cover image Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics

Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics

Peter Singer. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-11880-8

In these brilliant essays, Singer (Animal Liberation), a founder of the Australian Animal Rights Movement, argues persuasively for a change in attitudes toward abortion, euthanasia, fetal transplants and animal rights. He considers that 20th-century advances in medicine, technology and anthropology have made traditional Judeo-Christian ethics irrelevant and hypocritical. He offers five new commandments: ``Recognise that the worth of human life varies'' because all life is not of equal value; ``Take responsibility for the consequences of your decisions'' because the old commandment ``never intentionally to take innocent human life'' is too absolutist to deal with all the circumstances that can arise; ``Respect a person's desire to live or die'' because ``incurably ill people who ask doctors to help them die are not harming others''; ``Bring children into the world only if they are wanted'' because being fruitful and multiplying now causes serious overpopulation; ``Do not discriminate on the basis of species'' because what is ``human'' can no longer be demonstrated to apply to Homo sapiens alone. Singer analyzes the history of traditional arguments about life and death, with man as the center of the universe, and makes a forceful case for his new ethic. (Apr.)