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- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ I do not know whether equal time is being givenÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ people like Adolph HitlerÃ¢â‚¬?]
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 Ã¢â‚¬Å“WorldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 100 Most Influential People.Ã¢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 academicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cloak to justify so-called Ã¢â‚¬Å“mercy killingsÃ¢â‚¬? 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, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Global WarmingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬?
[Actuality 2- Singer- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ The atmosphere, which we have long thought of as a limitless resourceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why climate change is such a crucial ethical issueÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬?]
And then, he told his audience that Americans actually derive certain benefits from their contribution to climate changeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
[Actuality 3- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re getting from itÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ a large scale national selfishnessÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬?]
The somewhat free-wheeling lecture then moved onto world poverty. Singer talked about economic justice using easy-to-understand analogies.
[Actuality 4- Singer- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦27,000 children a day die of poverty Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re gonna have to do something elseÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬?]
And what can the people of the developed North do to save these children, in fact bring the entire world population out of povertyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
[Actuality 5- Singer- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not hard to look around Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ seems to me something that is affordableÃ¢â‚¬?]
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 assistanceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
[Actuality 6- Singer Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ we have an American public that is misinformedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ or the one before, for that matterÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢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 HitlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s.
Perhaps Provocateur is a word that best describes Peter Singer, because even though his hackles rise when he hears himself compared to HitlerÃ¢â‚¬â€all four of SingerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grandparents were thrown into concentration campsÃ¢â‚¬â€only one survived Ã¢â‚¬â€œSinger wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t back off his suggestion that newborns have no Ã¢â‚¬Å“rightÃ¢â‚¬? to personhood.
Some 20 years ago, Singer wrote that when a child is born with extremely severe, life-threatening defects, it should be permissibleÃ¢â‚¬â€within its first 28 days of lifeÃ¢â‚¬â€for the doctors to administer a lethal injection, if thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what the parents wish.
Singer explained how he came to hold this beliefÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
[Actuality 7- Singer- Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Back in the 1980s, I was director of a Bioethics centerÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ justifiable to end a human lifeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬?]
Towards the eveningÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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- Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Â¦it may be that I might be Ã¢â‚¬Â¦actually more important causesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬?]
By and large, the audience appreciated hearing what Peter Singer had to offer. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d checked him out for themselves.
For WMNF, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Stan Davis