COVER STORY: by Eamonn KeaneNews Weekly
The Greens' assault on human life and freedom
, October 1, 2011
By winning the balance of power in the Senate at the August 2010 federal election, the Australian Greens have thereby moved from a position close to the margins of Australian politics to its centre.
If they were to successfully implement their agenda, they would undermine the economic and social progress of our nation. The narrowly construed environmental policies of the Greens would choke off the level of wealth creation required to fund the technological innovation necessary to achieve ecologically sustainable development.
With tactics reminiscent of Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the hand of government would weigh ever more heavily upon us as it sought to extract more taxes to fund its burgeoning bureaucracies. The educational policies of the Greens would cut subsidies to non-government schools thereby restricting further the freedom of parents to organise the type of educational environment they want for their children.
Their population policies would lead to demographic implosion, thereby exacerbating problems associated with our ageing population. Finally, their anti-life and anti-marriage policies would threaten whatever residue of a civilised society still exists.
The purpose of this article is to set out some of the key underlying presuppositions of Green ideology with a view to illustrating its totalitarian and dehumanising orientations.
Bob Brown and Peter Singer
In 1996, Bob Brown and Peter Singer authored a book titled The Greens, which has served as something of a manifesto for Green politics in Australia. Brown is leader of the Greens in the Australian federal parliament, while Singer is a professor of ethics at both Melbourne and Princeton Universities. He has authored the ethics section for the current edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and since the publication of his book Animal Liberation (1975) is widely regarded as the father of the animal rights movement.
In The Greens, Brown and Singer often give expression to environmental hysteria that draws on popular myths rather than on scientific fact and historical data. For example, they erroneously assert that “the world’s population is outpacing the food supply” (p.1).
After stating that “carbon taxes are fair because they are a way of making the price of energy include the costs it imposes on everyone else…” (p.14), they go on to assert that “the amount of carbon dioxide that Australians are putting into the atmosphere each day” would in the future “contribute to changes in the world’s climate that are likely to have devastating consequences for Australians and people in other nations” (p.93).
The recent propaganda campaign by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to justify the imposition of a carbon tax as a means of mitigating alleged human-induced climate change (global warming) is illustrative of a new totalitarian drift in Australian politics. Green and Labor party spokespersons are insisting that anthropogenic global warming is a fact justifying their grab for more tax revenue. In their assertions about global warming they often rely on data now thoroughly discredited, such as that used to construct the IPCC-approved “hockey-stick” temperature curve which purported to show the pattern of global temperatures over the last 1,000 years.
Roy W. Spencer, principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA, is scathing in his critique of the scientific conjecture that has been misrepresented as authentic data by proponents of anthropogenic global warming theory.
In his 2008 book, Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor, he says: “Belief in catastrophic global warming has little scientific basis, and perpetuates the bad habit that scientists have of predicting environmental doom. Great significance is attached to some short-term change that is observed by science, for instance a change in the amount of ice in the Greenland ice sheet or increased melting of Arctic sea ice in the summer, and then it is extrapolated far into the future.
“Long ago, in 1874, Mark Twain noted this bad habit of scientists when he wrote: ‘There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.’... If we are looking for a disastrous positive feedback mechanism in global warming, we need look no further than the interactions between worried scientists, the eager media, and pandering politicians, all of whom have vested interests” (pp.172, 175).
Also critical of anthropogenic global warming theory is William Happer who is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University.
In an article published in the June/July 2011 edition of First Things he said: “The ‘climate crusade’ is one characterised by true believers, opportunists, cynics, money-hungry governments, manipulators of various types — even children’s crusades — all based on contested science and dubious claims.
“I am a strong supporter of a clean environment. We need to be vigilant to keep our land, air, and waters free of real pollution, particulates, heavy metals, and pathogens, but carbon dioxide (CO2) is not one of these pollutants. Carbon is the stuff of life. Our bodies are made of carbon.…
“In our efforts to conserve the created world, we should not concentrate our efforts on CO2. We should instead focus on issues like damage to local landscapes and waterways by strip mining, inadequate cleanup, hazards to miners, and the release of real pollutants and poisons like mercury, other heavy metals, and organic carcinogens. Much of the potential harm from coal mining can be eliminated, for example, by requirements that land be restored to a condition that is at least as good as, and preferably better than, when the mining began.… We can choose to promote investment in technology that addresses real problems and scientific research that will let us cope with real problems more efficiently. Or we can be caught up in a crusade that seeks to suppress energy use, economic growth, and the benefits that come from the creation of national wealth.”
