Whacky, absurd humanistic atheists

I find the most absurd, impractical, extremist ideas come not from the religious right, but from the secular left. Peter Singer is a great example. Here's a recent online conversation and debate I've had with a supporter of his views -- ah, well, the thing is, the man doesn't really support all of Singer's views (that would be too crazy). He just doesn't want anyone criticizing Singer. Not only him, but another person, probably a humanistic atheist, has been voting down my posts during the debate, heheh.

But the cool thing is, I made my point well and I think clarity is superior to agreement. Below is some good bits of the debate:

These are the same people that equate a chicken barbeque with the Holocaust.

We live in the age of stupidity.

Just looked Singer up on Wikipedia and found it quite enlightening: he's won the "humanist of the year" award, he's an atheist, he bases his morality on whether something is pleasurable, he's petitioned the UN to grant personhood to apes. Dear Lord...

(pre-flame response: no, not all atheists or humanists have such values)


Unfortunately, you are contributing to it.

You didn't find "he bases his morality on whether something is pleasurable" in Wikipedia. Apparently, like fat_boy, you are pulling your facts out of your arse.

John, actually that was on Wikipedia too:

From the article on him,

"[Singer] approaches ethical issues from a preference utilitarian perspective"

I'd never heard of preference utilitarianism before, so I looked it up and found this,

"preference utilitarians interpret the best consequences in terms of 'preference satisfaction'. This means that 'good' is described as the satisfaction of each person's individual preferences or desires, and a right action is that which leads to this satisfaction. Since what is good depends solely on individual preferences, there can be nothing that is in itself good or bad except for the resulting state of mind. Preference utilitarianism therefore can be distinguished by its acknowledgement that every person's experience of satisfaction will be unique.

Traditionally, utilitarians subscribe to a hedonistic philosophy, which states that utility consists in achieving pleasurable mental states. For example, the utilitarian Jeremy Bentham argued that the right thing to do was to produce the maximum amount of pleasure for all affected."

In essence, whatever feels good or brings the most pleasure is the morally right action. Utter and complete absurdity in the highest form, which have come to fruition in this man's views.

This is a ludicrous approach to understanding someone's views. You see a two word description, look it up and take that as a satisfactory summary of Singer's views. It is like reading that John Kerry is a Catholic, looking up a statement of Catholic teachings, and assuming John Kerry supports them all (on contraception, for example). It should be self-evident that you would gain far more enlightenment by reading the article on Singer himself.

Even if that description was accurate, it is incomplete to the point of being useless. "Brings the most pleasure" to whom or what? There is a big difference, for example, between seeking pleasure for yourself and seeking to give it to others. Does caring for the sick and hungry call forth your moral disapproval? Singer has arguing very strongly for helping the world's poor.

Moreover, it is nonsense to believe that Singer favours pleasure in the narrow hedonistic "feel good" sense. For example:

This model also explains the priority that Singer attaches to interests over trivial desires and pleasures. For instance, one has an interest in food, but not in the pleasures of the palate that might distinguish eating steak from eating tofu, because nutrition is instrumental to many goals in one's life journey, whereas the desire for meat is not and is therefore trumped by the interest of animals in avoiding the miseries of factory farming.


An alternative line taken by Singer about the need for ethics[27] is that living the ethical life may be, on the whole, more satisfying than seeking only material gain. He invokes the hedonistic paradox, noting that those who pursue material gain seldom find the happiness they seek. Having a broader purpose in life may lead to more long-term happiness. On this account, impartial (self-sacrificing) behavior in particular matters may be motivated by self-interested considerations from a broader perspective.

Singer has also implicitly argued that a watertight defense of utilitarianism is not crucial to his work. In "Famine, Affluence, and Morality", he begins by saying that he would like to see how far a seemingly innocuous and widely endorsed principle can take us; the principle is that one is morally required to forego a small pleasure to relieve someone else's immense pain. He then argues that this principle entails radical conclusions — for example, that most Americans are very immoral for not giving up some luxury goods in order to donate the money for famine relief. If his reasoning is valid, either it is not very immoral to value small luxuries over saving many lives, or many Americans are very immoral. From this perspective, regardless of the soundness of Singer's fundamental defense of utilitarianism, his work has value in that it exposes conflicts between many people's stated beliefs and their actions

Singer is a very provocative thinker. I don't wish to suggest agreement with all his views. I do wish to express my disdain for shallow, thoughtless critiques.

But his own views, as described by the article, reinforce this point, that he equates human life with animal life, by saying sometimes he would consider saving a mouse over a disabled human, or thinks that the litmus test for whether a medical experiment is moral is whether we'd do it on a human baby. If not, then it's not fit for monkeys or mice either.

You speak of hypocrisy - I would hope this man is an exception to hypocrisy -- he'd better not drive his car down the road. You'd kill far too many insects this way.

What a sad day for a world that calls a man 'thinker' when he espouses views that devalue human life and place lesser value on disabled humans.

Why do you insist on being obtuse? He does not equate human life with animal life. From his FAQ:

"Species membership alone isn't morally significant, but equal consideration for similar interests allows different consideration for different interests."

i.e., humans have some interests not shared by other animals, which entitle them to some special treatment.

I understand that this doesn't go far enough for you, but that doesn't justify telling untruths about how far Singer does go.

Clearly there are some who regard human life as distinct from and superior to animal life, a position that many will justify by claiming that humans have a special status in God's eyes, and they hold this to be true from the moment of conceptions until death, regardless of the level of consciousness, quality of life or anything else.

