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Advocating infanticide

  1. May 8, 2009 #1
    Suppose, for example, that parents knew in advance of a baby's birth that it would be born without arms and legs. In such cases, I most non-religious people support the parents' right to terminate this life. Some are more controversial, however. Philosopher Peter singer argues that the same principle applies up to 28 days after birth. In the case of lives that would be irredeemably difficult and painful, Singer endorses not simply euthanasia of the unborn, but infanticide.

    I must admit that what Singer proposes feels wrong, but I have a hard time trying to defend my opposition rationally. What is the differene between a seriously impaired fetus and a newborn? The mere fact that the latter is alive outside of the womb is trivial, since in either case this being has a painful life ahead of it that is not worth living. I think the parents would be right to kill the baby (without it suffering) and make a new one.

    Singer does not advocate that the State begin to abort or kill any and all disabled fetuses or newborns; rather, parents, together with their physicians, should have the right to decide whether the infant's life will be so miserable that it would be inhumane to prolong it. Singer clearly is not offering carte blanch on killing babies: He would establish very strict conditions on permissible instances of infanticide, but these conditions might owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to any intrinsic wrongness of killing an infant.

    I really shocked myself now...

    Do you agree or disagree?
    Last edited: May 8, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2009 #2
    Disagree. There is a reason it is not practiced in civilized cultures. It's naturally wrong to kill a newborn. Naturally meaning, literally, unnatural. It goes against the maternal/paternal instinct. To come up with an intellectual reason why it should be allowed is wrong. IMO of course.
  4. May 8, 2009 #3
    That something is unnatural or against instinct, does not make it wrong? To me that seems like a poor fundament for ethics.
  5. May 8, 2009 #4
    We should follow the practices of spartans.
  6. May 8, 2009 #5
    I agree on many different levels.

    natural selection, personal choice, lowering social responsibility.

    I had taken time to explain each of these levels, but this is a topic that I'm sure will touch home to many out there. This isn't a personal stance against any individual or disability. It's merely a situation where I look at nature and how far we go to defy it.

    Just the opposite if you ask me. It's quite unnatural to allow anything that will be unable survive on it's own to continue it's existence. We look through the real "nature" of animals and we see time and again that the unfit are left for dead or devoured. I'd venture to say that it's also our maternal/paternal instinct to kill that child in our own horror. Yet we are constrained by our concepts of morality.
    Last edited: May 8, 2009
  7. May 8, 2009 #6


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    Without an explanation of his logic, it is hard to agree or disagree with it. Can you give us a better explanation of the logic, as opposed to just stating the opinion? The only thing you said that hints at his logic is this:
    But that goes against the concept of individual rights. The only person who truly knows if they are miserable is the person themselves. See: Steven Hawking.

    For the time being, lets assume that abortion is acceptable up until a fetus reaches viability (meaning it can survive outside the womb without artificial life support beyond normal parental care). Using that basis, there is no moral difference between killing a fetus 1 day before it is born or killing a baby 1 day after it is born, which would tend to be an argument against the morality of abortion or infanticide. Prior to viability, the argument for abortion gets a little easier. But either way, it is tough to separate this discussion from the concept of abortion itself, and for abortion, unless you are an absolutist on either side, there is a line somewhere that is based on a person's individual logic.

    IMO, when there is no clear line (what is the difference between a 20 day old baby and a 40 day old baby that makes it ok to kill the 20 day old baby?), it is a very difficult argument indeed, to say such an action is morally justifiable.
  8. May 8, 2009 #7


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    That is a rational argument from a biological point of view, however, hasn't the human species evolved beyond the biological constraints of other animals? Again, see: Stephen Hawking.
  9. May 8, 2009 #8
    It's not just the biological aspect, although that in itself I feel is a strong enough argument. Perhaps the day will come when we will be able to overcome natural selection through human manipulation. That day is not today however. The longer we allow compassion to dictate our gene pool, the more damage will be done.