The “Green ethic”
In their preface to The Greens, Brown and Singer stated that it would be wrong to think of the Greens as a single-issue party focused only on environmental issues. They said: “[T]he Greens’ platform in all countries and the work of elected Greens everywhere encompass every area of politics, including economics, education, health, industrial relations and individual rights.”
Green ideology is very much predicated on an ecology/nature-centred system of values over or against a human-centred system. This ecocentric ethical vision (“Green ethic”) often finds expression in public campaigns to reduce human population and in demands to subordinate human interests to animal interests in the framing of economic and environmental policy.
In The Greens, Brown and Singer state that “the long-run success of everything we are trying to achieve will depend on slowing, and eventually stopping, the growth in human population…” (p.6). Coupled with this, they lament the fact that throughout the history of Western civilisation, “the right of human beings to exploit all other species on this planet, and nature itself, was scarcely questioned until the 1970s” (p.52).
In this same regard they make the absurd assertion that “Christianity’s most influential interpreters — St Paul, St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas — all denied that we have any duties at all to animals, to plants or to nature itself” (p.52). They attribute the alleged errors of these interpreters of Christianity to the fact that they “accepted that Man was the pinnacle of creation, holding, as the Bible states, a God-given dominion over the fish in the sea, the birds of heaven, and every living thing that moves upon the earth” (p.52).
The great achievements of Western civilisation, such as the elevated understanding of the dignity of the human person and recognition of inalienable human rights commensurate with this dignity, owe much to the Judaeo-Christian religious and moral tradition. Central to this tradition is the understanding of the human person as a creature made in the image and likeness of God, who as such is the crown or summit of visible creation. In this context the physical environment is understood as a gift entrusted by God to the responsible management (stewardship) and activity of man.
In The Greens, Brown and Singer suggest that the way a nation treats its animals is the best measure of its moral development. After stating that “the Green ethic does not stop at the boundaries of our own species”, they continue by saying: “It is an attitude [Green ethic] more in tune with Gandhi’s credo that ‘the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’” (p.52). Having said this, they add: “The Greens are concerned for the interests of individual nonhuman animals. That is why, for example, we oppose the killing of whales, irrespective of debates about whether particular species of whales are endangered.”
A fundamental cause of radical differences in ethical perceptions is that of different starting points. Christian anthropology holds as a starting point that God created man in his own image and likeness, that he endowed him with freedom and intelligence, and that he appointed him steward over the rest of physical creation. Being so constituted, human beings are able to know the difference between good and evil and to choose between them. The dignity of human beings lies in their ability to choose the good, and the institutions and laws of society should assist them in doing so.
In consequence of this, the human person is the subject of inalienable human rights and corresponding duties. First among those rights is the right to life itself. This right to life of all innocent human beings must be guaranteed by law since it is inherent in the nature of the human person and not conferred by society.
Singer underpins his ethical system with an atheistic anthropology in which he asserts that there is no significant difference between human beings and animals. He asserts: “I don’t believe in the existence of God, so I also reject the idea that each human being is a creature of God. It’s as simple as that. In line with this, he accuses “the Judaeo-Christian tradition” of having “an unjustifiable bias in favour of human beings qua human beings” (Peter Singer, Writings On An Ethical Life, London: Fourth Estate, 2000, p.320). He adds: “[T]he fact that animals are not members of our species is, in itself, no more morally relevant than the fact that a human being is not a member of my race or not a member of my sex” (p.326).
The ethical system Singer adheres to is known as utilitarianism. In general, utilitarians do not accept that actions are good or bad in themselves, but rather that their moral evaluation depends on how they produce increases or decreases in the amount of happiness in life. The utilitarian calculus cannot account adequately for the demands of justice, nor does it take into account the nature of desires seeking to be satisfied. For example, the intention to kill an innocent human being is to desire to commit an intrinsically evil act and is thus a disorder of the will. A person intent on performing such an action should be restrained, irrespective of how he or she hopes to increase individual or societal happiness by such a murderous act.
