I know that Richard Dawkins is wrong about Down’s syndrome, because I know my son

Eddie is capable of living a fulfilling life, and if he’s a luxury society can’t afford then that’s not a society I want to live in

6 September 2014

9:00 AM

6 September 2014

9:00 AM

No household that contains a 13-year-old boy is eternally tranquil. There had been a bit of temperament that evening, an outright refusal to go to bed, hard words for his mother and his father, and trickiest of all, an attitude that seemed to deny not only our parenthood but our humanity.

Then the dam broke, and that was better but more exhausting. Still, at last he was in bed and at peace and the world was easy again. So I poured drinks for us both and raised my glass: ‘Dawkins was right,’ I said. And my wife laughed and agreed. Thank God for jokes, eh? What would life be without ’em? So thanks to Richard Dawkins for bringing us a new one; it won’t be the last time we use it.

Because Eddie has Down’s syndrome, you see, and that’s not always easy. Of course, there are thousands of other occasions when things are quite different. I could tell you about the grass snake Eddie and I found swimming in the river as we were paddling our canoe or the banana bread we make or the walks we took on holiday in Cornwall, when we found clouded yellow butterflies every day.

I put all that in for balance — well, not exactly balance, for the good outweighs the bad as an elephant outweighs a feather — but I can’t put such stuff to Dawkins. It’s emotional, you see, not logical: ‘one of a common family of errors’. The banana bread argument is not valid in Dawkinsian terms.

OK — recap: Dawkins told a woman on Twitter that if she was knowingly pregnant with a Down’s syndrome foetus she should ‘Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice.’

Strong word, immoral. There are, as I see it, two possible arguments for using it here, though there’s also a sort of Venn diagram overlap which I’ll leave for third. The first argument is that people with Down’s syndrome cost too much from the public purse: that it’s immoral to give birth to a child that would be a drain on national resources.

Which is a hard-nosed notion, and if it were followed through logically, as Dawkins insists an argument should be, then we need to do something about old people, about all people with serious illnesses, about all low achievers. But even by this argument, people with Down’s syndrome are just part of the crowd of drainers: why pick on them?

In his damage-limitation stuff, Dawkins was inclined to stress the second argument: that it would be ‘immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare’. In other words, a foetus with Down’s syndrome is better off unborn. Logical inference: a person with Down’s syndrome is better off dead. Dawkins doesn’t know what it’s like to be dead, and he doesn’t know what it’s like to have Down’s syndrome, so I’m not convinced he has a valid argument here.

What I can say without a shadow of a doubt is that Eddie gets a kick out of life. Down’s syndrome people are almost notorious for amiability: ‘They’re very loving, aren’t they?’ people have often informed us, unwittingly supplying another of those helpful jokes. All the same, Eddie’s days are lit up by reciprocal affection.

He also loves a challenge, to work at it and succeed. He has worked so hard on his speech that even his grandfather, 85 and pretty deaf, can keep up with him in conversation, to the immense gratification of both. Eddie’s not going to write The Blind Watchmaker, but he writes poems about his life. He loves David Attenborough and Harry Potter. He likes birding with me and can identify all the common species; he likes garden cricket and, above all, being with the horses: and here he is confident and responsible. ‘Don’t forget the pony’s water,’ he tells me.

I hope when he’s older he can find protected employment involving animals. I know — through coincidence rather than any Down’s network — two adults with Down’s syndrome, both of whom live happy, eventful, fulfilled and reasonably independent lives. In other words, the argument that giving birth to a child with Down’s syndrome is immoral from the point of view of the individual’s welfare is a non-starter — an absurd example to choose, in fact. Many other conditions are infinitely harder for the sufferer.

So let us move on to the third of the two possible arguments, the one that comes between ‘Can a person with Down’s syndrome be happy?’ and ‘Can we afford people with Down’s syndrome?’ Let’s ask, ‘What have people with Down’s syndrome ever done for us?’

I am afraid that this bit is going to be ever so slightly non-quantifiable, so perhaps it’s unacceptable to a person who judges everything with ruthless scientific rigour. Though that does pose the question of whether ruthless scientific rigour is the only valid way to look at the world.

Eddie brings joy to his family. He is cherished for his vulnerability and for his humour and affection, gifts that burst the banks of kin and spread into the wider world. Eddie means a great deal to many friends and acquaintances. The terminally ill find solace and meaning in his uninhibited nature. He and his aunt sang Elvis on her deathbed: ‘Love Me Tender’ was rocking across the hospice. Not everybody can do that.

