End of life decisions

Such titles always bring euthanasia to my mind, but I realise that is my perspective – I am just so much close to the problem of dying with dignity than I am to problems related to death and quality of life at the initial stages of life. But I recently came across this blog post – Why Infanticide Can Be Moral – which got me thinking. This issue is actually very relevant to young parents and parents to be.

The author, Tauriq Moosa – a tutor in ethics, bioethics and critical thinking at the University of Cape Town – wrote it as an introduction to a series of articles he is doing on the morality of infanticide. As we might expect, several commenters reacted very emotionally to his raising the subject of infanticide. In this introduction he tries to reduce the emotion by explaining why he thinks “it’s moral, in certain cases, to ‘let’ an infant die or deliberately end its life humanely.”

“Child euthanasia” more appropriate

Like euthanasia, this is a morally difficult subject, but nevertheless one that many people have to confront. Especially young parents and medical professionals. The word “infanticide’ is really so tainted as to make it inappropriate here and “child euthanasia” is probably more appropriate.

These days many researchers into human morality stress the intuitional basis and emotional nature of morality. That we all react quickly, and emotionally, to moral situations – far too quickly for any reasoned processing of the issues. Reasoning usually comes later when we rationalise our behaviour to provide reasons for it. In some cases I think the researchers’ concentration on the emotional and intuitional nature of morality underplays the role that reason must play in some of our moral decisions.

Surely end of life decisions are the very situations when we, especially parents and relatives, must make rational decision based on careful reasoning, rather than knee jerk reactions based on dogma, emotion and social pressure. And society at large sometimes has to take part in such reasoned decision-making because of their involvement in producing and approving laws related to euthanasia, assisted suicide, child euthanasia and capital punishment.

I don’t doubt that medical professionals sometimes must make decisions not to intervene, and therefore allow a new-born child to die, because they recognise he or she has no prospects for a proper life. In other cases where intervention would still result in very limited prospects of life, or a life of any quality, I imagine parents would, or should, be involved in such decisions.

Examples that come to mind are the condition of spina bifida which require an operation on the new born infant to close the spine. In some cases the existing damage to to the baby may be so great as to morally justify non-intervention. A tragic decision but a morally justified one.

Dismissing the ethics out-of-hand

The ethics of end of life decisions potentially concern us all. But especially they concern those professionally involved. So, of course, this is a proper subject for philosophers specialising in ethics. Peter Singer, an Australian moral philosopher, has written at some length on this subject. His arguments, which relate to other sentient animals as well as humans, are certainly worth considering – even if one doesn’t agree with all of them. After all, this is a difficult but important subject. We need to discuss it. And the arguments of such an important contributor should not be dismissed out-of-hand, or judged dogmatically or irrationally.

After all, if a commenter attacks Singer for rehearsing the issues, they are also effectively attacking the parents and medical professionals who must do the same and are far more emotionally involved.

But that is what happens for some people. I have noticed a tendency for Christian apologists to misrepresent and attack Singer.They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants. They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust rather than an ethicist seriously considering the issues faced by parents and medical professionals considering the morality of intervening to save the life of a seriously damaged infant and the consequent repercussions.

Mind you – I think people like Peter Singer and Tauriq Moosa could defuse their opponents somewhat by using the more correct term “child euthanasia” and not “infanticide” – with its connotations of murder and crime.

Singer as a diversion

Lately I have noticed that religious apologists resort to attacking Singer for his “advocacy of infanticide” as diversionary tactic. Specifically when the Christian apologist William Lane Craig is criticised for his justification of biblical genocide, ethnic cleansing and infanticide using “divine command” ethics (see Concern over William Lane Craig’s justification of biblical genocide).

Specifically Craig justifies the biblical infanticide by saying:

“I would say that God has the right to give and take life as he sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture.”

Of course, there is plenty in the bible which can be used by a literalist to justify all sorts of evil.  And that is a real problem for advocates of “divine command ethics.” They don’t help themselves with the mental gymnastics they have to perform to claim that the evil is actually good because it was commanded by a “loving and just god” who could not order anything evil!  Or that this “killing brings about some greater good.” Or that Craig’s view is that his god’s command was “to drive the inhabitants out of the land (land to which the Israelites had legal title), with only the die-hard occupants who refused to leave being killed.” And anyway his god was commanding destruction of “the nations as a collective group, not to destroy every individual.”

Now I think “infanticide” is an appropriate word to describe what Craig was justifying. This was ethnic cleansing, the denial of the right to life based on ethnicity of the children. Craig was justifying behaviours more typical of a death camp commander in the Holocaust than that of a moral philosopher considering the issues faced by young parents and medical professionals when new-born infants face certain or likely death with little chance of intervention enabling a reasonable quality of life.

Perhaps we will yet see Holocaust deniers resorting to attacking Peter Singer as a diversion.

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133 responses to “End of life decisions

  1. I find both Craig’s and Singer’s ethics disturbing, and I think for the same reason. Both have started off with a strong stance and then argued from that stance to its logical conclusion. Craig has had to accept that genocide is sometimes OK because of his assumptions that (i) god is good (ii) god commanded genocide (iii) a good being only commands good things … or however you want to formulate it. Now a sensible person… even a sensible Christian… might at this point pause and think… hmmm… if my assumptions lead to the conclusion that genocide is sometimes good maybe one of my assumptions is wrong? There are several ways to go, the most acceptable to Christians is perhaps that God did not actually command this after all and that it is an ancient people putting words into God’s mouth to justify their own evil.

    Singer starts off with a strong form of utilitarianism and ultimately concludes that forms of infanticide are justified (and I don’t think euthanasia is the right word, because many of the people he justifies killing are not in great pain, but would cause suffering (so he thinks) to others. Eg. down syndrome children are not in the sort of agony which is usually used to justify euthanasia). Now if your utilitarianism leads to the conclusion that killing down syndrome children is sometimes OK – then again, like Craig, Singer should probably look at his assumptions and conclude that he must have gone wrong somewhere.

    The conscience must be used as a check and balance against your ethical theories, and even a check and balance against logic and reason. If your reason leads you to conclude that genocide or murdering children is OK, and your conscience is not capable of correcting this then is this not what we call pychopathy?

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  2. Max, I think it is entirely appropriate to argue: “Singer should probably look at his assumptions and conclude that he must have gone wrong somewhere.”. And he might say the same for you. The point is that this area is extremely difficult morally. Often decisions have to be made and we could end up arguing for yonks over whether they were “right” or “wrong.” Welcome to the real world.

    So good faith debate us normal and essential.

    I think we must differentiate between euthanasia and infanticide. One relates to suffering and quality of life and can be based on empathy and love. The other is a political act usually based on racism and hatred. Craig uses his god to justify that but he is in no way talking about euthanasia.

    Matt confuses euthanasia and infanticide, love and hate, because he is imply attempting a diversion to take the heat off Craig.

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  3. Yes that’s for the welcome… been living here a while. But the vast majority of people know in their heart that killing down syndrome children is wrong. Even Singer when interviewed admits that he finds the idea repugnant but has to accept the conclusion because that is where his philosophy leads him. This attitude (which he shares with Craig) is troubling.”=

    II agree that euthanasia relates to quality of life – but the problem is that for Singer it is not the quality of life of the child which is his concern, but the quality of life of the parents, the tax payer, and everyone else who gets put into his utilitarianism equation. The result is that a child can be killed, even if that child is not suffering at all, if it will reduce the suffering of the parents. This is infanticide and not euthanasia.

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  4. Max, that’s not how I interpret Singer. He does consider quality of life for the child as well. It’s probably more a matter if where boundaries should be ethically, or even legally, established. And I suspect that some people are attributing to him views which he is actually basing on other specific viewpoints.

    I am not aware, and not really interested in, Craig’s ethical views on issues like spina bifida and Down’s syndrome.

    However, it’s not my job to defend Singer’s specific arguments. Particularly as he is a philosopher and such arguments, in my view, often get divorced from reality. And I am sure I would disagree with him on some matters – at least in the details. Just that he is at least contributing to a good faith discussion of a real and tragic moral issue many of us have to face. That is legitimate.

    But it is disingenuous of Matt to use Singer as a diversion from a quite different moral issue of infanticide (murder of innocent children) and ethnic cleansing.

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  5. Yes: “as well”. I don’t disagree with that. But which part in specific do you disagree with?I do completely agree that the arguments get divorced from reality. But Singer knows this too. I think his arguments are interesting, and I do not even think they are flawed given his starting point.

    I think what Singer says is absolutely irrelevant to assessing Craig’s views and vice versa. So if Matt has indeed tried to play one off against then it is going to convince no one (… well…)

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  6. (But I am not convinced this is what Matt has in fact tried to do)

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  7. Perhaps Matt is starting to convince you, Max. Anyway, he commonly resorts to exactly this tactic. He is quite predictable about some things.

    My comments on the problems of arguments philosophers use applied to many philosophers – not just Singer who I actually find makes more sense than most. I am a bit negative at the moment trying to deal with a book written by a philosopher who I am finding has over argued a situation (and lost me in the process) which would have more easily been handled by citing empirical acts. Give me the philosopher who incorporates science into their work every time.

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  8. Not convinced either way. As i said I think Craig and Singer have serious problems with their ethical views. I just don’t think Matt is doing what you said. If it is the page I think you are talking about, then he compares Craig and Singer in order to show that a third person has inconsistent views. But perhaps you are talking about another page.

    But that is by the by. Personally I think ethics is a futile area of philosophy. Eventually after developing some complex ethical theory the philosopher tests the theory to see if it works… and how do they test it? By comparing it to what they know to be right and wrong to see if the theory lines up with it. So in order to test an ethical theory one must already have decided what is right and wrong by some other means. If they were tested on simple cases, and then applied to more complex situations which intuition could not handle (which I suppose is the ultimate aim) then they might be of some use – but this is seldom done.

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  9. Having said that… Singer takes the opposite view to me. He develops a theory and it seems to indicate that killing disabled children is OK and so concludes that his intuition must have been wrong. I see the same theory and result and conclude that the theory must be wrong.

    There is ultimately no trump card.

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  10. There are several ways to go, the most acceptable to Christians is perhaps that God did not actually command this after all and that it is an ancient people putting words into God’s mouth to justify their own evil.

    Go down that road and the book becomes just a book like any other.

    Context!!!!!!

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  11. I think I was arguing that point myself. When it comes to such important issues of how to deal with a new-born infant who has no life prospects we need to consider reasoned arguments and not rely on intuition. Not that intuition and reason are completely separate. But we cannot get anywhere with dogma and “divine command.”

