Problem: Climate change causes human suffering. Solution: End the human race.

June 22, 2010

A recent comment by Peter Singer illustrates the incredible mind-numbing depth of climate change hysteria.

Who is Peter Singer?

Singer was an unsuccessful Green party candidate for the Australian senate and the former chair of the Philosophy Department at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia).  Now he is a professor of Bioethics at Princeton University.  But he is not a simple academic laboring on obscure research in the dusty bowels of the university library.  Not at all.  He has a way of  drawing the glare of the limelight in his direction.

You may recall his name in connection with two accomplishments.  The first is his book, Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for our Treatment of Animals, published in 1975.  The second was his controversial appointment to his current position at Princeton, despite the outcry from advocates for the disabled who have an existential objection to his calls for easy euthanasia and infanticide.  Animal rights activist and fellow philosopher, Stephen Best, points out that in Animal Liberation Singer puts forth the view that…

“when thinking about the moral status of animals, “The question is not Can they reason? nor Can they speak?’ but, `Can they suffer?” Cutting through the tangled web of human prejudices against animals, and the Western idea that reason forms the human essence, Singer argues that the ability of animals to feel pain and pleasure puts them on a plane of moral equivalence with us.”

Oddly, Singer seems to put the bar quite a bit higher for the moral status of human infants.  In his book Practical Ethics, Singer tells us…

“Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons…the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

You get the idea.  Animals can feel pain and pleasure, so they are equivalent to us.  But human infants, who can also feel pain and pleasure don’t quite make the cut.

The ultimate inanity of climate alarmism

Singer recently showed up in the online pages of the New York Times (naturally) opinion section asking “How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?”

He introduces us to the philosophical pedigree, starting with Arthur Schopenhauer in the 19th century and leading up to today’s South African philosopher David Benatar, that argues a good life is of no benefit the person that lives it, but a bad life causes suffering for the person that lives it.  (This line of reasoning is technically known as “vita combibo , tunc vos intereo.” Look it up.)

This is where it starts getting really good.  Singer plumbs the depths of his gigantic intellect to draw forth an example that will make it all clear to us lesser minds…

“Here is a thought experiment to test our attitudes to this view. Most thoughtful people are extremely concerned about climate change. Some stop eating meat, or flying abroad on vacation, in order to reduce their carbon footprint. But the people who will be most severely harmed by climate change have not yet been conceived. If there were to be no future generations, there would be much less for us to feel to guilty about.

So why don’t we make ourselves the last generation on earth? If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required…

Of course, it would be impossible to get agreement on universal sterilization, but just imagine that we could…we can get rid of all that guilt about what we are doing to future generations — and it doesn’t make anyone worse off, because there won’t be anyone else to be worse off.”

There you have it. No alarmism here.


  1. “vita combibo , tunc vos intereo”


    “Life sucks, then you die.”

  2. In the closing paragraph to the op-ed you cite, Mr. Singer gives us his answer to the thought experiment:

    “I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now. ”

    Truly radical and alarmist.

    ‘Thought experiment’ does not equal policy proposal. I’m fairly sure you know that. The question then is: Why did you ignore Professor Singer’s actual conclusions in the op-ed and instead imply that the ideas put forward in the ‘thought experiment’ were his beliefs?

    If someone leaves your blog after having read your post are they going to have a true or mistaken perception of the Professor’s beliefs? He explicitly says “I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living.” And from this you posit he wants to end the human race?!? I guess I just don’t understand what purpose this serves … it’s not conducive to an honest discussion of ideas, but serves only to misinform and misrepresent and leaves the world poorer for having been written.

    • Kevin O’Neill

      Thank you for your comment.

      I very explicitly said “Singer plumbs the depths of his gigantic intellect to draw forth an EXAMPLE that will make it all clear to us lesser minds…”

      The point is that when he looks for an example to make his point his mind moves to global warming.

      I have true respect for the undertaking of philosophy. At its best it can be a sublime expression of the application logic, surpassed only by mathematics.

      A useful tool is to put forth an example and see where it leads. But the chosen example, in this case, says more about the philosopher than the philosophy.

