February 26, 2010
“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”
–C.S. Lewis, Answers to Questions on Christianity
This understanding of love is the basis by which we can determine what actions are truly loving. If a person claims to love, yet acts in a manner that is contrary to the person who is “loved,” then we can rightfully question whether love is present, regardless of how anybody feels about it.
February 24, 2010
I’ve recently spent a fair about of time arguing that the intentional killing of an innocent human life [before or after birth] should always be illegal. This morning, I stumbled across something very interesting and relevant to the point.
It seems that controversial Princeton bioethics professor Peter Singer has addressed a relevant part of the issue. Singer is a utilitarian and he takes the common step of arguing that not all human beings are “persons,” and it is only wrong to kill “persons” (where the interest of the person killing outweighs the interest of the non-person). However, he is extremely honest about the implications of his position:
I use the term “person” to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.
Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection – but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.
Moreover, Singer addresses the common argument that an unborn baby is neither “alive” nor “human” for the justification of abortion:
[The argument that a fetus is not alive] is a resort to a convenient fiction that turns an evidently living being into one that legally is not alive. Instead of accepting such fictions, we should recognise that the fact that a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being’s life.
That is the rational result of splitting “personhood” from mere human life. One can engage in the “fiction” that an unborn child is neither human nor living—a fiction that an apparently infanticidal Princeton professor claims is unsupportable despite having every reason for accepting it if he could—or one can accept occasional infanticide in a utilitarian package deal. That is a serious commitment to abortion.
Peter Singer is right, unborn human beings are both human and alive, and his argument is further evidence, at least to me, that splitting “human life” from the (wholly invented) concept of “personhood” is a grave wrong (and yet another work of fiction) that leads to such pleasantries as infanticide, not to mention slavery, eugenics, and genocide, where utilitarian ideals would permit that such measures be taken. Those ugly-sounding practices aren’t so far off if one is able to take “personhood” from a living human being, for whatever reason.
Also note, Peter Singer is no slouch professor throwing out some controversial ideas. He was integral to the establishment of the International Association for Bioethics and served as its first president. One can hardly dismiss his argument as the rantings of a hack professor. The man knows what he is talking about. He is wrong to adopt utilitarianism, but he is right in taking the concept to its conclusion. Those who believe in the transcendent principle that the intentional taking of innocent human life is always wrong and should always be illegal can avoid such illusions altogether.
Apparently not even the public sidewalks are safe for free speech anymore:
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday against Los Angeles County officials on behalf of a Christian man who was prohibited from sharing his faith on a public sidewalk outside the San Fernando Courthouse. County officials told Anthony Miano that he could only conduct his free speech activities across the street on a sparsely used sidewalk.
I have been to several courthouses in Los Angeles County. Outside the Van Nuys Courthouse, while waiting in a long line of attorneys to enter the courthouse doors upon their first opening in the morning, there was a lunatic with a sign and a bullhorn calling all of us “Nazis,” ranting and raving about all kinds of nonsensical matters. I was informed by the attorney next to me that the man shows up often. At first I was annoyed, but then it occurred to me, this is why we have the First Amendment (and the state constitutional equivalent). Anyone can say whatever he wants. It’s his right, and nobody even tried to stop him. Impressive, when you consider what might happen to him in another country…
…or even another American city within the same county. Apparently, judge Robert J. Schuit (the supervising judge of the San Fernando Courthouse) fancies his courthouse much more elegant and well-mannered, not even allowing so much as a quiet conversation about religion on the public sidewalk anywhere near his courthouse. Those pesky state and federal constitutions can be ever-so inconvenient sometimes.