Whenever a truly reprehensible idea that manages to offend even the dulled moral sensibilities of the Western public is advocated, it is nearly always an ethicist doing it. To those unfamiliar with the academic field of ethics, this might seem counterintuitive. When most people hear the term “ethical,” they think of striving to do the morally right thing, of scrupulosity and honesty. Some of our most prominent ethicists, however, use “ethics” as a way of breaking down moral norms and advocating practices that are overtly evil and not infrequently vile.
For example, as I noted in a lengthy essay earlier this year, the decades-long campaign by some ethicists to advocate for the moral permissibility of infanticide is beginning to pay off. Infanticide advocacy is not the purview of obscure crackpots. Dr. Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago has stated that, as Christianity fades, the “euthanasia of newborns” will be permitted; MIT psychologist Steven Pinker believes that laws against infanticide are difficult to defend; philosopher Michael Tooley stated that infanticide “should be legal up to the time an organism [baby] learned how to use certain expression.” And, of course, Princeton bio-ethicist Peter Singer famously argued in Practical Ethics that killing “a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person.”
These campaigns have borne fruit. Dr. Louis Roy of the Quebec College of Physicians recently advocated for the legalization of euthanizing some infants; the Netherlands permits infanticide under the 2004 Groningen Protocol; one study indicates that 93.6 percent of medical professionals in Belgium believe that infanticide is permissible, and nearly 90 percent think that it should be legal in some circumstances. The ideas advocated by ethicists bleed into the culture.
I cite all of that preceding context for statement recently released by Dr. Peter Singer – yes, of Princeton – in support of bestiality. He tweeted out a paper published on October 31 with this comment: “Another thought-provoking article is ‘Zoophilia is Morally Permissible’ by Fira Bensto (pseudonym), which is just out in the current issue of the Journal of Controversial Ideas. This piece challenges one of society’s strongest taboos and argues for the moral permissibility of some forms of sexual contact between humans and animals. This article offers a controversial perspective that calls for a serious and open discussion on animal ethics and sex ethics. Read and ponder.”
The introduction to the paper opens with this claim: “Sex with animals is a powerful social taboo that exposes its practitioners to utmost indignation and stigma. Zoophilia is one of the few sexual orientations (along with e.g. necrophilia or pedophilia) that remain off-limits and have been left aside from the sexual liberation movement in the past fifty years. I would like to argue that this is a mistake. There is in fact nothing wrong with having sex with animals: it is not an inherently problematic sexual practice.” He believes this case is “straightforward” and should be “the default position within many philosophical quarters.” He goes to great lengths in his first point (“What is Zoophilia?”) to establish sexual attraction to animals as an “orientation” (emphasis his).
He states: “As an orientation (sometimes referred to zoosexuality), zoophilia can thus be compared with other orientations such as heterosexuality or bisexuality and should accordingly be distinguished from mere fetishes.” He then goes into a lengthy discussion of different sexual practices that might fall under this category and blames the Old Testament as being one of the primary sources of “social ostracism” that those attracted to their pets or other animals face. (This, as well as the possibility of a visit from the SPCA, is presumably why the author chose to write his defence of interspecies sex under a pseudonym.) The “increased tolerance and decriminalization” that accompanied the sexual revolution, he adds, has given way to hostility towards these practices by animal rights activists. Predictably, he harks back to the debunked Kinsey reports to prove that a substantial percentage of people engage in them.
Bensto rejects “human exceptionalism” and says human beings are no more significant than animals. He concedes that sex with chickens might be wrong but provides the example of “Alice” having sex with her dog as an example of a licit relationship. He claims that animals can consent and provides a series of examples so vile I merely skimmed this section of the paper. He concludes with the implications of his relativist claim that “zoophilia” is no different than homosexuality or other “orientations”: decriminalization and then, “going beyond mere legalization, we could argue further that zoophilia ought to be socially normalized too” (emphasis his). His conclusion: “The case for zoophilia being permissible is fairly robust, and commonly raised objections fall flat or are insufficiently backed up. I suggest that the permissibility of zoophilia should now be taken as the default position, with the burden of proof belonging to its critics.”
Note well here that every argument made by social conservatives from the start of the sexual revolution until now that was dismissed as a “slippery slope fallacy” is explicitly used by this bestiality advocate and supported by one of the world’s most prominent ethicists (who is ironically famous for his animal rights advocacy). Once sex is about pleasure and nothing more, there is no standard that will not fall; no boundary that will not be crossed; no moral instinct that should not be stamped out; no practice too vile to be openly advocated by people employed by some of the West’s most prestigious institutions. The author of this piece presumes, as the foundation for his argument, that Christianity is irrelevant to post-modern society, and that since we have dismissed the Christian values our civilization was built on, anything is possible. He is proving the point that Christians have been making for decades: without Christianity, society goes to the dogs.
Now that is something to ponder.