Should We Be Allowed To Euthanize Jerry Coyne?

Simplest way to do it is to ask Jerry to come over behind the barn for a little “digging party.” Tell him to bring a shovel.

We’ll say the hole has to be deep enough to fit all the corpses of those he has killed, people who suffered from “severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on” before he put them out of their misery.

When the hole is of sufficient size to fit Jerry and his fluffy white poodle (I don’t know he has one; I’m just assuming), we euthanize him using the same method he used to kill all those other people.

It’s for his own good. Anyway, it’s for my good.

Why? The reason is simple. Anybody who is so far gone as to ask with serious intent “Should one be allowed to euthanize severely deformed or doomed newborns?” is evincing signs of some severe mental incapacity. Euthanizing such individuals who “are doomed to a life that cannot by any reasonable light afford happiness” is thus a “merciful action”.

After all, “If you are allowed to abort a fetus”—and you are: hack away!—“then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?”

The logical point is obvious and indisputable. We ought to be able to euthanize any post-birth “fetus” that does not meet certain utilitarian criteria. Who decides those criteria?

I do.

Any utilitarian desiderata are by definition arbitrary, a fact known to all philosophers. Jerry and the corrupted soul he cites, Peter Singer, decide that “pain”, “suffering”, “quality of life” count in deciding who lives, who dies. Yet the purely materialistic universe which these to-be-euthanized fellows envision cannot and therefore does not decide that “pain” or happiness or even usefulness to some task is good or bad. Indeed, there is no good or bad; there is only prejudice. And when you come to it, pain and happiness are sentimentalist horse hooey. Man up.

Since all is prejudice, there is nothing to judge their utilitarian criteria superior to mine. I say mine is superior, and since I’m bigger, or at least meaner, than them, and most of you, what I say are the criteria for life worthiness will be the criteria.

“It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die,” and since we are all doomed to die, another eminent logical point, it makes little sense to keep alive anybody. But I’m a very tolerant man, and I like the company, so some people I’ll keep around for laughs. Until I tire of them.

That’s one criterion, then. My amusement. But don’t worry. I’m easily entertained. Bone up on your knock-knock jokes. (Who’s there? Atch. Atch who? Gesundheit!)

How should we kill those unworthy of life, those who not make the utilitarian cut? Jerry says, “I’ve heard from several doctors that humane euthanasia of adults is in fact practiced in the US: doctors will give patients an overdose of morphine to ease their suffering, knowing it will kill them.”

No, Jerry. Not “doctors”: executioners. Doctors try to save lives, not take them. Inability to use and understand simple English words, incidentally, is on the list. Non-humorous euphemism users will be among the first to be slipped the needle. By my executioners.

That we can now discuss killing the unfit openly is due to “a tide of increasing morality in our world”, says Jerry.

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…When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.

I always like to agree with Jerry when he’s right on point of logic, as he is here. We eliminate the metaphysics of religion leaving only the practicalities and arbitrariness of utilitarianism, and then it’s open season on killing anybody that doesn’t make the grade. Humans without religion are not special.

They are mere sacks of self-ambulatory flesh taking up space. Opposition to killing these flesh sacks must vanish if there is no religion to say “This is Right, This is Wrong”, as Jerry rightly says. There is no ultimate right and wrong in a purely utilitarian world, there is only bickering. One will say, “It’s obvious suffering can’t be allowed” and another will say, “It’s obvious suffering must be allowed.” And there is nothing to point to, save might, to say who is right.

But since this view, if held by many, will rapidly depopulate the planet, and since, as I said, I like the company, and my opinion is sovereign, Jerry cannot be allowed to preach his new morality. He’ll have to be euthanized. Bring your shovels.

29 Comments

  1. [While I’ve read and appreciated much of Heinlein, I don’t endorse nor recommend everything he’s written … I found Farnham’s Freehold tedious and trite … it was also a long time ago]

    I remember reading Heinlein’s “Farnham’s Freehold”.

    Bob’s contention was that midwives in some earlier centuries were always prepared to “undo” a live birth of a “monster”.

    Nothing really new about Coyne’s views, he’s just trying to make it easier on the midwife…

  2. “When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.” So does the opposition to war, dictatorships, assault, theft, etc. After all, animals kill, steal and rule by might all the time.

