Richard Dawkins and Abortion

It seems that biologist and atheist leader Richard Dawkins has caught a bad case of foot in mouth disease, or perhaps he should think a little more before he tweets. His latest thoughts on abortion and Down’s Syndrome have attracted some measure of controversy which I read about in this article in the Independent.

Budding atheists wondering whether Richard Dawkins is in need of a little time away from Twitter to reflect on the past few weeks are about to have their (lack of) prayers answered.

The philosopher has managed to go one step further than his controversial comments on ‘date rape versus stranger rape’ to voice his opinions on what it would be ethical for a mother who is informed that her unborn child has Down Syndrome to do.

He started off his conversation with followers ethically enough, highlighting the plight of women in Ireland, where abortion is illegal, in light of the recent reports of the country’s refusal toprovide a safe abortion to a suicidal rape victim. She was forced to give birth.

“Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area,” he tweeted, adding “You’d think the Roman Church would have lost all influence,” to caption a link to a similar article.

But after engaging in conversation with a number of users, his ethical values appeared to come a little unstuck.

“994 human beings with Down’s Syndrome deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012. Is that civilised?” @AidanMcCourt asked.

“Yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings,” Dawkins responded.

“I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma,” @InYourFaceNYer chimed in.

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice,” he tweeted back.

Naturally, his reasoning prompted a slew of further comments – and subsequent commentary:

@kerryhood@RichardDawkins It is an interesting dilemma. What about people on the autism spectrum (which I am)? Where would u draw the line?

@InYourFaceNYer People on that spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

My first thought upon reading this was to quote Dickens.

`Man,’ said the Ghost, `if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die. It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God. to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.’

Who does Richard Dawkins think he is to decide who is worthy of life and who is not? There are many reasons why one might be an atheist. I begin to think that Dawkins is an atheist because he covets God’s job. He wouldn’t be the only one who doesn’t worship any divinity because they are too busy worshiping themselves. He thinks that it is immoral not to kill a baby with Down’s Syndrome before it is even born because they do not contribute as much. How would he know? I do not know anyone with Down’s Syndrome, but I have been told that while they do suffer from intellectual disabilities, they are, for the most part amiable people and they can and do contribute to the happiness of the people around them. They can learn skills, hold jobs, and form loving relationships. It may well be that people with Down’s Syndrome, in their simplicity, are closer to the Kingdom of Heaven than those who believe them unfit to live will ever be.

Boy with Down Syndrome using cordless drill to...

Someone was immoral and allowed this boy to live.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wonder if Richard Dawkins has really thought through his comments. If we are going to decide that every human being is not a creature created in the image of God and endowed by that creator with the inalienable right to life, but merely an evolved ape whose right to live depends on how useful he is and how much he can be expected to contribute, than Sarah Palin was right all along and we can expect to see those death panels in the not too distant future. If so, than Dawkins had better be careful. The panels might decide that an aging biologist has contributed all he can expect  to science and society would be better off with him making room for the next generation of scientists.

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Questions, comments, praise

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: