Atheism and Infanticide

Over a decade ago, I stumbled upon a guiding principle that has yet to fail me.  The principle is this:  When you encounter someone advocating for infanticide, chances are extremely high that the advocate also happens to be an atheist.  Now, this is not to say that all atheists advocate for killing newborns.  But, if you pay attention with the help of some google magic, you’ll find those who do advocate for killing newborns usually end up being atheists.

So I was not surprised at all to see atheist activist Jerry Coyne come out and advocate for infanticide.  Of course, he doesn’t want to call it infanticide.  He prefers to phrase it as “newborn euthanasia.”  Here is his basic argument:

The question of whether one should be able to euthanize newborns who have horrible conditions or deformities, or are doomed to a life that cannot by any reasonable light afford happiness, has sparked heated debate.  Philosopher Peter Singer has argued that euthanasia is the merciful action in such cases, and I agree with him. If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?  I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral. After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties). It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state. After all, doctors and parents face no legal penalty for simply withdrawing care from such newborns, like turning off a respirator, but Singer suggests that we should be allowed, with the parents’ and doctors’ consent, to painlessly end their life with an injection. I agree.

[….]

The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion—in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul. It’s the same mindset that, in many places, won’t allow abortion of fetuses that have severe deformities. When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.

[….]

My view, then, aligns with Singer’s: a child falling in any of the classes above should be considered as a subject for euthanasia, and it should be legal if the doctors and parents concur. As for the “slippery slope” argument—that this will lead to Nazi-like eugenics—well, this hasn’t come to pass in places where assisted suicide or euthanasia of adults is legal. Since the newborn can’t decide, it’s up to the parents, with advice (and maybe consent) of the doctors.

Coyne fails to come to grips with the slippery slope he is advocating.

First, the slippery slope is already in play.  In fact, Coyne himself appeals to it.  Reread his argument:

If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?  I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral. After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties).

As Coyne’s reasoning makes clear, the legalization and normalization of abortion has provided the slippery slope toward infanticide.  I can’t be sure, but I bet if you look at the arguments of those opposed to legalizing abortion back in the 1960s and 70s, you’d find people warning about this exact development and you’d find such warnings being dismissed.

Second, the slippery slope is on full display in Britain at the moment with the case involving the infant Charlie Gard.  Both Coyne and Singer try to peddle their advocacy for infanticide by insisting it would require parental consent.  But the case of Charlie Gard teaches us that is a lie.  And if you think about it for a moment, there is nothing in the moral case for infanticide that necessitates parental consent.  In fact, any culture can easily (if gradually) dispense of the parental consent by mixing socialized state run medicine with “children’s rights” advocacy.

Third, as we might expect, Coyne’s slippery slope is a straw man.  I don’t think we have to worry all that much about infanticide leading to Nazi-like eugenics.  The slippery slope comes with many different trajectories.  Let’s try an obvious one that somehow lies beyond Coyne’s ability to contemplate:

What about a culture were women choose to commit infanticide for all the same reasons they have abortions? 

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35 Responses to Atheism and Infanticide

  1. Ilíon says:

    As Coyne’s reasoning makes clear, the legalization and normalization of abortion has provided the slippery slope toward infanticide. I can’t be sure, but I bet if you look at the arguments of those opposed to legalizing abortion back in the 1960s and 70s, you’d find people warning about this exact development and you’d find such warnings being dismissed.

    I can be sure, I remember it. And it wasn’t just in the 60s and 70s. I wasn’t really aware of the abortion regime until about 1980 … and at least into the 1990s, if not into this century, the pro-abortionists were pooh-poohing the argument not only that that “the legalization and normalization of abortion has provided the slippery slope toward infanticide”, but that it *must* lead to infanticide.

  2. Ilíon says:

    At some point in the very recent past, the pro-abortionists totally switched it up — whereas previously they had pooh-poohed the argument that “the legalization and normalization of abortion has provided the slippery slope toward infanticide”, they began to actively argue that *since* there is no moral difference between a pre-birth human being and a born human infant and *since* the killing of a pre-birth human being is legal, that *therefore* the killing of a born human infant must also be legalized.

    You know, exactly as we anti-abortionists had argued they eventually would and must.

  3. Regual Llegna says:

    “The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion—in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul. It’s the same mindset that, in many places, won’t allow abortion of fetuses that have severe deformities. When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.”

    Atheist activist Jerry Coyne:
    – Murder people because humans are animals with who have not worth.
    – Soul is a bad thing.
    – Adult and newborn euthanasia is not premeditated murder based on who not moral some action is.

