Peter Singer holds himself out as an ethicist, but he doesn?t teach the kind of ethics I recognize.
I realize that?s a pretty strong statement. But Singer keeps proving the truth of that every time he opens his mouth. He is, you may recall, the
So perhaps it?s no surprise that in this election year, Singer?s latest bid for attention comes in the form of a book titled The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush. His argument, as you might guess, is that George W. Bush doesn?t have any ethics?or, at best, that he doesn?t stick to the ethics he does have.
Singer?s method of demonstrating this point is to examine Bush?s words and actions in a number of different areas, like embryonic stem cell research and the war on terrorism. Then he evaluates those words and actions in light of several different belief systems.
From this exercise, Singer concludes that Bush is neither a libertarian nor a utilitarian. Well, I could have told him that and saved him a lot of research. But he also concludes that Bush?s actions are not consistently based on a Christian ethic. That assertion deserves serious consideration, because Bush himself claims to take his Christian faith very seriously and to base his ideas and actions on Christian principles. If Singer is right on this point, the president is as big a hypocrite as Singer believes him to be.
But the problem is that when you do try to look at Singer?s assertion seriously, it falls apart. That?s because Singer doesn?t show even the most basic understanding of the Christian ethic, and he makes no attempt to try to understand it. Instead, we get a statement like this: ?Christians hold a wide range of ethical views. Christian ethics has been in the teachings of different Christians, neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, Kantian, Marxist, and existentialist. . . . Protestant Christians often look to the Bible, but cannot agree on how to interpret it, nor what priority to give its varying suggestions.? Because some Christians have been known to disagree on certain issues?for instance, embryonic research and abortion?Singer, therefore, declares that Bush?s positions on these issues are ?not inescapably implied by his Christian belief.?