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Richard Dawkins: Dolphins worth more than babies with Down Syndrome?


Published: 24 August 2014 (GMT+10)

Anyone who has been privileged to have a person with Down Syndrome (DS) as a friend or family member knows they are loving individuals, and that while they face limitations because of their condition, they can live full and rewarding lives. Notably, there have been several actors with DS, the story of Tim Harris, a man with DS, owning his own restaurant (with help from his family) recently made the news.

One would think that we are far past the days when it was thought that people with DS have nothing to offer. But Richard Dawkins, who has been called the ‘high priest’ of atheism, made DS unborn babies the subject of his latest offensive Twitter rant.


Only someone like Dawkins could say that it is immoral to let DS babies be born, and then fault parents of such children for getting emotional!

Reading through the discussions on each of those tweets, one finds that Dawkins’s justification for saying these babies should be aborted is that they supposedly cannot make a contribution to society. But that is wrongheaded on every level. First, Dawkins seems unable to see contributions to society that aren’t intellectual. The list of achievements of DS individuals is constantly growing, in large part because of better understanding and therapies to help them reach their full potential. But a person’s worth is not measured by their potential contribution to society, otherwise (to take it to its absurd logical extent) we would feel justified in killing all retirees, whose contributions to society (as Dawkins would measure it) have largely ended.

It is ironic, however, when you read further down in his Twitter feed, because one gets to see the almost schizophrenic inconsistency in Dawkins’ thought. The day before he posted his disgusting comments about aborting DS babies, he retweeted this:


In other words, dolphins have an inalienable right to freedom, and it is wrong to kill rhinos, but it is immoral not to kill babies who have a non-life-threatening chromosomal condition.

Then earlier on the same day as his DS comments, he tweeted:


But what did Hitler advocate? Killing disabled people and others who weren’t ‘productive’! We have written about Dawkins’s eugenic views before.

Unsurprisingly, many who are parents or siblings of people with DS wrote to express their disagreement—many of them in terms which are not printable on a family-friendly site. But several wrote replies like:


Of course, these people are correct. DS is not a reason to kill a baby. But by itself, this would make the person’s own feelings about their child the measure of the child’s worth. In fact, only a Christian pro-life morality would place the focus on the child’s inherent worth as a human being.

On his website, on 21 August Dawkins published an ‘apology’. But the apology was not for his grossly inappropriate comments, but for making them on Twitter, where the limited word count highlighted the crassness of his views. However, a much longer explanation did not help, because he still actually believes that it is better to abort a Down Syndrome child.

Sadly, Dawkins is the most notable poster boy for evolutionary based atheism, and so, many hang off his every word. Case in point—his books become best sellers virtually overnight. His low value of humans is just a logical outgrowth of his atheism, combined with his utilitarian ethic (some might remember that Peter Singer is also a utilitarian). While it is completely appropriate to point out how awful and even inhuman such views are, we should also not be very surprised. It should also serve as a warning to those who support evolutionism yet do not agree with the moral views of Dawkins et al (including alleged Christian groups like Biologos who believe in evolution). The reality is that they are being utterly consistent with their utilitarian, evolutionary worldview. It is inconsistent to profess a ‘Christian’ view of human life and moral worth, but to embrace evolution, which erases any objective value of human life.

The Christian view of the value of life, however, recognizes that every human being is created in the image of God and so their life has inherent value. We also recognize that abortion is an act of violence against a mother (even if she has sought it) and her unborn child. Parents facing the challenge of finding out their child may have Down Syndrome (notably, some of the Twitter comments were from people who were told their children had Down syndrome, only to have the test proved wrong when the child was born without DS) need support and good information on their child’s condition, not immediate encouragement to ‘abort and try again’.

In the last several decades, evangelicals have become very vocal in the pro-life cause, which is commendable. But the biological fact that the baby in the womb is alive is not enough to change the minds of some people who do not see that baby as a ‘person’. Rather, we have to go back to Genesis to see why every life has inherent value.

