Beyond the Pale

  For more than a decade, Princeton ethics professor Peter Singer has been raising eyebrows -- and more than the occasional hackle -- with his writings. Whether the subject is the sanctity of human life or animal rights, you can count on Singer to embrace positions that would have been beyond the pale only twenty years ago. Well, Singer's latest "embrace" is so extreme and so disturbing that it may give even his defenders pause. Singer's ethics are guided by two concerns: increasing the sum total of "happiness" in the world, and erasing the distinction between people and animals. Thus, Singer has suggested that a mother be allowed a sort of grace period in which to decide whether to keep her baby or kill it. Likewise, he has advocated euthanasia for severely handicapped children and the elderly, if it would make those around them happier. Well, he's at again. In a recent book review, posted on, Singer has come out in favor of . . . bestiality. He prefers the term "mutually satisfying activities," but he's still talking about physical relationships with pets. In his review of the book, Dearest Pet: On Bestiality, by Midas Dekker, Singer writes that "our physical similarities with other mammals . . . are so strong that the taboo on bestiality stems not from physical differences but from our desire to differentiate ourselves . . . from animals." In other words, there are no moral or physical reasons to shun bestiality. Our misgivings are purely the product of our need to see ourselves as superior to animals. In many ways, Peter Singer reminds me of a boy who says outrageous things just to get attention. But Singer is also being consistent, and -- intentionally or not -- pointing to the slippery slope on which our secular view of life rests. Every rationale that Singer employs to justify "mutually satisfactory activities" with animals can be applied to relations with children. Actually, the case is stronger since the "physical similarities" Singer identifies are greater in the case of children. If bestiality and pedophilia are open to discussion, is there anything that isn't? No, and that's the real outrage. Singer may be shocking, but what he says is merely the logical culmination of what today's secular culture professes. We deny the sanctity of life, and, Singer suggests, what lives can be dispensed with. We deny that there is anything intrinsically special about being human, and he points to the sexual similarities between our pets and ourselves. Singer insists that sexual satisfaction is one of life's greatest goods, and he asks why we should automatically rule out certain "satisfactory activities." Well, in one sense, Peter Singer is doing Christians a favor. Our neighbors cannot tell us we're "imagining things" when we point out where our culture's worldview can lead. It's right there in print -- written by a tenured Ivy League professor, no less. And if they're offended by what they hear, maybe they'll be more open to the Christian alternative. That isn't Singer's objective, of course. But in expressing what's beyond the pale, he may have given more people a reason to seek out the light. References: Singer, Peter. "Heavy Petting." (March 2001). NOTE: The link to this article is provided for reference only. BreakPoint explicitly DOES NOT endorse or recommend this site.


Chuck Colson


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