What are some of Peter Singer's views?

Singer (1946—) has at times argued that the lives of healthy, adult animals are of greater value than those of severely impaired human infants. Such views have met with great controversy. When Singer was hired by Princeton University in 1999, there were dramatic public demonstrations by and for disabled people, and the university administration hired armed guards to protect him.

Singer, proceeding on utilitarian grounds, does not believe that animals have rights, but rather that their well-being is intrinsically good and their pain and destruction intrinsically bad. Singer is not a deep ecologist, because he does not attribute intrinsic value to the well-being of mountains, rivers, or plants, or whatever is not sentient. Singer has claimed that the privileging of human life and well-being over that of animals is speciesism, which, in principle, is no different from racism and sexism.

Who has claimed that animals have rights?

Tom Regan (1938—) has based a deontological doctrine of the wrongness of killing innocents, including animals, on the premise that they have intrinsic or inherent worth. It follows from this that humans have an obligation not to harm animals, or at least some of them, for recreation, food, or experimentation. Paul W. Taylor (1923—) has extended Regan's view in claiming that every living thing, from a germ to an elephant, has a "teleological-center-of-life" that is worthy of moral respect.

What do critics of the deep ecological and animal value views claim?

William F. Baxter, a law professor who passed away in 1998, argued in People or Penguins: The Case for Maximum Pollution (1974) that the cost of a pollution-free society would be harmful to humans. He assumed that humanism requires that humans are what matter above all else. Baxter expressed a general critical view of environmentalism held by human beings who do not believe that animals have intrinsic worth or rights equal to those of humans.

What religious issues are involved in environmental thought, pro and con?

Some of the critical perspective derives from a Christian view imbedded in Western political philosophy that God gave the earth and everything on it to humankind to rule over for our use; only humans have the spark of divinity that justifies intrinsic value. Nonetheless, many religious groups have proclaimed an obligation of benevolent stewardship over parts of the earth. But, insofar as part of this stewardship is for the sake of future generations, a perplexing question arises: How can we have obligations to those who do not exist? Robert Heilbroner (1919-2005) has examined this issue in "What Has Posterity Ever Done for Me?," a widely quoted and reprinted 1975 essay that first appeared in New York Magazine.

How is environmental ethics a secular matter?

In secular terms, animals and other natural entities do not have legal standing in human courts, unless there is human advocacy for them. Endangered species and anti-cruelty laws are instances of such advocacy. Other critics of environmentalism and animal rights point out that 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed are now extinct and that human predation on nature is just as natural as animal predation.

How is environmentalism related to feminism?

Feminists have addressed the exploitation of natural environments as part of overall cultural misogyny insofar as the earth is at least metaphorically female. Also, some of the exploitation of animals is centered on female animals. Chris Cuomo explores this last thesis and characterizes living beings in an interesting way as having "dynamic charm" in Feminism and Ecological Communities (2002).

How is environmentalism related to racial and international studies?

Theorists of racial discrimination such as Laura Westra and Bill E. Lawson have identified "environmental racisms." Minorities, who live in poor neighborhoods, are more vulnerable to having toxic dump sites in their immediate environments, for example. Some indigenous philosophers have criticized the whole Western technological project. By contrast, international scholars have criticized Western environmentalists for assuming that development in poor countries for the improvement of human life is less important than the preservation of nature.

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