Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The truth about Peter Singer

Some anonymous commenter said I was not truthful about Princeton ethicist Peter Singer, so I did some research.
He was right, I was being too kind. The truth is even uglier than I had imagined.He's a monstrous human being.Read this discussion of his views with quotes below and make up your own mind.

Down syndrome is usually characterized by short stature, distinctive facial features, and, as my dictionary puts it, “mild to moderate mental retardation”. Singer himself describes the condition as involving “some physical abnormalities” as well as “mild to moderate intellectual disability” (Rethinking Life & Death p. 106). There is no mention here of “severe disabilities”; Singer notes that “People at the upper end of this range [of Down-related intellectual disability] can live independently with little supervision. Others need help with managing their financial affairs, and need to be supervised when shopping, cooking or travelling outside the home.” (ibid.) Unlike migraines or arthritis, Down syndrome is not a painful condition, and people who have it do not “suffer” from it in any conventional sense.

Why, then, does Singer argue that infants born with this condition can justly be killed? Because they are “abnormal” and do not have “good prospects” (Rethinking p. 214). This notion of “prospects” runs like a mantra through Singer’s discussion of Down syndrome children: “the future prospects of life may be so bleak” (211), “the prospects are clouded” (213), and so forth. But what sort of prospects does he have in mind? On p. 213 of Rethinking he lists several activities which a person with Down syndrome will supposedly never be capable of: “to play the guitar, to develop an appreciation of science fiction, to learn a foreign language, to chat with us about the latest Woody Allen movie, or to be a respectable athlete, basketballer or tennis player.” This list reads like a parody of bourgeois myths of achievement, success, and respectability. To Singer, however, these are legitimate reasons for killing a newborn. After all, if you can’t do your own financial planning, why should you be allowed to live?

Read more at the Institute for Social Ecology website.
Apparently Singer didn't read the news story about the man with Ds that scored the game clinching touchdown. 
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Gramma 2 Many said...

My Down's Sis passed away on December 31 1999 at the age of 35.
She was the most delightful, loving person ever to walk the face of this earth. She had the most delightful sense of humor ever! She put the lie to everything Singer ever stood for.
I am counting the days until I am reunited with her in Heaven:)

Smiley said...

I am new to your blog. I do not get why these scientists and doctors do not like kids who are blessed in other ways. Are we so small as people that we cannot reach out in love and learn to be loved by those who are genetically and physically different from us? Do we not see the face of God in them?

This is one of the reasons why Our lady at Fatima was not pleased with doctors and those in medicine

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're giving a good service to your readers by trivializing the positions of Peter Singer on these complex issues. You make it sound as if he says "it's ok to kill your son since he'll never be able to play guitar". Of course he'd never say anything like that. Singer became famous for his positions in "Animal Liberation" where he argues that we should treat animals a lot better than what most people think. Pigs obviously don't play guitar, but you are implying that Singer believes we should treat them better than people affected by Down syndrome.

Of course he's not guilty of such trivial inconsistencies, and if you believe he his, then you don't understand him.

You might very well disagree with his utilitarian positions (and the argument there becomes very complex), but if you don't then I think you cannot easily argue your way out of his conclusions.

you might want to read some good books of serious thinkers who disagree with Singer (e.g. ), instead of accusing him of being an horrible person.

Leticia said...

Anonymous, I know I'm just a teacher who writes and I don't have a head for the complexities of deciding who should live or die. But I have news for you. . .
niether does SINGER!!
That's why deciding who should live or die is best left to God.
You wouldn't BE Peter Singer, would you? I have my suspicions.

Anonymous said...

Of course I'm not Singer. I'm sure he has better things to do than reading blogs. I've spent quite some time reading his books and interviews and it's clear that you have not done that, but you still call him a "monstrous human being" on a public site.

We all decide about the lives of others, every time we decide how much to pollute, how to allocate limited funds for example to improve road safety vs medical research vs public health vs foreign aid to poor countries vs disaster recovery vs military operations ...

The point Singer makes is exactly that doctors routinely decide when a baby born with some terrible disease should undergo risky and painful procedures or simply "let nature take its course" and use their limited time and resources to cure other patients with better recovery changes.

They ARE deciding about life and death, and not doing anything IS taking a decision, and so he says that we should spare these poor kids the prolonged suffering and just end their lives in the most charitable way. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

I think most people would rather be killed than being tortured and then killed. In the same way we can be charitable when we end the live of someone else.

Leticia said...

Comparing starving a child to death to polluting shows your moral vacuousness. Your mind has been warped by reading too much Singer. Take care of your soul before its warped as well.

Anonymous said...

good that you're filtering the comments. To be a least a bit honest (with yourself) you should post that you called one of the most influential intellectuals alive "a monstrous human being" without having even bothered to read one of his books, but just copying blurbs from other (biased) internet pages (and who knows if *they* haven't copied it from someone else).

I suppose intellectual integrity is not a catholic value for you then.