The Infanticide-Atheist Connection

We are told that atheism is nothing more than a lack of belief in God. While this claim passes the dictionary test, the problem is that as we observe what atheists believe and say, there appears to more to atheism than simple lack of God belief. I think this is because our views about the existence of God are linked closely to our views about the nature of humanity.

There are many ways to see this connection. Let me draw your attention to one of them – the connection between atheism and infanticide.

I first noticed this connection many years ago. What I noticed, with help from internet search engines, was that anyone out there who was trying to “challenge” our ethics by proposing or defending infanticide also happened to be an atheist.

Now, it’s important to recognize that I am NOT saying all atheists support or promote infanticide. What I am proposing instead is a hypothesis called the Atheist-Infanticide Connection (AIC):

If someone adovactes for infanticide, or attempts to support infanticide with argument, it is highly likely that advocate/supporter is an atheist.

This hypothesis was based on the observation that well-known supporters of infanticide were also atheists. For example, philosopher Peter Singer has supported infantide and is also an atheist. Philosopher Michael Tooley has supported infanticide and is also an atheist.

Then there is Professor John Harris:

One of British medicine’s most senior advisers on medical ethics has provoked outrage by claiming that infanticide is “justifiable”.

Professor John Harris, a member of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, said that it was not “plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal” – suggesting that there was no moral difference between aborting a foetus and killing a baby.

The professor’s comments were made during an unreported debate last week on sex selection, which was held as part of the Commons Science and Technology Committee’s consultation on human reproductive technologies.
Prof Harris, who is also a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester, was asked what moral status he accorded an embryo and he endorsed infanticide in cases of a child carrying a genetic disorder that remained undetected during pregnancy.

He replied: “I don’t think infanticide is always unjustifiable. I don’t think it is plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal.”

He declined to say up to what age he believed infanticide should be permissable.
[….]
“People who think there is a difference between infanticide and late abortion have to ask the question: what has happened to the foetus in the time it takes to pass down the birth canal and into the world which changes its moral status? I don’t think anything has happened in that time.

Is Harris an atheist? Yes.

So I decided to further test the IAC.

Because of limited time, I simply went to the wikipedia article on infanticide. I found a section entitled, Modern proposals that had the following short entry:

In a 2012 article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, a philosopher and a bioethicist jointly proposed that infanticide be legalized, calling it “after-birth abortion”, and claiming that both “the fetus and the newborn are potential persons”.

The article cited was:

Alberto Giubilini1,2, Francesca Minerva3. “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? – Giubilini and Minerva – Journal of Medical Ethics”. Jme.bmj.com. Retrieved 2013-07-18.

I have never heard of Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva before, so here was a good chance for testing.

I googled their names along with the word “atheist” or “atheism” and did not find anything uesful (either way), although I only looked through the first two-three pages. But then it occurred to me that more and more academic activists like to tweet. And sure enough, both philosophers have twitter accounts.

Neither philosopher uses twitter to promote atheism or say anything explicit about atheism. However, the twitter accounts of both do indeed suggest both are atheists.

1. Both philosophers have a history of retweeting tweets from Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, and Steven Pinker. None of these retweets promote atheism, but its clear the two philosophers follow the tweets of well-known atheists.

2. Alberto Giubilini takes it a step further and actually promotes a New Atheist blog with large font:

While the evidence is only suggestive and not conclusive, the IAC predicts further evidence would determine that both Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva are atheists.

Of course, there are others ways to test the IAC. For example, we are told that Western European nations are more secular and godless (a constant cause of celebration in the New Atheist community). The IAC would thus predict a higher degree of support or promotion of infanticide in these countries when compared to the more religious USA.