    All those lines of thinking can justify the murder of the atheist activist Jerry Coyne as not inmoral and as agood thing for society in general because he is only a worthless animal that don’t deserve worth from people that uphold the life of their children and the future members of some civilization.

    And one can wonder why there was and never will be a civilization founded by people with a gnu atheist mindset, world view, ideology and way of life. BECAUSE IN THEIR VIEW THE ATHEIST (THE PERSON) IS INERENTLY WORTHLESS FOR OTHER PEOPLE WITH THE SAME VIEWS ABOUT LIFE.

  4. Regual Llegna says:

    There are many users in the comment section on that blog that are horrible people, that don’t deserve sympathy if something bad happen (death) to them because they admit that they will not have sympathy.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————
    Look this argument for some the users there:
    Jeremy Tarone says:
    “The US health care system already allows people to die, because they are poor rather than terminal or suffering.
    I find it offensive that when there are good reasons to ease inevitable suffering that many doctors must stay their hands.
    If there is a God he must be Catholic because he appears to love the suffering of humans.”

    – He find it offensive (SJW confirmed), and “If there is a God he must be Catholic because he appears to love the suffering of humans.”, so “catholics love to make humans suffer”. Again the inherently MISOTHEIST argument advocating that only a evil god can exist or that a god cannot be good.

    Kevin says:
    “The “tide of increasing morality in our world”. Euthanasia is a critical component to a moral society. Until we can develop genetic engineering controls that can prevent disabling features in humans, young or old, there must be a feature in a society that allows for euthanasia.
    The lack of euthanasia for a modern society leaves yet another mark of the retrograde centerpieces of religiosity.
    I imagine >20000 years ago, one of my ancestors took her child’s life because she knew it wasn’t going to do well and she anticipated more opportunities lay ahead to have what would become my super-great grandfather. No twisted religious dogma told her not to.”

    – Because someone maybe do something (murder a child) >20000 with “No twisted religious dogma” involved that action (murder a child) is not moraly bad abd in fact good.

    DrBrydon says:
    “I am grateful that at this point in my life I will almost certainly never have to make a decision about a baby’s life.
    I don’t think, though, that attitudes towards euthanasia and assisted suicide are new and part of a rising tide of morality. Obviously, there has been a cultural bias against suicide fueled by Christianity for centuries. As for euthanasia, one hundred years ago we wouldn’t have been arguing about it, but then the Nazis came along, and gave mercy-killing a bad name. Since then I think we’ve been very touchy about both assisted suicide and euthanasia, and who is actually driving an individual decision to end a life. I don’t think one has to be a holy roller to be reticent on either topic.”

    – Only christianity forbid euthanasia, mercy killing with no emotion or empaty cannot be merciful. And “I will almost certainly never have to make a decision about a baby’s life” the no my problem/no my problem anymore argument.

    Adam M. says:
    “I don’t see why we shouldn’t go even further. We allow abortions for any reason – not just severe deformities – including the financial health or just plain convenience of the parents. I think that is good, in that it’s better both for parents and children for a child to be wanted rather than unwanted.
    So why not the same for infants? I know the standard for an abortion of convenience is “viability”, but I don’t really see what ethical difference that makes.”

    – People should be killed because economics, the same argument that most notorious socialists and communists killers use for their population control (mass killings).

    I need to say:
    HE EVEN DO A ARGUMENT ABOUT EUTHANISE (KILL) ADULTS LIKE, I DON’T KNOW, YOU IDIOTS!!!!!

  5. Regual Llegna says:

    Any justification for killing is bad, because it’s a justification for killing. And killing is the end of one life.

    That is a moral absolute which can be obeyed and applied to others. More than anybody in the world why atheists condone killing if they believe that death is the end of their very existence.

  6. Regual Llegna says:

    You know i can have a preference, like anybody else, of don’t wanted to live with that person with those ideas as part of my society because their ideas and belief are a threat to the very idea of life.

    Jerry Coyne is a sociopath.

