Critical philosopher caught short by scientists’ media game

Peter SInger analyzes ethical conundrums with a scalpel but he should look to his premises when it comes to science(photo Tony Phillips)

Peter SInger analyzes ethical conundrums with a scalpel but he should look to his premises when it comes to science(photo Tony Phillips)

How are the mighty fallen

Peter Singer misled into false premise

Attacks Mbeki for being unscientific on HIV

Ran down to see the great Pete Singer of Princeton, the man who got philosophers to turn around in the fifties and start analyzing real world ethical dilemmas like conditions in meat factories are horrible so is it wrong to eat meat which only supports their suffering?

He gave his career story from the podium on stage at the Cooper Union where a horribly echoing mike was only fixed half way through
but when he got to the details of babies who are candidates for euthanasia I went outside to examine his new book (below) and found an item headed The Tragic Consequences of Being Unscientific which completely destroyed his image as a fine original analyst of modern ethical dilemmas from Australia who has reached a perch at Princeton.

The little essay is on p302 in a section on science and introduces Thabo Mbeki of South Africa as a misguided miscreant responsible for the deaths of over 350,000 South Africans by questioning HIV as the cause of AIDS and blocking their need for medicine to save them from the deadly virus, the cause which was questioned by only “a tiny minority of scientists.”

Singer does acknowledge that in science the majority can be wrong but in this case he argues Mbeki’s crime was not to be scientific and evaluate both sides of the contentious issue, but just to run with the critics that said it was wrong. So in being unscientific he was responsible for 350,000 deaths according to the estimate of the Harvard HIV promoters in a journal.

The only problem with all this is that one only has to read the top flight journals which published the reviews rejecting HIV as the cause of anything which have never been contradicted in the same journals to know that HIV makes no sense at all as a cause of AIDS and the conventional wisdom that it does is a crock of impossibilities.

Peter Singer is therefore caught being unscientific himself and thoroughly unphilosophical in not checking his own premise which is that the majority is right in this case and therefore Mbeki is a scoundrel for being suspicious of Western medicine and science.

Another fact he apparently did not check is that Mbeki did in fact exactly what he Singer thinks is scientific – he mounted a commission with scientists on both sides to argue their case, which was won hands down by the critics (but was pushed aside in the media by a huge New York Times ad listing all the supporters of the conventional wisdom.)

It is a sad day when an expert truthseeker of Singer’s caliber gets shot down by his own guns because he doesn’t understand that scientists these days are happy to mislead the public and sweep critics under the carpet and over the cliff of professional rejection if there is enough funding, prominence and potential Nobel prizes at stake.

Coming from Australia is no excuse for this invidious ethical warping has reached those shores decades ago, sadly enough.

PR Notification

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016, 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Peter Singer will deliver a free, public talk about his latest book, a group of short essays, entitled Ethics in the Real World (Princeton University Press). In it he applies his controversial ways of thinking to issues like climate change, extreme poverty, animals, abortion, euthanasia, human genetic selection, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, the ethics of high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness. Singer asks whether chimpanzees are people, smoking should be outlawed, or consensual sex between adult siblings should be decriminalized, and he reiterates his case against the idea that all human life is sacred, applying his arguments to some recent cases in the news. In addition, he explores, in an easily accessible form, some of the deepest philosophical questions, such as whether anything really matters and what is the value of the pale blue dot that is our planet. The collection also includes some more personal reflections, like Singer’s thoughts on one of his favorite activities, surfing, and an unusual suggestion for starting a family conversation over a holiday feast.

The Economist wrote of Ethics and the Real World: “It is an accessible introduction to the work of a philosopher who would not regard being described as “accessible” as an insult. … Despite their brevity, the essays do not shirk the big moral questions…”

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. He first became well known internationally in 1975 with the publication of Animal Liberation. His other books include How Are We to Live?, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason), and The Most Good You Can Do. He divides his time between Princeton and Melbourne.

Located in The Great Hall, in the Foundation Building, 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues

Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

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