April 22, 2024

Dawkins disses Down syndrome babies

Dawkins is in hot water again after asserting on Twitter that it is “immoral” to allow Down Syndrome babies to be born.

Dear old Dick Dawkins is in hot water again after asserting on Twitter that it is “immoral” to allow Down Syndrome babies to be born. Dawkins, a popular genetist, campaigner for atheism and the former Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, found it a bit difficult to explain the subtler points of his thought in the 140-character limit of tweets.

However, he appears to have embraced Peter Singer’s version of utilitarianism, animal rights and veganism. He said that the central question in the abortion debate was not “is it ‘human’?” but “can it suffer?”. He went on to insist that people should object to abortion if they eat meat.

He made the remarks in the context of a Twitter debate over abortion in Ireland. One person said that she would find it difficult to abort a Down syndrome child. Dawkins responded, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Dawkins was astonished at the “feeding frenzy” which erupted on the social media site following this interchange and apologised for it. As for his remarks about Down syndrome, he dug in his heels and composed an amplified version for his own website. In it, he writes:

“For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”

Dawkins acknowledged that some of the people who objected to his tweet had family members with Down syndrome and were very attached to them.

“I have sympathy for this emotional point, but it is an emotional one not a logical one. It is one of a common family of errors, one that frequently arises in the abortion debate.”

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Down syndrome
Peter Singer
Richard Dawkins