January 27, 2013
Peter Singer's Infanticide at Princeton University
There is some trivia about Princeton University that many people are not aware of. When I ask someone, "Did you know that Princeton University has helped to support infanticide and bestiality for the past 14 years?" - there is usually a look of disbelief. Many Americans have a difficult time accepting the fact that a practicing professor at Princeton University, Peter Singer, would be able to promote such activities as infanticide and zoophilia, also known as bestiality, there at that institution. This goes to show how much America has changed and how out of touch many people are with these changes. My father is a Princeton alumnus of 1953 who regularly receives the PAW alumni news, but he is neither familiar with Singer nor aware of the passionate protests that surrounded his appointment.
The motto of Princeton is "Under God's Power She Flourishes", and, obviously, the moral code of Princeton today is much different from the theistic moral code envisioned by its founders. The low moral condition of this Ivy League university helps to underscore that the US is experiencing a severe moral crisis of values in this generation. Singer is considered a distinguished Ira W. DeCamp Professor at Princeton and has been serving there for 14 years. In a 2009 Daily Princetonian article, "Peter Singer reflects on a decade at Princeton", the official opinion of the leadership at the university was noted: "Despite the controversy, those responsible for hiring Singer stand by their choice."
The extreme ethical opinions Singer holds are not private but are intrinsic to his formal academic teaching. Thus, it's not just Singer who is promoting infanticide and bestiality, but Princeton University is also promoting these examples of dehumanizing and extreme moral relativism. How did Princeton University come to the place where it helps to promote such illegal activities? A broad look at history helps to explain how.
I've noticed that some secular atheists become extremely offended and upset when you use words such as "promoting" and "infanticide" as though I am offering some types of misnomers. I'm not. We have dictionaries to help us understand the objective definitions of words and how they should be used in society. And we have quotes by individuals which can be matched against such definitions.
II. Peter Singer quotes in context
III. Criminality of infanticide and bestiality in the US
IV. Destructiveness of moral relativism in history
Webster's definition of "promotion"
1: the act or fact of being raised in position or rank : preferment
2: the act of furthering the growth or development of something; especially : the furtherance of the acceptance and sale of merchandise through advertising, publicity, or discounting
Peter Singer quotes in context
The plain meanings of Peter Singer quotes in the context of his book Practical Ethics and in interviews (as we'll see) reveal that he affirms that medical "infanticide" is ethically "permissible" with regard to the happiness of others. Because legal, medical infanticide is something that would necessarily have to be condoned by the state and officially institutionalized as a medical convention, it is quite appropriate to say that Singer is promoting this activity.
In affirming that Princeton University stands by the controversial teachings of Peter Singer without reservation, and continues to hold him in high esteem as a professor, Princeton is helping to promote the views and opinions of Singer on a vast scale as an educator. As mentioned, Singer's extreme views are intrinsic to his academic lessons, they are not just personal.
Webster's definition of "infanticide"
1: the killing of an infant
2: [Late Latin infanticida, from Latin infant-, infans + -i- + -cida -cide] : one who kills an infant
As you can see, the definition of infanticide is very general. It does not address whether or not the act is considered murder or whether or not an infant is considered a person. Thus, it's wide scope allows its use with regard to all these various nuances.
II. Peter Singer quotes in context
The next question is, "Does Peter Singer actually advocate the killing of infants?" Yes, and in the most straightforward manner possible. There is no misconstruing, no taking words out of context. Read for yourself. In an interview FAQ of Peter Singer published by Princeton, there is a section entitled, "The Sanctity of Human Life" in which Singer clearly offers why he believes human life is not in any way sacred and why killing a human infant is morally acceptable in his view:
Q. You have been quoted as saying: "Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all." Is that quote accurate?
A. It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without an understanding of what I mean by the term “person” (which is discussed in Practical Ethics, from which that quotation is taken). I use the term "person" to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.
Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection - but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely."
Notice that infanticide is not considered murder in Singer's view if the newborn is not considered a person. Singer calls such killings "terrible" but not immoral. Singer states that taking a baby's life may be considered more humane than letting it live in certain cases.