    In the end there may be “moral truths” or “objectively-based morality” but intuitions change. And that is a good thing.

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  12. Not sure how the morality of infanticide counts as an “end of life decision” usually its referred to in the literature as a beginning of life decision.

    They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that “Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants.“ They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust.

    Really? perhaps you can show where in the article you link to I made comparision’s with death camps during the holocaust? You told your readers I did so presumably you can show them the relevant quote.

    rather than an ethicist seriously considering the issues faced by parents and medical professionals considering the morality of intervening to save the life of a seriously damaged infant and the consequent repercussions

    Actually I do treat Singer as serious ethicist and engage with his arguments professionally.

    But as Max points out you simply misunderstand Singer here. He is not talking about failing to intervene to save severly damaged infants. He advocates actively killing infants even if they are not severly damaged.
    Singer he bases his position on infanticide on the reaction of parents and society to infants not on quality of life prospects of the infant. And he is quite explicit his argument applies even to disabled children who have a life which has a quality of life which such that it has a life is worth living. In fact in principle it applies to any infant which is unwanted by its parents and society in general.

    For Singer no infant whether disabled or non disabled has an interest in continuing to exist, this is the case wether its life will have a high quality or low quality. This is because an like a fetus and other non-human animal lack the ability to desire a future existence and so has no interest in continuing to live. Its future existence is valuble only if other people the parents or society desire it to exist. So Singer supports infanticide not merely child euthanasia.

    You cite Craig’s support of “Genocide”.
    “I would say that God has the right to give and take life as he sees fit. Children die all the time! If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this [genocide] and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture.”

    The problem is the word does not appear in this quote, the square brackets indicate that you added it to the quote. What Craig actually does in this quote is .justifies infanticide on quality of life issues he says ” If you believe in the salvation, as I do, of children, who die, what that meant is that the death of these children meant their salvation. People look at this and think life ends at the grave but in fact this was the salvation of these children, who were far better dead” Craig is explicitly clear killing the infant improves his quality of life so that the infant is better of dead. So in by your logic Craig is not defending infanticide he is advocating child euthanasia, he is using “quality of life” concerns to justify infanticide, which you claim t0 support.

    So ironically when one looks at what the two writers actually say its Craig who supports infant euthanasia and Singer who endorses infanticide.
    I am not saying I agree with Craig, just pointing out that you and Dawkin’s can’t maintain a consistent or defensible stance here.
    When Craig justifies infanticide on quality of life grounds you call it infanticide and claim its unacceptable, when Singer justifies it on grounds other than quality of life you claim its merely fetal euthanasisa and worth considering.

    So, my point stands when Singer claims it’s permissible to kill an infant ifs its parent does not want it? Dawkins calls this the most rationally thought out position and the person who utters it is one of the most moral people in the world. When Craig says its permissible to kill an infant if a if a loving and just omniscient person commands he states it makes them morally unfit to share the stage.

    Perhaps you can explain how this remotely makes sense instead of inaccurately portraying other peoples opinions.

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  13. Craig is explicitly clear killing the infant improves his quality of life so that the infant is better of dead.

    Given that heaven is supposed to be super/magic/wonderful, any child would be better off dead. Even those lucky children with loving parents enjoying a comfortable, middle-class existence.
    Nothing can compare to heaven.
    It’s automatically a vast improvement.

    If Heaven Really Existed

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  14. Yes, Cedric, when I see such double-speak being used to justify infanticide I get a picture of the sort of arguments used by death camp commanders or by Stalin and Hitler.

    It is double-speak, but I guess that’s part of he apologists toolbox.

    Sent from my iPad

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  15. Indeed Ken. And I hope you see the same double-speak and similarity to Stalin and Hitler in Singer’s work as well as Craig’s!

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  16. Cedric that address my comments how?

    Ken, and I see you don’t address my points either care to actually address them?

    In fact your response is not even coherent. When I point out a contradiction your response is to ignore it and utter another one. Note what you said in your post:

    “They will use his arguments for child euthanasia to claim, for example, that “Singer is (in)famous for his advocacy of infanticide, the killing of newborn infants.“ They create a picture akin to someone running a death camp during the holocaust rather than an ethicist seriously considering the issues faced by parents and medical professionals considering the morality of intervening to save the life of a seriously damaged infant and the consequent repercussions.”

    Here you condemn me for (a) criticizing Singer by claiming he supports infanticide (which he does) and (b) creating a picture of Nazi death camps as opposed to addressing his arguments.

    While its clear you claim I compared Singer to the nazis is easy refuted by reading what I wrote, its worth comparing this quote with on the comment you made above.

    “Yes, Cedric, when I see such double-speak being used to justify infanticide I get a picture of the sort of arguments used by death camp commanders or by Stalin and Hitler.

    It is double-speak, but I guess that’s part of he apologists toolbox.”

    Here you did not respond to my argument, instead you accused me (a) of supporting infanticide ( which i didn’t) and then (bO compared me to nazi death camps.

    Apparently the line argument you condemn as bad in the blog post when used against Singer is the same line of argument you use in the com box against apologists.

    So, my point stands when Singer claims it’s permissible to kill an infant ifs its parent does not want it? Dawkins calls this the most rationally thought out position and the person who utters it is one of the most moral people in the world. When Craig says its permissible to kill an infant if a if a loving and just omniscient person commands he states it makes them morally unfit to share the stage.

    Perhaps you can explain how this remotely makes sense instead of contradicting yourself.

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  17. “Go down that road and the book becomes just a book like any other.”

    Odd statement. Would seeing it as historical narrative with a theological spin make it the same as a cookery book, or an introduction to marketing textbook?

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  18. Max, why should you “hope” tha?. Surely it’s a matter of checking against reality, not imposing hopes.

    I am sure I can find stuff in Singer’s writings that I disagree with or find faulty. But nothing like justification of the mass murder of children during ethnic cleansing using the patent lie burnt that they will go to heaven and won’t have to suffer the horrible life awaiting them because of their different ethnicity!

    That is egregious doubel-speak.

    Now if you can find an equivalent in Singer’s writings, please do so. After all we want to base this discussion on evidence.

    I await your revelation.

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  19. You not familiar with idioms at all Ken. Let me explain it to you. By “I hope” what I meant was “I would expect someone with a grasp of logic to”. But I think you probably knew that – so why pretend to be stupid?

    No – Singer says nothing about the hope of heaven as a justification for his philosophy. So why even bring this up? i didn’t.

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  20. Matt, you will obviously stick with the justification of infanticide using the double-speak of a “loving and just omniscient person” (exactly how many subjects saw Hitler and Stalin), and a fictional heaven (perhaps like the coming fictional Utopias promised by Hitler and Stalin). But come on! You are a grown man. You live in a liberal democratic society. No one is obliging you to indulge in such rubbish.

    Regarding Dawkins comment on Singer. I can’t see it as relevant even if true. But again aren’t you telling a porky? If you are referring to the interview in Dawkins’ excellent TV series I saw that too. What impressed me was Singer’s arguments favoring vegetarianism and animal rights. I remember Dawkins expressing guilt that he had not yet given up eating meat despite the convincing arguments Singer expressed. I remember because I felt exactly the same.

    From my memory I can’t recall any discussion of the plight if new born infants with deformities and the ethical problem around intervention or allowing their death. If they had discussed this issue or any justification go infanticide I am sure I would have noticed. It’s an issue which has been rehearsed in my family because of spina bifida (which I am aware Singer has written about).

    Again, I think you are cherry picking. It’s easy to find passages in Singer’s writings to support such a biased interpretation. I just think you are ignoring context and other passages which infer the contrary. I think that is unprofessional of you.

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  21. Calm down Max – all I pointed out is that I don’t think there is anything Singer has written which is in the class of double-speak used by Craig and Matt. But if there is I certainly want to know about it – so please oblige.
    I have no irons in this fire being critical of some of Singer’s arguments myself as I explained before.

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  22. I think Matt is pretty familiar with Singer’s work and his analysis of Singer’s attitude towards infanticide is neither biased nor cherry picking. Singer is not shy about his conclusions. You seem a little embarrassed about them though Ken? Why? Singer is not.

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  23. Quite calm Ken. It just mildly frustrates me when people who are obviously some-what intelligent deliberately misunderstand things to try to make a “clever” point. But perhaps you are right. Singer is an out-right advocate of a lot of the ideas the Nazi (and USA) eugenicists supported. The double speak is in Dawkin’s rather than Singer. Well spotted.

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  24. No embarrassment, Max. Why should there be? I probably have the same objections to the arguments of many moral philosophers. I think I have explained extensively elsewhere that one cannot mechanically separate reasoning and emotion in the way that some philosophers seem to do. To me it’s fascinating science, not embarrassment.

    Sent from my iPad

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  25. The embarrassment is evidenced in your claim that Matt is cherry-picking, and that Singer does not really support infanticide. Singer is not embarrassed by his claims!

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  26. Max, you must be taking lessons from Matt. This sort of claim -“Singer is an out-right advocate of a lot of the ideas the Nazi (and USA) eugenicists supported” – screams for some sort of supporting evidence. Really, let’s not descend to relying on extreme prejudices here. Or shouting unwarranted rubbish, especially denigrating claims.

    As for Matt cherry-picking. It is a habit if his and most religious apologists. But in this case he hasn’t done any picking at all because he has done nothing to provide supporting evidence. He is just expressing his own rather jaundiced opinion. Again, not professional.

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  27. The supporting evidence is not exactly hard to come by. Singer supports the killing of handicapped newborns. The eugenics movement supported the killing of handicapped newborns. Its a no-brainer really, and relies on no prejudice or cherry picking. It may offend you to hear this, but it is hardly some whacky conspiracy theory I have made up. As I have said: Singer makes no secret about his infanticide ideology – he is quite open about it.

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  28. Max, if the “supporting evidence is not exactly hard to come by” why do neither you or Matt produce it? Really. I agree you can easily find quotes to support your arguments and I was looking forward to producing other quotes inferring otherwise, and to provide context.

    But no amount of baiting seems to temp you guys to go past expressing personal prejudices.

    You guys are not fun any more.

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  29. I don’t happen to have any of his books in my office sorry and the library is closed – so I can’t provide you with page numbers if that is what you are after. Matt I am sure could as he is an expert in this area.

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  30. Cedric that address my comments how?

    Well, you said…Craig is explicitly clear killing the infant improves his quality of life so that the infant is better of dead.

