After the March for Life, the students and I spent the weekend as tourists in the Washington, D.C. area.  The nice thing about our nation’s capital is the plethora of free activities — the monuments and memorials, the Smithsonians, and National Archives — and we tried to see as much as we could.

Our first stop was the Natural History Museum, partly because there was an interest in seeing the Hope Diamond.  It’s a fun and beautiful museum, although it unfortunately feels the need to push an agenda on its visitors.  But we all just ignored it and enjoyed seeing the animals, vegetables, and minerals.  Until I was pushed too far.

We were in the Hall of Mammals, which the museum feels the need to present as if you’re looking at photo albums from your great-great-grandmother.  There’s already an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species– I don’t see the need for them to tell me while I’m walking through the Hall of Mammals that I’m looking at my family history.  Thanks.

But the museum is beautiful and the animals impressive, so we were enjoying ourselves.  Until I saw the following seemingly-innocuous plaque:

I’m sorry… what?!

I pointed it out to the students and used it as an opportunity to show them (and everyone within earshot of my big mouth, extra loud with indignation) what is wrong with that statement – a statement that most people — teachers, children, adults– pass by and take in without the least thought.

Yes, my physical traits place me in the classification “animal,” and I don’t deny that I’m a mammal.  But it’s that second statement that worries me so.   “Your cultural traits  — such as language and art — help make you a human being.”

Those help make me a human being?  Or are those outwards manifestations of something else that sets me apart?

If we follow this to its core, what about the woman in vegetative state, lying in bed, unable to communicate or appreciate Monet or Vivaldi?  Is she human?

What about the newborn baby, depending on the outside world for its very survival, its blue eyes shining up at its mother with utter trust?  Is she human?

Yes, our ability to produce great works of art and our faculties that enable us to communicate orally or in a written way do set us apart from the other mammals.  But we have these abilities because of our intellect– something that other mammals will never have, regardless of how smart Lassie and Flipper seem.

And, to go farther (at which point we’ll lose the Smithsonian crowd)- we have a spiritual soul, given to us by God.  The immortal soul of man sets him apart from the mammals, allowing him to paint like Raphael, sculpt like Michaelangelo, speak like Cicero, write like Shakespeare.

Last night, on a special on television, I saw a 1 lb 6 oz baby lying in her incubator, perfectly and beautifully formed, facing the world, albeit a little earlier than she expected to — and I thought back to this statement.  This little girl had no art, no language– nothing but her immortal soul, her little body, and a loving family.

I started to cry, out of the sheer joy and thankfulness that we live in a world where she will survive, despite her early departure from the womb.  But in the pit of my stomach, there was a knot– thinking of the cruel world we live in, where society is willing to define man by his work, his abilities, his potential.

The March for Life was a beautiful witness.  But is our work in vain?  Are the philosophical underpinnings of our society so rotten to the core?  If they are, and if society continues to brainwash us with such ridiculous statements, the unborn will never be seen as people.  Because we will have shown with false philosophy that they aren’t.

The real battle is in the culture, in the hearts of the people.  Will you fall for the rhetoric?  Or will you see the lies when they are sold to you?