Infanticide - Now a Good Idea!

Commentary by Alan Keyes

Subject: Keyes: Arguing for Infanticide in the New York Times X-Priority: 3 (Normal) X-MIME-Autoconverted: from 8bit to quoted-printable by id JAA26626

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The Alan Keyes Show November 7, 1997

Arguing for Infanticide

The good news and my opening theme are actually the same today. The good news is that another important truth has been confirmed. And I'm going to spend the better part of the time here in my opening talking about it. But first let me set it in context. It is in the context of the ongoing argument, which obviously comes up every now and again on this show because of my own interests and predilections, over the subject and issue of abortion. Which, contrary to what some folks would like to believe, is becoming ever more important in the political life and discussion of America, because the truth will out -- that's why that's occurring. And truth has a way of eventually having its own way with us.

And something occurred, in the course of the past week. And it occurred so quietly that I didn't even hear about it, until I read an article in the Washington Post which my wife showed me. To show you how these things creep up on you, I went through the paper yesterday, didn't even notice it. Isn't it wonderful to have an observant spouse? Anyway, my wife pointed it out to me, and I read it through, and I said, "gosh, this is a momentous occasion."

And I say it is a momentous occasion because it is the first appearance, and the first confirmation, of truth that I and others have been pointing out to people for a long time. We were dismissed, in various ways: "This isn't going to happen; this is exaggeration, etc., etc. And now, as in other cases, this is being confirmed.

And to prove this, I'm going to do something I almost never do on the program. I don't believe I've ever done it before. I am going to read an entire article to you, because I think it is that important that you hear it. It's an article by a senior writer at the National Journal, named Michael Kelly -- not known for his conservative predilections or anything -- writing in the Washington Post -- a paper not known for any kind of conservatism whatsoever, except the willingness to conserve liberal presidents at the expense of truth, integrity and honesty. But aside from that, no conservatism that I've ever noticed.

The title of the article is "Arguing for Infanticide." And are y'all ready? I want you to listen carefully to this; it's probably going to take me a couple of segments. This violates all the rules -- Alan is about to violate all the rules of talk radio, once again. We just throw out the rule book, do things that aren't supposed to be done. I'm going to read you this article.

And I honestly believe that y'all are intelligent and interested enough to want to hear something that constitutes, I think, a shocking new plateau in American life, that portends such a dark and forbidding future that we need to stop and think about this, because it is happening to US now. This is not Nazi Germany, or anyplace else; this is happening to US. Okay? Now listen to this:


Arguing for Infanticide

Michael Kelly

(Thursday, November 6, 1997; Page A23 The Washington Post)

Of all the arguments advanced against the legalization of abortion, the one that always struck me as the most questionable is the most consequential: that the widespread acceptance of abortion would lead to a profound moral shift in our culture, a great devaluing of human life. This seemed to me dubious on general principle: Projections of this sort almost always turn out to be wrong because they fail to grasp that, in matters of human behavior, there is not really any such thing as a trendline. People change to meet new realities and thereby change reality.

Thus, for the environmental hysterics of the 1970s, the nuclear freezers of the 1980s and the Perovian budget doomsayers of the 1990s, the end that was nigh never came. So, with abortion, why should a tolerance for ending human life under one, very limited, set of conditions necessarily lead to an acceptance of ending human life under other, broader terms?

This time, it seems, the pessimists were right. On Sunday, Nov. 2, an article in the New York Times, the closest thing we have to the voice of the intellectual establishment, came out for killing babies. I am afraid that I am sensationalizing only slightly. The article by Steven Pinker in the Times' Magazine did not go quite so far as to openly recommend the murder of infants, and printing the article did not constitute the Times' endorsement of the idea. But close enough, close enough.

What Pinker, a professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote and what the Times treated as a legitimate argument, was a thoroughly sympathetic treatment of this modest proposal: Mothers who kill their newborn infants should not be judged as harshly as people who take human life in its later stages because newborn infants are not persons in the full sense of the word, and therefore do not enjoy a right to life. Who says that life begins at birth?