Scott Klusendorf, Director of Bio-Ethics at Stand to Reason, describes Singer's arguments for infanticide as a "bold defense" of infanticide. Klusendorf quotes Practical Ethics where Singer specifically uses the word infanticide and describes under what specific considerations he would consider it ethically viable: “We should certainly put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide, but these conditions might owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to the intrinsic wrongness of killing an infant.” (p.154 per Google Books version) Singer describes how subjective happiness should be used as a basis for such decisions: “When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed." For those secularists who become incensed when people label Singer as "pro-infanticide" consider what he just stated. Promoting strict conditions for permissible infanticide is promoting infanticide under strict conditions.
A number of questions arise with regard to Singer's views. For example, "Who has the authority and right to decide when to take a human life and why?" Using subjective qualifications such as the overall happiness is obviously open for abuse. Other questions, "Why is there an urgent need to change the historical definition of a human person?" and "What objective basis does Singer offer as a reason for requiring this change and helping to create a dehumanizing society?" I've pointed out why Singer's logic and approach towards ethics are inherently flawed in another article.
III. Criminality of infanticide and bestiality in the US
With respect to present law, bestiality is illegal in most US states. But Singer does not find it morally objectionable, as noted when Singer describes the sexual advances of an orangutan on a woman: "The potential violence of the orangutan's come-on may have been disturbing, but the fact that it was an orangutan making the advances was not." His view is based on a secular concept known as "speciesism" and quotes in context clearly confirm his position.
With respect to historical laws, the Infanticide Acts of 1922 in England and 1939 in Ireland abolished the death penalty for women who killed their newborns because emotional and psychological problems were considered to be heightened while giving birth.
In the history of the US, the US Constitution has always been considered to be a protection to any living human being. However, abortion practices led to a clarification regarding infants, The Born Alive Act came into law in 2002, as noted:
"In 1999 a gruesome discovery was made that an IL hospital was shelving babies to die in a soiled utility room who had survived their abortions.
The federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act was introduced in 2000 to provide legal protection to all born babies, wanted or not, including the right to medical care. In 2002, Born Alive passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and by overwhelming voice vote in the House. On August 5, President George W. Bush signed the bill into law."
Barack Obama has opposed the Induced Infant Liability Act and has repeatedly voted against requirements and restrictions intended to stop what opponents label "born alive" abortions. He also voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and, guess what, one of the contingencies of the NDAA document that Obama signed allowed for bestiality in the US military to become legally acceptable. The fact that the US population voted such a man into presidency for a second term underscores the fact that the US truly is in a state of moral decay.
The antiabortion group Susan B. Anthony List released a video with a testimony from failed-abortion survivor Melissa Ohden, who said, “I was aborted and my body discarded like I didn’t exist. But a nurse heard me crying and cared enough to save my life.” Her living testimony helps to put this issue into perspective.
Though there is an emotional aspect to hearing a woman designated for infanticide speak out, according to present US law and the Born Alive Act, it's not merely an emotional issue, it's very much a legal one as well. It is technically illegal to kill a newly born human in the US today and therefore this act is legally defined as murder:
Webster's definition of "murder"
1. murder: the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought
That is a common-usage definition of murder. The legal definition of murder specifically focuses on the legality or illegality of the act.
1. According to the legal definition of murder and homicide, a key question is whether or not a specific act of killing is legal.
2. It is presently illegal in the US to either passively allow an infant to die or to actively take measures to kill a living infant.
3. Now matter how you define it, Peter Singer is advocating either actively or passively taking the life of an infant.
4. Therefore, according to the legal definition of murder and homicide, Peter Singer is advocating murder.
The following is a key aspect regarding the legal definition of murder in the US:
"A person commits the crime of murder if with intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of that person or of another person, or under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to a person other than himself, and thereby causes the death of another person."
The following is a key aspect regarding the legal definition of murder in Canada:
"A person commits culpable homicide when that person causes the death of another human being:
by means of an unlawful act;
by criminal negligence;
by causing that human being, by threats or fear of violence, or by deception, to do anything that causes the death of that human being;
if that human being is a child or sick person, by willfully frightening that human being."
In Singer's home country Australia, his views and teachings also advocate murder, according to the legal definition of murder in Australia:
"The basic principle of murder involves two overarching components: the act or omission causing death (actus reus), as well as intention and recklessness (mens rea)."
