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Peter Singer Cries Hypocrisy

John on February 20, 2006 at 12:15 pm

In what may be one of the dumbest things written by Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer (and that’s saying somthing), he decries the hypocrisy of the Bush administration for launching missile strikes at Al Qaeda safe-houses. Follow his logic here. If we’re willing to accept civilian casualties in a time of war, how can we not be willing to push for more stem cell research? As he puts it:

This consistent pattern of readiness to inflict civilian casualties – often when striking targets that are not of vital military significance – suggests that Bush and other pro-life American leaders have less concern for the lives of innocent human beings in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, than they have for human embryos.

With this reductio ad absurdum, we’re all supposed to see the vapid hypocrisy of the pro-life postiion. But as is often the case with Singer, his argument collapses under the weight of its own stupidity.

Singer’s argument is clearly aimed at legitimating one of his own pet causes: stem cell research. And yet, what does his charge of hypocrisy really accomplish in this regard? Are we to assume that what Singer wants is more respect for life in Pakistan? This would solve the hypocrisy problem, but it wouldn’t get him anywhere with regard to stem cell research. On the contrary, it would support the “culture of life” more consistently. Then what is Singer trying to say?

What Singer clearly wants is for us to accept the same utilitarian ethic in research as we do in war. If the President can accept collateral damage abroad, then why not at in the lab. In other words, Singer’s problem with the culture of life isn’t its hypocrisy but its existence. He brandishes the bodies of five dead children in Pakistan and talks about the value of life, but the position he’s arguing for is exactly the one that led to these children’s deaths, i.e. serve the greater good.

Beyond this, I think there is plenty of reason to be suspicous of the argument that civilian casualties in war are the same as using human embryos for research in the laboratory. There is a difference between aiming a missile at Al Qaeda’s #2 (who Singer dismisses as a militarily insignificant target) and generating human embryos so they can be carved up for what even Singer admits are speculative experiments.

Of course, carving up embryos is not an issue for someone who already accepts carving up unborn children up to the moment of birth. You have to give Singer this much, when it comes to promoting the culture of death, he’s no hypocrite.

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Category: Pro-Life |

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