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Nature was an ordered whole that offered examples of order and wholeness.Science was for contemplation; politics was for finding ways to live well.
Cohen is right to begin by reflecting upon the curious fact that human beings expect to be treated justly by nature, or at least resent being treated unfairly.
The pang of anger we feel when we find that a loved one has been stricken by a grave disease may be less a product of grief or sadness as of a wounded sense of justice — a sense that the person we cherish has been treated less well than he deserves. The question demands an answer in human terms, in terms of fairness and just cause.
They argue that time is running out, but that swift action can still save the day.
Testifying before a Senate subcommittee in 2003, Parkinson’s patient and research advocate James Cordy told the Senators: “Please, please don’t let time run out for me and the over 1.5 million Americans with Parkinson’s, and the over 100 million Americans with diseases and conditions who are almost certain to benefit from regenerative medicine, including embryonic stem cell research.
This approach had its advantages, but it put up with an awful lot of injustice, natural as well as man-made.
The modern approach began with a determination not to put up with such injustice, and so it took on politics and science very differently.But the demand for justice from nature, which is always problematic, is especially so in our times, precisely because when we speak of justice we most often mean equality, and equality is a standard which nature is uniquely unfit to meet.By some more aristocratic standards, nature can be said to be just — treating the great well and the low poorly — and indeed nature itself can almost be a standard for justice.But if all are to be treated equally, then certainly nature is unjust in the extreme, since it treats people unequally for no apparent reason.If nature is unjust, then nature must be fought and made to treat us properly.In our walks against cancer and runs against heart disease and marathons for diabetes research, patients and loved ones literally march in defiance against various ailments, to show that they are stronger than the illness and to raise funds to combat it.These are the powerful theatrics of an American fight for justice, modeled on the efforts of assorted social movements, and especially the movement for racial equality.And when we receive no answer, we feel the need to act somehow, to address the injustice.This tone of activism is readily apparent in the atmospherics of our various public battles against disease.But if the fight against disease writ large — indeed the fight against natural death — is an emergency, and if at the same time, as Cohen’s essay suggests, it is a struggle we can never expect fully to win, then we must always live in a state of emergency.We should be always in a crisis mode, always pulling out all stops, always suspending the rules for the sake of a critical goal.