Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On second thought

In a recent post, I contrasted the philosophy of Peter Singer with that of Hitler and the Eugenicists, commenting that Singer's philosophy is a kinder, gentler form of rational belief once one eliminates God and the concomitant belief about the dignity and worth of a human life that emanates from God's laws (made in his image and likeness, you are gods, and all that). I said Peter Singer's nice, touchy-feely, warm-and-tender, animals-are-people-too philosophy is to be preferred over Hitler's (and the eugenicists') philosophy that some races are inferior and it would be best for the Fatherland (or for the species) if man acts as agents of natural selection and simply prevent them from reproducing -- by sterilizing them in the case of the eugenicists, or by mass murder, in the case of Hitler. Not so fast:

I stumbled upon a blog that reports about Dinesh D'Souza's account of his debate with Peter Singer. He (D'Souza) writes:

Here are some choice Singer quotations on the subject which I get
from his books Rethinking Life and Death and Writings on an Ethical

On how mothers should be permitted to kill their offspring until the age of 28 days:
“My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of twenty-eight
days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as
having the same right to life as others.”

On why abortion is less morally significant than killing a rat:
“Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able
to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or
dislike, than a fetus at ten or even thirty-two weeks gestation.”

On why pigs, chickens and fish have more rights to life than unborn humans:
“The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of
the fetus at any stage of pregnancy, while if we make the comparison
with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of

On why infants aren’t normal human beings with rights to life and liberty:
“Characteristics like rationality, autonomy and self-consciousness…make
a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them,
therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings.”

He contends that God is dead and we should recognize ourselves as
Darwinian primates who enjoy no special status compared to the other
animals. In the animal kingdom, after all, parents sometimes kill and
even devour their offpsring. Singer argues that the West can learn from
the other cultures like the Kalahari where children are routinely
killed when they are unwanted, even when they are several years old.

To be fair, I havent read any of those books that D'Souza is quoting from. But as they are a matter of public record, I would have to assume the quotes are accurate. And that Singer's philosophy isnt so touchy-feely after all. But still, eminently rational, once you eliminate the source of the worth of a human life.

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