April 11, 2007
April 13, 2007

April 12, 2007

A VOICE FOR DARFUR

Perhaps, if you live in the Kansas City area, you saw this story in The Star yesterday about Google Earth partnering with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to show people more about the human catastrophe in the Darfur section of Sudan. If you go the the Holocaust Museum site, you can download Google Earth and take a look. At any rate, this is more evidence that the Jewish community is among the most consistent voices on behalf of the people of Darfur. Why? Who else knows genocide so well?

* * *

THE VALUE OF LIFE, ROUND 2

I have a bit of an assignment for you today.

SingerThe other day here on the blog, I quoted 1920 words that presaged the Nazi move to do away with life that Hitler and other German leaders considered unworthy. Click here to read that.

In response, one reader asked how the disturbing words I quoted from Dr. Karl Binder differed from positions taken today by a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, Peter Singer (pictured here).

Well, I knew about Singer and some of his controversial writings about animal rights and the value of people with mental disabilities and so forth, but I haven't read enough of him to draw any firm conclusions on whether his positions differ markedly from the ideas that led to eugenics and other Nazi horrors.

However, in the "Frequently Asked Questions" of Singer's Web site, I did find some words that, though perhaps different in tone from Binder's, seem to suggest that it is possible for us not only to draw conclusions about the worthiness of an individual human's life but also to adopt policies that might lead to ending that life. But perhaps I'm reading too much into it.

For example, one question raised of Singer is this: "You have been quoted as saying, 'Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person.' Is that quote accurate?" The start of Singer's answer: "It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without understanding what I mean by the term 'person'. . . (K)illing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is a being who wants to go on living."

At any rate, my assignment for you today is to tell me what you know about Singer and his writings and indicate whether you think he's moved down the slippery slope of what we might call Binderism. If you have never read anything by Singer, spend a bit of time on his Web site today, especially in the FAQ section, and see what you think.

As I've said before, all religion worthy of the name insists that human life -- all human life -- is precious. The only serious argument is when such life begins. Once it's begun, however, religion insists it must be protected and even cherished.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

Comments

Corbin

I heard that Singer's mother was going through some difficult end of life medical issues. She was spending a lot of money which is contrary to Singer's utilitarian beliefs. When asked about how he could reconcile the discrepancy, he said, "Well, it is my mother!" Singer is a complete hypocrite under his own rubric for this and other reasons. The fact that he is taken seriously in academia makes me question whether we should take academia seriously.

Just Thinking

The judgment against which God speaks is determining the ultimate value of that life. Those who start down the path to determine relative value of life, whether one life is more value than another, are some of the most dangerous people in the world. History bears this out.

Once someone has judged that another is unworthy, less worthy, or just plain worthless and going to hell, then their actions reflect their sense of relative worth of an individual. It is God and God alone Who determines the value of life and He tells us (a) not to judge in this way unless we want to be judged the same way and (b) not to kill.

So many seem to have this need to decide the relative or absolute value of life. And yet it should be obvious to anyone that there is no simple criterion by which to make such a judgment. Attributing a simple-minded process of judgment to God is utterly repulsive, disgusting and contrary to the very notion of a just God, and is as close to blasphemy as anyone can come in this day and age. It defames the very nature of God, reducing Him to little more than a heartless, capricious idiot, the likes of which no one would want to be with or even tolerate for eternity. This is really a reflection of the small minds that concoct God in their own image.

kayceewolf

Singer may not be on the proverbial "slippery slope" himself, but I worry about those who come after him and use his research and ideas for their own ends.

To use the example of the Nazis (which seems a popular group to mention around here), where did the slippery slope that ended in the death camps begin? Was it with Nietzche and some of his philosophical ideas of the ubermensch that got morphed into the idea of a master race? Was it with the fledgling "science" of eugenics that paved the way for Nazis to "prove" that Aryans were superior to "defective" groups?

Singer's research and ideas are among ideas that get put forth every day in an academic setting. Accept them ... reject them ... prove or disprove them. The problem arises when those ideas leave the academic ivory towers. That's where the slippery slope begins.

*************
On an unrelated matter, I was saddened to hear today of the death of author Kurt Vonnegut. I discovered him in high school back in the '70s (not long after the dinosaurs died off for all you young bloggers) and have always cherished his books. His humor and insight - even though he could be a curmudgeon at times - reminded me of a 20th century version of Mark Twain.