    To which I pointed out that given that heaven is supposed to be super/magic/wonderful, any child would be better off dead. Even those lucky children with loving parents enjoying a comfortable, middle-class existence.
    Nothing can compare to heaven.
    It’s automatically a vast improvement.

    When Craig says its permissible to kill an infant if a if a loving and just omniscient person commands…

    Well, maybe if a “loving and just omniscient person” shows up, we’ll know for sure.

    If Heaven Really Existed

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  31. I sort of agree with Cedric upon this one – if lack of suffering is seen as an ultimate aim. The idea that someone is better off dead than suffering goes against so much in the christian tradition – including the written tradition. The Christian life is not about constant joy and lack of suffering – despite what some evangelicals might tell you😉

    And surely, Matt, what Craig says, if you take it on board, should make you a pro-choice advocate?

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  32. Max, I also was sure Matt could come out with a quote or two. He disappointed me.

    As I said, no fun anymore. You guys just won’t take the bait.

    By the way, I usually find it a bit dangerous to rely on perceptions in such issues. It’s always best to check that you haven’t actually got the story wrong or incomplete.

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  33. Well I have read several of Singers’ books and so the impression I have formed is not from reading a few quotes out of context, or from a 30 second youtube clip. But as i said I cannot instantly provide you with a page number or an exact quote.

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  34. Max, don’t get me wrong. I don’t doubt you can produce quotes to support your jaundiced opinion of Singer. I was looking forward to countering that with quotes and context which require a more balanced assessment.

    I am not at all interested in supporting Singer to the death. Just in exposing how some extreme opinions and judgements rely more on prejudice than evidence.

    The world is not a simple black and white place when it come to decisions about severely deformed new born babies.

    Mind you when it come to justifying infanticide within ethnic cleansing I think the moral arguments are extremely clear.

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  35. No Ken. Its not a matter of quotes. It is my overall assessment of his views. There is absolutely no doubt that he supports the killing of handicapped children in some instances. Do you actually dispute this fact?

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  36. No I don’t Max. I have read Singer on infanticide too. Surely we arent debating that point! My post was clear I thought.

    But I don’t think Singer would justify the infanticide Craig supports. Do you?

    That is why I suggested he should have used the term “child euthanasia.”

    And I am aware that it is easy for those with a bias to be unaware of when a writer is developing an argument which they don’t necessarily support or accept. One can end up shooting the messenger for an approach that philosophers commonly use.

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  37. “But I don’t think Singer would justify the infanticide Craig supports. Do you?”

    Which particular infanticide do you mean?

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  38. Because oddly enough I think he would.

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  39. Well written. I agree with Singer’s take on the issue. I had read a similar essay written by Michael Tooley, where he presents a case for abortion and infanticide. I think that a decision taken to end a newborn’s life knowing well that it is incapable of having a normal life should be called euthanasia for the simple reason that it represents the best interest of the child involved.

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  40. Apar. You need to be a little more careful. Firstly, what do you mean by a “normal life”? A child who is brain dead, in constant agony? A child with down syndrome? A child born blind? With depression? With visible deformity?

    But in any case Singer thinks even healthy children should be subject to being killed if the parents deem so. After all the newborn has no self awareness and (as Singer is want to say) less capacity to reason than a pig.

    So *some* of the cases Singer supports are euthanasia perhaps, but not all. Some is simple infanticide, for either eliminating the unwanted or inconvenient child, or for mere convenience.

    The two sorts of situation should not be confused nor confounded.

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  41. Max, you say “Because oddly enough I think he would.” Well I guess that gives another claim that requires evidential support. I certainly don’t get that from my reading. So I await the supporting evidince – I am all ears and eyes.

    Sent from my iPad

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  42. Max, I endorse this claim “The two sorts of situation should not be confused nor confounded.” That is why I feel euthanasia is a far better description of what probably occurs quite widely already.

    There may be legal issues but I would be happier with infanticide being reserved to prescribe inhumane deaths – like killing a new born because she is the “wrong” sex or colour. A separate class of killing.

    The “infanticide” Craig excuses with “divine command” ethics really belongs to the class of crimes against humanity because it is mass murder, not individual killing.

    The equating of Singer’s considerations (which relate at least mainly to infants with little prospect of reasonable life) to Craig’s justification of crimes against humanity is a sick attempt at diversion.

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  43. I have not read Singer so I’m not commenting on his work.
    However, I can’t go along with a criticism of his work without something concrete to go on.

    Max, you say “Because oddly enough I think he would.” Well I guess that gives another claim that requires evidential support.

    This is where direct quotes (in full and in context) would be very handy.

    But in any case Singer thinks even healthy children should be subject to being killed if the parents deem so. After all the newborn has no self awareness and (as Singer is want to say) less capacity to reason than a pig.

    If Singer thinks even healthy children should be killed if the parents deem so that that would be a very surprising thing to say. I’d genuinely like to see the quote (in full and in context) where he says that.

    I’m not saying that you are wrong, Max. You could well be portraying Singer very accurately. I don’t know. Yet without primary material, I can’t in all honestly accept your claim that Singer is really saying that. Any claim about what someone else said has to be taken carefully. People remember things someone else said badly. People poorly read what someone else wrote. People get confused about what someone else wrote for a variety of reasons. People, such as creationists, actually lie about what someone else said.
    I’m not accusing you of doing any of this.
    You may well be 100% accurate in your assessment of Singer.
    I don’t know.
    Again, I have never read Singer. He’s nothing to me. I have no dog in this hunt.
    Yet without direct quotes (in full and in context) it’s not reasonable to make an honest assessment.

    (I keep saying “In full and in context” because of people who quote-mine.)

    Creationist quote mine collapse

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  44. Cedric, the thing about Singer is that he has faced a lot of extreme opposition from critics (particularly in Germany) for his advocacy of euthanasia in some situations. And for his support for animal rights. Inevitably he has been attacked for positions he doesn’t actually advocate. But also inevitably, because he is an academic philosopher who teaches, it’s possible to find quotes to support the attackers. That’s why it is so important to see the context from where the quotes are extracted.

    Perhaps the best place to actually check out his position is where he is responding to the attacks as he does in “On Being Silenced in Germany” which is an Appendix in some edition of his book Practical Ethics.

    The other point is that his denouncers usually are coming from their own position of outright opposition to euthanasia, child euthanasia, abortion and animal rights. Unsurprisingly some of these people seek to bolster their arguments by selecting and exaggerating so that Singer us presented as an extremist.

    Perhaps Max and Matt should be up front and declare their position in euthanasia, abortion and animal rights.

    Sent from my iPad

    Like

  45. Cedric:

    As when anyone asks me on a blog to do their research for them… no I am not going to go to the library, get out Singers books, read them for you, and then write you a report on my readings! Sorry. i have my own work to do and you can take my summary from memory with as many pinches of salt as you like! If you want to hire me as a private researcher we can negotiate my hourly rate – but it won’t be cheap – and it certainly won’t be free as you suggest! And also as I point out to blog posters who request free research: If you are genuinely interested get the book out and give it a read… if you can’t be bothered doing this then you will have to rely on second hand reports!

    Now Ken:

    You say I am attempting “a sick attempt at diversion. “… I am not sure how you can say this when I have clearly said that I find Craig’s conclusion to be as offensive as you do. You are confused perhaps?

    Now, as to my “Because oddly enough I think he would” claim… I am happy to expand on this when you answer the question “Which particular infanticide do you mean?”

    Like

  46. As when anyone asks me on a blog to do their research for them…

    I’m not making a claim and then sitting back waiting for you to do the legwork. I have more respect for people over the internet than that.
    You made a claim.
    The burden of proof is on you.

    Sorry. i have my own work to do…

    We all have work to do. You are not special. That painfully transparent dodge will not work.

    …and you can take my summary from memory with as many pinches of salt as you like!

    Ah, that’s most unfortunate. I would never do that. My standards are higher.
    When I say that someone said something, I always have the quote handy.
    I never wave my hands in the air and say “Trust me, pretty please.”
    I love quoting people.
    Love it, love it, love it.
    It’s quotes for lunch and quotes for dinner and quotes taken home in a doggy bag for a midnight snack.

    If you are genuinely interested get the book out and give it a read…

    I have not read the book. I freely admitted it.
    However, I do have your comments.
    That’s what I am focusing on.
    That’s why I’m exercising due diligence and not just taking your word on things.
    You make the claim?
    You provide the evidence.
    Burden of proof.
    Everything else is bluster and hot air.
    Put up or shut up.

    The burden of proof

    Like

  47. Look Cedric. You said you don’t know what Singer says in his books… the simple and obvious solution: Read his book!

    Like

  48. Max, I can understand if Cedric does not read the book – why should he?

    All we have is a few people who obviously don’t like Singer and are bad-mouthing him. General accusations are being made but there is nothing specific – no evidence to support the accusations. This sort of bad-mouthing is widespread on the internet. Unless Cedric has a specific interest in following up the issues why should he bother?

    After all, he has yet to see any evidence that you or Matt have read the book. All there is are wild opinions, no supporting facts.

    Like

  49. He doesn’t have to read anything he doesn’t want to. And if I was writing an academic paper I would provide citations for everything I say. But here I am discussing Singer with other people who are familiar with his work to some degree. If Cedric is not familiar with his work then he is not really capable of joining in.

    Like

  50. Missed your previous comment Max.

    Perhaps, seeing you guys are unwilling to back up your prejudices, I should lay out a few quotes from Singer which suggest you have misinterpreted him. I have his book so will do so this afternoon.

    My reference to infanticide which prompted your question was to the infanticide Craig was justifying as part of his support for ethnic cleansing. he gave a “divine command” justification for this.

    Your response is that you thought Singer would support such infanticide. I wanted to know what you based it on. I am unaware of anything to support it.

    Or perhaps I should just find something from Singer where he responds to a similar unwarranted smear?

    I apologise for any angst on your part – the sick diversion I referred to was Matt’s, not yours. He is, after all, the one who is using the diversion, not you. I believe you have made clear your own opposition to Craig’s position.

    Like

  51. But Ken… I ask for the third time… so I can answer your question:

    “Which particular infanticide do you mean?”

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  52. Can you give me the quotation from Craig where he says that?

