Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Like about Peter Singer

Peter Singer, the atheist ethicist who teaches at Princeton, just got disinvited from a philosophy conference in Cologne after this interview with a Swiss newspaper was published:
Neue Zuricher Zeitung: You do not consider an infant to be more worthy of protection than an embryo. On the other hand, you do not necessarily ascribe a higher status to humans than to animals.

Peter Singer: Belonging to the human species is not what makes it morally wrong to kill a living being. Why should all members of the species homo sapiens have a right to life, whereas other species do not? This idea is merely a remnant of our religious legacy. For centuries, we have been told that man was created in the image of God, that God granted us dominion over the animals and that we have an immortal soul.
NZZ: If you were standing in front of a burning house with 200 pigs and one child inside, and you could choose to save either the animals or the child, what would you do?
PS: At a certain point, the animals' suffering becomes so great that one should choose to save the animals over the child. Whether this point occurs at 200 or two million animals, I don't know. But one cannot let an infinite number of animals burn to save the life of one child…
NZZ: How about yourself: are you useful enough?
PS: Considering the influence I've had, my choice of profession is justified. I have motivated people to think about reducing animal suffering and helping people who live in extreme poverty…
NZZ: Would you go as far as to torture a baby if this were to bring about permanent happiness for the whole of mankind?
PS: This question is from Dostoevsky's "The brothers Karamazov"; Ivan poses it to his brother Alyosha. I may not be capable of doing it, as it is in my evolutionarily developed nature to protect children from harm. But it would be the right thing to do. Because if I didn't, thousands of children would be tortured in the future.
What I like about Peter Singer is that he is consistent in his beliefs.  Under atheism, there's no reason to treat humans with dignity: as he points out, this is the residue of Judaism and Christianity.  Most atheists seem either not to realize, or not to be willing to acknowledge, the logical implications of their worldview.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

If parallel universes exist then I believe there is some animal by the name Peter Singer either in a zoo or living as someone's pet in one of those universes. And due to quantum entanglement these two Peter Singers one from our world and the other in that parallel universe are influencing each other.