Readers’ comments

Darren G.
It is sad, but not surprising that such views are prevalent in our society today, Prof Dawkins is perfectly entitled to his views, and to share them with whoever he wishes, my prayer though is that he meets Jesus, and just like with the apostle Paul, has a life changing experience, imagine what would be the result, publicly debunking his previous views, becoming Christendom's champion for Creation, and espousing to the world the love of God, it may sound impossible, but to God, nothing is too hard. Lets pray for Prof Dawkins and believe that God can bring this man in repentance to the foot of the Cross.
D. D.
I don't think it is wise to print comments with insults like 'moron' regarding Richard Dawkins or anyone else. This is the sort of language that is used by anti- creationists when responding to creationist utube videos and is basically of evil origin and I think Christ taught against it. The Abortion issue needs to be handled with great care when preaching as people who have participated are left with guilt and regret knowing they have let God down.
Lita Cosner
D., I agree that such name-calling is wrong, and I used it as an occasion to say that this is not how we should respond as Christians.
B. O.
We chose not to test. No anxiety, no worry. Only love, love, love!!! We know a child with down syndrome. Love, love, love!!! So wanted, so loved! Richard Dawkins needs to feel the love that comes from a down syndrome child and their parents. His whole world would shift and he would be free, free, free at last! Amen.
Cameron M.
I shared the initial tweet and Dawkins' reply to a work colleage. Their response was "Yep. I agree." Now, I know he is Atheist. More importantly I also know that he was apart of a church going family. During our discussions about things it has become apparent that his world view point changed from Biblical to worldy. And all because of 'science'. He happily admits that he cannot see the hows of Creation and that Evolution is the "way". There have been times when I believe that I have challenge him with CMI material. Example being the where humans come in the Millions of Years scale versus the Biblical scale (at the end versus at the Beginning). My wife works in disability and she often will speak fondly of the DS clients she works with. Sometimes they have a better outlook and attitude than we do.
Reminds me of the song 'While You Were Sleeping', as it has the lines: "As we're sung to sleep by philosophies That save the trees and kill the children". My friend and Dawkins are subscribers to this Philosophy.
And Lita - love the reply to Dave R.
Dave B.
Our church decided that instead of having a church Christmas party we would host a Christmas party for those in our community with down syndrome & similar conditions, (we run a spring fair raise about $6000 so it's a proper party, not a half hearted token thing, if you're doing something for the Lord then do it well), at first we thought we were doing it for them but it pretty soon became obvious as the years go on that it's rated as 1 of the best nights of the year & really it's us who benefit from these amazing people. I might ad most of them work so therefore they do contribute to society but it's the joy & fulfillment they bring to us (& their families & friends) that's their greatest contribution to society on a whole.
john P.
It is morons like Dawkins who have nothing constructive to offer the community- sadly he believes the devil's lies- the myth of evolution, and our sin nature makes people listen to him and those like him, because of Adam's original rebellion.These people with DS have much more than Dawkins to offer, as have all those with varying intellectual and other disabilities. My brother has autism and a cousin of ours has DS. For this fool to value dolphins and other animals above human lives of disabled people says it all. In eternity no-one will be disabled-we will all have our resurrected bodies and be serving and praising our Lord and Creator face to face, rather than as we do now-what mind blowing joy that will be.
Lita Cosner
While Dawkins's comments were terrible, Christians should not respond with anger, but with sadness and we should pray that Dawkins will repent and believe in Christ.
Pat G.
I have a nephew with Down Syndrome. At the age of 3 1/2, he had the language development of a 5 year old. He had so much potential, but the public school system failed, and did not take advantage of his gift, and give him a real education. I feel a sense of outrage. All therapy is focused on physical achievement (walking, etc.) and some speech therapy with NO attention paid to intellectual development. Most people with Down Syndrome aren't retarded. The simply have a different learning style, and we don't take advantage of that. Serious change in our practices is still desperately needed. The one blessing in this is my nephew's intense love of Jesus. From my personal experience with him, I know how loving they are; they love unconditionally. If we measured the IQ of grace, theirs would be in the stratosphere. We NEED people with these kinds of traits, because we need to learn compassion, and we need to learn by their example.
Mark E.
Consistent with his worldview, Dawkins can't help but be threatened by Down Syndrome (DS) people. In his materialistic view, any genetic threat to biological life on earth is a threat to Dawkins and must be erdicated. He is unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge the metaphysical contribution that DS people make to the world. DS people have a relatively minor genetic corruption which results in some physical and neurological issues. Therefore, any people or creatures, expressing genetic corruptions should be removed. Dawkins wears glasses as a result of genetic failure of his eyes to focus resulting in his need to be assisted. Should all people who wear glasses be eradicated? I can only assume that Dawkins also has r is developing arthritis. Our DS daughter of 31 years also has chronic arthritis. Should all people with arthritis be removed from the human gene pool? Unfortunately for our DS daughter, following a terrible illness 6 years ago, went totally blind and now has to learn to see in the dark. But despite her challenges in life, contributes a huge quantity of metaphysical worth that is clearly devoid of comprehensibility by the likes of Dawkins. DS people are able to show unconditional love, affection, acceptance, humility, etc., and draw these attributes out of all those they come in contact with. These attributes have their rational basis only in a world view where there is a Creator God, and as such are an affront to Dawkins. Unfortunately, as in the day of Hitler, there are many who lack the moral fibre required to stand up to the self-interested and terrified rants of Dawkins and are willing dupes in spreading his Gospel of hate against his loving and patient God.
