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Princeton professor extols man's 'God-like capacities'

Published: Thursday, Jan. 27 2011 12:28 a.m. MST

Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, presents a lecture at BYU, Wednesday.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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PROVO — The fact that human beings are rational creatures with a capacity for choice and deliberation not only distinguishes them from brute animals, but it makes them God-like as well, Princeton professor of jurisprudence Robert P. George explained Wednesday night at a lecture sponsored by the Wheatley Institution at BYU.

"When we act, when we cause things that we are not (forced) to cause, we are exercising God-like capacities," he said. "It shows the content of the Biblical teaching that we are, in fact, made in the image and likeness of God."

That a man can envision a situation that doesn't yet exist, understand the value in bringing it into existence and then act, by choice, to make it happen, reaffirms the value of human reason and intellectual freedom, George said.

George, who has been hailed as the 'most influential Christian conservative,' by the New York Times Magazine, is an avid proponent of rigorous scholarly debate, especially on the topics of protecting traditional marriage and the preservation of families.

A devout Catholic, George is a member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board and considers himself a spiritual brother to members of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and many BYU professors with whom he has worked.

While George has plenty of allies and supporters in the field of natural law, philosophical opponents scoff at his defense of faith, reason and logic and instead paint man as an emotion-driven creature whose actions are simply responses to desires.

These same philosophers also argue that reason has only instrumental value.

"Friendship, knowledge, critical appreciation are intrinsically valuable," George retorts. "They are ends in themselves."

He explained by telling the audience that they were not forced to come to his lecture, nor could they expect to become immediately more rich or witty by attending.

"You're not here for any instrumental reason," he said. "You weren't driven here out of instinct or impulse. You weren't driven here out of desire. I think you saw the point of maybe learning something from the lecture."

And such learning, he said, is intrinsically valuable. Just like developing and nurturing friendships.

"We're not baffled by people acting for the sake of friendship," he said. "If it were a purely instrumental friendship, where they were using each other, that is no friendship at all."

He quoted the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who instructed others to "treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end."

George will speak again at BYU Thursday as part of a free conference on "Defense of the Family: Natural Law and Perspectives."

For more information visit: news.byu.edu/archive11-jan-familydefense..aspx

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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