Singer doesn't believe in God, so he won't take the specialness of human life as a given. Instead, special treatment requires justification. Singer comes up with justifications that preserve most of the moral status quo that a devout religious person might insist on and an even larger proportion of the status quo that is accepted by mainstream society.

As I point out in another post, an absolutist position on the preservation of human life is very much a minority view, perhaps even among the religious. Severely disabled newborn babies are routinely allowed to die if that is the parents' wish, as it often is. Adults with severe brain injuries are taken off life support. People with severe cancer or even diabetes may elect to discontinue treatment and thus hasten their death.

Singer pushes the envelope, but not by nearly as much as his critics claim.

More rubbish. From his FAQ:

I’m not living as luxurious a life as I could afford to, but I admit that I indulge my own desires more than I should. I give about 25% of what I earn to NGO’s, mostly to organizations helping the poor to live a better life. I don’t claim that this is as much as I should give. Since I started giving, about thirty years ago, I’ve gradually increased the amount I give, and I’m continuing to do so.

Know of a lot of Nazis who followed that policy, do you?

That's what I'm contending with, that's the piece where he's absolutely wrong. Species membership has much to do with an act being moral. Killing insects or small woodland creatures, while a shame, isn't akin to murder for the specific reason that it wasn't a human that was killed. We place more value on human life than animal life, thus rendering his idea where specie membership is morally insignificant as complete hogwash.

He gives to charity. Good for him.

Since you didn't answer my question, I'll ask it again: if specie membership is morally insignificant, as he claims, isn't it hypocritical to then kill members of other species, say, insects on your windshield, by driving your car to work?

This is barely an argument. "We place more value on human life". So does Singer. You are making no attempt to understand his position, thus providing further evidence in support of my contention that you are not interested in a serious discussion.

There is little point answering your questions, since you don't want them answered. Singer's web site gives the answer, but you ignore it and keep repeating the same uncomprehending rubbish.

Singer applies common moral criteria to all species but, since species differ in their attributes, the application of the common moral criteria to different attributes leads to different conclusions.

Thus if a species is capable of experiencing pain, that provides some entitlement to consideration. But species differ in their ability to experience pain. It is very doubtful that insects have conscious thoughts and hence very doubtful that they feel pain at all. Likewise, Singer attaches significance to a species capacity for memory (and hence ability to feel regret, suffer long-lasting emotional trauma etc.), their propensity for forming emotional attachments to other members of their species and so forth. Again, these differ between species.

You said, "Singer places more value on human life." No, he does it only to a point. If the human life is suffering enough, he feels it's no more valuable -- in fact, less valuable -- than a mouse. You quoted that very thing from him in this thread.

But I do want my questions answered, and I find it fascinating that you beat around the bush instead of answering the question directly, for it is a very direct question. You partially answered, saying insects probably don't feel pain -- a point which could easily be contended -- and therefore exists no moral qualm killing them en masse with your automobile. Yet you didn't answer the whole question: how about small woodland creatures? How about deer, raccoon, and other animals regularly found as roadkill next to the highway? Since they can certainly feel pain, isn't it immoral to drive your car and kill them too? By this nut-job's moral standards, we're all murderers on some level.

I understand what Singer is espousing: when considering the morality of an act, apply the same set of moral criteria to all species, but draw different conclusions based on the specie's perceived consciousness, complexity, ability to feel pain, etc. He claims if we fail to do this, we are being "speciest" -- that is, racist, only for species. Cute.

His argument falls to pieces when one considers the impractical application of his ideas -- which you have not confronted -- and the sad reality that would play out -- saving animals instead of extremely disabled people, abortion up to the time of birth and infanticide up to 30 days after birth, moral zoophilia, rejecting most all medical research on animals -- Jesus Christ, this is some sick, evil stuff. All this if we followed such an absurd system of relative morality that Singer espouses.

I've considered his position and wholeheartedly rejected it as impractical, absurd and sickening, immoral ethics born out of academic and theoretical thought that is out of touch with reality.

We truly live in a world of stupidity.

Here's a red flag that should most always send you running: an academic man espousing morality. Run like hell when that happens, for he has no basis in absolute morality and is filled with theoretical views based in humanistic thought. The end result is guys like Singer, who espouse acts that are both immoral and bad for society: from personhood for apes, to abortion up to birth, to infanticide, to moral zoophilia. This, and he was granted the "Humanist of the Year" award.

Do you know the title the world might call this man?


"Free Thinker".


His allies in academia would go yet further and grant him every kind of honor and award they can fashion.

On the other hand, anyone who stands against such sickening, evil beliefs are bestowed with honors of a different kind:





Hey, now I can add "Speciest" to that list.

Dear Lord...when will You end this madness?


  1. Judah,

    I saw that thread. The way he carried on you would have thought you had insulted his mother.

    In Christ,

  2. Since when you started taking CodeProject People seriously? :-)

  3. Gary,

    Yes. He ended up calling me some names: bigot, narrow-minded, in one of those threads, and I said with his name calling, there's not much left to be said.

    He came around and said, well, you called my view on Singer's "sickening", and that's insulting, so you started it!


    Man, I swear, it's like little kids fighting back and forth. Sometimes I wonder whether it's worth it.


    I take you seriously, don't I? :-)

    Take care guys,

  4. For what it's worth, an secular atheist came here and posted in these comments a mocking joke.

    Typical of so-called "rational thinkers" in this age of stupidity.