In Paris the Dispute Was about God, But about Man First
The blistering talk by Fabrice Hadjadj against the eugenicist ideology of the founding fathers of UNESCO. Pity that what was said at the “Courtyard of the gentiles” has been too little known. Great initiative, but poorly publicized
by Sandro Magister
ROME, April 1, 2011 – The Courtyard of the gentiles that was held in recent days in Paris has exposed a gaping deficit on the level of communication.
No press office. No text made available to the media, neither before, nor during, nor after. Only those present were able to hear the words of the speakers in real time, or those who were tuned in to Radio Notre-Dame or KTO TV, the only Catholic broadcasters that aired the proceedings live.
Even the video message of Benedict XVI on the evening of March 25 was poorly publicized. The text had been available for several days, but the Vatican press office distributed it, in five languages, only the next morning.
If one enters the Vatican website – which in other respects is very substantial – and goes to the pontifical council for culture that promoted and organized the event, one finds nothing whatsoever.
And not even on http://www.parvisdesgentils.fr – the site created for the occasion – does one find a single line of what was said. There are only a skimpy program and a few notes about the speakers.
For a Courtyard created to promote the dialogue on God among all men of good will, beyond all the borders, this communicative stinginess is a clear contradiction.
The pontifical council for culture and its president, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, worked effectively in the preparatory phase of the event, to publicize it.
But they vanished in the transition from announcement to realization.
And yet, from the very first remarks, the things said in Paris were by no means commonplace.
It’s enough to look at what happened at the inaugural session, on March 24, at the offices of UNESCO, the cultural branch of the United Nations.
With a venue and audience full of high-level officials and diplomats, a rambling yawner was to be expected.
But no. For example, Pavel Fischer, a former ambassador of the Czech Republic in France, touched the minds and hearts of those present by evoking his personal experience as a believer crushed by the machine of scientific atheism, during the years of the communist empire.
It must be noted that the Czech Republic is one of the regions of Europe where atheism is today a mass phenomenon. It is there that Benedict XVI went in 2008 and developed the idea of creating a Courtyard of the gentiles. It is in Prague that the Courtyard will hold one of its future meetings.
But the most explosive talk was that of French philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj (in the photo), from a Jewish family, once on the far left but now a convert to the Catholic faith.
Hadjadj made a radical criticism of UNESCO and its founding fathers right on the premises of the organization, in the presence of its directors.
And he criticized it precisely on its view of man. On the alternative between man’s openness to Heaven – the “trasumanar” of Dante’s Paradiso – and the “transhumanism” of the first director general of UNESCO, Julian Huxley, the reduction of man to a technical object, to be improved with eugenics.
The complete text, in French, of Fabrice Hadjadj’s talk at the Courtyard of the gentiles is on this page of http://www.chiesa:
And these are its salient passages.
BRIEF REFLECTION ON THE “TRANSHUMAN”
by Fabrice Hadjadj
[…] We can borrow a word invented by Dante and say that man is made to “trasumanar.” But how does he “trasumanar”? And how should “transhumanism” be understood? This word must echo in a special way within these walls. Because the substantive, “transhumanism,” was coined in 1957 by the biologist Julian Huxley, who was the first director general of UNESCO. What is interesting is that this first director general of UNESCO did not at all mean what Dante did by “transhumanism.” His thought, in fact, goes radically against that of the “Divina Commedia.” But it has the advantage of making manifest the only alternative that is posed today in the modern world.
Brother of Aldous Huxley, the author of “Brave New World,” Julian Huxley might have been expected to be inoculated against any temptation to eugenics. Instead the opposite is true. Not that Julian Huxley was inconsistent; no, he was consistent in the extreme. In 1941, at the very time when the Nazis were gassing the mentally ill, Julian Huxley wrote with a certain audacity: “Once the full implications of evolutionary biology are grasped, eugenics will inevitably become part of the religion of the future, or of whatever complex of sentiments may in the future take the place of organized religion.” These statements were written in 1941. But it was in 1947 that they were published in French, when he was already director general of UNESCO. Not one line was changed on that occasion. Of course, Huxley was anti-Nazi, social democratic, and above all anti-racist (which nonetheless did not prevent him from writing, in the text previously cited: “I regard it as wholly probable that true negroes have a somewhat lower average intelligence than the whites or yellows”), but Huxley presumed to replace the traditional religions with biotechnology.
Of course, Julian Huxley is not on trial here. I would only like to highlight an ideology so widespread that it it did not spare this place, and that it even had its first director general as an illustrious representative. If, in 1957, this first director general of UNESCO invented the substantive “transhumanism,” he did it in order to avoid talking further about “eugenics,” a word that had become difficult to use after Nazi eugenics. Nonetheless, the same thing is intended: the redemption of man through technology. I cite the 1957 text that invented the term; it presents this “new principle”: “[The] quality of people, not mere quantity, is what we must aim at, and therefore that a concerted policy is required to prevent the present flood of population-increase from wrecking all our hopes for a better world.” Julian’s “better world” is not so far from the “New world” of Aldous. It is precisely a matter of improving the “quality” of individuals, as one improves the “quality” of products, and therefore, probably, of eliminating or preventing the birth of everything that would appear as abnormal or deficient.
You understand that it is the very definition of man that is at stake in our encounter. And therefore the very future of man. Man is seeking something beyond. He is transhuman by nature. But how is the “trans” of the transhuman realized? With culture and openness to the transcendent? Or with technology and genetic manipulation? […] Of course, UNESCO is a global organization devoted to the protection and development of cultures. But like every contemporary organization, it is also overrun by technocratic logic, the desire to solve problems instead of recognizing the mystery. Proof of this is the ambiguity to which its first director general gives witness.
So then, here is my simple question: should we take Julian Huxley as our guide, or should we take Dante? Is the greatness of man in the technical facility to live? Or is it in this laceration, in this openness that is like a cry to Heaven, in this appeal to what really transcends us? […]
This is the opportunity of the Courtyard of the gentiles: to take note of this new situation. This is not a matter only of “dialogue between believers and nonbelievers.” It is a matter of asking the question of man, of recognizing that what gives him his specificity is not being a super-animal more powerful than the others, but being this receptacle that receives every creature with love, in order to send it, with words, with prayer, with poetry, toward its mysterious source.
The program of the two days in Paris, on the website in French created for the occasion:
The newspaper that best covered the encounter in Paris is the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, “Avvenire,” with interviews with the protagonists and extensive articles, before and during the event, collected in a dossier:
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.