    My husband remarked the other day that suicide was not part of the Cowboy Code, which was being referenced by the news (the person the Code was being discussed in reference to had committed suicide and my husband thought it inappropriate that the Cowboy Code and this person be intertwined). I pointed out that in cowboy days, the trick was staying alive, not being killed. Euthanasia is only an issue in societies that are affluent. In violent, third world countries, staying alive is difficult enough. Suicide is just stopping trying to live, euthanasia is just removing the protection for a life.

    As John B() notes, the practice of euthanasia existed in the past with midwives and deformed infants (though I doubt the midwife suffered any angst over her actions nor needed the act to be “made easier”—that’s a modern concept). Of course, at that time, the deformed infant most likely would not have survived anyway, unlike today. Life was much cheaper then overall and killing was considered a way to advance in the ranks or replace a leader or to simply get what one wanted.

  3. Lot’s of folks will buy Jerry’s argument. My guess is at least 30%. When it gets to 50% it will be open season on a whole bunch of people. Your best insurance will be a revolver.

  4. Yes! Your Majesty, it has been observed that you are easily entertained. One jar of wasps and a butterfly or a ladybird can bring joy to any six year old boy.

    You are the very Model of the Modern Major Monarch of the sea.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-_m6EZ1SUk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlOb0XMxt84

    Climate Change deniers made it onto one rendition…but then, he’s Australian, so
    “you’re also on the list!” (Me too, but they won’t believe my denial, knowing me to be very clever and never susceptible to such a con trick.)

    I would like to petition that the fluffy poodle be spared and sent to Battersea For The Love Of Dogs.

  5. If you were to whack that whacko it’s because you had no choice:

    “To assert that we can freely choose among alternatives is to claim, then, that we can somehow step outside the physical structure of our brain and change its workings. That is impossible. Like the output of a programmed computer, only one choice is ever physically possible: the one you made.”

    Whack away.

  6. The revolutionists invariably set the thin edge of their wedge in a tiny crack; in this case rare severe birth defects. Then they hammer away until next thing you know they’re whacking you for a hangnail. Bloody devils.

  7. “To assert that we can freely choose among alternatives is to claim, then, that we can somehow step outside the physical structure of our brain and change its workings. That is impossible. Like the output of a programmed computer, only one choice is ever physically possible: the one you made.”

    The brain is not a computer. Nor is the mind. Mind made the computer. They’ve got it backwards. The computer is made to make predetermined choices not real choices. We know all about the material originator of the computer but not of the originator of thought itself.

    They are right though that they cannot be outside of the system in order to understand mind. Silly Billys on both sides make the mistake of thinking that they can or have done so but they fool themselves. Something which IS outside of understanding as life and soul, thought, experience, mind are, will remain utterly mysterious. Some revelations in life give a clue that discussions on metaphysics which can’t help themselves but be mechanical in character are way off the Truth.

    In my metaphysical judgement, the truth is warmer and less terrifying. Fear is useful in nature but of no use eternally.
    That’s the message.

  8. “Would it have been worth all the pain? ..Yes sure would.”

    To answer the quality of life question for someone else is wrong. It is pain to watch someone else’s pain.
    Nobody can know another’s life to decide it must be ended because it’s quality is poor and painful to observe.

    When people lose hope for themselves, they lose it for everyone.
    It is this kind of thing which gives me hope:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOuJnNqjXa0

  9. I’ve yet to find a pet owner, or, a non-pet owner that knows first-hand or knows of another owner’s pet (e.g. a dog) that’s lived to a point of untreatable misery where they concluded “it makes little sense to keep alive a suffering pet who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state.” So they have the pet euthanized. To a person (pet owner, friends, neighbors…) will agree that euthanizing the pet was the “humane” thing to do. I bet that that’s not the least bit controversial to almost everybody reading this.

    Jerry Coyne coined the quoted statement, above, except for the word “pet” where he wrote “child”:

    “It makes little sense to keep alive a suffering child who is doomed to die or suffer life in a vegetative or horribly painful state.”

    If only we could be as considerate to our family members as we are to our pets!

    Coyne’s views are basically a special case of
    already-legal abortion — abortion for cause based on the interests of the would-be child (as opposed to the convenience of the mother), and,
    post-birth euthanasia, also based on the interests of the child.