  7. hikayamasan353 says:

    That’s just horrible. First we see abortion. Then infanticide. And later, probably – using deadly force to punish a child. Will we ever survive with such mindset? I know some children die naturally after being born with such a genetic disorder, but usually abortion is being done not out of awareness of untreatable perinatal terminal illness – but out of a parent not wanting a child. Terminal illnesses by their definition are illnesses which cannot be cured and naturally lead to death. But while earlier, tuberculosis used to be considered terminal illness, now we can cure it. Earlier, cancer was also terminal, now we can treat cancer by remission, like Dr Warburg has described, and then try to fight remnant cancer cells after the tumor vanishes. However, killing a sentient, sapient being just because of not wanting, is very silly and history has taught us that it’s wrong. Sci-fi even can teach us that it can be wrong. Probably, there’s just far more than mere physical condition that can impact a life. Mental health disorders such as depression might also trigger life-threatening psychosomatic sequence that leads either to suicidal thoughts or start a disease. As an alternative to killing a child, putting it for adoption might be easier thing, but unconditional love and acceptance should be our priority.

  8. Regual Llegna says:

    “In the world of the atheist there is neither morality nor immorality, only amorality.”
    They based all their belief and ideas in the premise that they are not inmoral, they are not moral, but because they are not imoral are somehow “good ideas and beliefs”?
    They do exactly the same with their ideas on what are beliefs.

  9. Mechanar says:

    Ah yes the gnu atheist utopia where humans have as much value as cattle.

  10. Travis says:

    My wife is a special education teacher by trade, and so I have come to learn much about people with special needs and disabilities over the years (to my shame, it is doubtful I would have done much learning had I not known my wife), and Coyne’s views here reek of the typical (likely willful) ignorance of a fool who knows nothing about these people other than what he assumes based on the little he has heard. The incredible beauty and inspiration of these souls who suffer from defects and malformations, and yet so often live with fullness and love of being alive, should have people with special needs elevated to teach the rest of us about life.

    Instead Coyne wants to snuff them out. I wonder if he has ever met someone with special needs. Or if he realizes that we are hardly in a place (scientifically or morally) to actually judge the worthiness of lives not yet lived because of the assumed lack of mental capacity we expect the child to have. I’m positive everyone who reads this blog has heard at least one story of doctors telling parents there is no hope for a child for such-and-such reason, but then the child goes on to beat the predictions and live a full life.

    But of course in Coyne’s world, we should just kill them all, they’re worthless anyway, right? I wonder by what metric he considers himself to have worth.

  11. Regual Llegna says:

    I have a hypothesis:
    Because he, the atheist activist Jerry Coyne, does know that religious people believe in free will, he believes that free will is an illusion, because is atheist ideology is about contrarianism.
    So he sees no problem in using his own free will, he choice to teach other epopel how free will doesn’t exist, using the idea of theaching others or he believe that he is programing others, like machines (he need free will to do that).

  12. Regual Llegna says:

    Those views about life are the antithesis of the ideal of humanism, human empathy and human interactions.
    THE VERY IDEOLOGY THAT GNUS ATHEIST SAY IS THE PERFECT REPLACEMENT
    FOR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS!!!!

  13. Regual Llegna says:

    To protect the future of their civicization and progeny future, most man and woemn will never work with this guy, Jerry Coyne, if they knew how easily can kill the future of their progeny.

    Pro-Euthanasia = Evolutionist – Genetics Perfectionists, creators of racial theory for ethnic cleansing and people who do not care about others’ wishes, dreams and hopes.

  14. pennywit says:

    How do you feel about withdrawing life support for a newborn who is terminally ill?

  15. Scott Edwards says:

    What, specifically, do you disagree with in the Singer article?

  16. Kevin says:

    Scott,

    People are generally more favorable toward answering questions if they get feedback. We responded to what we objected to in the Krauss video, and even got specific toward the message and not Krauss’ many flaws, and you never responded.

  17. Dhay says:

    Taking a step backwards and overviewing Jerry Coyne’s blog post, it appears to be a reaction to Part III of an interview which the philosopher Rebecca Goldstein gave to Big Think two years ago, which Coyne reckons criticised himself as ‘a prime example of a “philosophy-jeering scientist”’, and which Coyne has only just discovered and blogged indignantly about:

    Goldstein: http://bigthink.com/errors-we-live-by/why-are-scientists-philosophers-fighting-again
    Coyne: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/oy-rebecca-goldstein-versus-professor-ceiling-cat-emeritus/

    Looks like the Coyne post Michael is commenting on is a continuation of that indignation, along the lines of, Look, I don’t really diss philosophy, because I’ve found this example of where it is useful; it’s useful when it comes to the question of “newborn euthanasia”:

    This is one area in which philosophy has a big contribution to make (and science can play an ancillary role, telling us the likelihood that a child will survive such conditions).

    Coyne does little more than report on that 2005 Los Angeles Times article by Peter Singer and a recent philosophy column article in the New York Times.