Vonnegut claimed to be an atheist and was an unabashed humanist, but he had lots of insights into religion and morality. Here are a couple of his quotes:

"Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead."

"People don't come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God."

And finally, from Slaughterhour 5, the book that included his experiences as a German POW during the firebombing of Dresden, there's a phrase that's uttered throughout the book any time a character dies: "So it goes."

Dolores Lear

Until we reproduce Perfect Genetic Humans in a High Tech Womb, not many people Care about the runaway reproduction of over six billion Defective Humans made by Body Birth.
The USA went through the Eugenics of altering people also, in the early 1900s.

Arguing about when it is OK to kill a fetus, or alter people that receive defectvie Genetics, or when war is OK or not OK, and then letting children all over the planet suffer and be killed, by inhumanity, rape, and starvation is hyprocritical to me.

We need to accept the source of all this Killing Lifestyle.
Arguments religious and civil only accelerate killing, and our planet is throbbing with killing.
Even our Christian nation resorted to pre-emptive war, and are killing males, females, and children, and our action has caused many more innocent people to be killed by our supposed Brother/Sister enemy.
We need to accept the cause of why Humans kill Brother/Sister Humans, animals, fish and fowl, when we were put in charge of all Life, at the Colonization of our Home Planet.
Until the Mis-bred Killing Nature of Humans, that resulted from the Body Birth of Cain and all people since, is Overcome, Fallen Humans will finally kill their Planet Home with their trash, pollution, nuclear bombs and all the Life that was created 'in the beginning'. That is called the Last Days, Judgement Day of Humans and Life on Earth, in religion.
Is our Enemy really our Brothers/Sisters of Life? Why?

Dolores Lear

Until we understand the mystery of why Humans Kill all Life on Earth, we will continue arguing about morals and religion, and keep on Killing all Life on Earth and our Eco System.

Was it Satan, the Devil, the Snake or Unequal Genetic Body Birth, Inbred in Cain and all Humans since born by Body Birth?

What are other ideas of the Fall of Pure-bred Humans to the Mis-bred Human Killers we are today?
Can Eugenics explain this mystery of reproduction?

Keith

Corbin, you are HILLARIOUS! How appropriate for you to be a shyster-in-training.

Yesterday you dug up “Wilhelm Reich when he was dying of 3rd stage syphilaic insanity.” Reich died of a heart attack. There is no evidence he suffered from “tertiary syphilis” (the correct name of the condition), or the insanity or dementia associated with it, though the slur has floated around from his detractors, and would not be appropriate describing him at the time of the bulk if not all of his writings.

Today, it’s Peter Singer. You write, "I heard that Singer's mother was going thru some difficult end of life medical issues,” spent apparently more money than Peter would recommend.

You heard? From whom? A little birdie told you? I'm sure God, Jesus and the Pope all had better things to do than whisper in your ear. It’s Singer’s fault? How is that germane to the conversation? Or do you claim that the Catholic Church, in your not-so-humble opinion, teaches that the spending of the mother will fall on the son?

I heard Corbin's mom...(regrets having children?) Isn't that a fine statement, boy?

You'll do well practicing law or pursuing a career in conservative politics. You’re a cheap-shot artist, a slanderer, a maligner, an obfuscator.

No wonder there are so many derogatory jokes about lawyers.

Just Thinking

Kayceewolf,

Thanks for Vonagut quotes.

"Where did the slippery slope that ended in the death camps begin?"

It began, according to Hitler in Mein Kampf, with blaming others for his failures. He wanted to be involved in Art and Literature, but his stuff was never accepted. He erroneously concluded that the erotic and deviant Jewish Art and Literature of the time was why he could not compete. It was their evil depravity that game them this edge. This, after all, is the only reason Hitler could not have succeeded!

Soon he villianized the Jews and decided they were to blame for all of society's ills, and that they were all evil and depraved. He even wrote that no German could be held responsible for what they did to combat these people because of how evil and detestable they were in the sight of God. That's the point at which their lives became worth less. Sound like a familiar theme, Kayceewolf?