    What’s really new in Coyne’s position, extremist histrionics aside, is the tiny subset of live births with extenuating circumstances that, if the human fetus were instead a puppy, we not only have no compunction about killing, we consider doing so “humane” from the pup’s perspective (and shame on us if we didn’t).

    Curious how something that is “humane” in one setting is “immoral” in another.

    Some of Coyne’s views include removing, or denying, extraordinary medical interventions to passively let the newborn die. Is that really so different than what many of us put in “living wills”?

    Briggs presents an all-or-nothing dystopian outlook taken to a ridiculous extreme based on Coyne being all wrong in his entirety. The reality is we are already somewhere down the path Coyne would take us further, and nearly nobody minds, so far. I suspect most of us, those actually reading Coyne’s views, find them distasteful only in degree, or, maybe not but too radical philosophically but too potentially dangerous to regulate safely. There’s a lot of nuances and room for discussion, exploration, and debate in the topic Coyne addresses.

    Seems to me that if we humans can be so objective about how we euthanize our soulless pets we’d almost certainly manage to regulate ourselves when it came to euthanizing our own family members. Our use of living wills is one example of how we’re doing it already to ourselves.

    Briggs cites religion as a moderator, or religion’s absence as enabling things to run amok, to “rapidly depopulate the planet”. “Religion” does, or does not, depending on the particular “religion” (specifically a doctrine held by a given denomination), permit some of Coyne’s ideas (e.g. removal of life support might be, or not, morally ok). Come to think of it, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny life-saving blood transfusions that would restore someone to full functionality — maybe there’s some “religion(s)” out there that consider some euthanasia a moral act and many or most or even all of Coyne’s ideas are morally permissible?

    In other words, if one is like Briggs, using “religion” as the guidepost, it’s high time to consider if the particular “religion” or particular moral benchmark it provides is truly true, or, heretical. How does one know?

  10. K. The Catholic Church teaches that we are not obligated to use extraordinary means to keep ourselves or others alive. However, the administration of this concept in specific cases often raises difficult moral and practical questions requiring consultation with various professionals along with very sound judgement. Consequently, it would be unwise to put in place generalized rules for allowing a person to die as the opportunities for abuse would not only be manifold but certain.

  11. K- Dogs, cats, pets are not human. They do not have the rights which attach to humans either as a matter of law (which is flexible), or of fact (which is not). In fact whenever I hear the whole “Animal Rights” or animal as analogous to human reality line get started…and my students go off along that road all the time…I ask them to consider where these “rights” come from. In essence what they have is a set of privileges and detractions which they only hold through us. Putting down a human is not, legally, philosophically, or metaphysically the same thing.

  12. – Knock, knock.
    – Who’s there?
    – Interrupting duck.
    – Interrup…
    – Quack, quack!

    Am I safe?

  13. @ Sheri,

    ““When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.” So does the opposition to war, dictatorships, assault, theft, etc. After all, animals kill, steal and rule by might all the time.”

    There are already many millions (or billions?) of atheists and they generally behave better than religious people. If you don’t accept this, how do you explain the very small percentage of atheists in prisons? How do you explain the fact that the most religious parts of the world (like North Africa) are far more violent and unstable than the least religious parts (like Sweden)?

  14. Yes Sheri, I am with swordfishtrombone. Compare and contrast the violence of religious places, like the Vatican, with irreligious ones, like the old Soviet Union. Compare religious individuals like George Washington who FOUGHT in a WAR with irreligious saints like Adolf Hitler, who spent his life.. weaving rugs or something, I forget. Certainly don’t suggest that there are other metrics than religious affiliation and that we are cherry picking to make our arguments. Most of all accept the sweeping generalization that atheists generally behave better than religious people.

  15. How do you explain the fact that the most religious parts of the world (like North Africa) are far more violent

    ROFL! Ask yourself how peaceful North Africa — by which we suppose you mean the Maghreb [plus Libya?] was in Roman times, or Cathaginian, or even pre-Punic times. One may as well explain the fact that the most Democratic parts of the USA (like the Solid South) were far more prone to lynching black men back in the 20s-40s.

    If you wish to denigrate religion (whatever that means) it ought to be for the sins peculiar to it and not for the sins general to all mankind.

