Utilitarian approaches often involve sacrificing some for the benefit of a majority. Singer’s proposals undermine the dignity and rights of some for the benefit of others.
The Foundation of the bank BBVA has awarded the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences, to Peter Singer (Princeton University) “for his innovative academic contributions in the sphere of the moral domain” (according to the authors of the award), and for his impact and influence on culture and law.
For Peter Singer, the boundary of our species is “not a morally crucial distinction”, as the “other animals” in the planet can also suffer pleasure and pain. According to the philosopher, the fact that animals do not belong to the species ‘Homo sapiens’ does not make their pain any “less ethically important”.
Peter Singer’s arguments on animal rights have been a breakthrough in changing animal welfare laws in Europe, however, his proposals regarding the possibility of eliminating weaker humans are a step backwards for humanity.
He proposes that human beings are persons and therefore bear rights only when they are self-aware, but they would not be persons - they would lack human rights - in conditions of vulnerability, cognitive impairment, irreversible illness, severe dependency or disability.
It is not necessary to explain that all human beings go through – we all go through - circumstances of vulnerability in some stages of life from conception to death and need each other for life and healthy development, as was God’s plan from the beginning.
This interdependence and mutual need also occurs among animals. We find the abandonment of animal offspring appalling and it is considered a crime against their welfare. This is progress, but to eliminate human beings is to go back to times like the 1930s in Nazi Germany or earlier times that espouse the same ideas that Peter Singer advocates.
A human being will always be a human being, regardless of his or her size and circumstances. Indeed, the progress of a society should be measured by the care it is able to give to its most vulnerable members rather than by facilitating laws to eliminate them.
Singer is an advocate of abortion, infanticide or euthanasia in situations of vulnerability, illness, great dependence or irreversibility. Is this reaching the Frontiers of Knowledge? Rather, it is giving human rights to those who are useful and discarding those who are not considered useful, in the purest dogma of utilitarianism and for the sake of “improving the species”.
Utilitarian approaches often involve the sacrifice of some for the benefit of a majority. This proposal violates the dignity and rights of some human beings for the benefit of other human beings in the majority and for the sake of ‘eugenics’, which is accepted as progressive.
Humanity has experienced this before, and in order to carry it out, those who are to be eliminated are deprived of their dignity and human rights.
In the Nazi era, a distinction was made between lives worth living and unworthy lives that could be used and discarded. There are many scientific research experiments done on human beings that were considered inferior following these utilitarian proposals that could have competed for the same prize.
In a certain sense the name of the prize “Frontiers of knowledge”" is well placed because it crosses the frontiers, the red lines, the limits between what could be potentially done and what the most basic ethics allow us to do without harming any human being, considering all human beings in equal dignity and rights in any circumstance and process of their life from conception to death.
Has the BBVA Foundation considered how many vulnerable people, discarded by this philosopher, are astonished, indignant, offended and have felt ignored? Some of these people are its customers and the bank has a written mission with the community, I quote: “BBVA’s commitment to the community 2021-2025 focuses on communities or groups in situations of vulnerability, inequality or lack of protection”.
In view of all the above about the ideology, there is an incongruity. Either the BBVA’s commitment is only on paper, or if it is a serious statement, the bank should apologise and withdraw the award.
What sense of justice does the BBVA bank transmit to society by awarding a prize to a philosopher who takes away the dignity of the weak and proposes to exterminate them? What does the BBVA intend to do by supporting animalism?
BBVA, using its foundation, validates the strategies of the genocides in history who legitimised their actions with the idea: 'The individuals I eliminate are not people'.
Rosa López, nurse and chair of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's Bioethics Group.