By DONALD DeMARCO
Canada is bilingual in the sense that it has two official languages, English and French. It is also bilingual in the sense that it endorses “Doublespeak,” a derivative of “Doublethink.” In his classic diatribe against dystopias, 1984, George Orwell defines doublethink as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
The three basic examples to which the novel gives primary place are: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.” Doublespeak, therefore, is the ability to enunciate contradictory positions about the same reality and believe that both are correct.
According to Canada’s Criminal Code, Subsection 223(1), “A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed; has an independent circulation; or the navel string is severed.” This is Canada’s 400-year-old understanding of a human being, one that suddenly becomes human at the moment of birth but is not human prior to birth. There is a built-in requirement for doublethink in the very next statement in the Criminal Code 223(2), which reads as follows: “A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.”
It may be perplexing to those who eschew doublethink as to how an individual can be “a child before birth” and still not a human. It may also be perplexing for the same people to believe that birth, something that is external to the being that is undergoing birth, can transform that being’s nature from non-human to human. Being human denotes what a being is, not what happened to it. Can the reality we know through science and the illusion documented in the Criminal Code be equally true and equally compelling? Such doublethink allows people to speak of the unborn simultaneously as human and non-human.
On the other hand, du Maurier cigarettes carry the warning to pregnant women that “Cigarettes Hurt Babies.” The French version is, “La Cigarette Nuit Au Bébé.” A statement from Health Canada appears on the package in lower-case type: “Tobacco use during pregnancy reduces the growth of babies during pregnancy. These smaller babies may not catch up in growth after birth and the risks of infant illness, disability, and death are increased.”
Can an unborn entity simultaneously be a non-human, a child, and a baby? For those conditioned by doublethink and doublespeak, the answer is “yes.” The casualty here, of course, is truth. As Plato asserts in his Symposium, “But, my dearest Agathon, it is truth which you cannot contradict; you can without any difficulty contradict Socrates.” Even the Criminal Code of Canada is ripe for being contradicted, especially if it contradicts truth.
Certain thinkers during the Middle Ages, experiencing immense difficulties in harmonizing philosophy with theology, sought a solution in something called “The Double Truth Theory.” They proposed that what is true in philosophy may not be true in theology and vice-versa. This dichotomy in which two aspects of reality are seen as opposed to each other as contradictories recurs throughout history between faith and reason, and faith and science. We now find this same split between law and medicine, political correctness and common sense, feminism and commercial advertising, politics and logic.
Gorgias of Leontini (c. 485 BC) may have been the first philosopher to embrace doublethink. He held that “existence is nonexistence” and was a precursor to G.W.F. Hegel (1770) who argued that “being is nonbeing.”
This strange belief that one can hold contradictories to be simultaneously true has dogged mankind throughout his tenure on this planet. A distinguished novelist, Somerset Maugham, a most perceptive observer of human beings, has made note of this phenomena: “For thirty years now I have been studying my fellowmen. I do not know very much about them . . . self-contradictory is what most of us are. We are a haphazard bundle of inconsistent qualities.”
“Purity of heart is to will one thing,” wrote Kierkegaard. Sanity of mind, we may add, is to recognize that a thing is what it is and not its opposite. The principle of non-contradiction is not merely an abstract concept. It is a law of reality. A thing cannot both be what it is and at the same time and in the same way be what it is not. Without this fundamental principle, thinking becomes impossible and life becomes a wilderness of confusion. Science, human experience, philosophy, and theology all point in the same directions and unerringly affirm that the unborn human being is an unborn human being.
There are many languages, but there is only one reality.
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(Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. Some of his recent writings may be found at Human Life International’s Truth & Charity Forum.)