The Naval Academy's Ethical Mill

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 8, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Naval Academy's Ethical Mill


Bioethicist Peter Singer, known as "Professor Death," for his radical views advocating the killing of physically handicapped infants, has taken up residence at Princeton University, where he will begin teaching this fall. His appointment to an endowed chair in "human values" drew angry protests from disabled persons, right-to-life advocates and religious groups (The Washington Times, July 23: "Forbes doesn't sway Princeton on radical Singer").

Mr. Singer's teachings include the suggestion parents should have the right to kill their infants up to 28 days after birth if the children have severe disabilities. At that age, he says, children don't understand what it means to be alive. "Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person," Mr. Singer has written. "Very often, it is not wrong at all."

Oddly enough Mr. Singer's views have a direct connection to the U.S. Naval Academy's teaching in its new "Leadership and Ethics" program through a misinterpretation of John Stewart Mill - the 19th century philosopher, who gave us "utilitarianism" as a guiding moral principle.

In a previous letter (Forum, July 25) I discussed an "ethics" essay by a midshipman 3rd class at the Academy. That essay, titled "Preparing for the Future: Lessons Learned from Tailhook," won the year's top honors as the best "ethics" essay. The midshipman used a brand of the "utilitarianism" philosophy now associated with John Stewart Mill to evaluate the Tailhook '91 bachannal and as guide to her own "personal" moral principles.

There is a deep revelation in her choice of philosophy. It reveals the mindset of professors who teach "ethics" at the Academy. The choice of this philosophical foundation for the indoctrination of "ethics" at the academy should be considered degrading and corrupt, and just plain evil.

John Stewart Mill is cited today as the ethical foundation for the modern-day suggestion that mentally and/or physically deformed babies should be destroyed. For example, Peter Singer, author of `Practical Ethics,' uses Mill's utilitarian philosophy to argue who is worthy to live. He specifically targets the newborn.

Mr. Singer is not alone in making this assertion. Steve Pinker, in The New York Times two years ago, argued that "we need a clear boundary to confer personhood on a human being and grant it a right to life." He went on to argue that "the right to life must come . . . from morally significant traits that we humans happen to possess. One such trait is having a sequence of experiences that defines us as individuals and connects us to other people." A baby, it would seem, has not had such experiences. Other traits, he argued, "include an ability to reflect on ourselves as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die."

Under this definition any of us could have been killed right up to adolescence or even young adulthood - no doubt subject to a decision by one of the "anointed" New Totalitarians. …

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