Peter Singer has argued that cognitively devastated people should be used instead of chimps in pharmaceutical research and he has urged a court to impose on society personhood for chimps.
Why? Well, because he wants to destroy human exceptionalism. And what could accomplish that task better than “breaking the species barrier” (his term from the Great Ape Project) by making some animals legally and morally equivalent to people — thereby reducing us (and our self-perception) to just another animal in the forest.
But Singer doesn’t get into that, for obvious reasons, in his Daily News column on making chimps persons. Instead he invokes emotionalism. From “Chimpanzees Are People Too“:
“Tommy is 26 years old. He is being held in solitary confinement in a wire cage. He has never been convicted of any crime, or even accused of one. He is not in Guantanamo, but in upstate Gloversville. How is this possible? Because Tommy is a chimpanzee.”
The Nonhuman Rights Project has not sought to improve Tommy’s welfare. For example, they have not, despite my internet searches, called in the Gloversville animal welfare authorities to conduct an investigation as to whether Tommy’s living in unsanitary conditions and they have not donated anything to Tommy’s care.
If the law permits chimps to be kept in ways harmful to these magnificent animals, change the law to create proper care requirements. Singer does not promote this proper animal welfare approach. Instead, NHRP is using Tommy for its own ideological purposes, as an excuse to have a court rule that chimps are equivalent to human beings.
Singer simply asserts that chimps are persons because of their intelligence and supposed rudimentary moral sense. (He believes chimps have moral judgment – when in fact only humans have demonstrated that feature). He then invokes a complex straw man argument: Contrary to the caricatures of some opponents of his lawsuit, declaring a chimpanzee a person doesn’t mean giving him or her the right to vote, attend school or sue for defamation. It simply means giving him or her the most basic, fundamental right of having legal standing, rather than being considered a mere object. It would require that the chimpanzees have equal legal and moral standing in every way — which Singer conveniently forgets to mention.
That goal isn’t about improving their welfare and standards of care — fully in keeping with human exceptionalism — but rather, is aimed at destroying the unique value of human life. Singer then brings up an irrelevancy:
Over the past 30 years, European laboratories have, in recognition of the special nature of chimpanzees, freed them from research labs. That left only the United States still using chimpanzees in medical research, and last year the National Institutes of Health announced that it was retiring almost all of the chimpanzees utilized in testing and sending them to a sanctuary.
If the nation’s leading medical research agency has decided that, except possibly in very unusual circumstances, it will not use chimpanzees as research subjects, why are we allowing individuals to lock them up for no good reason? The chimp research decision — note that they can still be used in special cases — was based on animal welfare principles, not animal rights.
Then, the usual resort to judicial tyranny: It is time for the courts to recognize that the way we treat chimpanzees is indefensible. They are persons and we should end their wrongful imprisonment. No, how wrong can you be!
Note that Singer slyly uses the supposed abuse of Tommy to argue that we should not be able to use chimps at all. Ever. For any reason. But as I said, even that isn’t what the case is really all about. It’s just the pretext. For if some animals can be elevated to personhood, it also means some people will be demoted to non-personhood — essentially dehumanization, for which Singer has advocated for decades.
These and other concerted efforts to knock ourselves off the pedestal of exceptionalism are terribly misguided. The way we act is based substantially on what kind of being we perceive ourselves to be. Thus, if we truly want to make this a better and more humane world, the answer is not to think of ourselves as inhabiting the same moral plane as animals — none of which can even begin to comprehend rights. Rather, it is to embrace the unique importance of being human.
That is why rights should be seen as objectively intrinsic to our humanity. Cut to its core, personhood theory is actually about opening the door to treating some of us as less than human.
Singer is pro-infanticide: On page 186 of his book “Practical Ethics,” Singer opines that infants are “replaceable” and that a disabled baby can be killed to pave the way for a happier life for a sibling — even if that brother or sister hasn’t yet been born: When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him.
He holds similar views about the moral propriety of euthanizing “non-person” adults.
Singer supports using the disabled in medical experiments: In 2006, Singer enraged animal rights activists for justifying the use of monkeys in researching cures for Parkinson’s disease. But he would have said the same thing about using human “non-persons.” In fact, he often has. For example, when asked by Psychology Today about the benefits that chimps provided in developing the hepatitis vaccine, Singer said disabled humans should be used in such research instead. This line of thinking would open the door for using all human “non-persons” as lab rats, including the unborn, infants and people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease — perhaps even in place of the monkeys used in the Parkinson’s experiments.
Singer is pro-medical discrimination: Singer supports health care rationing, writing in the July 15, 2009, New York Times, “The debate over health care reform in the United States should start from the premise that some form of health care rationing is both inescapable and desirable. Then we can ask: What is the best way to do it?” Singer prefers the “Quality Adjusted Life Year” (QALY) approach that has been used for years by the United Kingdom’s socialized National Health Service. QALYs give greater value to the lives of the able-bodied and young than to people with disabilities and the elderly (which are “adjusted” down based on low “quality”) when determining whether the cost of a treatment is worth the price. And this is where he gets the definition of “non-person.”
It’s notable that ardent atheist and ‘ethicist’ Peter Singer is a staunch advocate of euthanasia for patients with Alzheimer’s (as well as infanticide and bestiality), but made an exception for his own mother. That is, he applied the Judeo-Christian ethic ‘honor your father and mother’ rather than his usual evolutionary ‘ethic’.