May 26, 2024

Sanctity of life

In 2005 Peter Singer confidently forecast the demise of the “sanctity of life” by 2040. His objections to the idea were mainly philosophical, but he cited two piece of evidence. One was the amazing success of a South Korean scientist named Hwang Woo-suk in creating embryonic stem cell lines. The other was the continuing advance of legal assisted suicide and euthanasia. 

Within months, Hwang Woo-suk was exposed as one of the greatest scientific frauds of the last century. As for euthanasia, Singer could still be right (although fears do persist that it could become, in his words, a “holocaust)”. One out of two is not an impressive result and does little to inspire confidence in his prediction. 

But there is another problem with Singer’s critique of the sanctity of life argument, as we report this week. A British bioethicist, David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, points out that it was not Christians who “invented” the sanctity of life, but Singer and his cronies. In a very thought-provoking article in The New Bioethics, he says that “sanctity of life” is just a straw man set up to label discredit arguments against Singer’s “quality of life” approach. It is a controversial thesis which deserves to be debated. 

Michael Cook
A noble idea, but easily attacked