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Jewish World Review June 28, 1999 /17 Tamuz 5759

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Selectivity shouldn't apply to Creator's gift of life --
THE NAZI IDEAL of a master race required two main tactics: selective breeding, and elimination of the weak, ill, deformed and handicapped, generally by murder in various liquidation camps around Europe.

Most folks perceive these actions and the thinking behind them as inhumane and evil. The president of Princeton University views this mentality not only as intellectually provocative, but worthy of a chair in bioethics at Princeton's Center for Human Values.

This honor goes to Peter Singer, who wrote a book, "Practical Ethics," in which he promotes a utilitarian philosophy of people worthy to live. He specifically targets the newborn. He suggests, for example, that if killing their newborn hemophiliac induces the parents to have another child who is born without hemophilia, "the loss of a happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second."

This from a guy who expends a lot of energy campaigning in his home country of Australia against the sale of eggs laid by cooped-up chickens, and who is the grandchild of Holocaust victims.

It is astonishing that someone from a 4,000-year-old Jewish tradition could argue so vehemently against the inherent sanctity of life as a gift from God, and instead embrace utilitarianism and subjective happiness, the antithesis of Judeo-Christian philosophy, as the determiners of life or death for an old person or a newborn.

I personally find it frightening that he would receive anything more than an invitation to debate from such a reputable university. It is horrifying that this man will be a teacher of young, impressionable minds with opinions such as, "Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all."

When I first brought this up on my radio program, I was deluged with letters expressing shock, disgust, rage, hurt and fear. I was overwhelmed by one from a 14-year-old girl with an 8-year-old Down syndrome sibling:

"When the doctor first told my parents about my sister's disability, they were shocked. My mother instantly burst into tears. The unbearable pain shattered her heart. My father was trembling with confusion because he did not understand why this would happen to them. The doctor brought up the option of putting her up for adoption. My parents were definitely scared, but they still loved her. They knew that every person deserves a chance. The birth of my sister has helped me become more compassionate and caring toward people who are different. It's hard to think about what kind of conceited, merciless person I would be without Katelyn. My sister has shown me a world most people never get to experience. Katelyn has made me a better person inside."

Perhaps that is a utilitarian view that Mr. Singer hasn't imagined or respected: that dealing with troubles and challenges builds compassion and character.

Another listener was responding to the euthanasia debate taking place in the California legislature. "People make decisions regarding life, death and in-between without the kind of moral knowledge being available to them that was once built into our society. And because of that there is no shame anymore. We make wrong decisions in order to keep comfortable, to avoid inconvenience, to be less a burden and because others pressure us for it."

When inconvenient pregnancies can be terminated on demand with approbation, when an inconvenient baby can be drowned in a toilet during the prom, it is a small leap to terminating the too-old and infirm, and the newborn who isn't perfect.

Princeton's defense of this appointment is an affront to civilized society. This is an example of stretching academic freedom to the breaking point -- the advocacy of sacrificing human life to convenience.

So far, Mr. Singer limits this barbarity to only the first 28 days of life. What is magic about one month? Why not two, 10 or more? Children can get into accidents or develop debilitating illnesses after 28 days. And if they do, they'll be unhappy, and the parents will be burdened emotionally, physically and financially. What really makes 28 days so special? Mr. Singer doesn't advocate euthanasia for old people. Perhaps that's because he's closer to old age than to 28 days.

Come to think of it, maybe I'll one-up Mr. Singer and recommend termination of academicians over 50 who have become so secularized that they love chicken eggs more than human beings and have betrayed their heritage of "treating others as yourself."


06/21/99: Pornography course contributes nothing to moral sensibility
06/07/99: Stop blaming 'society' for parents' laziness
06/07/99: 'It's Elementary' doesn't teach tolerance
06/01/99: Terrorism begins at home
05/24/99: His, mine, ours -- and priorities
05/17/99: Polluted waters of society are killing our fish fry
05/10/99:Good teachers offer more than 3 R's
05/03/99: Cybersex survey a travesty of science
04/19/99: Legal abortion not the salvation that feminists claim
04/12/99: Moral parents struggle against upside-down value system
03/31/99: Children need attention before they cry out for it
03/29/99: Family values fall victim to advertising whims
03/19/99: Snooping can be healthy if it saves a child in trouble
03/05/99: Traditional religions offer optimism to adherents
03/05/99: Tearing down foundations, brick by brick
02/26/99: With power comes obligation to lead by example
02/19/99: National Prayer Breakfast inspires public servants
02/12/99: Overcoming selfishness leads us closer to human potential
02/09/99: Youth's difficult lessons make us better adults
02/02/99: Rituals, icons remind us of our obligation to G-d
01/22/99: 'Consenting adults' don't always examine consequences
01/18/99: Day care no substitute for love of mom and dad
01/08/99: Don't use others' misfortunes to build your self-image
12/31/98: Tracking HIV-infected people makes good sense
12/24/98: How can we teach ethics without defining morals?
12/18/98: Parents afraid of firm values leave their children adrift
12/11/98: Spread righteousness by refusing to accept the 'code'

©1999, Universal Press Syndicate