Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Living in a perfect world

We live in the age of eugenics. Eugenic abortion. Eugenic infanticide. Eugenic “mercy-killing.” The eugenic outlook on life is becoming more mainstream, and therefore more radical-–since the movement is incremental. It warns against “alarmist” language while it quietly, but diligently, phases in its radical and homicidal policies.

The eugenic worldview helps us to put the problem of evil in perspective. For the eugenic worldview is pursuing an ideal. It’s ideal of a perfect world. Its version of the best possible world.

From a eugenic perspective, the perfect world resembles one of those new teen dramas you see trailers for every year. Every year we see trailers for a new teen drama, which is interchangeable with the last teen drama.

The perfect world is usually set in Orange County or the Florida Gold Coast. It’s a world where every high school student has perfect teeth and a Mercedes convertible.

Mind you, even this perfect world has its ups and downs–as the TV trailers preview the many trials and tribulations of being young, rich, and beautiful. It’s enough to make you cry.

This is the utopian vision of someone like Peter Singer. For example, Singer thinks it’s for the best if we abort all the hemophiliacs. A hemophiliac has a lower quality of life than a normal, healthy baby. His life is fraught with peril.

Singer justifies this position on the grounds that people are replaceable. You’d be replacing the hemophiliac with a normal, healthy baby.

I suppose he’d extend his reasoning to babies who are congenitally blind or deaf.

Now, from a biblical perspective, some of these genetic defects are, indeed, natural evils. It is, however, better to be born blind or deaf than never to be born at all. Sensory impairment scarcely negates the value of being alive.

In addition, these natural evils supply the occasion for certain virtues to manifest themselves. If your brother is blind or deaf, then he requires more attention. You don’t take him for granted to the same degree. Because he’s vulnerable, he’s more dependent on his parents, friends, and siblings to look out for his interests. And that, in turn, supplies an opportunity for a more loving and caring and close-knit family or circle of friends.

Of course, that’s also more time-consuming and “burdensome.” It puts a crimp in our lifestyle. Infringes on our freedom.

Eugenics is, in large part, about eliminating inconvenient people. People who make too many demands on us–thereby transgressing our sacrosanct autonomy.

So this goes to the question of what is important in life. What’s the source of personal fulfillment? Is it a matter of investing your life in other people–or retaining a certain level of detachment, so that you can pull the plug at any time?

Do people get in the way of what you want in life, or do people contribute to the value of life?

Finally, the Christian worldview is also concerned with the healing of broken bodies. But Christianity can have the best of both worlds.

In a fallen world, redeemed by grace, God can cultivate certain virtues which are only possible in such a world. A world with natural and moral evils.

Those virtues can then carry over into the world to come, where birth defects are eliminated without eliminating the individual.


  1. "Singer thinks it’s for the best if we abort all the hemophiliacs...
    Singer justifies this position on the grounds that people are replaceable."

    These are lies.

    What does your bible tell you about lying?

  2. "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 ot have if the haemophiliac child lives? If they would is the second child likely to have a better life than the one killed?...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 defective 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 then for a haemophiliac. When the death of a defective 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 defective infant is killed. The loss of a 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. The total view treats infants as replaceable," P. Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge 1990), 134.

  3. Singer has responded to this before:

    "First, the quote about hemophiliac babies, which is often cited, is something of a misrepresentation. If you look at the actual passage, I am exploring the implications of a particular viewpoint in which nothing's going on except the parents and the child. Having done that, I come back some pages later to say, but when you look at the larger society, if you've got childless couples who would like to adopt a child and hemophilia is not a serious problem, then it's wrong to kill that child if parents really don't want to rear it for some reason. They ought to give it up for adoption. So that's really the kind of thing I'm saying there. But it is also true that when I first wrote that book back in 1979, it wasn't as easy as it is now to treat hemophilia."

    Clearly, when taken out of context, "The total view" is not Singer's view. The passage is part of a greater context in which Singer is working toward a more reasonable philosophical conclusion.

    To make your point better, Steve, you really should have replaced the bit about "if killing the haemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others" with ellipses. Of course the hypothetical killing would have adverse effects on others.

  4. Since you’re slow on the uptake, let’s spell it out for you. Here’s the essential logic of Singer’s argument:

    i) Whether or not killing is justified depends on the aggregate amount of happiness, in relation to an individual’s own quality of life, as well as to his contribution to the happiness of others.

    ii) A “defective” child (e.g. hemophiliac) is less happy because he has a lower quality of life.

    iii) Likewise, he is a burden to others–which lowers their level of happiness.

    iv) All things being equal, if a “defective” child is replaceable by a healthy child, then it’s preferable to kill the defective child.

    v) All things considered, if the “defective” child is not replaceable by a healthy child, then it may not be preferable to kill the defective child.

    vi) Due to advances in reproductive technology, it will be increasingly possible to replace a “defective” child with a healthy child.

    vii) It is already preferable to kill a “defective” child where (iv) obtains.

    viii) It is preferable to kill every “defective” child where (vi) obtains.

  5. Ignoring for the moment that Singer was only discussing some hypotheticals of strict utilitarianism, you deliberately omitted two crucial contingencies:

    iv) and vi) - only "if killing the haemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others."


    iv) only "When the death of a defective infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life."

  6. I see that logic is not your forte. I included those contingencies in my syllogistic summary of his argument.

    J, you need to justify your continued existence. Given the substandard intellectual performance you've displayed thus far, we're putting you on probation. Another infraction and we'll have to euthanize you.

    After all, you're replaceable, and it would be quite easy to replace you with another biological unit that operates at a higher level. Mentally defective units like you are a drag on the common good.