    There is also a social and individual angle to consider. As an individual should one not have the right to Pursue Happiness? My brother was born with full and completely debilitating cerebral palsy. I can tell you from a very personal point of view that this condition was quite the roadblock in our families pursuit of happiness. This single event shaped and changed my future, my families future and from my perspective it wasn't a positive change. I loved my brother, but in retrospect it would have been for the best had he died at birth. For nine years we as a family sacrificed much, and for what? It's difficult to separate emotion from logic, but in this case it's crystal clear for me.

    Let us not forget the social responsibility aspect. Can we deny the countless billions that are lost each year to assisting those that are unable to assist themselves? Would this structure fly in any other animal society? We limit our potential by becoming slaves to those that are unable and unwilling. We live in a society (US) today where fascism has become the dominate economic theme. The irony here is that we don't have the guts to adopt social aspect of it. We want a best of both worlds scenario where the strong provide for the weak and everyone is fine. It doesn't work that way. To each their own, from the bottom of my heart.
    Last edited: May 8, 2009
  10. May 8, 2009 #9
    russ watters, you made some good points.

    We must ask ourselves: "When should humans be regarded individuals and thereby get individual rights?". As soon as they're born? Even before? At the age of 2? Maybe birth is the most logical limit, because the fetus until then is a paracite in a woman's body?
  11. May 8, 2009 #10
    I would advocate for infanticide provided that
    1) there is no cure for the infant disease
    2) he wouldn't be able to live the life without pain
    3) he is going to die in next few years/months
  12. May 8, 2009 #11
    Absolutely, and we should avoid using "it is natural" as an argument. Rape is natural.
  13. May 8, 2009 #12
    Are you seriously suggesting that we should learn from the morals of animals?

    How do you know they're unwilling?
  14. May 8, 2009 #13
    No, I'm suggesting that morals force us to corrupt natural systems. Animals have no morals and therefor can be seen as an unbiased view of what is really natural.

    This statement applied albeit ambiguously to two different types of people

    A) Unable


    B) Unwilling
  15. May 8, 2009 #14
    Hello to all,

    superwolf, again with this kill / don’t kill questioning…

    This is a tough one, as we would be taking care of a human being devoid of any means of physical self sustaining abilities. In the wild, such a newborn would naturally die shortly after birth.

    In our human world, we could let the child grow and care for it, all the time being attentive to how it would manifest its inner self through actions, emotions and overall behaviour en route to hopefully bringing it to an age where, if the question ever would arise, it could decide for him/her self if life is to be continued or not.

    If negative, we would then go over every possible aspect of the decision and alternatives before respectfully, and certainly painfully, obliging. This moment in time would be where we would pay our non-aborting bill.

    Even then we’d be in a bind as the famous ethics would kick in and we could be convicted for assisting someone in death. The poor bugger would be reverting to hunger strike or trying to stop breathing or something of sorts.

    In the more likely event that the question never comes about in such a direct way, than life as he/she/us would have known it, would simply continue, and who’s to say that the mental abilities of this person wouldn’t be able to help conceive of a very serious candidate of the long sought-after TOE… but then again, all this time we could have been loving a totally happy dunce and it would still all depend on us... wouldn’t it ?


  16. May 8, 2009 #15


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    Steven Hawking has 3 kids, all of which were born after he started showing symptoms of ALS, and all of which grew up with a father, who in their formative years, was unable to care for himself. He most certainly did beat biological natural selection.
    The best for you if he had died at birth. The problem here is while you acknowledge the concept of individual rights, you don't really understand it or buy into it. Not only do rights carry responsibility, but rights also end where they interfere with the rights of others - and the right to life trumps the right to convenience. In other words, you are not entitled, under the concept of individual rights, to kill another person for your own convenience.
    The question of whether the government should support them is completely separate from whether we should kill them. They are not related at all. I'm not a fan of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but I most certainly do not advocate killing the disabled.
    As I have shown, we have advanced beyond animals if by no other reason than the fact that we have developed the concept of morality. Steven Hawking is a product of that advancement.
    Huh? Fascism isn't an economic theme...
    I'm a capitalist, but capitalism is still based on individual freedom - everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, which means that everyone must be provided what they need to grow to adulthood. I'm not a complete capitalist, but a complete capitalist would say that that responsibility falls soley on the parents.
    Just so we're clear here, are you suggesting that we should act based on biological instinct alone and abandon the concept of morality (which, I agree, is a completely human construct)? As superowlf suggested, rape is a biological instinct (not necessarily all animals have it...)...