Peter Singer has been considered an antinatalist. The definition of Antinatalism is the philosophical position that assigns a negative value to birth, standing in opposition to natalism.
Whether you want to call it Antinatalism, infanticide, child euthanasia or humanitarian mercy killing, what Singer and Princeton are promoting is illegal and is technically murder. It is not legal today in the US to take an infants life, no matter how kind your intentions may be. Therefore, both Singer and Princeton University are technically promoting murder.
IV. Destructiveness of moral relativism in history
The claim that a living, breathing human being is not necessarily a person is an extreme position. The claim that a living, breathing human being may be killed because it is not a person is an extreme form of moral relativism. This is true even if the reasoning behind such claims and teachings is couched in humanitarian rhetoric. The claim that sex with animals is morally and ethically acceptable is also an example of extreme moral relativism. A theistic bioethicist, Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ph.D., described a 2002 debate with Singer and stated, "He tended to play down his radicalism, and only under questioning did it become clear. " Princeton did not organize the event, but “The Center for Bioethics and Culture” together with the “Life Legal Defense Foundation" were instrumental in doing so. As noted, "The crowd heavily favored the less controversial viewpoint that Cameron defended. His condemnation of legal euthanasia in Netherlands and in the state of Oregon was met with applause."
America once flourished, as the Princeton motto offers, because America in many respects was founded based on time-tested and pure theistic ideas and principles. Extreme moral relativism, however, is destructive to society and will inevitably lead towards the establishment of a totalitarian state. There are logical reasons why this is so. And, though correspondence does not necessarily imply causation, it may be pointed out that the US was once a top, flourishing economic nation and presently the US is not even in the top ten list of the most prosperous countries in the world.
The US seems to be in state of moral crisis. So, how did Princeton University and society in general come to the place where it helps to promote such dehumanizing and illegal activities? It's a fact that there are historical cycles of moral righteousness and moral decline and that the types of practices that Princeton is promoting today are the same types of practices that morally debased Canaan had practiced in ancient history. They also practiced bestiality and infanticide. When it comes to basic questions about philosophy and life, there is nothing really new under the sun. And, according to the big picture of history, America is experiencing the same kind of moral crisis ancient cultures have experienced when they have rejected the wisdom of the knowledge of God.
The paradox of transcendent reality is that we cannot see it, yet, there is a lot of evidence that it not only exists, but that the physical universe is completely dependent upon this unseen transcendent reality. This is evident when you objectively consider the facts regarding quantum mechanics, the organizing principle of the universe, the fact that time and the universe had a beginning. These are some of the scientific and logical issues that cannot be adequately and logically reconciled based upon a materialist worldview. The existence of a transcendent reality offers a more logical and viable explanation than a materialistic one. Perhaps this is why top secular academicians tend to eschew debate with knowledgeable theists and tend to run in the opposite direction when a debate challenge is offered.
For the secularists who become so offended by the word "infanticide" it may be helpful to ask yourselves why you become so offended. If there is no sacred human exceptionalism, as Singer offers, then why get upset? Fish kill and eat other fish. Mammals will often kill and eat other mammals and no one seems to mind. But, if this does make you deeply upset, consider the possibility that humans do actually have a very unique moral situation and a unique moral reference point. Maybe objective values do exist after all and there is a reason why you sense that the taking of an innocent human life is wrong after all. In that case, consider what the existence of objective moral truth implies. Briefly perusing through the faculty blogs of Princeton, I noticed there are no blogs at Princeton devoted to philosophy by which the ideas of Peter Singer might be challenged in an open forum. This is not surprising. If anyone would like to publicly discuss or debate the ideas mentioned at my blog, I welcome it.
(article updated 03/11/13)
Tags: troubling trivia of US moral condition, Peter singer quotes on infanticide and bestiality, Singer apologist for infanticide, Singer's extreme moral relativism, Peter Singer pro-infanticide, Princeton infanticide, The moral decline of the US, America's moral crisis, historical cycles of moral highs and lows, dehumanizing moral relativism, Nigel M. de S. Cameron debate with Singer, legal definition of murder in US, Singer: killing of infants justified based on perceived need for future happiness in the family