Princeton University philosophy professor Peter Singer has for years generated controversy for the cruelty of his opinions on human life, for example arguing that the handicapped are not fully human, and that parents should be allowed to kill their disabled children. In the British Medical Journal Dalrymple reviews his 1981 book The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology:
But, says Singer repeatedly, ethical thinking (and conduct) requires that we now include all sentient beings in our concern, and that the interests of no one, including ourselves, should count for more than the interests of any other sentient being merely by virtue of proximity to us. It is our duty to maximise the fulfilment of as many interests as possible; thus if I have the choice between contributing to famine relief or buying an antiquarian book, I should do the former, for the interests of the starving count more than my interest in possession of said book.To some people, this view might seem humane and generous of spirit, but actually it would sanction (if, impossibly, it were put into practice) the greatest cruelty, and destroy civilisation and all hope of progress into the bargain. A surgeon who saved someone’s life with a technically complex and costly technique would not be a hero but a villain (and let us remember that routine medical care in a country such as Britain is costly by comparison with what is available in much of the world). The surgeon could not defend himself by saying that he relieved suffering where he found it, namely in the vicinity of his hospital; he should have been using his skill, and the resources, to relieve a much greater amount of suffering elsewhere. Far from being a saviour, he is in fact a murderer.