For those of you unfamiliar with CS Lewis and/or the classic Screwtape Letters, Screwtape is an experienced old devil who teaches his nephew/acolyte Wormwood on how to corrupt mankind. Click here for an excerpt.
In Gurdon's sequel, it seems luckless Wormwood had been a failure and Screwtape is now talking to young devil Mildew:
"I have heard," Mildew begins, and blushes. "The fact is, Uncle, I have heard things that seem impossible. Is it really true that you have found a way to get them to eat — "
" — their young?" Screwtape interrupts with a hungry smile.
"Yes. Yes! I have found the key, the key, my boy, to unlocking the worst in the human heart. Oh, massacres are entertaining enough, and reasonably productive. Rapine and thieving and savagery and the usual nonsense go a good distance to wrecking men's souls, but not in sufficient numbers. Not for us to win for good — that is, ha-ha, for ill. We must forever be stoking grievances, feeding pride, and constantly thrusting and parrying with the Enemy and his agents. No, the beautifully corrupting key that I have found is vanity."
"Appetites, yes, but eating their young, Uncle? I feel sure that I read somewhere that humans are naturally revolted by cannibalism. The Enemy's doing, no doubt, but still, there it is."
Screwtape fixes his nephew with a shriveling glare. "We are not inducing them to broil the little tykes, dear boy, this is no fricassee of first-graders." He sighs heavily, a sufferer of fools, but then brightens, clearly distracted by a pleasing thought. "That's an idea, though. Must get Singer to write something up for me on that...excellent. Now, where — "
"Not broiling them."
"Yes. My achievement, the reason for this — " Screwtape gestures largely about the handsome apartment — "is that I have managed, by appealing to man's love of self, his vanity, to convince millions that it is not cannibalism, but progress, to turn tiny human infants into medicine. The strong picking the weak apart, cell by cell, to be consumed by the strong? Brilliant!"
"It is true," Screwtape continues with a shrug, "that much of the groundwork was already laid. We had already convinced people of the rightness of destroying inconvenient life. Now they talk quite coolly of "blastocysts," and "clumps of cells" and "surplus embryos." My genius was to recognize that they needed just a little push to be convinced, with their mania for recycling, that by harvesting something that would otherwise be chucked out, they are doing a positive good! Think of it: They believe they occupy "the moral high ground." Oh, the profits for us — "
"No thanks to Him," Screwtape snaps. "But we are winning now, I can feel it, Mildew. Think of this: In some rich societies, people are not just destroying blastocysts, not merely dismantling children in the womb, they are euthanizing newborn babies!" Screwtape pats the place where his heart would be, were he to have one. "That's one of my father's, you know. Euthanize. So clean, so modern-sounding. He got a bonus for that one. But not wormwood."
Here's the haymaker on Terry Schiavo:
"The one I love," Mildew interjects enthusiastically, "is The Right to Die. It's so devilishly clever."
Screwtape looks thoughtfully into his empty glass. "It has potential, once we get the strong to use it regularly against the weak in the guise of being humane." The uncle frowns. "Unfortunately we're running into some difficulties with that slogan. This Florida case is not going as hoped. Right to Die tests well in some markets but the Enemy, blast Him, will keep enlisting these poisonous little brutes with their claptrap about the Culture of Life and whatnot. Things may improve when we are rid of that turbulent chief priest of His. It can't be long now."
...These are heady times, Mildew, and we can use the Enemy's words against Him. He wants these creatures to believe that each one of them has value. The Enemy actually does value them, however tiny or aged, however mewling or puking or cleft of palate, if you can imagine it.