If there is an Infanticide-Atheist connection, then why are not more atheists supporters and promoters of infanticide? One possibility involves the fact that many atheists were raised in a religious household. For such individuals, they may retain an opposition to infanticide as a holdover from their religious upbringing. A comparison of views about infanticide from atheists who were and were not raised in a religious household could help test this hypothesis. Another possibility is that many atheists might simply not want to admit or acknowledge their support for infanticide since opposition is still strong. In other words, a “choose your battles” tactic could be in play. If this is the case, we would predict that as society becomes more secular and godless, more atheists would become more vocal about supporting and defending infanticide.

Lastly, you yourself can participate in this experiment. If you encounter someone who is promoting, supporting, or defending infanticide, then try to determine, through inquiry or google, if that person is also an atheist. If you get results, please post them in the comments section.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in atheism, ethics, infanticide and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Infanticide-Atheist Connection

  1. GeoffSmith says:

    Some people reliably hate things that are good for civilization (like babies).

  2. Dhay says:

    > Professor John Harris, a member of the British Medical Association’s ethics committee, said that it was not “plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal”

    I note that his argument that it is not “plausible to think that there is any moral change that occurs during the journey down the birth canal” works both ways.

    Looked at the other way, the same argument concludes that if it is morally wrong to kill an infant, it is morally wrong to kill a foetus.

  3. Corinth says:

    There are a lot of misconceptions being espoused here — addressing all of them would be a huge wall of text — so let’s just take the first case of Peter Singer. If one takes some time to understand the philosophical point that he makes, it is nothing like the kind of monstrous baby-killing ideology that some are eager to impart upon it. There’s a FAQ addressing exactly this issue, though it is no substitute for a broader understanding of his views. https://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html

    One has to ask: is it really plausible that a Princeton philosopher is writing books about why he “supports infanticide”? Might this be an inaccurate interpretation? Indeed it is. One needn’t agree with his arguments, but one should at least understand them. It takes some discipline, however, to put aside preconceptions or misconceptions in order to do so.

  4. Michael says:

    There are a lot of misconceptions being espoused here — addressing all of them would be a huge wall of text

    So you say.

    let’s just take the first case of Peter Singer. If one takes some time to understand the philosophical point that he makes, it is nothing like the kind of monstrous baby-killing ideology that some are eager to impart upon it.

    Can you quote where I said anything about a “monstrous baby-killing ideology?” Sounds lik you have a misconception here.

    There’s a FAQ addressing exactly this issue, though it is no substitute for a broader understanding of his views.

    Okay, let’s have a look:

    Q. You have been quoted as saying: “Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all.” Is that quote accurate?

    A. It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without an understanding of what I mean by the term “person” (which is discussed in Practical Ethics, from which that quotation is taken). 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.

    Q. What about a normal baby? Doesn’t your theory of personhood imply that parents can kill a healthy, normal baby that they do not want, because it has no sense of the future?

    A. Most parents, fortunately, love their children and would be horrified by the idea of killing it. And that’s a good thing, of course. We want to encourage parents to care for their children, and help them to do so. Moreover, although a normal newborn baby has no sense of the future, and therefore is not a person, that does not mean that it is all right to kill such a baby. It only means that the wrong done to the infant is not as great as the wrong that would be done to a person who was killed. But in our society there are many couples who would be very happy to love and care for that child. Hence even if the parents do not want their own child, it would be wrong to kill it.

    Sounds like support of infanticide to me.

  5. TFBW says:

    Beware of anyone who would deny “personhood” to any human organism: it is invariably a frame-setting exercise to promote acceptance of killings which would otherwise be considered atrocities. Unfortunately, the head of that camel is already well inside the tent, because it’s widely demanded that we not consider human organisms in the early stages of development as “persons”. Folks like Singer simply use the argument that if the camel’s head is inside the tent already, a little more of its neck shouldn’t be a bother.

  6. Corinth says:

    “Monstrous baby-killing ideology” is an obviously hyperbolic phrase meant to convey the very real import here and elsewhere. See e.g. TFBW’s recent comment. Are you telling me that “supports infanticide” is not an implicit condemnation? That’s not an accurate characterization, and it is manifestly used to disparage Singer. Indeed you appear to be suggesting that Singer and others mentioned in this post are morally inferior. Is that about right? If not, then what is your point?