Singer distinguishes between two types of human beings — those who are “persons” and those who are not. He asserts that human personhood is something contingent on the development of self-consciousness. He says that an essential qualification for the status of personhood is that a being “be capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future” (p.323).” Having thus defined away the personhood of some human beings who for various reasons may not measure up to his criterion of personhood, Singer then asserts that “it is reasonable to say that only a person has a right to life” (p.218).
Consistent with his belief that “there could be a person who is not a member of our species”, and that “there could also be members of our species who are not persons” (p.128), Singer says that in order “to avoid speciesism we must allow that all beings who are similar in all relevant respects have a similar right to life — and mere membership in our own biological species cannot be a morally relevant criterion for this right” (p.44).
After stating that “there will surely be some nonhuman animals whose lives, by any standard, are more valuable than the lives of some humans”, Singer goes on to say: “A chimpanzee, dog, or pig, for instance, will have a higher degree of self-awareness and a greater capacity for meaningful relations with others than a severely retarded infant or someone in a state of advanced senility. So if we base the right to life on these characteristics, we must grant these animals a right to life as good as, or better than, such retarded or senile humans” (pp.44-45).
In regard to abortion, Singer argues that “an abortion late in pregnancy for the most trivial reasons is hard to condemn unless we also condemn the slaughter of far more developed forms of life for the taste of their flesh” (p.177). After saying that the foetus is not a person and hence its life “is of no greater value than the life of a nonhuman animal at a similar level of rationality, self-consciousness, awareness, capacity to feel, etc”, Singer adds that “it must be admitted that these arguments apply to a newborn baby as much as to a foetus” (p.177). Hence, “the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants” since “newborn babies cannot see themselves as beings who might or might not have a future” (pp.161-62).
Applying his utilitarian calculus to the question of infanticide, Singer says: “When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed” (p.189).
After stating that parents of such disabled infants should be legally free to decide whether or not their child should be killed, he concludes: “So the issue of ending life for disabled newborn infants is not without complications.… Nevertheless, the main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all” (p.193).
Given Singer’s starting points that there is no God and that some animals are persons of equal moral status to human beings, it is not surprising to find that in a March 31, 2001 article in the Sydney Morning Herald, titled “Animal-sex philosopher brings out the beast in the Americans”, Singer is quoted as having stated at the time that sex with animals “is not an offence to our status and dignity as human beings”. The article was reporting on a favourable review Singer had written of a book titled Dearest Pet by Midas Dekker which condoned bestiality. The article said that Singer speculates that the reason why most people have a revulsion of bestiality “stems from the Judaeo-Christian view of a gulf separating humans from animals”.
The policies of the Australian Greens can be understood as an attempt to give legislative form to the ethical vision of Peter Singer. Indeed, it may be right to say that the Australian Greens is the first party in the world to base itself on this ethical vision. Rooted in atheistic perceptions of reality, his ethical system is incapable of defending human dignity. His defence of infanticide and bestiality serves well to illustrate the truth of the statement commonly attributed to Dostoevsky: “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.”
In The Greens, Brown and Singer expressed support for the legalisation of euthanasia, stating: “Despite different approaches we support carefully framed legislation that gives competent, adult, terminally ill patients the right to ask for medical assistance in dying, and allows doctors to provide it if to do so is in accordance with their conscience and judgement” (pp.164-165).
Two weeks into the new Australian federal government in 2010, Senator Brown announced that the number one priority of the Greens would be to introduce legislation allowing Australian Territories to introduce pro-euthanasia legislation within their jurisdictions. Prime Minister Gillard gave an undertaking not to oppose such a move. Senator Brown also signalled he would use the influence of the Greens in the new government to lobby for the adoption by parliament of an amendment to the Marriage Act to allow for same-sex marriage.
The Greens have been very successful in marketing themselves as a party with strong human rights credentials. However, regarding the most basic human right of all — that is, the right to life of all innocent human beings — they support abortion, embryo-destroying research and euthanasia.
Add to this their support for same-sex marriage and gay adoption, as well as their implicit reduction of the moral status of human beings to something equal to or even less than that of mere animals, then what we have in the Greens is a party whose total policy platform is ordered to the destruction of the most essential foundations of a just and humane society.
Eamonn Keane is a Sydney secondary school teacher and writer.