- Biologist and emeritus University of Oxford professor Richard Dawkins is again drawing fire for saying that Down syndrome babies should be aborted.
- Dawkins sparked a backlash in 2014 when he advised someone on Twitter to “abort it and try again,” if that person had a child with Down syndrome, adding, “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”
- “It seems to me to be plausible that if a child has any kind of disability, then you probably would increase the amount of happiness in the world more by having another child instead,” Dawkins said in early May.
Biologist and emeritus University of Oxford professor Richard Dawkins is again drawing fire for saying that Down syndrome babies should be aborted.
Dawkins sparked backlash in 2014 when he advised someone on Twitter to “abort it and try again,” if that person had a child with Down syndrome, adding, “It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”
The biologist re-emphasized this argument again in early May when he spoke with radio host Brendan O’Connor, who is also the father of a child with Down syndrome. Dawkins stressed that he does not doubt that the parents of a child with Down syndrome love their child, but said that having a child without disability would make the world a happier place.
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
“That was probably putting it a bit too strongly,” Dawkins said of his 2014 tweet. “But given that the amount of suffering in the world probably does not go down, probably does go up, compared to having another child who doesn’t have Down syndrome, then that’s what I meant.”
“But I want to stress over and over again that I was of course not suggesting that people who already have a Down syndrome child, don’t love it, shouldn’t love it,” Dawkins said.
O’Connor pressed Dawkins, asking him how he knows that having a child with Down syndrome increases suffering in the world.
“I don’t know it for certain,” the biologist replied. “It seems to me to be plausible that if a child has any kind of disability, then you probably would increase the amount of happiness in the world more by having another child instead.”
“You think, but you have no reason for knowing that,” O’Connor asked, to which Dawkins responded, “I have no direct evidence, no.”
Dawkins also admitted during the interview that he does not know anyone with Down syndrome.
“I have rarely seen a more vivid illustration of the lethal consequences of utilitarian thinking,” wrote author and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism Wesley J. Smith of Dawkins’ comments.
“When eliminating suffering because society’s first priority — instead of protecting innocent human life — it very easily metastasizes into eliminating the sufferer,” Smith wrote. “And the suffering need not even be that of the person eliminated, but of family or society. Utilitarianism always leads to justifying killing.”
The mother of a child with Down syndrome also criticized Dawkins’ comments in a viral tweet, saying, “Just wanted to put it out there that if you agree with Professor Richard Dawkins that I am an ‘immoral’ woman for not killing Betsy because she has Down’s Syndrome, you need to unfollow me now. Or even better, just block me, because I seriously don’t want your hate in my life.”
Just wanted to put it out there that if you agree with Professor Richard Dawkins that I am an 'immoral' woman for not killing Betsy because she has Down's Syndrome, you need to unfollow me now. Or even better, just block me, because I seriously don't want your hate in my life.
— Rachel Mewes ♿ 🌹 🇪🇺 (@rachelmewes1982) May 15, 2021
Journalist Neil Mackay called on the biologist to “lead by example.”
“For years now as an atheist I’ve been deeply uncomfortable with Richard Dawkins’ voice dominating the debate over what atheism means,” Mackay tweeted. “Now I’m sick to death of him. He makes atheism cruel and intolerant. Being a humanist means loving humanity. Be kind. Be better. Lead by example.”
“I’ve yet to meet an individual with Downs Syndrome who wasn’t a greater contributor of happiness to the world than Richard Dawkins,” tweeted feminist and editor Mary Harrington.
The assumption that all human life is of equal value is, as @RichardDawkins intimates, a theological one. As Nietzsche long ago recognised, "when one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one's feet." https://t.co/Rd678lR4Bq
— Tom Holland (@holland_tom) May 16, 2021
Hi @RichardDawkins i'm Ciara Lawrence and I have a learning disability. would you be interested in having an online virtual conversation with me? I want to tell you about my brilliant friends who have Downs Syndrome & my amazing friends who have a #learningdisability
— Ciara Lawrence (@ciarale01) May 14, 2021
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