  16. “There are already many millions (or billions?) of atheists and they generally behave better than religious people. If you don’t accept this, how do you explain the very small percentage of atheists in prisons? How do you explain the fact that the most religious parts of the world (like North Africa) are far more violent and unstable than the least religious parts (like Sweden)?”

    Swordfish, whilst it troubles and pains many on the religious fanatic extremes, those given to politics over faith, that it is true many atheist do behave better than their religious counterparts, I don’t agree that the figures on violence and religious people in prison are any definitive measure of the truth about human motivation for violence.

    Some people are violent by their nature and this does vary according to degrees of civilisation of a society. The more primitive and basic, the more desperate, the more violent. I’m pretty certain that holds true. Where life and flesh are cheap violence abounds and is even enjoyed.

    In prison of course every man’s innocent! They all are in a situation which would lend itself to a man ‘finding God”.. Many scoundrels ‘find God” when the chips are down.
    Ted Bundy even pretended to blame pornography for his crimes at the end. Of course it wasn’t him, it was the sin inside him. Satan did it. Let me off.

    Sweden is now so weak that it has fallen foul of the strongest religious force for evil. If they don’t find their Viking spirit, (which they will, in the end) whatever the Catholics tell them about that, to make a stand, they will be engulfed. So your Example of Sweden will soon look rather more like a middle eastern example.

    For a more civilised nation look to a country where the people do not require a gun on their hip to stay safe or to feel manly.
    One where at least for now, threats of violence do not govern people’s behaviour or discourse. One less mafioso, less greasy, slippery Italian, less Scarface more Skyfall.

  17. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “ROFL (…)”

    You ask me about North Africa in Roman times. The Romans were religious believers, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make? It isn’t really valid to use historical examples, because it’s only relatively recently that it’s been safe for atheists to admit to being atheists.

    “If you wish to denigrate religion (whatever that means) it ought to be for the sins peculiar to it and not for the sins general to all mankind.”

    Okay: suicide bombings.

    But I don’t want to denigrate religion, I’m just correcting the erroneous idea that a post-religious world would have worse behaviour, on the entirely reasonable grounds that there are many post-religious people already and they don’t behave worse.

  18. @ Kyle,

    The Soviet Union was anti-religious only because it was trying to stop the Russian Orthodox Chrurch from having too much power and influence. Hitler wasn’t an atheist, and most people fighting for the Nazis and putting people to death in concentration camps were Christians.

    As for the vatican, come off it!

  19. Ken,

    “…I bet that that’s not the least bit controversial to almost everybody reading this.”

    Pets do not end up in the same kinds of clinical scenario as humans, for example on ITU with full life support.
    Animals can always be administered pain relief as can humans and there are NO scenarios in medicine where pain relief cannot be achieved for a patient in full time nursing care. There are scenarios where complex pain, centrally mediated, is not adequately managed by morphine and Gabbapentin or similar in patients who are otherwise high functioning and independent.

    The irony here is that the reason for animals scenarios being different is precisely because pets are put to sleep for the most flakey of reasons. That is a separate argument and I beg no pardon from thin skinned jerks, of which you are not one ken, for being soft about animals. It is also worth noting that most, the majority of animal medicine and surgery arises from human medicine research and development. Also that humans rely on animal subjects first.

    So having separated out the important point which is about humans. There are reasons separate from the moral and emotional one based on the sanctity of life.

    Having watched first had the slow degradation of the value of old and infirm people in care and at home I do think that such action as ending life for anyone would mean the death of medical research, the end of curiosity and the mystery of life, the end of pity and of those things which spur good men on to discover cures. Humans will become the same as animals in value. That some already think this way is not a reason to make reality reflect the values of the least imaginative, the hopeless and pitiless defeatists.

    All life is precious. Including Coyne, whoever he is.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfMrETH60AU

  20. Wut. Soviet union, state atheism. Hitler, certainly an atheist. Last claim, totally unsubstantiated.

  21. You ask me about North Africa in Roman times. The Romans were religious believers, so I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make?

    The Romans were also Latins. Does that tell us anything about the violence-prone nature of Latin-speakers? The lynch mobs of the old South were members of the Democratic Party. That reveals what tendency of Party members? You may also find that most of the perpetrators of violence have been males. In an era when everyone was religious, then the theory must explain not only those who were violent, but also those who were not. It must also account for whether the general religiosity of the group tells us anything about whether particular individuals were religious believers.

