Guest / Limited Access /

I write this fresh from debating bioethicist Peter Singer on "Can we be moral without God?" at Singer's home campus, Princeton University. Singer is a mild-mannered fellow who speaks calmly and lucidly. Yet you wouldn't have to read his work too long to find his extreme positions. He cheerfully advocates infanticide and euthanasia and, in almost the same breath, favors animal rights. Even most liberals would have qualms about third-trimester abortions; Singer does not hesitate to advocate what may be termed fourth-trimester abortions, i.e., the killing of infants after they are born.

Singer writes, "My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others." Singer argues that even pigs, chickens, and fish have more signs of consciousness and rationality—and, consequently, a greater claim to rights—than do fetuses, newborn infants, and people with mental disabilities. "Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or dislike, than a fetus at 10- or even 32-weeks gestation. … The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy."

Some people consider Singer a provocateur who says outrageous things just to get attention. But Singer is deadly serious about his views and—as emerged in our debate—has a consistent rational basis for his controversial positions.

To understand Singer, it's helpful to contrast him with "New Atheists" like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. The New Atheists say we can get rid of God but preserve morality. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHow I Escaped the Mormon Temple
How I Escaped the Mormon Temple
After being in the LDS Church for 30 years, I began reading the New Testament. What was there shocked me.
TrendingWhat to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas
What to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas
(UPDATED) Charting how Lenten abstinence has changed over time, as 2016 data comes in.
Editor's PickGod's Place in Black History
God's Place in Black History
Looking to the past provides direction for the current fight for justice.
Christianity Today
Staring into the Abyss
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.