Peter Singer: the Nazi roots of his thought?

(English) Peter Singer

It is a strange matter with the alt right racism: it rejuvenates. It is a hydra like.  One geneticist had his work rejected for publication in 1940’s on the grounds that it was too similar to Nazism only for the same book almost entirely without any revision or updates (I  reviewed it at the time1 and checked almost every reference and almost all dated before 1945 ) to be published in 1970’s to rave reviews.

J R Baker sought to distinguish his views from Nazism on the grounds that Nazis used virulent  and objectionable language and that was to him quite  unacceptable. I found it curious that the vigorous expression of their views was what was objectionable about Nazis not the terror or millions of dead bodies. Despite Baker’s work being exposed as fraudulent it  enjoyed a subterranean cult following for many years.

Thirty years later Jensen  et al  resurfaced with  a modernised version of 19th century racial characterisation.2 Jensen, Eysenck et al all claimed  to have no ‘hostile’ feelings towards other races while  proposing strong views about their inferiority. Even though  the idea of this so-called  ‘objective research’ into race was shown to be a violation of basic human rights,  thirty years later Singer has resurfaced the same arguments.

It was argued thirty years ago that the presumed objectivity was false and concealed  serious violations. Every human is entitled to a presumption of sanity and equality. To withdraw that presumption for a certain class of people is a serious violation. It would be horrendous to demand of any person that they prove their sanity. But to make this demand only of a certain class of people is a clear violation. Why one might ask did he not suggest a study into the intellectual and racial proclivities of Jews would be a genuine area of research today. We all know that the barely concealed  agenda any research project with such  a title conducted  during Nazi times would be self evident. Why would it be surprising that  a study of the  intelligence of fundamentalist Christians compared to non-Christians would provoke uproar?

Of course the issue of presumptions and one’s rights to presumptions  are mirrored in the statistical choice of the ’null hypothesis’.

Singer writes:

“‘The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity. “3

Here Singer takes a basic human values . i.e. to treat all other humans as equally human, as a ‘desire’. This  of course is dishonest. People do not desire the ‘equality’ of other human beings as equally human. It is a basic human value. 

 It is the campaign to get society to withdraw its presumption of equality that is most damaging about such proposed ‘research’ that Singer seeks to defend.

It is not being argued that the mere similarity of many of Singer’s views to any of those of Nazi’s, for example their concern for the welfare of animals, their great concern over euthaniasia, makes him a Nazi or a follower. In this case the very specifc arguments being used can be traced back through ardent racists such as J R Baker to the Nazi period ideologies.  Regardless of Singer’s present views of the Nazi’s, one can say that the ideas he has expressed as a  justifcation of racist research  have their roots in pro-Nazi thought.

Endnotes

1.   (Ladimeji, 1974b)

2.  (Ladimeji, 1974a)

3.   (Singer, 2007)

REFERENCES

Ladimeji, O. A. (1974a). Flew and the Revival of Social Darwinism. Philosophy, 49(187), 97–101. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031819100047914

Ladimeji, O. A. (1974b). Science, Racism and Social Darwinism: A Review of Race by JR Baker. Race & Class. https://www.academia.edu/27071070/Science_Racism_and_Social_Darwinism_A_Review_of_Race_by_JR_Baker

Singer, P. (2007). Should We Talk About Race and Intelligence? By Peter Singer—Project Syndicate. Project Syndicate. https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/should-we-talk-about-race-and-intelligence