CHICAGO — A well-known professor and evolution adherent at the University of Chicago says that he believes parents should be allowed to euthanize newborns that have severe deformities or who are significantly ill.
“If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?” biologist Jerry Coyne asked in a recent blog post.
“I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral,” he said. “After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties).”
Coyne stated that he believes the reason euthanizing ill infants is taboo in society is because humans are considered of more value than animals, a mindset that he said has been wrongfully propagated by religion. He predicted that as religion dies, mankind will become more accepting of euthanizing newborns, and infants will be afforded the same end to “torture” as do dogs and cats.
“The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion—in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul,” he wrote. “It’s the same mindset that, in many places, won’t allow abortion of fetuses that have severe deformities. When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.”
In his post, Coyne also pointed to the writings of moral philosopher Peter Singer and expressed his agreement with the Princeton professor.
As previously reported, Singer wrote in his book “Practical Ethics,” “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. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if killing the haemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him.”
Coyne said that he believes babies with painful or terminal conditions should be permitted to die through lethal injection, which he found to be more humane than withholding treatment.
“Withdrawing care may be legal, but in cases like this it causes more suffering than simply falling asleep after a lethal injection of, say, a barbiturate. In the future we’ll look back on our present society and say, ‘How brutal not to have been allowed to do that,'” he asserted.
However, some have expressed horror at Coyne’s suggestion, but said they understood the connections between the professor’s evolutionary beliefs and his persuasion that deformed or terminally ill infants should be relieved of their suffering because humans are no more special than sickly dogs and cats that are put out of their misery.
“[H]ow does Coyne justify his claim that infanticide and assisted suicide are morally praiseworthy? He relies on arguments that are based on his understanding of evolutionary biology. He claims humans are not a special or unique species, a point he bases on Darwinism,” wrote Richard Weikart for Evolution News.
“Coyne, like many secular intellectuals, sees morality as non-objective, because he thinks it is produced by random mutations, natural selection, and also changing cultural factors,” he noted. “He uses this moral relativism as a sledgehammer against morality (and religion) that he doesn’t like.”
Andrea Moury of the National Pulse made similar remarks.
“Though based on inherently flawed presuppositions showing a complete disregard of the dignity of human life, Coyne’s conclusion is logical. If one accepts abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, nothing should keep him from also justifying infanticide,” she wrote. “Although initially limited to only sick babies, just as abortion is now permitted under any circumstances, this slippery slope’s unavoidable destination is the justification of infanticide ‘on demand without apology.’ One hopes the public will realize this before society reaches that destination.”