Peter Singer has been described by some of his critics as “the most dangerous man in the world today.” Who is this man? Singer is the soon-to-be Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.
Singer is a fifty-two-year-old Australian who has considerably impacted the world of bioethics in the waning days of this decade. He has taught at Oxford University, the University of Colorado (Boulder), the University of California (Irvine), etc. He authored a major article on bioethics for the Encyclopedia Britannica. He serves as co-editor for the journal, Bioethics. He is an extreme “animal rights” activist, being the co-founder and president of “The Great Ape Project,” an international movement promoting “rights” for chimps, gorillas, and orangutans.
It is not so much Singer’s nutty ideas about animals that is the focus of controversy (he refuses to wear leather); it is his views about humans—and their relevance in comparison to animals.
One of Singer’s recent books is titled, Rethinking Life and Death. The book is subtitled, “The Collapse of Traditional Ethics.” This latter phrase represents at least the goal of Singer and others of his ilk. Consider the following statement by the publisher of Singer’s book in an effort to promote it.
Rethinking Life and Death is a book that only the distinguished philosopher Peter Singer could write—a book that creates nothing less than a new set of ethics for the next century. Singer shows just why our traditional ethic of life and death is collapsing all around us—but instead of lamenting the fact, as traditional moralists do, he sees it as an opportunity to move forward to a more soundly based approach. In discussing themes like euthanasia, brain death, abortion, and the treatment of patients in a persistent vegetative state, Singer boldly discards the old rhetoric and meaningless cliches about the sanctity of human life. Instead he produces a fresh account of when life should be regarded as precious and worth preserving, and when it should not be . . . [For example]: Why do we consider it wrong to take organs from a baby born without a brain, but acceptable to take them from an ape? Is it really possible to defend abortion on the grounds of “choice” or do we have to make up our minds first about the status of the fetus and whether it has rights in the first place? With Rethinking Life and Death, Peter Singer describes a world that has already begun to be revolutionized by twenty-first-century technology, and in doing so, provides us all with a profound reexamination of the ethics that govern how we live and how we die.
A few comments are clearly in order. The publisher claims that Rethinking Life and Death is a book that only Peter Singer could write. The fact is, this despicable volume represents a work that few would care to write—or even dare to. It repudiates fundamental ethical principles that civilized societies have honored since time immemorial.
Singer argues that “traditional” standards for ethics are collapsing. Though the author’s assertion is not void of some reality, it is grossly exaggerated. The fact that he is protested virtually everywhere he goes is evidence of this.
Moreover, the issue is not what is happening in terms of ethical evolution; rather, it is what ought to be the ethical criteria by which human beings operate. The philosopher’s subjective, rationalistic standards produce nothing but chaos and cruelty. Note how the expression “the sanctity of human life” is characterized as a “meaningless cliche.”
In his various works, Professor Singer argues that just because people are “human,” that does not mean they are more intrinsically valuable than animals. To him, humans are not superior to other species just because they are “human”; rather, “humanness” is determined by the level of one’s “consciousness,” (i.e., his or her capability to understand that he or she has “a life”).
On this basis, Singer argues that killing a defective infant, or an elderly person who is no longer aware of his environment, is not the equivalent of killing a “person.” The professor believes that parents who have mentally defective children should be able to decide whether or not those children should live. If they decide not, kill them!
The fact is, Singer goes so far as to contend that any individual who is incapable of “reasoning” should not be classified as a person. We would respectfully suggest that the professor had better hope that society at large does not accept his maniacal theory; if it does, he’s in trouble!
The philosophy of Peter Singer is the logical consequence of the theory of evolution. If Darwinism is true, all biological species are kindred creatures. Any exaltation of one kind (e.g., man) over the rest becomes purely arbitrary. Most evolutionists will not stand with Singer on his ethical conclusion, but this is precisely where the theory leads.
Here is a sad historical footnote. Princeton Universtiy was founded in 1746 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church. In its formative years it was a conservative institution, with numerous reputable Bible scholars on its faculty—men who respected the authority of the Word of God and the ethical principles of the Christian system. Look what it has become today—a haven of fools and knaves.