    I fancy that makes Coyne about as much a philosopher or a philosophy supporter as my amateur plumbing to fix a dripping tap makes me a scientist or a ‘Science’ supporter.

    *

    (For those very new to S2L, both Coyne and Sam Harris famously promote the idea that a plumber investigating and fixing a leak is a scientist, using the very very broad definition of science they choose to approve of to support this particular bit of rhetoric or sophistry.)

    ((Reading between the lines of Harris’ story that “you” phone the roofer about the “leaking roof”, when it hasn’t rained for months, it looks like Harris fails to meet even that very basic criterion for ability to think like a scientist.

    https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/clarifying-the-landscape))

  18. Scott Edwards says:

    “Kevin”, I wrote four comments on that thread, including one that addressed the two issues you raised: equivocations on the word “faith”, and self-reference in a statement. That is well enough.

  19. Michael says:

    What, specifically, do you disagree with in the Singer article?

    Since this blog posting is not about the Singer article, I did not read the Singer article.

    What, specifically, do you disagree with in this blog posting?

  20. Scott Edwards says:

    It’s not clear what you are arguing against, hence my question. Coyne is referencing Singer and quotes Singer extensively. Here is a bit of what Singer says in the article quoted by Coyne,

    Nevertheless, U.S. doctors, usually in consultation with parents, make decisions to withdraw intensive care. This happens openly, in Catholic as well as non-Catholic hospitals…. Among neonatologists in the U.S. and the Netherlands, there is widespread agreement that sometimes it is ethically acceptable to end the life of a newborn infant with severe medical problems. Even the Roman Catholic Church accepts that it is not always required to use “extraordinary” means of life support and that a respirator can be considered “extraordinary.”

    Is your argument with the Roman Catholic Church? Are you saying these hospitals are committing the crime of infanticide? That is the implication if you insist that the term “infanticide” should be used instead of “euthanasia”.

  21. Michael says:

    It’s not clear what you are arguing against, hence my question.

    From the article – “Coyne fails to come to grips with the slippery slope he is advocating.” I then follow with three examples supporting this point.

  22. Scott Edwards says:

    The much more fundamental issue–the one we are forced to address before any other–is that you’ve defined infanticide as newborn euthanasia. That puts you squarely against what’s taking place in hospitals, even in Catholic hospitals. See the quote I gave. You’re not just opposing Coyne; you’re opposing the Roman Catholic Church and most of the developed world (wherever advanced life-support technology is widely available).

  23. TFBW says:

    @Scott Edwards: the distinction you are looking for (or more likely attempting to obfuscate) is the distinction between withdrawal of life support, and active intervention to terminate a life. Euthanasia is the latter, not the former, and is properly classified as infanticide if applied to an infant. This distinction is made clear at the very start of the Coyne quotation, as follows.

    The question of whether one should be able to euthanize newborns who have horrible conditions or deformities, or are doomed to a life that cannot by any reasonable light afford happiness …

    Without special intervention, you see, these infants would be doomed to live, not doomed to die, as would be the case where the ongoing survival of the infant is dependent on intensive care. He is advocating that they be prescribed death to cure their condition of unsatisfactory life, because they won’t die of natural causes if left untreated.

  24. Scott Edwards says:

    There is no clear distinction, which is rather the point. Withdrawing life support is not a peaceful end; indeed it is essentially a form of torture. See the article in question, “You Should Not Have Let Your Baby Die”. If you use the term infanticide, you’re going to have to be clear on what you mean. Is it infanticide to peacefully end life instead of withdrawing life support? If so, then why is torture preferred? Physicians are already acting humanely in the U.S., meaning that they are acting against the law. It just goes unreported. Do we have a crisis of criminally psychotic physicians committing infanticide, or is the problem more complex than that?

  25. Dhay says:

    Scott Edwards > There is no clear distinction, which is rather the point. Withdrawing life support is not a peaceful end; indeed it is essentially a form of torture. See the article in question, “You Should Not Have Let Your Baby Die”.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/opinion/you-should-not-have-let-your-baby-die.html

    It astonishes me that there should have been such a lack of that basic palliative care for that dying infant which I expect would be provided in Britain as a matter of routine. As reported, it does indeed look like major failings — I don’t know enough about psychosis or US law to comment on your “criminally psychotic” allegation — by the physicians involved.

  26. TFBW says:

    @Scott Edwards: “There is no clear distinction, which is rather the point.” There certainly is a clear distinction when it comes to the relevant Coyne quote, “whether one should be able to euthanize newborns who have horrible conditions or deformities.” Clearly, however, you want to muddy the waters by reference to your own preferred examples, while disregarding everything else. So be it. I think we’ve had all the useful discourse we’re going to get, under those circumstances.