    Correlation is not causality.

    Suicide bombers are probably an older thing than even the kamikaze pilots of WWII, let alone the secular Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka to whom we owe the more modern incarnation, latterly imitated by a few politically=frustrated Arabs.

    Can atheists behave morally? Of course, they can. St. Paul thought so. Those who thought not include Nietzsche (who welcomed it), Sartre, Rorty, and a number of others who shared a lack of belief in common. “Why not be cruel?” Rorty famously asked.

    “For liberal ironists, there is no answer to the question ‘Why not be cruel?’ – no noncircular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible. … Anyone who thinks that there are well grounded theoretical answers to this sort of question – algorithms for resolving moral dilemmas of this sort – is still, in his heart, a theologian or metaphysician.”
    — Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

  22. As it happens, only yesterday I was explaining, to my nephew, the Jewish position on the abortion question;
    The fetus becomes a human being when it graduates from medical school.

  23. @ Kyle,

    “Wut. Soviet union, state atheism. Hitler, certainly an atheist. Last claim, totally unsubstantiated.”

    I debunked your Soviet Union claim – they only adopted atheism for political purposes. Hitler was very far from being an atheist (look it up) and as for my last claim being unsubstantiated, if you mean that most Nazis were Christians, that is a matter of basic maths based on most Europeans at the time being Christians.

    But these claims about Hitler and the Soviet Union are misleading for several other reasons. For one, they had military technology which wasn’t available previously. For another, atheism is just a lack of belief in any gods – it has nothing to do with politics.

  24. An interesting demurral from the historical consensus in re Hitler and Stalin. Atheism was an official component of the Bolshevik ideology (cf. the fates of Orthodox Churches under Lenin. During the Great Patriotic War, when Hitler had broken the Pact and invaded the Union of Soviets, Stalin found it politically expedient to gin up some old-fashioned Russian patriotism (supposedly obsolete for the New Soviet Man) because people who weren’t enthused about fighting for the Soviets did get their dander up fighting for the Rodina, for Matushka Russiya. That included de-mothballing the Orthodox Church.

    Also you seem to include “being a Christian” as the same kind of thing as “being a male” or “being French.” But it is actually a behavior, not a physical attribute. That is, “Christian” is not something you are, it’s something you do. A great many in the West had, by that time, abandoned Christianity for nationalism. They worshiped the State in one form or another, even if they maintained a nominal membership in a church somewhere. If the choice came down to loyalty to the Reich or loyalty to the Sermon on the Mount, the Reich would win, hands down. Then, too, there was a difference between being a member of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) and being a fervent believer in the tenets of national socialism. The former was, at some point, required by law (as was the fascist salute), at least if you wanted a job; the latter was a level of commitment. [The last of Hitler’s Cabinet ministers was supposed to sign up for the NSDAP in a ceremony to be attended by the Leader himself. But the minister (whose name I have forgotten; but cf. Evans, The Third Reich in Power) used the occasion to denounce the regime for its oppression of the Church and its suppression of religion. Goering hustled him out of the room before Hitler’s head exploded.] Then there are the lyrics of the Hitler Youth song:

    We are the jolly Hitler Youth,
    We don’t need any Christian truth
    For our Leader Adolf Hitler, our Leader
    Always is our interceder.

    Whatever the Papist priests may try,
    We’re Hitler’s children until we die;
    We follow not Christ but Horst Wessel.
    Away with incense and holy water vessel!

    As sons of our forebears from times gone by
    We march as we sing with banners held high.
    I’m not a Christian, nor a Catholic,
    I go with the SA though thin and thick.

    They went on to sing that the swastika, not the cross, is redemption on earth. The Nazis believed that the Teutons had been weakened by their conversion to Christianity, which had been foisted on them by the effete Latins from Southern Europe. Christmas was replaced by Julfest, a supposedly Volkisch festival of the winter solstice.

    Hitler himself appeared to believe in a vague sort of deism, in Providence or Fate. We may or may not account this as atheism, depending on what one means by Providence. But he was definitely not a Christian. Certainly, the NSDAP hold on power was not so ironclad as to risk alienating the Volk by directly declaring one way or another.

    Ref.
    Richard Evans, The Third Reich in Power
    Ian Kershaw, The “Hitler Myth”
    John Lukacs, The Hitler of History

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