Thursday, November 11, 2010

Philosopher of Despair

Princeton philosopher Peter Singer denies the humanity of people with special needs.

In his 1975 Animal Liberation, he argued that highly aware animals are owed more respect and protection than mentally-challenged humans.

Singer claims that babies "are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons ... The life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee." He teaches that it is permissible to take human life if the person lacks awareness, such as the mentally disabled.

Under Singer's influence, the Spanish government has enacted The Great Ape Project. Henceforth in that corner of the world, apes (gorillas, chimps and orangutans) will enjoy greater rights than humans. For example, from the moment of conception, abortion and fetal experimentation are now illegal. He permits such procedures and experimentation on humans.

The original promoter of the law, a socialist government of a nation with no indigenous apes, The Great Ape Project director said: "This will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades."

The Director believes he himself evolved from these comrades. That's why apes have been granted standing in Spanish courts. No human can kill them, except in self-defence. They cannot be used in circuses, movies, or television commercials. Experiments on great apes are now outlawed, even though there is no evidence of any being carried out.

Should apes in Spain be granted the vote and allowed to run for office? Why not? Then the government and their evolutionary kin may concoct more freedoms, such the right to swing from trees into parliament. As they are higher on the evolutionary ladder, apes should officiate at bullfights.

Speaking of which, this beneficence of rights does not extend to horned animals. Bull taunting in Pamplona, and the wholesale slaughter in bullrings continues unabated, more than 7,000 annually. The government does not want to lose those tourist dollars. No one visits Spain to see non-existent apes. This government knows when to rise above principle.

Singer has acquired a Princeton bioethics professorship from which he claims that, as ours should be the last generation of human life, we can party ourselves to death, that concern for human life is "medieval". [To use "medieval" as a pejorative, indicates limited historical knowledge.]

Nothing new in all this. The nihilist opinion of Benatar and Singer -- that life is not worth living -- has slithered down through the ages. In the 11th century, Syrian philosopher Abdul Ala Al-Ma'rri recommended that no children should be begotten, so as to spare them the pains of life. In the 18th century, the Marquise du Deffand complained that the only misfortune was to have been born. Certain overly-sensitive people are still with us, distorting young minds.

The Great Ape Project administrators intend to spread their compassion. "We are seeking to break the species barrier," the manager states. By equating himself to an ape, he is well on the way to that noble aspiration.

Letter to The Globe and Mail, August 14, 2011. Unpublished 

Professor Peter Singer speaks of "the moral gulf" humans have dug between ourselves and the animal world (A planet for all apes, Aug. 13). Humans did not dig any gulf, moral or otherwise. Nature put it there. Any attempt to blur or bridge it, a chasm actually, is wrong. It is a form of self-loathing.

Yes, some animals behave in some respects like humans, and others can be taught to imitate human actions. And the DNAs may be close.  That does not justify comparing humans with "our closest non-human relatives," as Singer describes apes. He may consider apes his relatives. I do not.

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