This is Peter Singer, and he is dangerous.
Let me explain.
On Wednesday, I will be doing a continuing educatrion seminar for health care providers at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. It's titled, "Worldview, Healing and Spiritual Care" and it's on how worldviews shape medical decsions.
Getting ready for this foray into medical ethics made me look back at some things I did a few years ago for what we call our Summer Bible Institute. That year, 2005, was on "Worldview Boot Camp" and this man, Peter Singer came up in the context of naturalism.
What is naturalism?
Naturalism can be defined negatively as being opposed to all that can be called “supernatural”—the existence of God and miracles. Broadly, this includes secular humanism and atheism. Scientific naturalism refers to the view that only scientific knowledge is reliable and that science can, in principle, explain everything.
Naturalism is not new. Some ancient Greeks were proponants of naturalism. Thales of Iona advocated atheism. Atheism requires some form of evolutionary theory, so Anaximander produced one, believing that human beings were descendants of fish. (Sorry, apes.)
Human beings are therefore merelty the cleverest animal. Not surprisingly, both Athens and Sparta practiced infanticide. Infants were killed if they were the "wrong" sex, or smaller than hoped for, not “just” for birth defects. Mt. Taygetus in Sparta was used as a execution location for these “inferior” infants.
The modern "Greeks" are with us in the person of Peter Singer (among many, many others). In 1983, he wrote,
Once the religious mumbo-jumbo surrounding the term "human" has been stripped away, we may continue to see normal members of our species as possessing greater capacities of rationality, self-consciousness, communication...than other members of any other species; but we will not regard as sacrosanct the life of each and every member of our species, no matter how limited its capacity for intelligent or even conscious life may be. If we compare a severely defective human infant with a ... dog or pig ... we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities.... Species membership alone ... is not relevant.... Humans who bestow superior value on the lives of all human beings, solely because they are members of our own species, are ... similar to ... white racists...
Far from being the ravings of a marginal figure, Singer is an honored member of the Princeton faculty and is widely considered the most influencial ethicist of our time.
Over at a good blog I just came upon, Barry Carey's With All Your Mind, we read of Dr. Singer's latest naturalist rants:
Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has once again made clear his standings on the concept of human dignity. On Friday, 1/26/07, in a piece in the NY Times, while discussing the case of Ashley, a severely disable girl, he stated the following:
Here’s where things get philosophically interesting. We are always ready to find dignity in human beings, including those whose mental age will never exceed that of an infant, but we don’t attribute dignity to dogs or cats, though they clearly operate at a more advanced mental level than human infants. Just making that comparison provokes outrage in some quarters. But why should dignity always go together with species membership, no matter what the characteristics of the individual may be?
In his book, Practical Ethics, he opines:
The fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings… This conclusion is not limited to infants who, because of irreversible intellectual disabilities, will never be rational, self-conscious beings.
Singer’s views are considered radical by many and illicit outrage by some. I, of course, am among those who consider his viewpoint outrageous. However, I at least give him credit for being consistent with the argument supporting abortion.
In contrast to the view of Singer is the Christian view of human dignity. In the words of Al Mohler, whose blog alerted me to Singer’s comments:
Christians believe that every single human being possesses full human dignity because every human being is made in the image of God. A worldview that denies the existence of God and thus denies the reality of the image of God has to come up with some other explanation for human dignity — one that lacks essential dignity. Thus, in this worldview, the humans that are thought to deserve dignity are recognized as having it, while others are denied the same.
All I can do is say Amen to Al Mohler, Barry Carey. And I can say, keep this man away from your kids. Far away.