    From what I understand from Craig his argument is something like:

    The killing of a group of people (including children) is a negative thing.
    However, by doing this action a greater good is brought about which will ultimately decrease the total amount of suffering in the world.
    The reduction of the total suffering in the world is a morally good thing, and so the infanticide is justified because of this.
    (Just by the way – I find arguments like this morally repugnant)

    Singer, on the other hand, being a consequential, and a utilitarian, does not find such argument repugnant and uses them himself. He also things that if an action brings about a total reduction in overall suffering then this action is a good action.

    The only dispute the two men would have is over whether in fact this genocide did bring about a reduction in overall suffering. Craig would say it does… (basically by a form of circular reasoning that says if God did it then the action was good… therefore good must have resutled from it… therefore it reduced the total amount of suffering… in which case it was a good action!)

    Singer might reject this and say that in actual fact genocide never reduces the total amount of suffering (and I would agree with this) – but this would be an empirical matter.

    But. If Singer were to accept that Criag’s God exists, and that this God does in fact have total knowledge and is capable of optimizing suffering to a minimum value, and that this was best done via genocide THEN I think Singer would agree with Craig. Lots of “ifs” there I know – so in actuality, having looked at the empirical data, Singer, like me, would reject Craig. But I reject Craig because of his process. Singer would reject him because he does not agree that suffering is actually reduced.

    Sorry that is sort of rambling – but do you see my point?

    Like

  53. Look Cedric. You said you don’t know what Singer says in his books… the simple and obvious solution: Read his book!

    I agree. However, that’s not the topic right now.
    The topic is your claims that you made about Singer.
    Those are available on this very thread in black and white.
    You wrote them.
    Nobody held a gun to your head.

    And if I was writing an academic paper I would provide citations for everything I say.

    No, no, no.
    Nobody is asking you to whip up an academic paper.
    This is the age of the Internet.
    The age of the link.
    The age of the 5 second cut-and-paste.
    The age of Youtube.

    It’s trivially easy to provide a quote in full and in context about almost anything and anybody.

    It’s not like I’m being unfair. I’d demand the same from anybody. I’d like to think that you would demand the same from me if I was doing what you are doing.

    When I say that some famous person said something or other… then I quote them.
    When I get involved in a discussion on the Internet, I quote the person I am debating with to avoid creating a strawman. I’m very strict with myself about that. Say what you like about me- I am not a hypocrite. I do as I would have others do. I lead by example.

    If I make a mistake and inaccurately paraphrase somebody then I’ll do the right thing and admit it, apologize and withdraw my claim.
    It’s not a life or death matter.
    It’s OK to occasionally get things wrong. There’s no disgrace in being honest and withdrawing a claim.

    You make the claim?
    You provide the evidence.
    Burden of proof.
    Everything else is bluster and hot air.
    Put up or shut up.

    Again, you may be completely correct about Singer.
    I don’t know.
    Yet without direct quotes (in full and in context) it’s not reasonable to make an honest assessment. You should not ask that from anybody. It’s a bad habit.

    Like

  54. “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

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  55. No Max – in no way have you provided the equivalent. And I don’t see it anywhere in Singer. The infanticide Craig supported was the killing of children as part of ethnic cleansing, purely on ethnic grounds. I don’t see anything like that in Singer.

    By the way, I reject the form of argument “Singer, on the other hand, being a consequential, and a utilitarian, does not find such argument repugnant.” You are putting words into his mouth and thoughts into his head which I am sure are unwarranted. In fact I think I can find a passage where he says the exact opposite.

    Seems to me you have a preconceived picture of Singer (“a consequential, and a utilitarian”) and a preconceived picture of what that must mean. To hell with what Singer actually says.

    That’s a dangerous approach.

    Like

  56. Shrug. You might not like Singer thinking this way – but that don’t stop it being true. out off office. will give you a couple of examples where he does just this when i get back….. Sent from my not an iphone😉

    Like

  57. You might not like Singer thinking this way – but that don’t stop it being true.

    It’s not a question of “liking”.
    Either something is true or it is not.
    Either you can back up your claim with evidence or you cannot.
    Again, I have never read Singer. He’s nothing to me.
    Nothing at all.
    If he was sent to prison tomorrow for being a serial killer and notorious pedophile, I would not shed a tear.

    will give you a couple of examples where he does just this when i get back…

    Then you have nothing to worry about. All you have to do is support your claims of what Singer said with real, live quotes (in full and in context).
    Easy fix.
    I’d expect the same from anybody about anybody else over the internet-not just you.

    Like

  58. A specific response to one claim by Max and Matt:

    I will probably put my quotes (From Practical Ethics, 2nd Edition) in a number of different comments to ease understanding:

    First of all some references relevant to the claim Singer advocates killing any child purely on the interests of the parents and that this is not limited by the degree of damage to the child (both Matt and Max have claimed this).

    Singer differentiates between what he calls the “total view” of utilitarianism (we aim to increase the total amount of pleasure [and reduce the total amount of pain] and are indifferent whether this is done by increasing the pleasure of existing beings, or increasing the number of beings who exist) and;

    the “prior existence view” (to count only beings who already exist, prior to the decision we are taking, or at least will exist independently of that decision).

    He then goes on to consider the implications of each view regarding child euthanasia. Notice, he is showing the consequences of the development of two different views, not advocating them himself. In fact he says of the total view that it “has some odd practical implications.”

    Considering implications according to the views he discusses spina bifida where:

    “Some doctors closely connected with children suffering from severe spina bifida believe that the lives of the worst affected children are so miserable that it is wrong to resort to surgery to keep them alive.”

    And:

    “When the life of an infant will be so miserable as not to be worth living, from the internal perspective of the being who will lead that life, both the ‘prior existence’ and the ‘total’ version of utilitarianism entail that, if there are no ‘extrinsic’ reasons for keeping the infant alive – like the feelings of the parents – it is better that the child should be helped to die without further suffering.”

    This is an approach which I think today many medical professionals and parents would agree with. Having had incidences of spina bifida in my extended family I can certainly agree with it. I am sure this approach is already taken, to some extent at least, at maternity hospitals.

    Singer then goes on to consider Haemophilia which is generally less serious than spina bifida. Personally I would prefer him to have stuck with spina bifida as it also provides examples where children can survive and find life worth living. Assessments of this possibility can occur at birth.

    According to “prior existence” views euthanasia is ruled out in this situation (I agree) but according to the “total view” euthanasia may be permitted to enable replacement of the child. (There are extra details necessary in the argument).

    The point is, as he says, this euthanasia would be permitted – “according to the total view.” I interpret this as explaining the consequences of the starting point, not a personal advocacy.

    You can see how it is possible to misrepresent Singer by lifting quotes here though.

    Especially to fit an existing prejudice.

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  59. I should have added that I would not support the “total view” consequences in the specific situation. At all.

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  60. I am not sure how any of that actually contradicts what I have said.

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  61. Perhaps just one more at this stage – the claim of both Matt and Max that Singer considered new-born children to have same ethical status as animals (I think pigs were mentioned.)

    A critic at one of the German meetings claimed Singer “was urging that we should treat disabled humans in the way we now treat animals.” Singer points out ” He had no idea that my views about how we should treat animals are utterly different from those conventionally accepted in Western society. . . . . for me, to compare a human being to a nonhuman animal was not to say that the human being should be treated with less consideration, but that the animal should be treated with more.”

    I find myself agreeing with Singer’s position – but I should do something about my meat-eating.

    You can see how easy it is to misrepresent Singer – especially in a debate on euthanasia where people are probably unaware of his writings on animal rights.

    And especially if one has a prejudice.

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  62. Max – you said earlier today:

    “But in any case Singer thinks even healthy children should be subject to being killed if the parents deem so. After all the newborn has no self awareness and (as Singer is want to say) less capacity to reason than a pig. “

    I shouldn’t have to explain – but there is a difference between an academic teacher explaining the consequences of a particular starting point and actually advocating that conclusion himself. My reading is that Singer does not advocate what you claim – but I guess we will ahve to get onto more quotes (which you cna then pretend do not conflict with your claims?).

    Like

  63. Well I simply disagree. I think that Singer does support the killing of young children for reasons other than the child’s suffering. I am not *pretending* to think this as you put it. This is how i understand what he is saying. Without Singer being here in person to tell us his view I guess we will just have to differ on this point.

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  64. So Max, you will ignore what Singer actually says and I have quoted (as well as the context) so that you can retain “what you understand he is saying .” Sounds like confirmation bias to me.

    Are you going to stick with this “understanding” even after I produce a quote where Singer specifically says that this is not what he advocates?

    This is becoming pointless because you can’t support your understanding “that Singer does support the killing of young children for reasons other than the child’s suffering” by actual reference or quotes and you choose to cover your eyes to what I provide.

    However I guess we do both agree that Craig clearly “supports the killing of young children for reasons other than the child’s suffering” – specifically for reasons of ethnicity and in mass.

    Like

  65. Without Singer being here in person to tell us his view I guess we will just have to differ on this point.

    If only the man had the foresight to write his thoughts down in a book or something or maybe give an interview and have it recorded.
    That way, somebody making a claim about what he did or did not say could simply…quote him.
    In full. In context.

    Like

  66. Yes. His in full in context quote is called his “book”. Which I have read. Which you have not. Go read it and form your own opinion.

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  67. Ken. Where in that quote did he say he did not?

    Try again.

    Like

  68. Also Ken… Have some patience. I said I would give examples when I got back to office. I sti ll intend to

    Like

  69. Max, that specific quote i referred to is yet to come.

    You can tell I am enjoying this – don’t want to dissapate the pleasure all at once.

    But, I’ll be patient and let you put up you examples first.

    Like

  70. Yes. His in full in context quote is called his “book”. Which I have read. Which you have not.

    Yes. I told you in plain English that I have not read his book.

    I have not read Singer so I’m not commenting on his work.

    Just to make it clear, I said it again…

    I have not read the book. I freely admitted it.

    Yet the message still did not register. So again…

    Again, I have never read Singer. He’s nothing to me.

    Are we clear on this now? How many times do I need to spell it out for you?

    Go read it and form your own opinion.

    Even if I did, that would only help me from my own opinion of his work.
    It would not help you.
    Your claim is still unsupported.
    It must stand…even if I do absolutely nothing. Burden of proof.
    That’s just the way it works.

    Your claim.
    Your evidence.
    Your burden of proof.

    Less hand-waving from you and more quoting.
    Take your original claims from earlier in this thread and juxtapose them with actual quotes from Singer’s work. Let the quotes support your claim.
    In context and in full.

    No need to quote an entire book.
    No need to write up an academic paper.
    No need to perform the labours of Hercules.
    No need for Singer to make a personal appearance.
    No need to sacrifice your job or your very life’s blood.

