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Just don't do anything Peter Singer wouldn't do

Well, now. Peter Singer has gotten himself all indignant that Priests for Life raised and used private charitable dollars to snatch Baby Joseph from the Canadian health care system and bring him to the United States. That was expensive, and lots of other children whom Singer would prefer to help could have been helped with "that money" (or that same amount of money) instead, if only everyone in the world would do what Peter Singer wants them to do.

Let's think about this: If someone like Rachel Nyirahabiyambere is left in the hospital and given food and water on someone's dime other than hers, her insurance's, her family's, or charity's, the indignant tell us that the family has no right to commandeer other people's resources to "keep their mother alive." In the Baby Joseph case, the money is coming from willing donors, but...well...somehow, that's not good enough.

See, evidently Priests for Life and their willing donors aren't being "rational," as Singer would use that term, with their dollars. They weren't efficient. Baby Joseph is expensive and may well die anyway. You could offer lots of other babies help for the price of one Baby Joseph. What's not to love? How crazy are these Priests for Life anyway not to choose the bulk deal in baby-saving?

Singer's arrogant indignation is almost laughable. How dare people give their own money to the wrong charity to help the wrong child? How dare Priests for Life solicit their money for this purpose? How dare they use their money in a way that Peter Singer wouldn't use it? Perhaps we need a "charity czar" to make sure charity dollars are all spent according to Singer's utilitarian calculus. Oh, wait. It wouldn't be charity then.

Choice for the parents? Phooey on that. They shouldn't have a choice to do the "irrational" thing even if that choice is granted to them by willing private donors. "This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor."

Wesley J. Smith sums it up perfectly:

So, we see the real utilitarian agenda here. And we see the hollowness of Singer’s “preference” approach to utilitarian decision making. It isn’t parental empowerment. It isn’t family intimate decision making. Their “preferences” don’t matter in a futile care imposition. In other words, the consistent through line of Singer’s approaches is the death of disabled infants.

We don’t have to choose between caring for profoundly disabled individuals and helping children who can lead “healthy, happy lives.” In fact, such thinking reveals the profoundly bigoted heart that lurks within the passive prose of Singer’s utilitarian advocacy.

Related post here.

Comments (11)

Based on where their writings have been going, I predict that the Singers and Pinkers of the world are going to try and find a way to enforce their preferred utilitarian/egalitarian metric and disenfranchise those of us who believe in such superstitions as "rights" and "human dignity". It will start with a chorus of philosophers and others who will go around pretending that there is something analogous to the manifest image and the scientific image in the moral domain. Justice and fairness are the moral "scientific image"; the "rational and reasonable" moral considerations. Other things like intrinsic human dignity are the mere "manifest image"; the "superstitious and unreasonable" moral considerations. And, since the law only needs to pay respect to the "rational and reasonable" moral considerations, the rest can be relegated to the domain of "private personal conviction", meaning that you are free to believe it, but in doing so you become a legimate target for coercive intervention.

@Untenured: What's with the future tense? Considering the present situation, I'd suggest that you remain in the perfect. Sadly, this is how fast we are racing off the cliff.

Wasn't it Singer that poured in tons of money to keep his own mother alive?

Yes, I wonder if he despises himself for that...You never know. Maybe he does.

It's almost akin to the celebrity advocates for green conservancy. They and Singer are just the messengers. Conservation is what everyone else should do.

@Patrick: Well, not sure how far gone we are right now. I think a lot of liberals are stil content to remain at the stage of "you unreasonable people may not act as though your beliefs are true when they oblige you to prevent certain free choices of others when they meet criteria x,y,z...", while engaging in the usual pretence that x,y and z can be derived from some "neutral" procedural gimmick. How many of them have taken the next step to "we reasonable people may act as if our beliefs are true when thye oblige us to prevent your unreasonable free choices and associations" still seems up in the air. But you are definitely right that we are picing up speed rapidly.

Singer himself is still at the stage of tut-tutting about Priests for Life, but...

I'll certainly say this: Wherever and whenever they are given an edge in determining what choice will be open to you--e.g., if a Singerite is on the ethics committee of a hospital where you or your loved ones are cared for--they will force the choice they deem rational. All the talk about writing down your wishes will go to the wall if they aren't the right wishes, unless quaint old laws still in place make that impossible.

Like I am by most things that aren't centered on Christ, I am confused by secular scientists, doctors, authorities, etc who go in for this "bulk saving" approach. It doesn't seem to jive with their over-population fears.

In fact I simply don't see how one could practice healthcare except in a God-fearing context. Why in the world do they fight against "nature"?

It isn't surprising that there are eccentrics in the world with idiosyncratic opinions. What's surprising and terrifying is that they are respected by the establishment.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising. The post-Christian west has been slowly going mad for quite some time now. I wonder if we'll be surprised when they resume Aztec human sacrifice on the steps of the capitol building.

One other thing, Lydia. You raise the possibility that you might have to confront a "Singerite" on a hospital ethics committee who will force you to make the "rational" medical decision. Now, where else on the planet would you have to worry about confronting a Singerite? I don't mean "confront" in the sense of "engage with". I mean "confront" in the sense of "come into human contact with". I would wager that not .01 per cent of the human population accepts Singer's hedonistic utilitarianism. But I would bet dollars to donuts that at least 10 to 25 per cent, maybe more, of hospital ethics advisories are either outright Singerites or heavily influenced by Singer. This just shows, yet again, the extent to which a handful of politically determined freaks get to control all of our lives simply because they tend to gravitate towards politically and socially powerful institutions.

Untenured, I think you're right if we use the term "Singerite" in a strong sense. It's an interesting question though how representative at least some of his views are or are becoming in the populace at large. What I would guess is that it's a case of bending the stick. Singer is so extreme that his actual views probably don't have much currency. But by the same token, when these extreme views are taken seriously at the intellectual level, the entire society is pulled leftwards of where it was decades ago. A general utilitarianism, an idea that these are all "our" dollars and that it's "unfair" to use up more than one's "fair share" of "our dollars"--yeah, I think that's gaining traction after a long bout of sustained propaganda. Plus the "who would want to be kept alive like that" idea--getting pretty mainstream. When Terri Schiavo's case was in the news John Derbyshire made much of the fact that his wife looked at him over a meal and shook her head and said, "Why don't they just let that poor woman die?" This was supposed to be profound, I gather. What it really represented was just a shallow opinion formed by a heavily biased news media.

A lot of this is due to forces and events somewhat independent of Singer personally, though they are running on parallel tracks. The Cruzan decision was hugely influential, which is ironic considering that at the time it was considered something of a conservative victory. One ill-wrought sentence, and we were in big trouble. Once dehydrating people to death came to be considered a matter of "withdrawing medical treatment" rather than basic care (an idea that only really exploded in that very-late-eighties-early-nineties period in the courts), this influenced law and medicine in a whole host of ways.

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