"To a biologist, birth is as arbitrary a milestone as any other," Pinker breezily writes. "No, the right to life must come, the moral philosophers say, from morally significant traits that we humans happen to possess. One such trait is having a unique sequence of experiences that defines us as individuals and connects us to other people. Other traits include an ability to reflect upon ourselves as a continuous locus of consciousness, to form and savor plans for the future, to dread death and to express the choice not to die. And there's the rub: our immature neonates don't possess these traits any more than mice do."

Pinker notes that "several moral philosophers have concluded that neonates are not persons, and thus neonaticide should not be classified as murder," and he suggests his acceptance of this view, arguing that "the facts don't make it easy" to legitimately outlaw the killing of infants.

Pinker's casually authoritative mention of "the facts" is important. Because Pinker is no mere ranter from the crackpot fringe but a scientist. He is, in fact, a respected explicator of the entirely mainstream and currently hot theory of evolutionary psychology, and the author of "How the Mind Works," a just-published, doubtlessly seminal, exceedingly fat book on the subject.

How the mind works, says Pinker, is that people are more less hard-wired to behave as they do by the cumulative effects of the human experience. First cousins to the old Marxist economic determinists, the evolutionary psychologists are behavioral determinists. They believe in a sort of Popeye's theory of human behavior: I do what I do because I yam what I yam because I wuz what I wuz.

This view is radical; it seeks to supplant both traditional Judeo-Christian morality and liberal humanism with a new "scientific" philosophy that denies the idea that all humans are possessed of a quality that sets them apart from the lower species, and that this quality gives humans the capacity and responsibility to choose freely between right and wrong. And it is monstrous. And, judging from the writings of Pinker and his fellow determinists on the subject of infanticide, it may be the most thoroughly dishonest construct anyone has ever attempted to pass off as science.

Pinker's argument was a euphemized one. The more blunt argument is made by Michael Tooley, a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado, whom Pinker quotes. In his 1972 essay "Abortion and Infanticide," Tooley makes what he calls "an extremely plausible answer" to the question: "What makes it morally permissible to destroy a baby, but wrong to kill an adult?" Simple enough: Personhood does not begin at birth. Rather, "an organism possesses a serious right to life only if it possesses the concept of a self as a continuing subject of experiences and other mental states, and believes that it is itselfsuch a continuing entity."

Some would permit the killing of infants "up to the time an organism learned how to use certain expressions," but Tooley finds this cumbersome and would simply establish "some period of time, such as a week after birth, as the interval during which infanticide will be permitted."


Keyes: I'm going through an article, right now, written by Michael Kelly in the Washington Post yesterday, talking about an article that appeared in the New York Times, Sunday Magazine Section. An article by a man named Steven Pinker, who is an "evolutionary psychologist," and who has made an argument, as I and Kelly have been presenting it to you, that essentially says "infanticide is okay, and here are the reasons why we shouldn't hold it against mothers who kill their newborns."

Now why is this significant? People have surely tried to make these kinds of arguments before; we don't pay much attention; why should we take this seriously? Because it is being made by a supposedly reputable -- indeed, trendy -- scientist; it was published in, as Kelly argues, what is regarded by some -- wrongly, I believe, but still -- as the "voice of America's intellectual establishment." It's actually the voice of America's intellectual corruption. But as the voice of America's intellectual corruption, this gives us a very good idea of how far that corruption has gone.

And, my friends, it's unbelievable far. And we're not done yet. You thought we were finished! You thought it couldn't get worse! It does. Let me continue with this piece. This is Michael Kelly, now; we're going to continue. We have already gotten to the point where he is quoting from this argument that says "well, you know, we don't know when you could start permitting the killing of infants, or up to what point." But he figures a week is okay. Let's make it a week. Just arbitrarily. And then he goes on. Listen to this:

(Kelly): And Tooley does not bother with Pinker's pretense that what is under discussion here is only a rare act of desperation, the killing of an unwanted child by a frightened, troubled mother. No, no, no. If it is moral to kill a baby for one, it is moral for all. Indeed, the systematic, professionalized use of infanticide would be a great benefit to humanity. "Most people would prefer to raise children who do not suffer from gross deformities or from severe physical, emotional, or intellectual handicaps," writes eugenicist Tooley. "If it could be shown that there is no moral objection to infanticide the happiness of society could be significantly and justifiably increased."

