May 31, 2002

BRENDAN O’NEILL offers a firsthand report from the London launch of Francis Fukuyama’s book, where he says Fukuyama was asked a lot of tough questions. O’Neill comments:

But surely Fukuyama is in danger of reducing our common humanity to a shared biology? Surely there is more to tie humans together than just the fact that we share biological features like eyes, ears, legs, arms, hearts and brains? Listening to Fukuyama, it sounded like he was arguing that human equality is a natural thing, based on biology, rather than a human-created political thing, born out of past struggles, the Enlightenment, and industrial and social development. Surely it is those human-created and human-centred values that tie us together and capture our humanity, rather than our biological make-up?

I think this is dead right. The statement that all men are created equal from the Declaration of Independence referred to political and moral standing — not natural endowments, which the Framers of the American Constitution (like Enlightenment thinkers in general) were very much aware came in unequal distributions. There are enormous differences now in people’s intellectual and physical gifts. That doesn’t prevent a polity from giving people equal respect.