Richard Dawkins Tweets on Down’s Syndrome

Richard Dawkins seems to have a knack for ignorant, outrageous and callous comments. Dawkins, tweeting a response to an article in the New Republic about abortion practices in Ireland, said, “Ireland is a civilised country except in this one area… You’d think the Roman Church would have lost all influence.” One of his followers replied, “994 human beings with Down’s syndrome deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012. Is that civilized?” And that led Dawkins to respond, “Yes, it is very civilized. These are foetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.”

Another follower tweeted, “I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down’s syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.” And what was Dawkins advice? He suggested, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

There’s so much that could be said about this exchange. Firstly, an unborn baby feels pain (psychological and physical) during the eighth week of development, and the diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome isn’t usually conclusive until long afterwards, and sometimes not until after birth. Some tests to detect fetal abnormalities occur during the second trimester, but even with these tests, an abnormal screening could occur in a perfectly healthy baby. These tests usually only tell us that there’s a chance that the fetus has a birth defect, not that the results are conclusive. Additional testing would need to be done. An amniocentesis, however, can provide a definitive diagnosis, but one isn’t usually carried out until between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy, and it could take several weeks to process the results. So Dawkins is wrong to suggest that aborting babies with Down’s Syndrome is civilized. On the contrary, it’s quite uncivilized and barbaric.

Sarah Palin weighed in on Dawkins’ tweet, saying, “Mr. Dawkins, I’d let you meet my son if you promised to open your mind, your eyes, and your heart to a unique kind of absolute beauty. But, in my request for you to be tolerant, I’d have to warn Trig he must be tolerant, too, because he may superficially look at you as kind of awkward. I’ll make sure he’s polite, though!”

Palin’s response is touching, but also throws a punch. A child with Down’s Syndrome may have some disabilities, but they’re still just as human, and have just has much value and intrinsic worth as a callous atheist like Dawkins. I doubt Dawkins would take up Sarah Palin’s offer to meet Trig, but that would indeed be a curious encounter.

It’s a shame that atheists like Dawkins are so quick to call for extinguishing human life with little thought on the matter. But that’s to be expected when one doesn’t believe in the God who created mankind in his image. In a world without God, no human has any more value than an amoeba or worm, and the fight for survival may be met with uncivilized genocide. Eliminating the unfit is advocated in a world where survival of the fittest is the reigning paradigm- especially in a world they believe is overpopulated by polluting humans who are intruders upon nature.

So where does Dawkins get his sense of morality and right and wrong? Obviously, if he doesn’t believe in God, then he’s relying upon his own flawed and subjective intellect. But if God does exist, then bringing a baby with disabilities into the world and caring for them with love is both good and moral. And doing so gives us a chance to grow in character. It may not be the easy path, but it can be far more rewarding than what Dawkins could imagine.

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2 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins Tweets on Down’s Syndrome

  1. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like Richard Dawkins. However, compared to the practice of infant exposure, abortion seems downright merciful. Not too long ago in human history, if a child was born with an impairment, chances are the parents would simply just abandon it to die in the elements. Heck, one didn’t even have to be disabled–if they were born the wrong sex they’d be left to die of exposure.

    The fact of the matter is that not everyone is capable of dealing with a disabled child. Or a child at all, for that matter. So what about adoption? That’s usually a popular response from the pro-life crowd. I don’t see too many people rushing out to adopt crack babies, do you? Ok, that’s a rather blase statement I just made, but I’ll back it up with some numbers.

    UNICEF estimates that there are 17,900,000 orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets in the world. According to Pew, there are 2.18 BILLION Christians in the world. So why don’t y’all step up, then? Hmm? If only ONE PERCENT of Christians actually walked the walk, every orphan in the world would have a loving, Christian home.

    In 2012, 23,396 youth aged out of the U.S. foster care system without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed. There are about 130 million self-professed Christians in the US. And 23k of them couldn’t step up the plate and do the Christian thing? Seems pretty suspect to me. But we can do one better.

    Every year more people die from a lack of clean water than all forms of violence in the world–even war. The UN estimates that it would cost $10 billion a year to fix this problem. That’s less than what Americans spend feeding the family dog every year. It’s half of what Europeans spend annually on alcohol. The cost per year to end world hunger? $30 billion dollars. In the US alone, religious institutions dodge taxes to the tune of $71 billion annually. That’s enough to end world hunger, provide everyone with clean drinking water, and still have about $30 billion left over. So where does all that money go? Because it certainly isn’t going to actually solving any problems that are killing living children in the world right now.

    And that’s what bugs me the most about these “moral” arguments. People of faith talk a good talk, but they can’t even put their money where their mouth is. It’s very easy to sit behind a bible and judge people and deliver sermons and quote scripture. But that won’t feed a hungry child. It won’t put a roof over a child’s head. So rather than lecture the world about how evil abortions are, why don’t all the Christians in the world lead by example and all adopt a child? Or end world hunger? Or give children clean drinking water?

    • I think you make some great points. Next to infant exposure, abortion does seem merciful. But I think this is indicative of the culture, and it speaks to a bigger need. Both options are wrong. It’s not that one is a better option than the other. What we need to do is address the culture at large, and repair our brokenness. How many of these people who actively allow the baby to die understand the value of life and the great responsibility and opportunity they have been given to nurture that child? How many of these people have been put in a position where they can succeed at handling such a responsibility? I think that’s what we need to address.

      Unfortunately, with another point you made, we aren’t adopting enough of the children that need to be loved. I know there are families who adopt children with disabilities, but not enough. Again, I think that speaks to our weaknesses as a society- that we can’t inconvenience ourselves for the sake of another human with needs. We love our lives and freedom and don’t want to sacrifice. We want a life that doesn’t involve our own suffering, and we believe we’ll suffer if we have to deal with raising a disabled child. So that speaks to our own selfishness, and I don’t think that’s a good reason to allow abortions. I think it means we need to address these concerns and work towards building a culture willing to sacrifice for the needs of others. I’m not talking about a collective, compulsive sacrifice- I’m talking about a personal, cheerful sacrifice. Sure, there may be some teenage moms who aren’t capable of raising a child, but why is that? Is it because they’ve been abused themselves and are hurting? Or is it because they’re worried about their own personal future? I think we can help women in the worst situations to overcome their issues, even if it means going the adoption route. So I don’t see why abortion is the only way, or even the right way.

      Personally, I would love to adopt an orphaned (or disabled) child. My wife and I do have some hurdles to overcome if we were to go that route, but it remains a possibility that I would love to explore. And I know various families at my church where eight children have been adopted. So we are making an impact, although it could be greater. So I welcome your challenge. Our church (and that includes me) does step up to some of the challenges, and we’ve done many outreaches to children, not only in the United States, but abroad (Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, etc.), and we have donated a lot of time and money to those in need. Yes, we can and must do better. I’m glad you point that out because we can’t be complacent. We’ll never be able to do enough, but we can always do better. But we also have to look out for their spiritual needs as well. What good is it if we give someone food and water but don’t care about their soul? As a Christian, I think we need to do it all, and that’s where I stand. I’m not sure why you think that Christians and our “moral” arguments are the problem. We’re on the front line of the battlefield trying to make a difference. We’re not perfect. And that admission demonstrates that we’re sinners in need of a savior, just like everyone else. But as Christians, we are saved, and now we must do all that we can to meet the needs of others, and that includes spiritual and physical needs.

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