PETER SINGER AT ECKERD COLLEGE, 14 SEPTEMBER 2006, Stan Davis09/15/06
A standing-room-only crowd of over 600 people came to hear philosopher-bioethicist, Peter Singer, in St. Pete Thursday night. Singer had been invited to Eckerd College to discuss the ethics of globalization. But some of the audience were more concerned about the ethics of Singer, himself.
Stan Davis was there and files this story.
[Actuality 1-Richard & Kathy- â€œâ€¦ I do not know whether equal time is being givenâ€¦ people like Adolph Hitlerâ€?]
Is Peter Singer Adolph Hitler? Many people in the SRO crowd Thursday night came to check him out for themselves.
Singer, a Philosopher and Professor in Bioethics at Princeton University, was last year named by Time Magazine as one of the â€œWorldâ€™s 100 Most Influential People.â€?
Singer calls himself a Utilitarian, advocating a theory of morality that connects human actions to their effects and consequences. Others say Singer is simply an advocate of mass murder, using an academicâ€™s cloak to justify so-called â€œmercy killingsâ€? of the disabled, the elderly, and the terminally ill.
Thursday evening, though, Singer wanted to talk about the ethics of Globalization. He began with Climate Change, specifically, â€œGlobal Warmingâ€¦â€?
[Actuality 2- Singer- â€œâ€¦ The atmosphere, which we have long thought of as a limitless resourceâ€¦ and thatâ€™s why climate change is such a crucial ethical issueâ€¦â€?]
And then, he told his audience that Americans actually derive certain benefits from their contribution to climate changeâ€¦
[Actuality 3- â€œâ€¦ what weâ€™re getting from itâ€¦ a large scale national selfishnessâ€¦â€?]
The somewhat free-wheeling lecture then moved onto world poverty. Singer talked about economic justice using easy-to-understand analogies.
[Actuality 4- Singer- â€œâ€¦27,000 children a day die of poverty â€¦ youâ€™re gonna have to do something elseâ€¦â€?]
And what can the people of the developed North do to save these children, in fact bring the entire world population out of povertyâ€¦
[Actuality 5- Singer- â€œâ€¦itâ€™s not hard to look around â€¦ seems to me something that is affordableâ€?]
Singer also explained how Americans have no idea how much of their tax dollars actually go towards foreign aid.
Studies indicate that Americans think 20% of the US budget goes towards foreign aid. Those same studies reported that Americans would like to see this amount reduced to what they consider a fair 10%.
What most Americans do not know, however, is that less than 1% of their tax dollars actually goes towards foreign assistanceâ€¦
[Actuality 6- Singer â€œâ€¦ we have an American public that is misinformedâ€¦ or the one before, for that matterâ€¦â€?
Singer then took some questions from the audience, many of whom wanted to talk about some of his earlier pronouncements, likening his views on euthanasia to Hitlerâ€™s.
Perhaps Provocateur is a word that best describes Peter Singer, because even though his hackles rise when he hears himself compared to Hitlerâ€”all four of Singerâ€™s grandparents were thrown into concentration campsâ€”only one survived â€“Singer wonâ€™t back off his suggestion that newborns have no â€œrightâ€? to personhood.
Some 20 years ago, Singer wrote that when a child is born with extremely severe, life-threatening defects, it should be permissibleâ€”within its first 28 days of lifeâ€”for the doctors to administer a lethal injection, if thatâ€™s what the parents wish.
Singer explained how he came to hold this beliefâ€¦
[Actuality 7- Singer- â€œ Back in the 1980s, I was director of a Bioethics centerâ€¦ justifiable to end a human lifeâ€¦â€?]
Towards the eveningâ€™s end, Singer did confess some contrition.
He wondered if his provocations about life and death ethics may be hampering his effectiveness in campaigning for the poor and for the rights of animals.
[Actuality 8- Singer- â€œâ€¦it may be that I might be â€¦actually more important causesâ€¦â€?]
By and large, the audience appreciated hearing what Peter Singer had to offer. Theyâ€™d checked him out for themselves.
For WMNF, Iâ€™m Stan Davis