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While we’re on the subject of equality and justice, we might as well ask the question, “What is the basis for equality?” In what ways are all humans equal and why?

Absolute equality indicates commonality in kind and degree. We can say that two men who play for the National Football Leagues are equally football players, but not that they are absolutely equal in respect to being football players; one is better than the other. In order to determine which is better, we have to have set criteria by which we judge them. Distinctions are a necessary part of these criteria. We could very well say that one of them is a better football player, but not a better man. One could be better at running, another at catching, another at throwing. The general equality of “football player” does not factor into who is the best at this or that. It is, however, relevant to what rights and responsibilities these men have. The NFL gives certain things to and expects certain things from all its players.

When judging whether there is absolute equality in humans, we once again have to look at kind and degree. It is a pretty well-established fact that if you are human, you are human. In other words, we are all of the same kind; there is something common to all of us and binds us together as one kind as distinct from other kinds of things. Do we all have that thing to equal degrees? That is a question for the ages.

There have been many instances when human beings were “dehumanized” or at least their humanness was regarded as diminished. There is the infamous “3/5” clause in the original Constitution of the United States (as well as just general consensus that the black slave was “less human” than the white slave-owner). The Jews in Nazi Germany were considered “less human” than the Aryans. A human fetus is considered by many to be less human than an adult human. It is clear from all of these instances that the commonality of human genetics was not a factor in determining equality of degree. The “uncommonness” is what drives dehumanization.

Human genes are common to all humans and we all have them to the same degree; there are no “dilute” human genes. Are genetics (and biology) the common factor which determines human equality? What would justice based on genetics look like? In order to figure this out, we would have to figure out what good or end is common to all human genetics.

The human gene wants, as all living organism, to sustain and reproduce; to continue the existence of the human gene. If there is a “sick” gene, one unable to reproduce, or reproduce healthy genes, then that gene is not fulfilling the purpose of a gene; according to “genetic justice,” it is an insidious presence in the development of the human gene, generally speaking. If we are to base justice merely on genetics, it must, therefore, not be allowed to reproduce or infect other genes with its deficiency.

If “eugenics” comes to mind, then my point is made. It appears that not all genes are, in fact, equal. They do not all have the same potential; they are not equal in degree. A “genetic” view of equality is not absolute and will ultimately lead to dehumanization. What is it, then, that we all have in the same degree? In what do we have the same potential?

From a material standpoint, there is nothing we have that is absolutely common in kind and degree. Our bodies develop based on genes and environment and no two people have the same genes and environment. Furthermore, no one has “perfect” genes that he or she can pass on perfectly. Equality from a materialistic standpoint is a doomed project.

However, are also spiritual beings and as such have spiritual goods and ends. In my last post, I mentioned two “universal” ends: a happy and just society and union with God. Both of these are derived from humanity’s spiritual reality, not its material reality. “Happiness” and “Justice” are things unknown to genes. Union with God, who is Himself spiritual, must be spiritual in nature. However, our spiritual good is aided by our material good, and thus the good of our genes is important, yet ultimately subservient to the more absolute spiritual good.

It is in this spiritual way (with spiritual goods and ends) that we have equality. No matter what our material reality, our souls have happiness and justice (ultimately union with God is the highest happiness and justice) as their end. If we deny this, we deny any true basis for equality. If we affirm this, then all of our decisions, both in positive law and general consensus, must reflect this.