October 28, 2005 -- The Universist Movement will host philosopher Peter Singer on Sunday, October 30th in a live online discussion with its members at 9PM Eastern. Singer, Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, provided a philosophical justification for animal liberation so compelling it generated an historic global movement. He is today our most influential and controversial thinker in the field of bioethics.
Though an Australian, Singer has become a touchstone figure in America's culture war. Singer's ethical conclusions are often cited by raging evangelical Christians as a prime example of the "evil" of moral relativism. Singer is not the type of relativist that believes one person's opinion is as good as anyone else's. Singer makes famously strong ethical judgments himself about the rights of animals and the responsibilities people in the first world have towards people in developing countries. Singer argues that actions are right or wrong depending on their known consequences, "not whether it conforms to a rule." Ethics cannot be reduced to simple and universally applicable principles. Ethics are as complex as the situations that require their application. The rightness or wrongness of an action is relative to the particular case considered. This form of utilitarian ethics directly opposes the faith-based morality cultural conservatives advocate.
Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, routinely refers to Peter Singer as "notorious." Yet it is Mohler's logic that is notoriously flawed. Mohler believes that Christians have only one argument against the devaluation of human life - the theology that we are "made in the image of God." That a principle intellectual leader of America’s 40 Million Baptists believes they will devolve into murder and mayhem without this one article of faith is troubling indeed. Mohler unwittingly highlights the moral bankruptcy of modern Christianity.
Singer's ethics value quality of life, distinguishing between personhood and the human species. It is "characteristics like rationality, autonomy, and self-consciousness" that give a being value. Mohler and other evangelicals, including President George W. Bush, enjoy labeling their view the "Culture of Life," and Singer's view the "Culture of Death." The Culture of Life means sustaining life at all costs and in all states, whether a ball of cells in a uterus or individuals in Terri Schiavo's state of brain destruction. It would be far more appropriate to label the evangelical position the "Culture of Yogurt." Strikingly ignorant of the fact that "life" includes yeast, bacteria and mice fetuses as much as humans, evangelicals have staked their theology on a distinction in semantics, not in reality.
Universists value quality of life, not membership in the Human species for its own sake (Universists are not Humanists). Universism values an activity transcendent of species identity, the conscious being's ongoing search for meaning in the universe. The search requires freedom, opportunity and education
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About The Universist Movement
The Universist Movement is an international nonprofit organization focused on individual wellbeing, social progress, personal responsibility and the promotion of existential questioning. It advocates Universism, a rational religious philosophy elevating relative truth at the expense of group authority in metaphysical questions.