I am beginning to examine the Moral Argument for the existence of God with my students. Cardinal Newman argued that a sense of morality, or ethical certainty, was shared by all humans. This inner voice of conscience, he argued was the voice of God.
In route to the examination of this point, I will be taking my students on a side trip into medical ethics, in which we will examine the Hippocratic Oath and its implications. Are the values contained within it a statement of professional conduct only, or is it a humanitarian and moral document? We will then question if the “universal” nature of the oath among physicians makes its implementation universal, or is it a relativist document in actual practice?
These questions are needed in order for us to examine our own moral compass. Are we absolutists (an ideally Christian view in which morality is God-given), or is our ethical life subject to variables and personal opinion?
Auschwitz provides us with a case study to then examine the oath. Dr. Gisella Perl, a Jewish gynecologist made several (what Primo Levi would call) “grey zone” decisions while incarcerated in the camp. She conducted abortions, and risky operations without adequate equipment or supplies. Did she fail in her oath? Is our view in judging her absolute? Was she being merely utilitarian, as she did abortions to save the mothers from the gas chamber? In stark contrast to the “situation” Perl found herself, we have Dr. Josef Mengele. Can we in the “name of science” excuse his “medical practice” in the camp?
Where did the Hippocratic Oath apply in the dark world of the camp? Was it stretched, broken, or just ignored? If a straight forward, precisely worded document can be so treated, then what about “still small voice?”
Free moral agency is a fancy way of saying “we make our decisions.” God did not create robots. He allows humans to make mistakes. Does this mean He doesn’t speak? No, but it does mean we don’t have to listen. It is here that the moral argument hinges. Many will say the inconsistency of human action, “proves” their is no absolute voice. But is it so? Maybe we just aren’t listening.