    Further, I would be inclined to argue that animals are not necessarily devoid of the concept of morality and biology, for higher mammals, requires it for their evolution to happen in the first place. Animals with intellegence have true social interaction and in a lot of cases show behavior that can have no other explanation but morality, as we humans would define it. The idea of rape, for example, as it relates to treatment of females in general and caring for young: some male animals would try to procreate as much as possible by raping as many femals as they can. But for higher mammals, the young require extended care to develop their intellegence and that means a family structure. Thus, rape (and abandonment) is not biologically beneficial to higher mammals. Our morality and biological evolution went in that direction together.
    Last edited: May 8, 2009
  17. May 8, 2009 #16


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    That last on is how the advocates of abortion see it. Though it isn't how I see the issue, the moment of birth does provide a convenient place to draw a line.
  18. May 9, 2009 #17
    Is this the rule, or the exception? Life today would be quite unbearable if we based everything we did on the exceptions of reality. Morality did not triumph over Natural Selection. Was the ALS gene eradicated by this morality because his 3 children weren't affected? No, they just become carriers. ALS is allowed to continue it's propagation.

    Fight this all you will, until the time comes when we have the ability to genetically restructure ourselves we weaken our gene pool by allowing unfit members of our species to breed. This isn't personal, this isn't a shot at anyone, it's just the facts.

    Life at what fitness level. This isn't a matter of convenience. This is a matter of allowing individuals to have a choice. When two people copulate in hopes of a child they are not signing an agreement to dedicate every waking hour of the rest of their lives to an invalid.
    We say that voluntary abortion is fine as long as the child isn't born, yet if the child is born then discovered to be disabled it's a moral sin against humanity to make a conscious decision that it's in the best interest for everyone involved to terminate? That's hypocrisy at it's best.

    I concede this point. I would like to add however that until the time comes where any individual is held accountable for themselves then these two will be tied at the hip. This doesn't just apply to disability, but also unwillingness.

    You haven't shown that at all. We've developed beyond animals because we have a pose able thumb and the ability to logically deduce. Morality has done nothing but hinder our evolution. You continue to use Hawking, but it doesn't fly. His momentary achievements are not justified by the continuation of a devastating disease. 5000 years from now nobody will know Hawking's name, yet the reverberations of allowing ALS to continue to propagate will be felt 10 fold. I exaggerate here, but the concept is solid.

    Fascism is a form of government that revolves around its economic policies. It was formed as a direct rebellion from both Capitalism and Communism which are both economic manifestos. Mussolini fashioned this concept directly from the concept of Social Darwinism.

    Again, I reiterate that we are trying to adopt the government sanctioned economy of Fascism while ignoring the the social aspect of paring the weak. It's a lose lose situation. You have to adopt this concept at whole value or not at all. Capitalism has nothing to do with personal freedom and you should really stop buying into propaganda. Capitalism is based strictly on ones ability to produce wealth through private means. It's a slap in the face to Capitalism to make this assumption that anyone must be provided with anything for any reason. To Each Their Own.
  19. May 9, 2009 #18
    Would you like to show us how compassion or morality have hindered evolution? I believe that we have gotten on fairly well in a society that has worked ever harder to apply morals and ethics in an even handed fashion and has become more and more compassionate towards the crippled or disadvantaged. Please show me how we have taken a step back or been held up in our progress.
  20. May 9, 2009 #19
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  21. May 9, 2009 #20
    We're discussing one right now. Allowing compassion to corrupt natural selection.

    That's far from the only example however. Since the beginning of humanity we have waged wars based on our morality and prejudices. Morality is merely a method to incite the differences in man. It's a remnant of the herd mentality that was prominent during the hunting/gathering phase of our past. Stick with your own, agree with your own, make rules among your own. Law has since superseded morality as the defining method of dictating order.

