Heather Hastie analyzes the attacks on my euthanasia stand

August 4, 2017 • 9:00 am

Over at Heather’s Homilies, Heather Hastie took it up herself to analyze the many public attacks on my view that it would be merciful to euthanize some terminally ill or deformed infants after birth. It was kind of her to write, “In defense of Jerry Coyne,” but I didn’t know it was being done until she asked me a few interview questions about my views. She’s also compiled the many Internet critiques of my views, classified them by degree of malfeasance, and answered the criticisms, which is great because I don’t have to do it (I wasn’t going to anyway).

Go read the piece on her site; I’ll post just one table she made analyzing the features of the various critiques:

Heather also discusses the role of religion in these attacks, which is substantial, for it’s one source of the human excptionalism that deems it merciful to euthanize sick animals but sinful to euthanize even sicker humans.

I thank her heartily.

24 thoughts on “Heather Hastie analyzes the attacks on my euthanasia stand

  1. Hi Jerry–Kudos to Heather for her thorough article, and kudos to you for taking on this issue. Since you’ve written about how Peter Singer has been demonized for exploring the topic, you were well aware of the trouble that would come from publicly supporting Singer’s conclusions. It’s astounding that anyone should be attacked for suggesting it’s cruel and unnecessary to make terminally ill or terminally disabled babies suffer an agonizing death. And as with other issues like supporting real free speech, and the right to criticize and ridicule all religions, it’s critical for everyone to speak up rather than leaving people like Singer and the Danish cartoonists hanging out there by themselves as targets. Good for you. It sounds like you’re not letting it get to you too much, and I hope that’s so.

  2. The fact that 16 articles on a complex philosophical issue have been *effectively* critiqued in a tabular format is not a good sign for the standard of the opposing arguments here.

    1. Anyone who wants to delve into any or each article listed in the table in order to learn more specifics easily can do so. The headlines of each article give a pretty good hint of how biased or unbiased they are.

      Thank you, Heather, for taking this on and doing such a fine job.

  3. I think it’s important to distinguish some starting points. Some logical constraints on this issue:

    Three original positions:
    1. Maximize suffering – i.e., this is what God wants
    2. Minimize suffering
    3. Suffering is not relevant

    Interested parties, i.e., whose suffering :
    1. Patient’s suffering
    2. Family’s suffering or burden
    3. Society’s suffering or burden (utilitarian or religious, could be either)

    When people outline their arguments, delineating how issues with regard to the above parameters is quite useful.

    Example One. Mother Theresa Stance. Maximum suffering. What the patient, family or society want is irrelevant. Suffering is not only acceptable, it is

    Example Two. Minimized Suffering. This is the most difficult position to take, because it requires understanding. Is the patient suffering? Is the family suffering, but unknown wether the patient is suffering? Does society suffer, but not the family or patient.

    Example Three. Inconvenienced Apathy. Suffering of the patient may not be relevant, but burden to individual or society may have highest priority. Akin to a political position, i.e., a politician sends soldiers to war knowing that some will suffer and/or die. These decision are made based on complex issues and largely utilitarian or possibly religious justifications.

    1. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but a common error was that Jerry was teaching, so his poor students were potentially being subjected to his views on euthanasia. In fact, Jerry no longer teaches.

      As an aside, one of the articles (2nd Evolution News iirc) criticized Jerry as a hypocrite because he stands up for freedom of speech, but attempts to (with success) stop others teaching Creationism in the university classroom. Of course, teaching Creationism is illegal as it is against the First Amendment. Teaching it in a public university is not a freedom of speech issue.

      1. That is not an error the WT made. They said he was emeritus, made no claim he was teaching, and they noted this was his personal blog. (I do not see calling it a blog as a reporting error :)) So, again, what is the alleged error in the WT piece?

        1. On my reading, the headline implies that the reason for “killing” them is simply because they are disabled, rather than alleviate extreme suffering.

  4. I do not understand the “link to atheism” column, assuming it is meant as a criticism. Coyne specifically criticizes the religious basis of some of the opposition to his position. Many commenters here do the same. Both link opposition to faith. Isn’t that “link to religion” just the obverse of “link to atheism”?

      1. I do not think the Daily Caller does. Here is the entirety of their discussion of religion:

        ‘Coyne believes that religion distinguishes between humans, cats and dogs, deeming the former group “special.” He believes that “when religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.”’

        That is discussing Coyne’s attribution of opposition to religion. It is not a claim he believes as he does because he is an atheist. The article does not in fact even call him an atheist.

        I also do not see any reporting error, unless you want to count count calling an emeritus professor a professor.

        1. I came back to answer your other question, but seeing this I’ve decided I’m not going to bother. As usual, your focus is in reality a personal attack against me, which has been going on for some time and which I’m getting sick of . You’re free to disagree with my judgment. I won’t be allowing myself to respond again.

          1. Questioning your claims is a personal attack? You accused specific reporters of misreporting. I asked you what specifically they misreported.

  5. What are the other sources of human exceptionalism? Doesn’t it seem like human exceptionalism is sort of natural? Not in a religious or entitled sense but just because humans are drawn to other humans. It’s incredibly bold to bring up this discussion and necessary as we can plainly see from Charlie Gard. (Even though I live under a rock sometimes and only heard of him two days ago.) Heather’s table is perfect because it highlights how easy it is to lose sight of the relevant issues such as the degree of suffering of the newborn, quality of life if able to live by itself at all, and the regulations of the procedure. It’s much easier to support a physician’s assistance with terminally ill adults because they have already lived and are making the choice themselves. Making the choice for the newborn might come up as an issue also. I don’t think it is any different from terminating a pregnancy in the womb.

    “It is this third group that creates the controversy because their lives cannot be ended simply by withdrawing intensive care. Instead, at the University Medical Center Groningen, if suffering cannot be relieved and no improvement can be expected, the physicians will discuss with the parents whether this is a case in which death “would be more humane than continued life.” If the parents agree that this is the case, and the team of physicians also agrees — as well as an independent physician not otherwise associated with the patient — the infant’s life may be ended.” – Should one be allowed to euthanize severely deformed or doomed newborns?

    I’m in support of the above situation.

    Thanks for bringing up this difficult topic.

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