Peter Singer gives talk on saving lives

Peter Singer, acclaimed author of several texts including “Animal Liberation,” gave a talk about his book “The Life You Can Save” on Main Campus.

One audience member called author Peter Singer a “remarkable man” when he spoke in Room 15 of Anderson Hall this past Tuesday, Oct. 22 in an event hosted by a new student group, a branch of the national Partners in Health organization.

Singer’s books advocate a vegan diet and encourage the pre-med track. In his presentation on Tuesday, Singer lectured on his book, “The Life You Can Save.” The original lecture hall designated for the talk was too small for the crowd that appeared to hear Singer speak. Religious studies professor Elliot Ratzman, who was there to introduce Singer, told the audience that Signer is “a mensch.”

Mensch is a Yiddish word for a person of great integrity and honor.

“His writing is as influential as Karl Marx,” Ratzman said. “He had 600,000 hits on one of his TED Talk YouTubes and everyone in attendance got what they paid for, even if it was free.”

His work has been widely recognized as enormously influential, with “Animal Liberation” considered to be as influential as “The Communist Manifesto” – for vegetarians.

Singer opened with a fictional story, when he asked the audience to imagine walking by an ornamental pond. The hypothetical pond he described was set in the winter, with a child flailing in it who appeared to be drowning. He then made a point that based on the thought process of the average person, many people would let the child die for a trivial reason like not wanting to destroy their shoes.

Currently, it is not one child is drowning in that cold pond, he said, but “6.6 million children [under five] that die from preventable causes,” citing a Unicef report from last month.

Fortunately, he said, this figure has been dropping. Organizations like Partners in Health, the Gates Foundation and governments across the world are sending aid to those areas in need. However, in Singer’s opinion, this is not a simple solution. Many problems are still posed, despite advancement.

Many people are misinformed about the amount of money dedicated to helping the underprivileged. People who know the government gives a large sum and conclude based on that the money is enough. The United States, however, only gives 25 cents per every 100 dollars from taxes to aid, he said.

Singer asked the audience to consider who is really being unfairly treated: children living in extreme poverty. Furthermore, he pointed out, the governments gives aid to countries it has particular interest in and not necessarily impoverished nations.

Singer said that in general, people seem to enjoy the feeling of acting in the interest of others. Charity is a positive experience for most, he said.

“People in an MRI were asked to give money to a charity,” Singer said. “[For] those that did give, the scans showed activity in the pleasure sensors of the brain. You will find that you will make a big difference by cutting back and giving a little more.”

Toby Forstater can be reached at 

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