    Just provide evidence for the claims that you made.
    It’s a pretty basic and fair expectation.

    I said I would give examples when I got back to office. I sti ll intend to.

    Then you have nothing to worry about. You may well be absolutely correct. We all look forward to you quoting your original claims on this very thread and supporting them with quotes.
    In full.
    In context.

    Like

  71. Fine Cedric. If you don’t care what Singer said then why are you wasting so much time stressing about it? lol

    Like

  72. If you don’t care what Singer said then why are you wasting so much time stressing about it?

    I’m not.
    That’s not the topic right now.
    The topic is your claims that you made about Singer.
    Those are available on this very thread in black and white.
    You wrote them.
    Nobody held a gun to your head.
    Your claims.
    Your evidence.
    Your burden of proof.

    Your claim is still unsupported.
    It must stand…even if I do absolutely nothing. Burden of proof.
    That’s just the way it works.

    Just provide evidence for the claims that you made.
    It’s a pretty basic and fair expectation.
    Take your original claims from earlier in this thread and juxtapose them with actual quotes from Singer’s work. Let the quotes support your claims.
    In context and in full.

    Like

  73. “I’m not.”

    Good.

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  74. Well, I’m glad we cleared that up.
    (…phew…)

    will give you a couple of examples where he does just this when i get back…

    Then you have nothing to worry about. All you have to do is support your claims of what Singer said with real, live quotes (in full and in context).
    Easy fix.
    I’d expect the same from anybody about anybody else over the internet-not just you.

    If I make a mistake and inaccurately paraphrase somebody then I’ll do the right thing and admit it, apologize and withdraw my claim.
    It’s not a life or death matter.
    It’s OK to occasionally get things wrong. There’s no disgrace in being honest and withdrawing a claim.

    You make the claim?
    You provide the evidence.
    Burden of proof.
    Everything else is bluster and hot air.
    Put up or shut up.

    I said I would give examples when I got back to office. I sti ll intend to.

    Excellent. You may well be absolutely correct. We all look forward to you quoting your original claims on this very thread and supporting them with quotes from Singer.
    In full.
    In context.

    (I keep saying “In full and in context” because of people who quote-mine.)

    Famous Creationist Quote Mining

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  75. You see on the one hand Ceddy, you are worried about quote mining, but on the other hand you want me to provide you with a few pithy quotes to prove my point. Its a waste of time. If you really care and want to educate yourself just read it. if you think I have misread Singer than fine – no skinn off my nose… but you have no way of knowing unless you put in a little bit of effort yourself and do your own research.

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  76. I have told you once. And I will not bother saying it again: I am not your errand boy. I will not go and do your research for you!

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  77. Aw, come on Max. Don’t back off now. I am keen to see what you have got and I am doing my own research.

    Don’t go all cold on me!

    Sent from my iPad

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  78. Nah. I get sick of these discussions when it turns in to a discussion about discussions rather than about the original topic.

    Like

  79. If you are genuinely retreating, Max, what about giving Matt a prod? As you say he claims to be an expert on Singer – surely he can provide some concrete evidence for his claims.

    Bloody annoys me when discussion partners go all quiet on me.

    Sent from my iPad

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  80. You see on the one hand Ceddy,…

    Ceddy? Hmm. What brought that on?

    …you are worried about quote mining, but on the other hand you want me to provide you with a few pithy quotes to prove my point.

    Look, it’s really easy to understand.
    It’s possible to quote someone accurately and fairly and avoid quote-mining. Honest people do it all the time. You should try it. It’s especially useful when you claim that somebody said something.

    Its a waste of time.

    It’s called the burden of proof.
    You made the claims.
    Claims that you made about Singer.
    Those are available on this very thread in black and white.
    You wrote them.
    Nobody held a gun to your head.
    Scroll up and read them for yourself.

    If you really care and want to educate yourself just read it.

    I do care.
    I care about your claims.
    You make the claims?
    You provide the evidence.
    Burden of proof.
    Everything else is bluster and hot air.
    Put up or shut up.

    if you think I have misread Singer than fine – no skinn off my nose… but you have no way of knowing unless you put in a little bit of effort yourself…

    Nope. That’s not how it works.
    I don’t have to prove or disprove your claims.
    It’s this little thing called the burden of proof.
    I don’t make the rules.
    I just cheerfully remind you of them.
    Speaking of which…

    max | July 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    . out off office. will give you a couple of examples where he does just this when i get back

    Time passes.

    max | July 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    Also Ken… Have some patience. I said I would give examples when I got back to office. I sti ll intend to.

    More time passes…

    Max | July 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    I will not go and do your research for you!

    It’s not “my” research. I made no claim.
    (shrug)
    Burden of proof.

    Shifting The Burden Of Proof – The Atheist Experience 438

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  81. Well when the discussion turns into who said what – and when and if an exact quote can be provided etc etc rather than talking about the very interesting issues themselves I get bored of it. I am not going to go trawling through books to find the exact quotes which will then inevitably be accused of quote mining. I have played that game before. One bitten… you know the rest.

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  82. (case and point in what Cedric posted as I wrote that. He is more interested in what I personally said than in the issue itself. Which makes what could be an interesting discussion into a silly point scoring game. Not interested)

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  83. Max, you are no fun anymore.

    Give Matt a prod on the way out. I want to see what he can offer.

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  84. He is more interested in what I personally said than in the issue itself.

    Yes, it’s all about me somehow.

    Which makes what could be an interesting discussion into a silly point scoring game. Not interested.

    You make a claim then…you provide evidence for that claim.
    Not too hard to understand.
    Basic stuff really.

    max | July 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    . out off office. will give you a couple of examples where he does just this when i get back

    Only it didn’t happen. You don’t mean what you say. You lie.

    max | July 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    Also Ken… Have some patience. I said I would give examples when I got back to office. I sti ll intend to.

    Only you didn’t really. That was just another lie.
    Shame on you.

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  85. Cedric. If you want to discuss something other that what I did or did not say (which even I find boring) then go for it… but frankly talking about me is not really that interesting!

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  86. You made claims.
    You failed to back up those claims.
    You said you would.
    Twice.
    It didn’t happen.

    You are a liar.

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  87. Sure OK. I am a liar. Not that is established and that debate is over lets get back to the real issue.

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  88. No – lets say Craig’s world was real. There really was a divine being who had calculated that the killing of a number of children would result in the saving of many more children’s lives. And this divine being then ordered these children to be murdered. Would this be an evil act or a good one?

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  89. Not that is established and that debate is over lets get back to the real issue.

    Go right ahead.
    See if you can do it without lying this time.
    I don’t lie. My standards are higher than that.

    All you have to do is support any claims you make when you make claims of what someone said with real, live quotes (in full and in context).
    Easy fix.
    I’d expect the same from anybody about anybody else over the internet-not just you.

    If I make a mistake and inaccurately paraphrase somebody then I’ll do the right thing and admit it, apologize and withdraw my claim.
    It’s not a life or death matter.
    It’s OK to occasionally get things wrong. There’s no disgrace in being honest and withdrawing a claim.
    Lying about it and getting all evasive and snarky is poor form.
    Would you behave like than to people in real life?
    At your office?
    I should hope not.

    You make the claim?
    You provide the evidence.
    Burden of proof.
    Everything else is bluster and hot air.

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  90. (Cedric. We have established I am liar. Lets move onto a new topic now)

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  91. So Cedric. A hypothetical for you, I am interested in your view : Lets say Craig’s world was real. There really was a divine being who had calculated that the killing of a number of children would result in the saving of many more children’s lives. And this divine being then ordered these children to be murdered. Would this be an evil act or a good one?

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  92. Come on Max. Ask yourself how this justification for crimes against humanity would go down in the International Court of Justice if Craig was being prosecuted for the murder of a larger number if people on ethnic grounds. As part of ethnic cleansing.

    The most Craig could hope for us a ruling in his sanity.

    Just imagine Brevik getting up in court and asking the judges to accept his world was real!

    No court operates that way.

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  93. Cedric. We have established I am liar. Lets move onto a new topic now

    The Passive Aggression of the Christ

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  94. Come on Cedric. Get over it. What do you think of my hypothetical?

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  95. I am not defending it Ken. I am just opening this up for discussion. But notice that my question was IF this was the real situation THEN would it be moral. I am not asking whether it is likely it is the real situation.

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  96. To clarify. In a fictional narrative where a God knows that killing 10 children will result in saving 1000 and orders this to be done. And in this fictional narrative the prophet knows this God exists and kills the 10 children – in this fictional narrative has the prophet done something evil or good? (remember the question is not IS it a true story)

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  97. No it would not be moral. I have no trouble deciding that because I determine moral issues in the way most people do – on the facts and using common human values.

    You will find that in practice most believers will answer the same – hence the criticism Craig hit from believers.

    Sounds like you are just putting a supernatural spin on a trolley problem. It doesn’t work.

    Sent from my iPad

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  98. As I said I am not decided either way.

    But lets up the stakes.

    In a fictional narrative where a God knows that killing one man will result in saving 1,000,000 and orders this to be done. And in this fictional narrative the prophet knows this God exists and kills the one man – in this fictional narrative has the prophet done something evil or good? (remember the question is not IS it a true story)

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  99. / \
    _________| |_______@__________

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  100. 1.First of all some references relevant to the claim Singer advocates killing any child purely on the interests of the parents and that this is not limited by the degree of damage to the child (both Matt and Max have claimed this).
    Sure,

    In Chapter 4 we saw that the fact that a being is a human being, in the sense of a member of the species Homo sapiens, is not relevant to the wrongness of killing it; it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. This conclusion is not limited to infants who, because of irreversible intellectual disabilities, will never be rational, self-conscious beings. We saw in our discussion of abortion that the potential of a fetus to become a rational, self-conscious being cannot count against killing it at a stage when it lacks these characteristics – not, that is, unless we are also prepared to count the value of rational self-conscious life as a reason against contraception and celibacy. No infant – disabled or not – has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time.

    The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing. Most obviously there is the difference that often exists in the attitudes of the parents. The birth of a child is usually a happy event for the parents. They have, nowadays, often planned for the child. The mother has carried it for nine months. From birth, a natural affection begins to bind the parents to it. So one important reason why it is normally a terrible thing to kill an infant is the effect the killing will have on its parents.
    It is different when the infant is born with a serious disability. Birth abnormalities vary, of course. Some are trivial and have little effect on the child or its parents; but others turn the normally joyful event of birth into a threat to the happiness of the parents, and any other children they may have.

