Alexander's Column

Singer's bestial ballad

Mark Alexander · May 11, 2001

“Adultery, incest, sex with children, sex with animals – arguing against any such sexual behavior becomes much more difficult once we decide that the notion of self-restraint is incoherent.” –Alan Keyes

Peter Singer, Princeton’s DeCamp Professor in the University Center for Human Values, was the recipient of our annual “Cultural Devolution” Award in the Federalist 00-19 Op-Ed, “Singer’s Sanctimonious Song,” for his position on killing children with birth defects. “Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all,” claimed Singer.

Last year, Singer expanded on that murderous theme, announcing that Americans have a “moral obligation” to kill the aged and infirm because they consume far too many of our medical resources.

Singer’s abortion and euthanasia “logic” descends from a rather convoluted set of rules which, when reduced to their simplest form, imply that personhood is a function of self-consciousness and awareness. Thus, he concludes, those who advocate for the unborn should be equally concerned with the lives of calves, pigs, and chickens, “for on any fair comparison of morally relevant characteristics, like rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, autonomy, pleasure and pain, and so on, the calf, the pig and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy–while if we make the comparison with a fetus of less than three months, a fish would show more signs of consciousness.”

Singer argues that to suggest any position to the contrary constitutes “speciesism,” the idea that human life is somehow more sacred than other animal life. (Undoubtedly he is an honorary chairman of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)

Singer does not, however, offer any argument for potentiality. After all, calves, pigs and chickens have the capacity to develop into, well, calves, pigs and chickens. Unborn children have the capacity to develop into, well, utilitarian academicians, who can expound on the properties of personhood at the nation’s higher institutions of learning.

Moving on to Singer’s argument for euthanasia, a multitude of lower life forms also have a greater degree of thus defined “personhood” than victims of Alzheimer’s disease, who have largely lost their sense of self-awareness.

But then comes the rub. As it turns out, Singer, heralded in a recent interview with the New Yorker as the “greatest living philosopher,” has a mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. She is, by his definition, no longer a “person.” Yet he has, at great personal expense, hired round-the-clock health care workers to care for her. Questioned about the fact he does not practice what he preaches, Singer declared: “I think this has made me see how the issues of someone with these kinds of problems are really very difficult. Perhaps it is more difficult than I thought before, because it is different when it’s your mother.”

“Perhaps it is more difficult than I thought before, because it is different when it’s your mother”? Feel free to re-read the preceding quote until you fully grasp its implications! Sometimes a single comment categorically betrays the boundless hypocrisy of the Left’s most celebrated illiterati. One can infer from Singer’s position on euthanasia that killing “defective” children is also different when it is your child!

Dr. Peter Berkowitz, a professor at George Mason University Law School and author of “Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism,” says of Singer’s revelation, “Although he strenuously denies that from the ethical point of view we ought to treat friends and family differently, Singer’s actions seems to proclaim that what is right and what is rigorous applies only to other people’s mothers.”

Now, Singer is back, claiming that “mutually satisfying activities” (such as sex) with animals, should be OK. (Has PETA seen this latest of Singer’s “ethical findings” – or maybe that is where Singer got the idea?) In his review of the book, “Dearest Pet: Bestiality,” after a detailed description of sex with chickens, Singer writes that “our physical similarities with other mammals…are so strong that the taboo on bestiality stems not from physical differences but from our desire to differentiate ourselves…from animals. Who has not,” he opines, “been at a social occasion disrupted by the household dog gripping the legs of a visitor and vigorously rubbing its penis against them? [I]n private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop.”

In the vein of Singer’s hypocritical stand on euthanasia – “it is different when it’s your mother,” we are left wondering, “is it different when it’s your puppy?”