, but decapitating roses?—That is just plain wrong. At least, that is what the Swiss Confederation Federal Ethics Committee recently decided. Human beings are now playing God to the point that they are deciding for everybody else what is morally “right” and “wrong”: “The Committee members unanimously consider an arbitrary harm caused to plants to be morally impermissible” (Willemsen, 2008, p. 20, emp. added). As an example, they explain that if a farmer, on his way home after cutting his grass for his animals, “decapitates flowers with his scythe” without “rational reason” (p. 9), he has committed a moral wrong. Really. I suppose that would be either planticide (if deliberate), or plantslaughter (if accidental).
Why does the committee believe that killing plants arbitrarily is wrong? “A clear majority also takes the position that we should handle plants with restraint for the ethical reason that individual plants have inherent worth” (Willemsen, p. 10, emp. in orig.). They explain their use of the words “inherent worth,” by saying that plants, like the rosebush, have worth “independently of whether it is useful or whether someone ascribes a value to it” (p. 7). So, when the card soldiers in Alice in Wonderland painted the roses red, they were doing more than merely upsetting the queen (who called for their heads). They were committing a heinous unethical act of seismic proportions and deserved to be punished for their flagrant disregard of roses’ inherent worth—and their right to be the color they were born, or should we say, grown with.
The truth is, human beings have “inherent value” that surpasses the physical realm, because God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27). Unlike the rest of Creation, humans have a soul, and will exist forever. We were created on a different plane from the rest of Creation. Plants have “instrumental value,” because they are useful to humans. God created and protects plants for that reason. Sometimes plants have a “relational value,” if we ascribe value to them (e.g., a tree “planted in memory of a person who has died” [p. 7], or a rose garden that we value because of its beauty). However, a plant’s value is not equal to that of a human being. Jesus emphasized this very point when He contrasted the two: “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you?” (Matthew 6:30). Humans are of far greater value than flowers or grass….
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