    Here Singer states that no infant disabled or non disabled has a right to life. He states the reason its permissible to kill disabled children and not non disabled children is because of the different attitudes of the parents and other adults towards them.

    2.Singer differentiates between what he calls the “total view” of utilitarianism (we aim to increase the total amount of pleasure [and reduce the total amount of pain] and are indifferent whether this is done by increasing the pleasure of existing beings, or increasing the number of beings who exist) and;the “prior existence view” (to count only beings who already exist, prior to the decision we are taking, or at least will exist
    independently of that decision).

    That’s almost right, except that you define utilitarianism as “we aim to increase the total amount of pleasure and reduce the total amount of pain”. That’s classical utilitarianism which aims at the balance of pleasure over pain. Singer rejects classical utilitarianism, he accepts preference utilitarianism which holds that “we aim to increase the total amount of satisfaction of preferences Moreover, Singer has modified his preference utilitarianism in response to Don Marquis (see A reply to Marquis in Singer Under Fire) critiques and now looks at rational preferences.

    3.He then goes on to consider the implications of each view regarding child euthanasia. Notice, he is showing the consequences of the development of two different views, not advocating them himself. In fact he says of the total view that it “has some odd practical implications.”

    Actually what he says about the total views odd implications in Practical Ethics is this:

    The total view treats infants as replaceable, in much the same way as it treats non-self-conscious animals (as we saw in Chapter 5). Many will think that the replaceability argument cannot be applied to human infants. The direct killing of even the most hopelessly disabled infant is still officially regarded as murder; how then could the killing of infants with far less serious problems, like haernophilia, be accepted? Yet on further reflection, the implications of the replaceability argument do not seem quite so bizarre. For there are disabled members of our species whom we now deal with exactly as the argument suggests we should. These cases closely resemble the ones we have been discussing. There is only one difference, and that is a difference of timing – the timing of the discovery of the problem, and the consequent killing of the disabled being.

    Consquently, Singer while granting it appears odd goes on to argues the that the total view is not bizzare on further reflection.

    Moreover your claim Singer is showing the consequences of the development of two different views, not advocating them himself. is mistaken, in the version of this chapter that occurs in Writings of an Ethical Life, he notes in footnote 11 that he advocates the total view on the basis of the arguments from Derek Parfit which he discusses in Practical Ethics.

    4. Moreover as to wether Singer supports killing infants even when they have a life worth living here is what he says on the matter

    A more difficult problem arises – and the convergence between the two views ends – when we consider disabilities that make the child’s life prospects significantly less promising than those of a normal child, but not so bleak as to make the child’s life not worth living. Haemophilia is probably in this category. The haemophiliac lacks the element in normal blood that makes it clot and thus risks prolonged bleeding, especially internal bleeding, from the slightest injury. if allowed to continue, this bleeding leads to permanent crippling and eventually death. The bleeding is very painful and although improved treatments have eliminated the need for constant blood transfusions, haemophiliacs still have to spend a lot of time in hospital. They are unable to play most sports and live constantly on the edge of crisis. Nevertheless, haemophiliacs do not appear to spend their time wondering whether to end it all; most find life definitely worth living, despite the difficulties they face.
    Given these facts, suppose that a newborn baby is diagnosed as a haemophiliac. The parents, daunted by the prospect of bringing up a child with this condition, are not anxious for him to live. Could euthanasia be defended here? Our first reaction may well be a firm ‘no’, for the infant can be expected to have a life that is worth living, even if not quite as good as that of a normal baby. The ‘prior existence’ version of utilitarianism sup- ports this judgment. The infant exists. His life can be expected to contain a positive balance of happiness over misery. To kill him would deprive him of this positive balance of happiness. Therefore it would be wrong.
    On the ‘total’ version of utilitarianism, however, we cannot reach a decision on the basis of this information alone. The total view makes it necessary to ask whether the death of the haemophiliac infant would lead to the creation of another being who would not otherwise have existed. In other words, if the haemophiliac child is killed, will his parents have another child whom they would not have if the haemophiliac child lives? If they would, is the second child likely to have a better life than the one killed?
    Often it will be possible to answer both these questions affirmatively. A woman may plan to have two children. If one dies while she is of child-bearing age, she may conceive another in its place. Suppose a woman planning to have two children has one normal child, and then gives birth to a haemophiliac child. The burden of caring for that child may make it impossible for her to cope with a third child; but if the disabled child were to die, she would have another. It is also plausible to suppose that the prospects of a happy life are better for a normal child than for a haemophiliac.
    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 haemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him.

    Here he states that on the total view, which he accepts if a child has a disability which is not so bleak as to make the child’s life not worth living, one can still kill it provided one replace the infant with a healthier child by killing the first one it and having another one to replace it.

    Its not controversial or unknown that Singer believes this stuff Ken, so to now can you return to my original question and answer it.

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  101. Max you write:

    I sort of agree with Cedric upon this one – if lack of suffering is seen as an ultimate aim. The idea that someone is better off dead than suffering goes against so much in the christian tradition – including the written tradition. The Christian life is not about constant joy and lack of suffering – despite what some evangelicals might tell you
    And surely, Matt, what Craig says, if you take it on board, should make you a pro-choice advocate?

    Max, Cedric ignores the fact that I said both in my original article and in the comment he responds to that I am not endorsing Craig’s argument. I am rather pointing out that Dawkin’s can’t consistently reject it as immoral given his other commitments.

    But to your question, I don’t actually think that particular argument against Craig is a good one. Cedric assumes that if one grants that a child dies and goes to heavenly bliss, it follows your obligated to kill the child. That’s false, that follows only if in addition to believing in heaven you believe that you have a duty to do whatever maximises happiness, in other words it follows if you believe in heaven and utilitarianism.
    Craig does not believe in utilitarianism he is a divine command theorist, his view is its wrong to do something if a loving and just God commands it. Craig argues that because heaven increases the quality of life of the infant its possible for a loving and just God to command infanticide, but he also believes its possible for a loving and just God to prohibit infanticide both options are compatible with being loving and just. This is analogous to Singer who holds that a parent should not be required to kill a disabled infant but permitted to, either option is acceptable and we must do whatever the parent chooses. In Craig’s case the claim is we must do whatever God chooses, Craig thinks that with the exception of a few rare cases in history God commands us always to not kill infants.
    Finally, I think even if one accepted utilitarianism and held that “heaven existed” I still think the ulitilarian would not grant the conclusion that infanticide was required. The reason is that if we kill every infant in existence the human race would cease to exist, and hence while those infants would all go to heaven, no future generations would because none would exist. From a ultitarian perspective it could well be that happiness is maximised and more people go to heaven if those children grow up teach have other children whom they instruct, and so on.
    So in short Cedric misreads me as endorsing Craig’s argument which I wasn’t I was simply showing an inconsistency in Dawkins. But even if I did endorse Craig’s argument, Cedrics conclusion does not follow.
    As you know serious moral philosophy is not done by youtube video. Its done by understanding other peoples positions and responding with argument.

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  102. “in other words it follows if you believe in heaven and utilitarianism”

    Yes. This is true.

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  103. The infanticide Craig supported was the killing of children as part of ethnic cleansing, purely on ethnic grounds.

    Care to show where Craig justifies it purely on ethnic grounds?
    as I noted the quote you provided shows he justified it on the grounds doing so would improve their quality of life, which is by your definition not infanticide but euthanasia.

    Singer on the other hand supports killing haemophiliacs even when he recognises it does not improve their quality of life, hence he does not support euthanasia he supports infanticide.

    Sorry but misrepresenting peoples views does not count as an argument.

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  104. Regarding Dawkins comment on Singer. I can’t see it as relevant even if true. But again aren’t you telling a porky? If you are referring to the interview in Dawkins’ excellent TV series I saw that too. What impressed me was Singer’s arguments favoring vegetarianism and animal rights. I remember Dawkins expressing guilt that he had not yet given up eating meat despite the convincing arguments Singer expressed. I remember because I felt exactly the same.
    From my memory I can’t recall any discussion of the plight if new born infants with deformities and the ethical problem around intervention or allowing their death. If they had discussed this issue or any justification go infanticide I am sure I would have noticed. It’s an issue which has been rehearsed in my family because of spina bifida (which I am aware Singer has written about).

    Try watching for one minute:

    What was that about Porkies Ken????

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  105. Well, you said…Craig is explicitly clear killing the infant improves his quality of life so that the infant is better of dead
    To which I pointed out that given that heaven is supposed to be super/magic/wonderful, any child would be better off dead. Even, those lucky children with loving parents enjoying a comfortable, middle-class existence.
    Nothing can compare to heaven.

    Then I suggest you re read what I said then, which was

    Craig is explicitly clear killing the infant improves his quality of life so that the infant is better of dead. So in by your logic Craig is not defending infanticide he is advocating child euthanasia, he is using “quality of life” concerns to justify infanticide, which you claim t0 support.
    So ironically when one looks at what the two writers actually say its Craig who supports infant euthanasia and Singer who endorses infanticide.
    I am not saying I agree with Craig, just pointing out that you and Dawkin’s can’t maintain a consistent or defensible stance here.
    When Craig justifies infanticide on quality of life grounds you call it infanticide and claim its unacceptable, when Singer justifies it on grounds other than quality of life you claim its merely fetal euthanasisa and worth considering.

    Like I said your comments respond to my point how?

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  106. Interesting that moral and logically consistent are thought to be tied together in Dawkins’ mind!.. and how on earth is caring for non-human animals an implication of Darwinism. Very odd pair.

    Here is a question. Why does Singer think we should give 10-20% of our income to help other people? Why not give 20% of our income to help spiders say? Very speciesist idea of his! He is not logically consistent on this point. Thank God!

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  107. …Cedric ignores the fact that I said both in my original article and in the comment he responds to that I am not endorsing Craig’s argument.

    I don’t care if you endorse Craig’s argument or not.
    My comment still stands.

    Cedric assumes that if one grants that a child dies and goes to heavenly bliss, it follows your obligated to kill the child.

    Oh, is that what I assumed?
    Funny. Can’t remember actually saying that or even anything like that.

    What did I say? Oooh, hang on! There’s this wheel thingy in the middle of my mouse. I wonder what would happen if I spin it backwards?

    (..scrolls back up the thread…)

    Oh, here it is.

    …Craig is explicitly clear killing the infant improves his quality of life so that the infant is better of dead.

    (Notice how there is no actual endorsement of Craig’s argument.
    It’s not relevant either way.)

