Thursday, August 21, 2014

Richard Dawkins Has Done it Again [Clinton Wilcox]

Richard Dawkins is no stranger to controversy. From going on a tirade regarding a woman who felt uncomfortable in a situation on an elevator at an atheist conference, to stating that mild pedophilia is not morally blameworth, Richard Dawkins has consistently espoused problematic ideas. His latest is a statement regarding people with Down's syndrome, in which he stated that most women with a Down's syndrome baby do abort (which is true), but that it would be immoral to bring a child with Down's syndrome into the world if you have a choice. He later defended himself saying that he will not apologize for approaching moral philospohic [sic] questions in a logical way.

Right away this is problematic. Richard Dawkins is no friend of logic. His philosophically inept book The God Delusion makes atheist philosopher Michael Ruse ashamed to be an atheist. He's a good biologist but he is clearly out of his element when trying to do philosophy. However, Dawkins did not present a logical case for his position; quite the opposite. It's an obvious fallacy to claim that just because the majority of women abort their children with Down's syndrome means that it is right to do so. However, he is correct that the pro-choice positional logically leads to giving women the freedom to abort a child with Down's syndrome, and while you may find it detestable, it's their right (under a pro-choice paradigm). However, it does not follow from that that a woman is immoral for bringing a child with Down's syndrome into the world. So that makes his second logical error.

Additionally, Dawkins has admitted that he believes there is no such thing as right or wrong. In his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (Basic Books, 1995, p.133), he says "The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." So considering Dawkins' belief about morality, he has no grounds on which to say that a woman who brings a child into the world is doing something immoral. C.S. Lewis was right when he said that no one can really live as a moral relativist (or a moral nihilist).

His statements regarding people with Down's syndrome were simply barbaric. Having Down's syndrome will present certain challenges for a child in their life, but certainly not enough to justify killing them before they are born. It's not even among the worst maladies that can inflict a person. And children with Down's syndrome are some of the sweetest children you'll ever meet, with a wonderful outlook on life. It's arrogant presumption on Dawkins' part to assume that someone would rather die than to live as "perfect" a life as he apparently does. I doubt he knows anyone with Down's syndrome.

The reality is if you argue that we should abort someone before they are born to prevent them from being in a bad situation, this is functionally no different from saying that we should kill people who are in that bad situation since they would be better off dead (but our own standards). Dawkins seems to believe that while we should abort an unborn child with Down's syndrome, but that we should not tell people with Down's syndrome that they should have been aborted before they live. But if having Down's syndrome is so bad that it would justify us killing them before they are born, it seems inconsistent to me to claim that we should leave them alive now.

Dawkins has written an article to defend his comments on Twitter. I will take a look at those in my next article as I believe it is worth responding to.


  1. I think it is immoral to let Dawkins live on!
    - Down baby

  2. I recommend you proofread and edit prior to publication. For example, don't you mean present, rather than "prevent" (4th para., 2nd line)?

  3. Argh. As much as I sympathize with you and agree with your argument, your writing needs improvement; consider the following, for example: "The reality is if you argue that we should abort someone before they are born..." Now, abortion, by definition, involves killing human being "before they are born," so saying so implies that human beings can also be aborted after they are born, which is simply silly.

    1. I actually think you're being too nitpicky here. If you want to get really technical, "abort" doesn't refer to the child but to the pregnancy. It may be redundant, but I don't think there is anything wrong with the way I phrased it. I do have people who occasionally proofread my articles, but unfortunately they tend to be too busy to proofread consistently, and unfortunately when you proofread your own writing you don't always catch everything.

    2. @Anonymous
      I agree with Clinton that you're being too nitpicky. It's a blog post, not a master's thesis.


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