Peter Singer wants me to kill my uncle. In fact, Mr. Singer would have already murdered his mother, but his sister won't let him. Peter Singer is the man who said this:
"Simply killing an infant is never equivalent to killing a person."He's also the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. That's right, he's Princeton's ethics professor. And he believes that infants and handicapped people aren't really people. They may be humans, but that doesn't qualify them for his definition of a "person".
When I wrote "A Philosophical Study of Abortion" I commented on what seems to me to be the fundamental question of abortion - what makes a person a person? This is critical to the abortion question because most people intuitively know that killing an innocent person is wrong. Therefore, in an attempt to rationalize abortion, academics have parsed out new definitions of personhood. Singer's definition goes like this:
Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons.As I noted in "A Philosophical Study of Abortion," each of these definitions has led down the dangerous road of excluding people like my seriously disabled uncle, or Peter Singer's Alzheimer's-stricken mother, or newborn babies. Most people go down this road, see the ending, and recoil at its baseness. But not Professor Singer.
"There appear to be only two possibilities: oppose abortion or allow infanticide."Singer chooses infanticide.
There are two thought processes in regards to "thinkers" like Professor Singer. One is to dismiss him outright as a crank and a nutjob. Outlandish views like his make it easy to condemn our liberal, secular society and leave it at that. Another way is to dismiss him as "just" a philosopher, an academic, with no real say on policy or society.
Both reactions would be wrong.
First of all, as far as the world is concerned, he's not just a nutjob. He's a nutjob with a very important position with one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It lends he and his views credibility, as well as gives him a platform to teach the world his view of personhood.
Secondly, although he is "just" an academic with little influence on society, his views are far more commonplace than one might think. Consider for instance the fact that he partly came to his conclusions based on not wanting children or their parents to suffer with physical or mental handicaps. These parents could simply abort the fetus or kill the infant and then produce another child that will likely by "normal". The intention is to ease suffering, to reduce pain.
Now compare that with this often-used quote:
"We women know when it is or is not the right time to bring a child into the world...We act out of compassion when we wait to have a child until the time when we can give it the kind of life every child deserves. We act out of love when we consider what we would be taking away from the child or children we already have if we brought another child into our family now...We women know the truth: That given certain circumstances, abortion is the most morally responsible and loving choice we can make."Don't you get it? It's all about love, people. It's compassionate to end human life because that life might suffer or cause others to suffer.
-Jean Stewart Berg and Anne Baker
Shortly after I wrote "A Philosophical Study of Abortion", I had numerous discussions and debates with various people about abortion. All of the arguments Singer uses were used by everyday people in these debates. I wrote about them here. From the "compassionate choice" argument, to being a "fully formed human", to a fetus being aware of itself and its own life - all of these are variations of Singer's arguments and all of them were used by non-nutjobs and non-academics.
Peter Singer's view is out there folks. People I interact with fairly regularly have espoused these views in some form or another. Commenters on this blog like Democracy Lover and Geoffrey have used them. Utah's own Green Jenni used them over and over again.
While it may be shocking to read Peter Singer's opinions, it's even more shocking to see them repeated by those in my own community.
"I do not think it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being."