    Did I say something about you endorsing Craig later on?
    Let’s keep reading…

    “Given that heaven is supposed to be super/magic/wonderful, any child would be better off dead. Even those lucky children with loving parents enjoying a comfortable, middle-class existence.
    Nothing can compare to heaven.
    It’s automatically a vast improvement.”

    Nope. Didn’t say anything about you endorsing or not endorsing Craig’s argument.

    Cedric assumes that if one grants that a child dies and goes to heavenly bliss, it follows your obligated to kill the child.

    (…re-reads prior comments…)

    No idea what you are talking about. There was no mention from me of anything at all about obligations to kill anything.

    I did post this video though…

    If Heaven Really Existed

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  108. Great – some people have been doing hard work while I have been asleep. OK the morning shift has arrived.

    Thanks for responding Matt. This is the sort if thing I have been asking for – evidence for opinions rather that the opinions themselves. I’ll get around to comment on each point you quoted from Singer’s book. I’ll try to do it in separate shorter comments with references back to yours. Otherwise there will just be confusion ( and some of the really pointless stuff here hasn’t helped).

    Thanks for putting up the video – it is excellent because it provides a chance to see from the horse’s mouth exactly what Singer’s position is. He does not advocate infanticide for a healthy child on the whim of the parents as you guys suggest. My accusation of porkies still stands although I hadn’t actually remembered that first exchange about children with extreme birth defects. He does talk about limits.

    I think you problem with Dawkins has colored your response to the video – although clearly you have basic differences anyway.

    Next response when I can get onto my PC.

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  109. An initial response to you comment @ July 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm |. There are a number of places where you make leaps of logic to fit your claims and it is not true as you claim that your claims are “not controversial.” The fact they are opposed by Singer, in this same book, makes them controversial – and I would say his arguments will have more weight in that controversy as it is about what he advocates or not.

    However, At this stage I need a clarification from you. You heavily rely on a footnote which is not in the second edition saying: “in the version of this chapter that occurs in Writings of an Ethical Life, he notes in footnote 11 that he advocates the total view.”

    Now I think you can appreciate that in the absence of the actual text this can be no more than your opinion, (which indeed contradicts a point you make earlier). It is a key issue as you rely on it completely to assure us that Singer advocates a specific view among several he presents. In fact it is the sole key element in your argument against my comment. To show it’s key nature I will quote your paragraph:

    “Moreover your claim Singer is showing the consequences of the development of two different views, not advocating them himself. is mistaken, in the version of this chapter that occurs in Writings of an Ethical Life, he notes in footnote 11 that he advocates the total view on the basis of the arguments from Derek Parfit which he discusses in Practical Ethics.”

    So could you at least provide us with the text of that footnote. I will leave commenting on this and other issues in this comment until I see that text. In the meantime I have to stick with my current observation that he was not advocating that particular logic – just presenting the consequences of a particular starting point. Especially as elsewhere his comments seem to oppose what you claim is in the footnote.

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  110. Do you?

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  111. But to answer your quesiton now I am back in the office:

    Yes. If I am in the office and get in a conversation, and then someone says to me “prove it! Where is your quote!” I would probably say to them – I don’t have time to go to the library and get the info – believe me or not or look it up yourself.

    Now Cedric. If someone said this to you in the office would you call them a liar, have a tantrum and start calling them names? I hope not!

    Anyway – sick of this meta-debate. Lets get bcak to the actual issue. How do you respond to my hypothetical situation outlined above. Ken. You also did not reply.

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  112. Max, I pointed out the scenarios were a naive form of trolleyism. They don’t even have the advantage of the ordinary trolley scenarios which help identify different ways we react to different situations. I can only repeat that anyone who advances something like this as an explanation for their behavior is inviting a judgement on the mental health.

    And it’s a diversion – at least Matt is providing something he bases his position on. That enables examination and rational consideration. That’s where I will put my effort.

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  113. I think you misread Ken. As I said: my question was not whether the story was *true*. It was in if/then question.

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  114. Max,Ii didn’t misread. The trolley questions are also completely hypothetical.

    On the question of people asking you for proof I see a couple of important things:

    1: Responsibility – if someone makes a claim it should have a basis. Refusal to provide that implies you are pulling something out of thin air, only an unwarranted opinion, and asking others to accept it. 2: Respect – if you are wishing to convince a discussion partner of the truth if something it is disrespectful to expect them to accept it because it is your opinion. 3: Denigrating – in the cases being discussed here these issues apply many times over because they involve reputation – and reputation of somebody talked about behind their back. It is cowardly to express a negative opinion of someone in such a situation and expect your opinion alone to suffice.

    Now I think Matt is wrong in his interpretations of Singer (partly because Matt has some fixed views and therefore cannot even properly consider some of Singer’s basic points). But at least I can point out to Matt how our interpretations differ or where I think he has made unwarranted assumptions. I think this is more respectful to discussion partners and to Singer himself.

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  115. Now Cedric. If someone said this to you in the office would you call them a liar, have a tantrum and start calling them names?

    Nope.
    That’s not the way I operate.
    I’m very fair and honest and I do my very best to portray a situation accurately.
    I don’t approve of strawmen which is why I don’t create them myself or tolerate strawmen to be created around me.
    Quotes. In context and in full are the way to go.

    I’d say that I have not read the person they are making claims about so I’m not commenting on their work.
    However, I can’t go along with a criticism of his work without something concrete to go on.
    I’d explain to them that to support any claims you make of what someone said must be done with real, live quotes (in full and in context).
    I’d explain to them about the burden of proof.

    I’d say that I’m not saying that they are wrong. They could well be portraying the person very accurately. I don’t know. Yet without primary material, I can’t in all honestly accept their claim.
    No reasonable person could.
    Any claim about what someone else said has to be taken carefully. People remember things someone else said badly. People poorly read what someone else wrote. People get confused about what someone else wrote for a variety of reasons. People, such as creationists, actually lie about what someone else said.
    I’d say in plain English that I’m not accusing them of doing any of this.
    They may well be 100% accurate in your assessment of Singer.
    I don’t know.
    I’d state (again) that I have not read the person they are talking about. They are nothing to me. I have no dog in this hunt.
    Yet without direct quotes (in full and in context) it’s not reasonable to make an honest assessment.

    If I make a mistake and inaccurately paraphrase somebody then I’ll do the right thing and admit it, apologize and withdraw my claim.
    It’s not a life or death matter.
    It’s OK to occasionally get things wrong. There’s no disgrace in being honest and withdrawing a claim.
    Lying about it and getting all evasive and snarky is poor form.
    Would you behave like than to people in real life?
    At your office?
    I should hope not.

    You make the claim?
    You provide the evidence.
    Burden of proof.
    Everything else is bluster and hot air.

    I gave you every chance to do the right thing. You behaved very badly.
    The shame is yours.

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  116. Unwilling to answer. Got it. Conversation over then. Shame really – I would have found it an interesting discussion.

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  117. Cedric: good to hear you don’t act like that in your office.

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  118. I guess I see chatting on a blog as a casual conversation – and so treat it in this way. If in a casual conversation someone starts demanding I provide references I just shrug and move on. Cedric you should have learned by now that this is my attitude. You may think this attitude makes me an immoral person, but writing screenfuls or vitriol is not going to make me change attitude – or stop giving my ill-thought-out opinion now and then. I am sorry it causes you a lot of stress though – I hope this explanation will make it less stressful for you from now on.

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  119. Sure Max – but even in a chat issues of responsibility and respect are important. And of course part of the enjoyment of blog discussions is the ability to back up claims. But refusal to back up a behind the back denigration (which there has been a lot of about Singer) invite the interpretation of prejudice.

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  120. Cedric: good to hear you don’t act like that in your office.

    I don’t care about Singer. I really don’t.
    There was no need for you to behave the way you have done.
    Just because it’s the Internet, there is no reason for you to act like a dick.
    Would you behave like than to people in real life?
    At your office?
    I should hope not.

    All you had to do was support your claims or withdraw them.
    If you misremembered something about him then you could have just said so and moved on. It happens. No big deal.
    Life goes on.
    There was no need to keep digging.

    If you didn’t really plan on getting a couple of examples about Singer one you get back to the office, then why lie about it? Twice?
    You gain nothing.

    I guess I see chatting on a blog as a casual conversation – and so treat it in this way. If in a casual conversation someone starts demanding I provide references I just shrug and move on.

    You didn’t do that. You kept digging. If you want to drop the claim then drop the claim. Move on. It’s not that hard. You, however, blustered and evaded and lied.

    You may think this attitude makes me an immoral person…

    Well, making false claims about people and lying is normally considered to be not-good.

    …stop giving my ill-thought-out opinion now and then.

    Only you can take the time to clearly separate your “ill-thought out opinions” from your “well-thought out ones”.

    I am sorry it causes you a lot of stress though – I hope this explanation will make it less stressful for you from now on.

    All you have to do is treat your own words as if they have value and integrity. The rest will take care of itself.

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  121. I am not sure i denigrated anyone?

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  122. Cedric. Yes. I would act that way in my office. Do you call people in person a “dick” in your office?

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  123. Yes. I would act that way in my office.

    Shame on you

    Do you call people in person a “dick” in your office?

    It’s not about me, Max.
    You lied. You acted like a dick. Shame on you.

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  124. Why are you so hung up on my behavior Cedric? Why does it concern you to the degree that you will write page after page about how I am a liar and should be ashamed? I find it really odd behavior…

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  125. Why are you so hung up on my behavior Cedric?

    The Golden Rule.
    I have basic standards. I expect people to be able to discuss issues like reasonable adults. I expect them to care about the truth.
    Somebody makes a claim then…they should support the claim.

    If somebody tried to misrepresent you on the internet, I’d do the same thing on your behalf.

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  126. Denigrators are often oblivious to their denigration.

    But the fact remains that both you and Matt have spoken badly about Peter Singer behind his back. Your presentation of him is distorted. At least Matt is providing his basis for his position and we can discuss that. But there is no way we can discuss your opinion because you won’t do anything to provide substance and it remains an opinion you will, apparently, stick to whatever the facts.

    That attitude adds nothing.

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  127. OK. Well done Cedric. I have now heard your view so relax and know your moral duty is fulfilled. Now it is up to me to either listen or not. You can do no more, so don’t waste any more of your finite life worrying about it… (honestly how many hours have you spent writing out page after page of such things – most of which are never read!)