I think it almost always comes by judging the person to be evil inside, whether overtly assuming their heart and thoughts are evil, or covertly by deciding that they will burn in hell. Either way there is a determination that they are worth less. It's all downhill from there.

Patricia

I don't have the impression that Singer is as much negating the worth of a baby's life, as he is saying that the baby doesn't have a level of consciousness that is equal to an older child or adult. His work reads to me that parents, therefore, need to provide the consciousness in making life and death decisions. And he supports euthanasia, which is just a means to a kinder and gentler death for people who choose it.

Understand that most of this is a response to medicine's artificial means of prolonging life.

Anyone who has had a loved one that has suffered to death while on machines, can recognize the affirmation of life in a death with dignity. This isn't an easy subject and there are not easy answers.

In my own case, I had a father who suffered mightily during the last three months of his life. He was on a respirator and eventually dialysis. He couldn't be administered the higher levels of pain medication, because it would affect the breathing and essentially bring on more pain. So he begged daily(without being able to speak) to be allowed to die. His sister, my aunt, told me outrightly that I needed to pull plugs when the doctors and staff were out of the room. Or that she would do it, if I would leave. In the end, he died during a rare period of time when I left the hospital. I will never know if some hospital worker took pity on him and stopped the respirator. How much better it would have been to have gathered all his family around and allow professionals to stop the pain and give him the peace of death.

Corbin

Wow Patricia,

I can't imagine going through that. I think you are right about Singer's definition of person-hood.

Patricia

As far as slippery slopes. It seems to me a much more slippery slope to proclaim a fetus an independent life from conception. It can't help but lead to the negation of life. In this case, the fully conscious life of the mother.

Corbin

Keith,
Thanks for coming out of the Orgone Box and helping us out. I looked it up and even the wikipedia picked up the story of his mother. I do believe Reich had syphilis when he was doing crazy things like making a gun to fight off aliens and create rain. What is your excuse? Remember, just because the sore goes away, you are not safe. Penicillin my friend, Penicillin! I know a good MD in KC, totally confidential.

I really don't know much about Singer but I had heard that story which from my limited understanding sounds hypocritical.
We can talk about his endorsement of infanticide if you'd like Keith but it might not promise an angry bitch fest for you.

"You'll do well practicing law or pursuing a career in conservative politics. You’re a cheap-shot artist, a slanderer, a maligner, an obfuscator."

Thanks again Keith, you are always so helpful. I now know that I am a pernicious "obfuscator." How I have tarnished my name. It'd kind of be like posting obscenities on metacafe.com on soft porn clips using my email handle. But you wouldn't know anything about that would you buddy?

Corbin

Patricia,

Isn't that the issue though? How do we define a person? It seems to me if one doesn't believe in a soul, then you could really say a person is a person at arbitrary points. But if there is a soul, then the person's identity is already there so personhood at conception, I believe, would be a natural conclusion. The slippery slope that is so dangerous to me isn't the "when" it is the "what."

Patricia

A soul is a completely religious construct. If we are religious and believe in a soul, then beliefs can vary from that soul existing in the universe for eternity and going in and out of bodies, or entering the body at some point in time. There are religions that believe that the soul of an individual does not enter the body until the feet touch the ground: in other words, when a child is capable of walking.

Most religions agree on one thing: that the soul is indestructible. Destroy the body and you do not destroy the soul. Many religions also agree that the soul without the body is in a perfect state, often in the presence of God and Heaven or a Heaven-like construct.

Church laws can be based on teachings regarding the soul. Secular law cannot. Otherwise we are into arguing the many permutations of a faith-based construct like the soul. However, secular law can deal with consciousness, pain, and a general state of being. Like brain death or a fatal disease. We can come to humane laws that allow each person to live a life guided by their own religion and definition of the soul. That precludes, however, our foisting those beliefs on others.

Patricia

Again, once you define the unconscious state of a fetus as superceding the consciousness of a woman, you have begun a roll down the slippery slope. From there, you are back to other diminutions of the woman. We go backward in history and recreate her position as a lesser being in the universe.

Corbin

I agree with some of your initial points Patricia. But I don't think that the soul is a purely religious construct.

"That precludes, however, our foisting those beliefs on others."

