Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Nadine Dorries defends her comments about humanists

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Yesterday, I posted on the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries' reaction to becoming the frontrunner for our annual Bad Faith Award, whereby she described New Humanist as an "extreme" organisation and a "cult", and suggested that humanists advocate infanticide.

Unsurprisingly she received some emails from humanists objecting to this, so she has now posted a second blogpost in which she attempts to defend her comments. Again, I'll reproduce it in full here:
Humanists (2)

"Posted Tuesday, 25 October 2011 at 15:18
We have had a number of emails regarding my comment on my blog earlier this week regarding the attitude of humanists towards infanticide.

Some have forwaded snapshot Tweets from people such as a lawyer announcing that he was proud to be a humanist and asking me to prove that humanists would advocate killing babies.

Well here you go. Here is the proof in the words of the Australian humanist Peter Singer who was awarded 'humanist of the year' by the Australian humanist society in 2004.

This, in my opinion, evil humanist states that infanticide is ok and that the life of a baby is of less value than a pig.

In 1979 he wrote, “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons”; therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

In 1993 he stated that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth and that the attending physician should kill some disabled babies on the spot.

I think they call this 'Eugenics'.

Instead of upgrading the fetus to the status of a person, however, Peter Singer downgrades the newborn to the status of nonperson because newborns, like fetuses, are incapable “of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time." They are not rational, self-conscious beings with a desire to live.

Since, in Singer’s criteria, personhood hinges on these factors, killing a newborn (or fetus) is not the same as killing a person. In fact, some acts of infanticide are less problematic than killing a happy cat. If, for example, parents kill one disabled infant to make way for another baby that will be happier than the first, the total amount of happiness increases for all interested parties. Singer’s logic can be summed up this way: Until a baby is capable of self-awareness, there is no controlling reason not to kill it to serve the preferences of the parents.

There is a lot more about him on this blog.

So, the Australian humanist society makes their man of the year one who advocates infanticide. Nice.

I feel slightly disgusted that such an extreme group of people even print my name in their glossy (we are ever so innocent really) magazine. Oh yes, and that reminds me, which former LibDem MP has a role to play in the British Humanist Society? Maybe that's why Evan Harris' nickname in Parliament is Dr Death...

Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993),
Jeffrey Reiman, Critical Moral Liberalism (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997
Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 1st ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979)
Michael Tooley, “Abortion and Infanticide,” in Rights and Wrongs of Abortion, ed. Marshall Cohen, Thomas Nagel, and Thomas Scanlon (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974)."
Whether or not this is a correct representation of Singer (no doubt someone who knows his work will find the time to analyse Dorries on this), it's worth pointing out that he has no connection to New Humanist, and the fact that the Council of Australian Humanist Societies (which Dorries incorrectly names, as she also does the British Humanist Association) gave him an award really has no bearing on what the readers of our magazine, who have made her the frontrunner for the Bad Faith Award, think about abortion and the ethics of killing infants.

In fact, I think something very interesting has come out of all this. In the past, Dorries has frequently argued that she is in fact "pro-choice", but simply believes that certain changes to the law need to be made to improve the advice given to women and prevent late-term abortion. But her attacks on humanists, who broadly tend to be pro-choice, but will disagree among themselves on many aspects of the debate, suggest to me a determination to discredit the views of anyone who is opposed to the anti-abortion lobby. She might object to being nominated for our Bad Faith Award, but by using it as a reason to launch into two diatribes against "humanists" in general, she is displaying contempt for a large section of society within which, if she took the time to do some research, she would find a wide range of nuanced views on the abortion debate.

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