      What example would you choose to make the point?

      If it were me, I would point out the very high likelihood of a human’s anguish in the death of loved ones, the disease and the physical suffering that comes with our own demise, fear and uncertainty of not knowing to where or what our demise leads.

      Then I would conclude, as does Singer, that to me life is still worth while.

      You can come up with your own examples.

      If global warming is the first and best example that a philospher can come up with… Well, it says something about the philosopher. It says that he is a global warming alarmist.

      By the way, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, but not your implication that I have tried to “misinform or misrepresent.”

      Best Regards,
      Tom Moriarty

  3. What is the title of this blog post?

    >> Problem: Climate change causes human suffering.
    >> Solution: End the human race.

    What is Singer’s conclusion? NOT to end the human race. 180 degrees opposite of what you attribute to him.

    If assigning to someone views that are opposite of his true beliefs isn’t misleading and misrepresentation, then what is? If you didn’t intend to mislead, then how did you arrive at the title? And if you weren’t trying to mislead, then why didn’t you include his conclusion? Likewise, what was the point of the comment at the end of your post, “No alarmism there.” When, in fact, if the reader were allowed to see Singer’s conclusion they’d realize there was no alarmism – just a philosopher discoursing on human suffering.

    Besides, trying to drag Singer into an argument about climate change is itself misleading. He could have easily used famine, social injustice, poverty, etc. Climate change is irrelevant to his point, the point being: Do we have an obligation to unborn generations to give them existence, or would they (and us) be better off if they were never born?

    • Kevin O’Neill,

      Your last paragraph makes my very point.

      Why did Singer choose global warming to make his point when he could have used something from your list? Because either as an alarmist or as an appeal to alarmists, this is where his imagination took him. As an alarmist, global warming seemed to him to be a better example.

      Given anything from your list (famine, social injustice, poverty, etc) he would have drawn the same conclusion (He says “In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living.”) Consequently, his conclusion is not a repudiation of global warming alarmism any more than it would have been a repudiation of the existence of famine.

      I did not “drag Singer into this argument”, he willingly stepped into it. I included a direct link to his comments so that you or anyone else could read the entire article. Most important, you are incorrect when you say “if the reader were allowed to see Singer’s conclusion they’d realize there was no alarmism.” Most open minded readers would see exactly that – global warming alarmism. That is why I included the link.

      As for the title of my post – It got your attention, didn’t it?

      Your comments are still welcome here, even with their accusatory, sniping slant.

      Best Regards
      Tom Moriarty

  4. Pete Singer wrote an op-ed of over 1000 words. In that op-ed “climate change” was mentioned in one paragraph. The two sentences that mentioned climate change made no case for or against it. Further, these remarks were made in the context of a thought experiment. And yet you consider him an ‘alarmist’?

    By definition ‘alarmist’ means: A person who needlessly alarms or attempts to alarm others, as by inventing or spreading false or exaggerated rumors of impending danger or catastrophe.

    What false or exaggerated claim did he make? That a lot of people are worried about climate change? That’s borne out by public opinion polling. That some people are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint? Well, that’s certainly true. That climate change will effect the future more than the present? Yes, we’re talking decades to centuries. That if there were no future, there’d be no future to feel guilty about? That’s pretty much a tautology.

    There’s no there there. Even if we forget that this is nothing more than a thought experiment, but he *does* mentions the words ‘climate change’ and without any more basis for saying so, you call him an ‘alarmist’.


    Your title didn’t catch my attention – I was already visiting your blog for a different entry and just went to the most recent post. Of course once having read the title I knew it was almost certainly B.S. – and thus it turned out to be. Linking to the op-ed does not give license to completely mischaracterize Singer’s position. I guess I was raised in a different era where debate was based on a more rigorous adherence to the facts and intentionally distorting them was considered less than honorable.

    • Kevin O’Neill,

      OK, Kevin, you’ve had your say.

      I will leave it to the readers to decide for themselves. I suggest they read the post and the previous comments and replys.

      Best Regards,
      Tom Moriarty

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