Well, I don't know about that, maybe if I was taking a purely "negative freedom" stance. Even consciousness is tricky. Science changes and can't answer all things. To 1 minute old conceived babies have souls yet? Who knows really? But if they do, then they are people so I think it is better at that stage to defend the life rather than leave it open. (It is definitely alive whether you see it with a soul or not.)

End of life issues are tougher. We just passed up the anniversary of Terri Schiavo starving to death.
The real evil with Singer is his utilitarianism that under-girds everything. Once you go that route, you really confine morality not to individual human action but to the aggregate pleasure of all involved.

Corbin

Patricia,
That was unfair, I wasn't talking about consciousness. Consciousness doesn't really mean anything to me in this debate. I am talking about life not about individual perceptions of it.


"We go backward in history and recreate her position as a lesser being in the universe."

Whatever, helping a woman to respect life inside of her is to her benefit. Post-abortive depression is a real problem in America and we are better for having groups like Rachel's Vineyard around to help people cope with murdering their child.

Keith

"I do believe Reich had syphilis..."

Your belief does not make it so. Just like my belief that the earth is flat does not make it so.

Substantiate your claims, including that Reich suffered from tertiary stage syphilis, and explain how that influenced his writings and work.

Or play lawyer and try to change the subject.

Have you ever dealt with life and death issues in behalf of someone incompetent or unable to speak for himself or herself or make their own decisions? I don't think you have the maturity to comprehend it.

As for the Wiki article, I read the ENTIRE article, trying to put actions and comments in full context of a situation I’m familiar with, and I disagree with your interpretation.

Patricia

Of course the soul is a purely religious construct. It is an entity that cannot be proven by science. It can only be "proven" via belief.

Consciousness is, indeed, tricky. But here we have things like science and brain waves and machines that can measure brain activity to give us some pretty good information regarding the state.

Schiavo was a complicated case but, ultimately, it was about WHO made the decisions to artificially keep a body alive that had lost consciousness or the capacity for same.

Patricia

Oh, please. Women do not need YOU to make decisions for poor little them, so as to save them from themselves. Any ramifications from an abortion are something that a conscious and grown woman can assess for herself. They don't need you and others to do it for them.

Corbin

Keith,
"Substantiate your claims, including that Reich suffered from tertiary stage syphilis, and explain how that influenced his writings and work."

I'll go and find the doctor's note on Reich. It might take awhile with all those sexy metacafe vids to watch.

I didn't make any claims about his work, I was just talking about how crazy he was in the end and how his insanity bore many of the effects of syphilis especially his grandiose ideas about aliens and his fraudulent orgone boxes. Look at the symptoms of late stage syphilis and balance that with the man's lifestyle. It is a conclusion that I make based on circumstantial evidence which is not direct, but certainly relevant.


"I disagree with your interpretation."

Good for you, do I detect a civil tone?

"I don't think you have the maturity to comprehend it.

Oops, maybe not.

Well Kgummy, you know me so well. And being a person who exhibits such maturity here, I know that you would be the right guy to determine that. I have actually been pretty involved with some "right to die" issues. They are tough and I don't think anyone has all the answers. You might be an expert... oh wait, here is a better question, "what aren't you an expert in Keith?" I can't imagine there is much.


Jenkins

Perhaps I'm confused, but I'm getting the impression that people are trying to legitimize infanticide.

Patricia

No. That's a twist. There are advocates of euthanasia and an attempt to come up with some guidelines outside of religious doctrine.

Corbin

Patricia,

I am not going to decide it for them. But I think it is interesting that even early term abortions can have disastrous effects upon women physically and psychologically.

Oh right, but we have to bow to science. Science is all that we can really know. I wouldn't have taken you for an empiricist Patricia. Have you ever read T. Kuhn on scientific revolutions? I did in college and it really tarnished my view of the benefits of scientific inquiry. A professor of the philosophy of science once told me, "Science is a whore. We use it for what it can give us and then move on without remembering it." Also, have you ever read "After Virtue" You might like it.

Corbin

Patricia,

How do you define "consciousness?"

Patricia

Your argument is essentially that Catholic beliefs regarding the soul or consciousness must govern the actions of others.

My argument is that, in order to provide freedom of religion in this country, we have to find some non-religious means to provide a basis for decisions like abortion and euthanasia. The clearest cut means that can provide you the ability to live by your religious laws and me to live by mine is usually science.

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