Kyle L.
Got to hand it to Dawkins, at least he is being intellectually honest for change and pushing Atheism to its logical out workings!
Just hope it opens the eyes of the many who follow him and see the illogical madness that Atheism truly is when pushed to its undeniable ramifications.
dean R.
Dawkins arguing for life by design, sadly without sacred reverence unless your an animal of his choosing. He obviously has not availed himself with the evidence or a depth of love that exisists beyond his logic (if you could call it that).
Stephon L.
Dawkins is only being consistent with his worldview. It's others who are being inconsistent.
Dean D.
Why does Dawkins abhor what Hilter did? Or what Islam is doing? They are only following their genes. After all, if there is no God, there is no morality and it is perfectly fine to kill DS children or whatever else it is the individual desires. If he were consistent with his own logic, he'd have to conclude we are all just atoms bouncing off of each other and there is no such thing as moral choice.
Joseph M.
To be consistent Dawkins should want hospitals to take the life of patients with incurable deceases such as cancer or any symptoms that Dawkins deems doesn't have value in a civilized society. Hitler approached moral philosophic questions in a logical way, so it’s contradictory for Dawkins to be horrified by Hitler. Dawkins is being consistent with his beliefs because that’s how he sees evolution acting out, so evolution will always feed Dawkins morals. Dawkins evolutionary views doesn't account for logic nor can his views be logical because they violates one of the basic laws of logic and that’s the logical law of non-contradiction. Whose religion should we follow? Christ’s religion - James 1:27 (KJV) "Pure religion, undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Dawkins religion - Pure non-religion, undefiled before Atheists, is this: to abandon the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep aborting anyone who is unspotted from the world. A follower of Dawkins must surely lose hope the older and afflicted they become.
glen H.
What is ironic, as well as tragic, is Dawkins ranting about "morality" when objective morality cannot even exist within the worldview of atheism. The inconsistency of this worldview is readily evident when militant atheists like Dawkins are admitting there can be no objective morality one moment (such as in the debate involving Jaron Lanier) and then telling people what the "moral" thing to do is the next.
David A.
Good article, Lita. You may be aware that the UK has equality laws which have been used in the recent past to harass Christians for their views. By expressing these views about Down's Syndrome babies, isn't Richard Dawkins guilty of denying that Downs Syndrome people have equal rights? It will be interesting to see if the Equality laws are used against him.
James C.
Few people can make feel angrier than Dawkins. But I have to get my head right. I've got to feel sorry for his loss.
Dave R.
Okay then, foetuses manifesting Antitheist Syndrome should be aborted, too -- then we wouldn't have adults with such mental disorders as Dawkins clearly has.
Lita Cosner
Dave, the disorder is called sin, and we all have it. Don't imagine that we're better than Dawkins, because we're not. We should pray that Dawkins repents and believes in Christ.
Jeffrey N.
How can Dawkins say that it is immoral to allow babies to be born once downs syndrome has been diagnosed in the fetus? He doesn't have any morals because he doesn't believe in God. God is the author of morality and there is no earlier reference than the scriptures for such virtues.
Randy S.
I am very glad that RD's mother did not abort him, though just a single baby with DS holds far more value to the Kingdom than he and thousands like him. We needed RD. It allowed us to see full-faced what Satan looks like in civilized nations among higher-thinking individuals. We are better, and stronger, and more committed to the true Cause of the universe because Dawkins is around. Maybe he is good for something after all!
Lita Cosner
Randy, I am publishing your comment as the sort of thing we should not respond with. Rather, Christians should pray that God grants Dr. Dawkins repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Dawkins is not Satan, and we should not be so quick to consign people made in God's image to Hell.
Adolfo E.
When I was growing up there lived a boy in my neighbourhood with DS. Her older sister and younger brother (both normal) took him along wherever they went. The other kids in the neighbourhood accepted him, played with him and didn't make fun of him. His parents didn't try to hide him and took him wherever the whole family went. Was he different from other boys? Yes he was. Did he require more attention? Yes he did. Could you tell that he had feelings, emotions and expressed affections? Yes you could. Looking back I'm amazed at how different society was back then. Selfishness and self-absorption have become the norm rather than the exception. How things have changed!
Arthur G.