To defend such an unnatural idea, the determinists argue that infanticide is in fact natural: In Pinker's words, "it has been practiced and accepted in most cultures throughout history." This surprising claim is critical to the argument that the act of a mother killing a child is a programmed response to signals that the child might not fare well in life (because of poverty, illegitimacy or other factors). And it is a lie.

In fact, although millions of mothers give birth every year under the sort of adverse conditions that Pinker says trigger the "natural" urge to kill the baby, infanticide is extremely rare in all modern societies, and is universally treated as a greatly aberrant act, the very definition of a moral horror. The only cultures that Pinker can point to in which infanticide is widely "practiced and accepted" are those that are outside the mores of Western civilization: ancient cultures and the remnants of ancient cultures today, tribal hunter-gatherer societies.

And so goes the entire argument, a great chain of dishonesty, palpable untruth piled upon palpable untruth. "A new mother," asserts Pinker, "will first coolly assess the infant and her situation and only in the next few days begin to see it as a unique and wonderful individual." Yes, that was my wife all over: cool as a cucumber as she assessed whether to keep her first-born child or toss him out the window. As George Orwell said once of another vast lie, "You have to be an intellectual to believe such nonsense. No ordinary man could be such a fool." (End of article)

Keyes: I hope you all got the true impact of this, because when I read it, it was unhappily both a confirmation and a kick in the stomach. And it tells you what happens -- and I have predicted this. I mean, I have predicted this for such a long while. I can't say that it surprises me, in terms of working out the logic of the abortion position, because that logic is clear and ineluctable in its ultimate consequence. And this, I predict, is not the end of it. Once you have reclaimed for human judgment the right to decide what humanity shall be respected and what shall not, there is no limit to what may happen, except such limits as are defined in a given circumstance by human ingenuity and the limited qualities of demagoguery. In other words, the best intellects, the best demagogues, who ultimately succumb to the willingness to make these arguments, will come up with more and more clever ways of deluding and persuading people to accept their view.

And then, what stands in the way of the massive abuse of humanity? Nothing. If you are clever enough, can get enough people on your side, you can, with great moral self-righteousness, exterminate people by the millions. Because they are not human -- or human enough.

Now, one would think that it wouldn't be at all hard to impress this truth on people at the end of the twentieth century. We look back on the years of the twentieth century and what do we find? We find that in Nazi Germany, this progression exactly happened. And it led exactly to a program that ultimately attempted the extermination of millions upon millions of human beings.

I have said this repeatedly over the years. And, of course, it was dismissed. "Oh, no. That's exaggeration. That's alarmism. That's the extreme right-wing religious fringe." But it's not. It's simply cold, clear common sense -- applied to a situation where we have released human judgment and will from the constraint of respecting a higher authority than human judgment and will.

Tell human beings that we are in charge, and they are very clever about making sure that that ultimately leads to the conclusion that anything goes that they feel like doing today. And, even the most horrible things, things that are contemplated instinctively as the great crimes, become conscionable, become arguable, become tolerable, become permissible, become necessary. And this is the road down which we walk. And step by ugly, hateful step, this truth, this shadow, is lengthening its reality across our heart, across our intellects, across our land.

This is the direct consequence of the abortion position. And this is not the end of it. Infanticide is next. And I want to say pointedly that this kind of thing ought to give pause to all those so-called "pro-life" people who went in to support Christy Whitman. Because by giving legitimacy to her extremism, they have opened the way to this greater extremism. It was no accident that this filth appeared in the New York Times two days before her re-election was on the line.

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