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.