Who Is Peter Singer?

By David Campbell


He is, perhaps, a totally unknown person to many in the congregation.  He is not a recent graduate from a brotherhood preaching school, and he is not a Christian.  However, he is a very influential person in the field of Bioethics.  Some of your children who have recently attended a college or university may have heard of him, or read some of his works.  Why should we be concerned as to who he is?  It is because of his widespread acceptance and influence among intellectuals, the media, and political circles.

Ideas start somewhere and spread out from that source to influence you and affect others.  Singer’s influence is increasing and his thinking is inspiring many to reject the morals they held in the past.  Peter Singer observed the abortion industry and its acceptance in our society and simply took abortion to the next level.  His conclusions are the logical extension of arguments made in defense of killing children in the womb.

Peter Singer, PhD, is the chair of the Bioethics department at Princeton University Center for Human Values.  In 1993 in his book Practical Ethics, the following statement is found, “In thinking about infanticide, we should put aside feelings based on the small, helpless and sometime cute appearance of human infants. If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby we can see that the grounds for not killing a person do not apply to newborn infants”. (1)

How could a person reach such a low level of thinking in the light of Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2?  I want you to notice the Holy Spirit saw fit to repeat this statement of Jesus three times.  In Revelation 18:21, John records that a millstone used to represent the violence of Babylon (Rome).  If killing infants is not violence then what would you call it?  However, the teachings of Jesus do not compel Peter Singer to show compassion, nor do they bring him to shame.

Singer arrived at this junction in the development of his bioethical reasoning by the extension of the abortion of the fetus (scientific term for a human baby).  If a baby can be aborted a day or two before its time of birth and that is not murder, why then would the killing of a baby one or two days old be considered murder?  Legal standing has been applied to the child once born but has not been given to the child in the womb.  Singer and his followers are trying to alter this by establishing the concept “personhood.”  On page 183 of the above-mentioned book he writes; “characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness--- Infants lack these characteristics, killing them therefore, cannot be equated with the killing of normal beings, or any other self conscious beings”. (2)  Singer draws the conclusion that the infant is not a person.

Suppose a couple truly wanted a child, and were blessed with a normal healthy baby, but two years later they decided that they no longer wanted the physical and financial burden of raising the child?  Singer says let them kill it. Many women wanting an abortion currently argue that they do not want the physical and financial burden of raising a child; hence, it is an extension of the same argument that is now legal.

Singer has put forth that children could be bred for spare parts to be used by sick or dying siblings (3).  This is a very practical application of the utilitarian philosophy.  This philosophy teaches that when a person no longer has any utility for the community then they should not be protected by it.

Singer is not the first nor will he be the last academic to defend infanticide. James Watson and Francis Crick of DNA fame are pro-choice on infanticide. Joseph Fletcher, founder of bioethics and situational ethics, supported killing disabled infants as post-natal abortion.     Jim Holt writing in the New York Times Magazine said, “infanticide may be seen as moral progress” (4).  This is the same line of reasoning used by the Nazis in the 1930’s.

Singer writes later,”---by 2040 it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know nothing religious fundamentalist will defend the view that every human life from conception to death is sacrosanct”. (5)


1.  Singer, Peter; Practical Ethics, 2nd Ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp 170-1

2.  Ibid, p.182

3.  Olasky, Marvin; Philosopher”. World Magazine, Nov. 27,2004

4.  Holt, Jim, “Euthanasia for Babies”, New York Times Magazine, July 10, 2005

5.  Singer, “The Sanctity of Life”

6.  A good book to read is Intellectuals by Paul Johnson