If Dawkins thinks he is being original, with his 'logical' and 'emotionless' approach to human frailty, he should watch some of the Nazi propaganda films of the 1930s. Some of these films clearly promote the elimination of such things as MS, Downs, and other conditions, in order to produce genetic and racial purity. He will find all his views clearly expounded there, as part and parcel of the evolutionary-driven worldview of National Socialism - the very Nazism he says is a horror and which he now likens to Islam. Does he consider his views logical? If so, on what basis? Certainly it cannot be on the basis of consistency. Why is he not stripped of his doctorate, since he spends most of his time in denigrating religious groups, using language of the most provocative kind, as the present controversy, the latest among many, demonstrates? Another question would be why is he not formally investigated for promoting religious, political and social hatred? The fact that this man is tolerated by the establishment is an ominous indication of their views. All careful student of history should note that initially, whist the Nazis were weak, their racial purity propaganda extolled the virtues of voluntary suicide for those suffering from congenital 'defects' as a moral choice; later, when in power, they used gas chambers, where no choice was allowed, and extermination was enforced. They included all kinds of mental and physical illnesses, but especially those who disagreed with them!
Laura S.
Hi Lita, Thank you for writing on this topic. I always find your articles valuable reading.
A recent documentary entitled ‘Labeled’ exposes the fact that, in some hospitals in the USA, there are children diagnosed with genetic disorders who have life sustaining food and medical care withheld or withdrawn, without the consent or knowledge of their parents. This film also shows the blessings special needs children bring families and what the Scriptures say about the sanctity of life.
Darryl B.
Down Syndrome is increasingly aborted. The only two Down Syndrome people I know are the person who sits three pews in front of me every Sunday at Church, a Catholic, and a four year old boy down the road and around the corner, his parents are Catholic. I don't know if this is a witness to Catholic or a witness to Protestant, but I was Protestant for 18 years and never met a Down Syndrome child.
Lita Cosner
I have seen many Protestant families with Down Syndrome children, so I don't think we can draw generalizations from our own experiences.
Frances D.
In fact, our value as humans is infinitely enhanced by the fact that Christ died on the Cross to purchase each one of us back.
Paul R.
How can Dawkins describe anything as immoral when he does not believe in God or the Bible. He has no yardstick to measure morality against.
Lita Cosner
While it is true that atheism has no objective basis for morality, they do invent other bases. Dawkins and some other prominent atheists have an ethical system called 'utilitarianism'. The ultimate goal of utilitarianism is the maximize well-being and to minimize pain. Of course, that is a flawed ethic, as we can see from Dawkins's numerous attempts at ethical pronouncements.
robert B.
Richard Dawkins' letter to Juliet (and to the world) in 1994 advised her to avoid Christianity (lumped in with a host of religions) and build her life based on scientific evidence. It started with"To my dearest daughter, Now that you are ten..." This is an updated letter... for 2014:
'To my dearest daughter, Now that you are thirty, I want to write to you about something that is important to me. It is fortunate that your fetus was not diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome in the womb. Otherwise I would have aborted it. It would have been morally wrong for me not to do so. Your loving, Daddy' I pray for 'daddy' and Juliet that they may know the loving Father represented in Isaiah 44:24: 'This is what the LORD, your Redeemer who formed you from the womb, says: I am the LORD, who made everything; who stretched out the heavens by Myself; who alone spread out the earth.'
Susan P.
In his 'apology' Dawkins said that his twitter statement followed logically from the 'pro-choice' position he assumes most people hold. Even if we were to accept the pro-choice position (which I don't) it's not really a 'choice' if choosing to not terminate a baby is held to be immoral, and it is assumed that the only logical and ethical 'choice' is to terminate. In this instance pro-choice is a euphemism for 'kill-the-unworthy'. Dawkins does not really see this as a 'choice' at all- only one outcome is condoned. He so needs to believe his rhetoric he is unable to see any inconsistency.
We live in a time when it is generally taken as a given that pregnant parents will have pre-natal testing, so things can be 'taken care of' as soon as possible. Rarely is counselling, or even general information about Downs Syndrome offered. In such a genuinely stressful and difficult situation it is easy to act in a way implied to be the 'right thing to do' when other information or support is not even offered.
When I was pregnant, my husband and I had to be quite assertive when refusing pre-natal testing. It was assumed that we'd want testing and termination as soon as possible if a problem was detected. If we hadn't already had a strong position about this issue I'm sure we would have found ourselves just doing what the medical professionals presented as the 'right thing to do'.
I saw another comment defending Dawkins that said 'no one would choose to have a child with Downs Syndrome', thus justifying a decision to terminate. I agree that no one would actively choose for their child to have any disability, but as a Christian I believe that once your pregnant you're a parent. Your child is your child and will be who God has chosen them to be. The choice is not actually yours.
Wolfram H.
Is C. Richard Dawkins the doom of Oxford university? Will it survive only a short time after his death? Perhaps he will commit suicide to shirk responsibility.

I do not listen to his nonsense, but listen to God's word. In German we have a special word for blind obedience. That is "Kadavergehorsam" and means you obey a person as if you were a dead body or "Kadaver" in German. If people want to obey, C. Richard Dawkins like that, it is their concern, not mine.

I obey Jesus as he makes one free! AMEN.

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