Just as the science of eugenics has received an insurmountable amount of criticism due to its inherent predilection for the manipulation of the human gene pool, so has Australian philosopher, Peter Singer. Among his many critics is the American publisher, Steve Forbes, who ceased his donations to Princeton University in 1999 because of Singer’s appointment to a prestigious professorship.
Peter Singer’s advocacy for eugenics, the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of the population, is at the root of the problem. His promulgation of eugenics smacks of Hitler’s inclination to create a superior race through the use of ethnic cleansing. Numerous critics are concerned that his dogma could cause an exponential rise in the interest and eventual exercise of the practice of eugenics.
Intrinsically, Singer’s advocacy of the science of eugenics parallels the principles that Adolph Hitler championed; Hitler’s notoriety being that he advocated strengthening the gene pool through genocide, with his primary target being those who claimed Jewish lineage. The paradox is that Singer’s parents were Viennese Jews who left Austria for Australia after it was incorporated into the 3rd Reich by Hitler. However, his grandparents were not so lucky. Three of Singer’s grandparents were never heard from again after the Nazi Aryanization of Vienna; they were sent to the death camps.
Oddly enough, another paradigm can be drawn between Hitler and Singer; Hitler was Austrian and part Jewish, yet he sought out to create an ethnic group that he, himself, would not be qualified to exist within. Together, both of their narratives elucidate a weird sort of reverse Stockholm syndrome. One would think their backgrounds would dictate that they would both sympathize with the exact opposite causes they had/have taken up.
Though, I definitely do not condone Singer’s conduct, or his system of beliefs, I can certainly see that as a philosopher he would need to play the part of the devil’s advocate to get his point across to his students from time to time. In an interview he has admitted that his Mother has Alzheimer’s disease; at the same token, he admitted that if it were not for his sister sharing the burden, he might end his Mother’s life. Many people had to make that same decision, however not many have published such a controversial text, Animal Liberation, that draws such mind-boggling parallels between humans, animals, and euthanasia.
Singer has climbed out so far on the limb in regards to his beliefs of equality for humans and animals that he can hardly come back in. He claims much of the controversy surrounding him has been taken out of context, through the use of excerpts from his books and other writings. Nonetheless, his elucidations certainly need to be clarified. Since his writing of “Animal Liberation” in 1975, the utilitarian philosophy that “the greatest good of the greatest number” is the only measure of good or ethical behavior’ is increasingly taking root in our society.
Considering the flightiness of Hitler prior to and during WWII, someone needs to keep a tight reign on the likes of Singer and his followers for fear of their aspirations to imprint his philosophy on our entire society, in the same manner that Hitler overwhelmed all of Europe with his brand of megalomania.