  27. grodrigues says:

    “He is advocating that they be prescribed death to cure their condition of unsatisfactory life, because they won’t die of natural causes if left untreated.”

    Orwellian newspeak at its best.

  28. FZM says:

    You’re not just opposing Coyne; you’re opposing the Roman Catholic Church and most of the developed world (wherever advanced life-support technology is widely available).

    According to what’s in the English language edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church under the Euthanasia heading, withdrawing life support, non-provision of extraordinary or burdensome treatment and administering pain relief drugs even if they shorten life are not considered instances of euthanasia. It looks like strong emphasis is placed on the intention behind the action, if the intent is to deliberately end the life and cause death by human agency, then its considered euthanasia.

    I’ve assumed Coyne is advocating Euthanasia for newborns in the sense of undertaking deliberate action with the intent of ending the life via a lethal injection or something like that.

  29. Scott Edwards says:

    It seems to me that folks are just realizing that there are no simple answers. There no good guys and no bad guys, just the messiness that such life and death decisions entail. If one accepts the withdrawing of life support for an infant, as for instance the Roman Catholic Church does, then one is already down the slippery slope. From there it easy to argue that peacefully ending life instead would be more ethical, that is, not torturing a baby to death.

  30. Dhay says:

    Scott Edwards > … peacefully ending life instead would be more ethical, that is, not torturing a baby to death.

    You seem wedded to the false dichotomy of lethal injection versus torturing — torturing, no less! — a baby to death. Are you so cruel you would withhold palliative care? The point of palliative care is, you don’t torture a baby to death.

  31. Scott Edwards says:

    Dhay, didn’t you read the article you linked to?

    It seems the medical community has few options to offer parents of newborns likely to die. We can leave our babies on respirators and hope for the best. Or remove the hose and watch the child die a tortured death. Shouldn’t we have another choice? Shouldn’t we be allowed the swift humane option afforded the owners of dogs, a lethal dose of a painkiller?

    Wait, reading that quote isn’t a substitute for reading the article. Don’t continue not reading it. You need to read it.

  32. TFBW says:

    @Scott Edwards: “There no good guys and no bad guys, just the messiness that such life and death decisions entail.” Speaking as someone who has had to make a sudden life-or-death decision recently, I disagree. Sure, it gets messy — I wasn’t too happy with the choices I was offered — but don’t shelter the bad guys in this fog. Coyne is advocating for euthanasia on the basis of quality of life, not viability, and there’s nothing grey about that.

  33. Dhay says:

    Scott Edwards > Dhay, didn’t you read the article you linked to?

    Didn’t you read my previous two replies? A third choice — “another choice” — is palliative care, providing a painless or least painful death. It might be that I am misunderstanding you, and that you agree with me on the importance of providing palliative care (especially pain relief) to the dying rather than letting them suffer; but through the thick fog of your heavy sarcasm it’s difficult to make out what you do mean.

  34. Dhay says:

    I see Jerry Coyne has found another “philosophy-jeering scientist” to compare himself favourably with — “(note: I am not one of these!)” — namely EO Wilson.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/e-o-wilson-science-not-religion-or-philosophy-will-tell-us-the-meaning-of-human-existence/

    Looks like philosopher Rebecca Goldstein really touched a nerve when describing Coyne as ‘a prime example of a “philosophy-jeering scientist”’.

  35. Michael says:

    The much more fundamental issue–the one we are forced to address before any other–is that you’ve defined infanticide as newborn euthanasia.

    I don’t agree. If you and Coyne need to call it “newborn euthanasia” then do so. The substantive point is that Coyne and Singer are calling for a significant cultural shift that is nicely captured by the philosophy professor Coyne so approvingly quotes:

    You should not have let your baby die. You should have killed him.

    Repeat:

    You should not have let your baby die. You should have killed him.

    If one is going to advocate for such a cultural change in approach and attitude, then that person needs to address the slippery slope issue. Coyne’s attempt to do so failed miserably, as I have demonstrated in my blog posting.

    Since we know the slippery slope exists and is in play(as shown by my first two points), then advocates for “newborn euthanasia” need to address my last point:

    The slippery slope comes with many different trajectories. Let’s try an obvious one that somehow lies beyond Coyne’s ability to contemplate:
    What about a culture were women choose to commit “newborn euthanasia” for all the same reasons they have abortions?

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