Singer's statement brings into sharp focus two very distinct world views. The view held by Christians is that God created humans as spiritual beings living for a time within a physical body. Theologians have called this foundational concept the “Imago Dei” or Image of God. It uniquely describes humans as beings to whom God chooses to make his plans known and through whom those plans can find fulfillment.
The opposing world view is the one held by the Princeton prof and others who do not believe God had anything to do with our being here. This view holds that human beings are merely the latest link in the chain of accidentally evolving life forms.
While I abhor his stated conclusion about disabled babies, at least Singer's position is consistent. If, as he believes, there is nothing sacred about human life, it doesn't need to be preserved and protected. If one life is different from another only in its form, why not seek civil rights for apes (as Singer also advocates)? Apes should have the same rights as any other purposeless, uncreated, it-just-happened life.
If human beings do not have within them the spark of God's divine image; if we are not living souls because God made us so, then ending a human life is no different than running over a possum on a dark country road: Inconsequential except for the pain of grief inflicted on survivors.
Although Singer has been reluctant to grant rights to other than primates, why stop with monkeys? Surely my wife's Dachshund, Beau, is deserving of the same rights as Bonzo (Ronald Reagan's chimp sidekick in Bedtime for Bonzo). If Singer is successful in his drive for animal rights, might future drivers find themselves in the slammer charged with vehicular homicide, er, I guess it would be possicide?
O.K., I know somebody is going to get philosophical and say that since human beings are capable of thought and of asking what they ought to do, they are obligated to act ethically according to the “oughts.” If that's so, judging from the mess the world is in much of humanity seems not to have gotten the memo. On the other hand, much of the world also seems to have missed the word that life is sacred.
One doesn't have to be a bioethicist to see the implications of Singer's assertion. He advocates that extermination be provided to the newborn infirm as a benefit to their families. I wonder if he's ever heard of Helen Keller? Soon the same “benefit” could be offered to families caught in financial hardship. Next, someone else will reason that the infirm elderly should fit into the same category as the infirm newborn. (Maybe I should burn my AARP card in protest!)
It is not an impossible leap of logic to make ethnic cleansing justifiable, like exterminating vermin. Hitler? I can't bring myself to imagine how history could be reevaluated if Professor Singer is joined by a chorus of other ethicists and philosophers.
I suppose the real surprise is not that someone actually spoke this sentiment out loud in public but that it took so long to happen. In Professor Singer's ethical system, abortion is not a matter for serious reflection because no life is sacred.
The fact that Singer surfaced the issue signifies the dawn of a new era. In times past, human beings may have hated each other, even killed each other, but at least there was common consent that killing was wrong because human life is sacred. When life is no longer seen as sacred, all bets are off and dark days are certain to lie ahead.