Jerry Coyne continues his effort to defend “infant euthanasia.” If you’ll remember the first time around, Coyne completely failed to address the slippery slope problem that is entailed in these calls to legalize infanticide.
Given his failure to address this problem, his most recent attempt to defend the practice can’t even get off the ground. He writes:
The opposition, predictably, comes from the religious, the conservatives, and disabled people who argue that Singer’s ethics could have called for them to be killed. But virtually none of those disabled people would have been euthanized under a strict protocol, for if there was a chance they could live a decent life and not be too onerous to care for, there are many parents who would either care of them or find others to adopt them.
Why should anyone believe Coyne on this point? After all, he can’t stop himself from weaseling even while trying to answer his critics. Note it is “virtually none,” not none. And note the need that the infant “not be too onerous to care for.” Depending on the person you ask, you’ll find a huge sliding scale when it comes to determining whether it “is too onerous to care for.” After all, an unemployed, single mother with no family support might argue that any baby is “too onerous to care for.”
Coyne then tries to posture as if he is drawing a line in the sand:
Of course I don’t think that all newborns—or those with mild conditions that can permit a life that’s not full of pain and misery—should be candidates for euthanasia. The notion should be limited to infants with conditions that will kill them soon or, with near certainty, within a few years, and will cause them to suffer. There should be strict conditions (parental consent, medical and legal regulations, agreement of physicians, etc.).
I’m sure you all have heard the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Why are we supposed to believe such “strict conditions” will be enforced and not challenged? Why are we supposed to believe no court will trim those strict restrictions away? Why are we supposed to believe that children’s rights activists will not do away with the need for parental consent? In other words, these promises of “strict conditions” come across as nothing more than a sales pitch to nudge us down that slippery slope where infants can be euthanized for all the same reasons fetuses are aborted. For it doesn’t matter if people like Coyne enact “strict conditions.” The next generation of Coyne’s will simply strip them away once we have begun normalizing the killing of infants for their own good. We’ve seen this movie before.
Coyne then makes the argument about pets without realizing how it undercuts the credibility of his position:
Right now let me just add that we see no problem with euthanizing terminally suffering animals—animals that, as far as science can tell us from neurology and brain development, are at least as self-aware and sentient as a newborn human. Why are human newborns different from an adult horse, dog, or chimp? There’s no reason I can see unless you’re religious and think we alone have souls.
Thar she blows! There is no reason to think human infants are different from adult dogs, thus we need to start treating human infants like dogs. If infants are no different from pets, why can’t we euthanize them for all the same reasons we euthanize pets? For the simple fact is that pets do not need to be terminally suffering to have them euthanized. That’s just one of the reasons for euthanasia. According to Wiki, there are many reasons to euthanize a pet:
Terminal illness, e.g. cancer or rabies
Illness or accident that is not terminal but would cause suffering for the animal to live with, or when the owner cannot afford, or when the owner has a moral objection to the treatment
Behavioral problems (usually ones that cannot be corrected) e.g. aggression – Canines that have usually caused grievous bodily harm to either humans or other animals through mauling are usually seized and euthanized (‘destroyed’ in British legal terms).
Old age and deterioration leading to loss of major bodily functions, resulting in severe impairment of the quality of life
Lack of home or caretaker
And according to this article:
Shocking figures released by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) from their “Voice of the Veterinary Profession” survey show that 98 per cent of vets have been asked to euthanase healthy pets, with 53 per cent saying that this is not a rare occurrence. And in nearly every case (98 per cent), “bad behaviour” on the part of the pet was the reason for the euthanasia request. Other reasons cited for “healthy euthanasia” (vets could choose more than one reason given by owners in the BVA survey) included the poor health of the owner (48 per cent), owners moving to accommodation that is unsuitable for their pet (39 per cent), and legal enforcement reasons (32 per cent).
So if infants are no different from pets, why not euthanize them for lack of a home or caretaker? Why not euthanize them if the parent(s) cannot afford them? Why not euthanize them if genetic testing indicates they are likely to suffer from behavioral problems (like autism or ADHD)? Why not euthanize them if they are blind? People like Coyne and Singer need to answer such questions, especially since they have greased the slippery slope by equating human infants to pets.
Coyne then gives us a face palm moment:
Since I know all these sites are scrutinizing my every word, I’ll add one more thing: twenty years ago assisted suicide was just as demonized by the very same groups, but now it’s seen by many progressives as something that should be left to people’s choice under certain conditions. Giving people that choice is the right thing to do. It’s legal in several countries and three states, and it will become legal in more countries and states. Morality progresses, and it’s people like Singer—and cases like that of Terri Schiavo—that move our thinking forward.
He knows his critics are watching and actually thinks the way to challenge them is to give an example of how the slippery slope works.
Of course, it is interesting to hear him insist “morality progresses.” Progresses toward what? Forward toward where? When it comes to this issue of killing infants, where does it all stop? What is the end point? If we are to all slide down that slippery slope, it would help if someone could be up front and honest about the destination entailed by this morality progressing.
Anyway, the professor couldn’t get through an argument without reaching for a straw man:
What I don’t understand are all these people who seem to be in favor of infant suffering—
Nonsense. I don’t think there is anyone out there in favor of infant suffering. This issue is far more complex. Consider an analogous situation. Right now, there are millions of children suffering some form of abuse from their parents (or the adult companions of their parents). We make it illegal, but that does not stop it. So why not get the government to license and regulate all parenting? Many people would oppose this. And justifiably so. Does that mean because someone might oppose state-run parenting that they are in favor of children suffering? Of course not. That would be a very steep price to pay to reduce childhood suffering that would likely generate all kinds of others problems and suffering. There are no easy fixes to human suffering.
The same people who would have no opposition to turning off a respirator or withdrawing a feeding tube from a terminally ill infant quail at the idea of ending the suffering with an injection, despite there being no substantive difference between the two procedures (both involve decisions to do something, and both have a predictable result), except that the last one is often more merciful and causes less suffering.
The substantive difference is found in the psychology. Again, let me quote from the article that Coyne so admired:
You should not have let your baby die. You should have killed him.
The former is passive; the later is active. If we are to adopt the moral logic of actively killing other humans for their own good, this entails a huge cultural shift. For example, if the state/insurance companies cannot and will not afford various life-prolonging medical treatments for the elderly, rather than withhold the treatments, they might think the moral thing to do is fund their lethal injections. Actually, that would be the affordable solution; the morality would be just window-dressing.
Finally, Coyne concludes with this own arrogance:
But now I understand the kind of unwarranted opprobrium Peter Singer garnered—just for trying to get people to put aside their knee-jerk reactions and religious indoctrination, and think about things.
Of course. The only possible reason anyone would be opposed to legalizing and normalizing “infant euthanasia” is because they don’t think about things. Nothing but knee-jerk reactions and religious indoctrination involved.
But…..I do think about things. More deeply than Coyne does. That explains a) why I am not impressed by Coyne’s superficial thinking and b) why the problems I raise in this blog entry sink his position.