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  128. I am not sure I have spoken badly about Singer. What bad things have I said? I may have got some of his views wrong – but what have I said about him which is actually negative?

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  129. Matt, in you comment @| July 10, 2012 at 11:51 pm | you ask “Care to show where Craig justifies it purely on ethnic grounds?”
    What other grounds could there possible be? It was part of an act of ethnic cleansing and Craig, in his justification, said that the “children, who were far better dead…than being raised in this Canaanite culture.” What is that if not a racist, ethnic justification?

    Sure Craig rants on about his god and orders from above. But just imagine Craig appearing before the Court of Justice in The Hague for crimes against humanity. The evidence would show his support for, or order for, the massacre, as based on ethnic grounds, as part of ethnic cleansing. Craig might well relate his story about being divinely commanded – but how do courts treat that? Solely as evidence for considering mental problems – not in any way an acceptable justification.

    Now please stop playing with words, Matt. Craig was supporting a massacre, ethnic cleansing and infanticide as part of that ethnic cleansing. We can judge him on those grounds and would not allow his hearing voices to provide any justification at all. Except in determining a sentence which could take into account his mental illness.

    Your second point is a diversion (the claim that“Singer supports killing haemophiliacs.”) You have not shown that at all, except by circuitously arguing on the basis of a footnote in another book. Until you can produce a convincing text I go with the interpretation that in that Chapter Singer was developing arguments based on two different starting points to show their ultimate possible conclusions. He was not expressing support for any particular one. You have just chosen to present his academic argument as evidence for his advocacy – without any warrant.

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  130. Matt – commenting on your comment @| July 11, 2012 at 12:14 am | – it’s not clear this relates to anything I have written. It’s interesting that you seem to have accepted my differentiation between euthanasia and infanticide. However, you really show the twisted thinking of a thoughtless political or nationalistic adherent if you can interpret the killing of people during the massacre involved in ethnic cleansing as euthanasia based on quality of life. That is completely irrational.

    And I think my condemnation of slaughter during ethnic cleansing, children and adults, is consistent and certainly defensible. I don’t know what the hell Dawkins has got to do with that, but you seem to have an irrational attachment to that guy and he keeps popping up without reason.

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  131. Matt, I await your information on the footnote you used. It is the key element in your argument so is required evidence.
    However, dealing with two other issues from your comment @ July 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    There are clear mistakes, misrepresentations, in your interpretation of Singer’s comments.

    What did Singer actually write?

    Example 1: In dealing with differences in killing of infants he says: “it is, rather, characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness that make a difference. Infants lack these characteristics. Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings, or any other self-conscious beings. This conclusion is not limited to infants who, because of irreversible intellectual disabilities, will never be rational, self-conscious beings.” and “No infant – disabled or not – has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time. My emphasis.

    This may be expressed harshly (a common problems when philosophers using logic) but Singer clearly is not denying a right to life to anyone, infant, able or disabled. But he is differentiating – saying that an infant’s claim to life is not “as strong” as for ” beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time.

    In a sense he has introduced a sliding scale, not denied the right to life completely from any being at all.

    You might disagree with that concept and claim that a foetus, a new born infant and a fully able conscious adult have exactly the same “right to life.” That would lead you to oppose abortion, for example. But many people don’t have such an absolute approach. Society in general does have a “sliding scale”. Abortions are permitted, miscarriages are regretted but not treated as equivalent to death of a full term conscious being, maternal infanticide is a crime but considered less serious than murder of an autonomous child or adult.

    Matt – you have taken this concept of a “sliding scale”, that a new-born infant (or even a foetus) does not have as strong a claim on life as an autonomous child or adult and distorted it. You say “Singer states that no infant disabled or otherwise has a right to life.”

    Clearly he does not say that at all. That is a serious misrepresentation and I can only assume you have made this mistake because you wish to claim that the “right to life” is exactly the same for an unborn foetus, a new-born infant and an autonomous child or adult.

    Example 2: Singer said that “The difference between killing disabled and normal infants lies not in any supposed right to life that the latter has and the former lacks, but in other considerations about killing.” He is putting both normal and disabled infants into the same class based on “right to life” arguments. He then goes on to consider these “other considerations. One of these is “the difference that often exists in the attitudes of the parents. And “Parents may, with good reason, regret that a disabled child was ever born. In that event the effect that the death of the child will have on its parents can be a reason for, rather than against killing it.”
    Notice the qualifier “can be.”

    But he goes on to consider other considerations: “The remaining principles identified in Chapter 4 are utilitarian. Hence the quality of life that the infant can be expected to have is important.” He then gets into considering the logic of two different approaches – “both the ‘prior existence’ and the ‘total’ version of utilitarianism entail that, if there are no ‘extrinsic’ reasons for keeping the infant alive – like the feelings of the parents – it is better that the child should be helped to die without further suffering.” Here he is considering a seriously damaged infant (spina bifida) with little or no prospects.

    And according to the “prior existence” version he finds that in the case of a less serious disability” “Could euthanasia be defended here? Our first reaction may well be a firm ‘no’, for the infant can be expected to have a life that is worth living, even if not quite as good as that of a normal baby. The ‘prior existence’ version of utilitarianism supports this judgment. The infant exists. His life can be expected to contain a positive balance of happiness over misery. To kill him would deprive him of this positive balance of happiness. Therefore it would be wrong.”

    Only on the “total” version can one make a case, in some circumstance, for euthanasia of the less damaged child.

    Now, Matt you wish to claim that Singer is advocating the “total” version of utilitarianism. I can’t see evidence of it in this book (quite the contrary) and you rely on a footnote in another book (and I suspect a change of definition). Until I can peruse that I won’t accept your personal recommendation.

    So clearly, Matt, you are wrong again to claim that permission to euthanasia a child rests solely with the “attitudes of the parents and other adults towards them.” And you are clearly wrong to take his discussion of seriously and less seriously deformed new-born infants to include normal healthy ones.

    Matt, you insist that “It’s not controversial or unknown that Singer believes this stuff.” Perhaps not in your mind or those of your cohorts. But clearly there is a conflict between your interpretation/understanding and what Singer actually wrote.

    It’s interesting to speculate on motives.

    I do have one final issue with your comment but it is strongly dependent on the text of the footnote you rely on so I will hold off till we have that.

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  132. I now have the footnote Matt refers to and which is a key point in his argument that Singer advocates that new-born children may be killed whether they are damaged or normal (see comment @July 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm ) So no need to wait for Matt’s reply but to ensure we are on the same hymn sheet here is the footnote I found (is it the same as yours Matt?).

    My discussion of the “total” and “prior existence” versions of utilitarianism owes much to Derek Parfit. I originally tried to defend the prior existence view in “A Utilitarian Population Principle,” in M. Bayles, ed., Ethics and Population (Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman, 19760), but Parfit’s reply, “On Doing the Best for Our Children,” in the same volume, persuaded me to change my mind. Parfit’s Reasons and Persons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984) is required reading for anyone wishing to pursue this topic in depth. See also his short account of some of the issues in “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life,” in P. Singer, ed. Applied Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986). Parfit uses the term “person-affecting” where I use “prior existence.” The reason for the change is that the view has no special reference to persons, as distinct from other sentient creatures. The distinction between the two versions of utilitarianism appears to have been first noticed by Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics (London- Macmillan, 1907), pp. 414-416. later discussions include, in addition to those cited above, J. Narveson, “Moral Problems of Population,” Monist 57 (1973); T. G. Roupas, “The Value of Life,” Philosophy’ and Public Affairs 7 (1978): and R. I. Sikora, “Is It Wrong to Prevent the Existence of Future Generations?” in B. Barry and R. Sikora, eds., Obligations to Future Generations (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978).

    Now, Matt I don’t think this is a valid evidence for you to claim that Singer advocates the “total” version of utilitarianism. He says specifically that he “originally tried to defend the prior existence view.” Parfitt changed his mind. It appears to me the change was to incorporate “other sentient creatures” (an argument Singer would appreciate) – not to advocate that killing is morally justified even when there is no damage.

    In any case it’s an extremely weak note on which to centrally base your whole argument against Singer. And, surely it is better to actually check what Singer says about specific issues rather than rely on something so vague.

    For example in Practical Ethics he responded to ” a vehement attack on me written by Franz Christoph, the leader of the self-styled ‘Cripples Movement’, a militant organization of disabled people.” This is in the appendix dealing with attacks on him in Germany.

    “The article was illustrated with photographs of the transportation of ‘euthanasia victims’ in the Third Reich, and of Hitler’s ‘Euthanasia Order’. The article gave readers no idea at all of the ethical basis on which I advocated euthanasia, and it quoted spokespeople for groups of the disabled who appeared to believe that I questioned their right to life. I sent a brief reply in which I pointed out that I was advocating euthanasia not for anyone like themselves, but for severely disabled newborn infants, and that it was crucial to my defense of euthanasia that these infants would never have been capable of grasping that they are living beings with a past and a future.

    Outlining the approach he wished to take in his German lectures he says:
    ” My intention in these lectures was to defend a view for which I have argued in several previously published works: that the parents of severely disabled newborn infants should be able to decide, together with their physician, whether their infant should live or die. If the parents and their medical adviser are in agreement that the infant’s life will be so miserable or so devoid of minimal satisfactions that it would be inhumane or futile to prolong life, then they should be allowed to ensure that death comes about speedily and without suffering.”
    And
    ” Parents may not always be able to make an unbiased decision concerning the future of their infant, and their decisions may not be defensible. In some cases – Down’s syndrome perhaps – the outlook for the child might be for a life without suffering, but the child would need much more care and attention, over a longer period, than a normal child would require. . . . . . In these circumstances, given that the child will not be living a life of unredeemed misery, and the parents will not be coerced into rearing that child, they can no longer insist upon having the major role in life or death decisions for their child.”

    So to summarise:

      #: You have based your attack on Singer on a section of Practical Ethics where Singer compares the possible consequences of two different starting points (quite normal for an academic text and he provides no advocacy for either);
      #: You make some claims and mention a footnote in a completely separate book to justify your interpretation that Singer would advocate the killing of new-born children even if completely normal. No quote of evidence provided – only your opinion.
      #: The footnote turns out not to do anything of the sort but presumably enables you to do a bit of mental gymnastics to get the answer you want.
      #: Anyway there are a number of places in practical Ethics where Singer clearly does differentiate between damaged and undamaged children in a way that clearly expresses his advocacy because he is defending himself against the sort of charge you are making.

    Matt, I really think this discussion is over. You have not provided any credible support for your claim.

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