    Logic or Emotion? Which is more serving to our race? Morality is nothing more than a sword of righteousness that people wield to slay the beliefs they disagree with. Nothing more.
  22. May 9, 2009 #21
    Not equal opportunity. Some people are born into richness, and in a capitalist world, that means better schools, better health care, more freedom when choosing spare time activities etc.
  23. May 9, 2009 #22
    Should only people with the very best genes be allowed to reproduce?
  24. May 9, 2009 #23


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    It's the exception. Why does that matter?
    Too late! You're arguing against the reality of how the morality of western civilization has worked for 200 years.
    That isn't what natural selection is about - you have it backwards. Natural selection kills animals with flaws in order to not propagate those flaws*. When someone reproduces despite a genetic flaw, that means they beat natural selection.

    Weaken it how? Unfit how? The whole point of our growth beyond biological evolution is that there are now different factors beyond simple biology that are being selected into our gene pool. Steven Hawking is an example of how sometimes intelligence is selected into the gene pool despite a biological flaw that might otherwise have had more selective pressure. I would argue that the fact that the human race is still progressing is evidence that this trend is not to our detrement, but to our benefit.
    What you described in what I quoted is basically a paraphrase of the definition of convenience. Caring for your brother made life more difficult for you. The definition of convenience is making life easier for you - killing him at birth would have made life easier for you.
    Allowing which individuals to have a choice? All of them or some of them? The concept of individual rights requires that all individuals have the choice.
    What they are doing is essentially signing an agreement dedicating every waking hour for the next 18 years to someone who can't care for themselves. That is true for every parent and child. So perhaps, under your system of morality, it would be better to kill them/allow them to die when they reach age 18....
    Again, you don't know if it is in the best interest of everyone involved until you ask everyone involved. And you can't ask everyone involved until the baby has reached an age where they are capable of giving an intelligent answer to the question.
    I'm not sure what you mean by that....
    Lots of animals have opposable thumbs, not a lot can logically deduce....and in any case, didn't you just agree with me with that sentence?
    Evolution is not a predetermined path: different evolutionary pressures cause evolution to proceed differently. Morality has caused us to evolve differently. The word "hinder" does not apply to evolution.

    [edit] Just to clarify that a little, evolution does cause continuous improvements, but that doesn't mean that choosing a different path is a hinderence: it is just an improvment along a different path.
    You don't exaggerate, actually. Millions may be affected by ALS*. But at the same time, Hawking is, at the very least, a 1 in a million intelligence. Besides the fact that he was actually able to pay for his own care, keeping his genes in the gene pool is worth more than the cost of the occasional ALS case it might cause*.
    Well... researching, there is considerable debate about fascism's place on the political and economic spectrum. So lets just go with history instead of philosophy: the historical reality is that fascism is autocratic and authoritarian - it does not allow individuals to find their own path and succeed or fail on their own merrits.
    I would argue, self contradictory and invalid based on historical reality...
    It isn't propaganda, it is historical reality. The problem with arguing political theory is people get so wrapped up in the theory, they forget that history provides a laboratory for applying and testing those theories. What you are arguing here goes against historical reality of how these theories work in the real world...
    If capitalism were to assume that parents were not required to provide for their children (after all, a child is an expense: a parent would do better economically if they never had kids), that type of capitalistic society would quickly lead to the extinction of the human race. Maybe you would consider what I describe to be an impure form of capitalism (and I said that what I believe is precisely that: not an absolute form), but what I describe is the reality of how capitalism and the principle of individual rights works in the real world.

    *ALS is not hereditary, but for the purpose of this discussion, we can assume a hereditary disease. Hemophelia is an example of a hereditary disease that has not been eradicated because we have gone beyond what natural selection would ordinarily allow.
    Last edited: May 9, 2009
  25. May 9, 2009 #24


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    Human rights are not based on compassion, they are based on the assumption of moral equality.
    Or, perhaps, morality has evolved....? We've shown that animals exhibit morality and more advanced animals exhibit more advanced morality. Certainly, human morality is imperfect, but as certain as that is the fact that it is advancing.
    The average life expectancy today is double what it was 100 years ago and the global poverty rate is half what it was 20 years ago. What you so readily dismiss is responsible for by far the most rapid advancement in the human condition the world has ever seen.
  26. May 9, 2009 #25
    a4mula, are you a fascist? Do you think genes are more important than happiness?
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