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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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