    Perhaps you can be specific about what in the FAQ makes you think that “supports infanticide” is appropriate. You don’t seem to have processed phrases such as “that does not mean that it is all right to kill” and “it would be wrong to kill it”. Those contradict your characterization, not to mention the whole of Singer’s work, of which you apparently have little or no knowledge.

    I don’t agree with a lot of Singer’s positions, but at least I understand them. I do happen to agree with the point in the FAQ about infant euthanasia. Many infants die through being deprived of medical intervention. In my view, those involved with such a decision are taking the Pontius Pilate route of displaying their washed hands. I believe it is more ethical to face the moral question directly and to avoid the needless suffering of an infant. Now go ahead, tell me that I “support infanticide”.

  7. Michael says:

    Corinth, I’m pressed for time so will try to respond later today. In the meantime, are you an atheist?

  8. John says:

    ”Perhaps you can be specific about what in the FAQ makes you think that “supports infanticide” is appropriate.”

    Looking at the FAQ,Singer seems to try to redefine the term ”person” as to not make it morally bad.

    And if a newborn indeed is a human person like the rest of us,then killing a baby just like that would be considered murder or morally evil killing.

    Since the first quote doesn’t have that context,we can easily think he supports infanticide.

    But even with the context of the FAQ,it seems that there is an entire issue of whether Singer’s alternate defintion of ”person” is accurate or not.

    And if we look at other things,then in a certain way,or even directly,Singer’s belief could be considered infanticide supporting.

  9. Kevin says:

    He also places no value on the baby’s life itself. Rather, the immorality stems from upsetting potential or actual parents. So yeah, I’d say he has no real problem with infanticide since he doesn’t even consider them “persons”. The same justification used to support slavery, I think – they aren’t “persons”.

  10. Michael says:

    “Monstrous baby-killing ideology” is an obviously hyperbolic phrase meant to convey the very real import here and elsewhere.

    You began by asserting that my blog entry was filled with misconceptions. You chose as your illustrative example Peter Singer, implying I was imparting to him some “monstrous baby-killing ideology.” so you had to put hyperbole in my mouth in order to declare a misconception.

    Indeed you appear to be suggesting that Singer and others mentioned in this post are morally inferior. Is that about right? If not, then what is your point?

    Did you actually bother to read the blog entry? The point should be obvious – to determine if there is a connection between infanticide and atheism. Why? To determine if the “atheism is nothing more than lack of God belief” claim is valid.

    Perhaps you can be specific about what in the FAQ makes you think that “supports infanticide” is appropriate.

    Pay attention to the IAC – note I make the distinction between advocate/promote and support. I didn’t say that Singer was advocating for infanticide. He’s not out there demanding we need to legalize infanticide. He is supporting it. He is laying the ground-work. How so? Look around. We live in a culture for which there is a large taboo against infanticide. Anyone who supported infanticide would first have to chip away at this taboo. Singer does just this by separating out infants from the rest of us. That way, we can get used to thinking about and talking about killing infants without ourselves feeling threatened by such “academic” discussions.

  11. Billy Squibs says:

    The dehumanisation of the unborn (and even those that have passed through the birth canal) and the autonomy of the individual over-against almost everyone else seem to me to be the fundamental justifications for infanticide and abortions. Thought trickles down from the universities and it may take decades to reach the “common man”. I think that you are absolutely correct that people like Singer are chipping away at this taboo.

    “What was unthinkable yesterday is thinkable today, and ordinary and commonplace tomorrow.”

  12. Infanticide? Fetuses aren’t infants, and abortion isn’t murder. The reason that most atheists support reproductive rights is because we can’t justify a pointless life of suffering like theists can, believing that their god will reward such an existence with eternal bliss. There are fates worse than death.

  13. Michael says:

    LOL. Once again, proto ignores my points. This is getting too easy for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s