Those who come into contact with Eddie more casually tend to walk away a tiny bit enriched by the encounter, moved by a combination of their own pity and Eddie’s complete lack of reciprocal self-pity. His desire to help and his willingness to banter make many people’s days fractionally better.

At his primary school, his head teacher told us: ‘This is a better school because of Eddie. He makes people kinder and more caring.’ The school offers an annual Peace Prize, decided by the pupils, for the child who has done most for the happiness of the school. One year they gave it to Eddie, not least because it was his unvarying practice to help anyone who had an accident in the playground.

This will continue into adult life: Eddie will make people more generous, make them behave better towards other people with problems, make them think about such people in a better way. He will make people fractionally gentler and fractionally kinder. That doesn’t seem to me a negligible contribution to society; many people do less.

To sum up: (1) if Eddie is a luxury society can’t afford then (a) so are an awful lot of others and (b) that doesn’t sound like a society I’d care to live in; (2) Eddie is capable of leading a fulfilling life; and (3) Eddie is ultimately a giver and not a drainer.

It is dismaying, then, that a scientist and writer of brilliance — a great admiration of mine, as it happens — has given the world licence to conclude that my son’s existence is less valid than everybody else’s. And no, don’t blame the headline writers: a big-name writer with moral authority has a responsibility not to go off half-cocked. You shouldn’t risk being misunderstood on big subjects.

Dawkins’s website contains a vigorous pseudonymous defence of Dawkins on Down’s. It’s written in duh! duh! logic designed to make even us stupid people grasp the subtleties of Dawkins’s argument, and makes clear that this argument stands or falls on the question of whether or not people with Down’s syndrome live in perpetual hell. And they do nothing of the kind.

Dawkins’s argument is based on an error. He hasn’t researched Down’s syndrome, he just assumed that people with the condition live in constant suffering. It’s a shame that Dawkins wasted his title The God Delusion for his fundamentalist tract. He should have saved it for his autobiography.

But never mind him: it’s Eddie that matters here. Dawkins implies that both society and Eddie would be better if Eddie did not exist: not just Eddie but everyone else with Down’s syndrome. I disagree. So — sorry and all that — we’re going to have to face up to the gritty reality of society. If we distil every-thing that matters down to its last brutal reductionist essence, what are we left with? Eddie’s job in this world is to love and to be loved. Isn’t every-one’s? Or is love just another meme?

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  • Well said Simon. Let us make sure that we never live in a society which is based on Dawkins sense of morality.

    • Danny

      You should check out Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape. I think you’re slightly missing the point RD is making

      • nowistherighttime

        I have, Harris’ book is sophomoric attempt of solving an issue that has plagued moral philosophers for centuries, it falls flat on it’s face. How Harris thought he could get away with it is beyond me.

        Please see the noted atheist philosopher of religion Michael Ruse devastating refutation of ‘The Moral Landscape’


    • Nelson

      Another fool with a poor grasp of the English language.

      Ignorance is truly a bliss.

  • The headline grabbing sentence “a big-name writer with moral authority has a responsibility not to go off half-cocked” makes no sense. Just because we, the public, have conspired to make Dawkins a big name author and to imbue him with moral authority does not mean that we can also impose responsibilities on him. Dawkins is as free as the rest of us to do what he likes. I’m more upset that some people are being paid well to argue against him.

    • Michael Goodier

      “a big-name writer with moral authority has a responsibility [to himself] not to go off half-cocked [if he doesn’t want to be misunderstood]”

      That better?

    • HB

      Please remind me how I conspired to make Dawkins a big name author? I don’t remember assisting in writing any of his books, nor do I think I was involved in the building of his website or any of his marketing material…

      And I almost never do any imbueing if I can help it.

  • Mike Sullivan
  • Foolhard

    Of course, Richard Dawkins did not mean what you suggest he meant.

    • Augustus

      Apparently, he said that “I have not the slightest doubt that, if I had a Down child, I would love her dearly. If I believed in God, I’d probably thank God she wasn’t aborted, and I would sincerely mean it and deeply feel it. But that is a judgment in hindsight, and it is totally compatible with a statement that, if offered a similar choice now, I would be in favour of abortion. Totally compatible with a belief that abortion would be the right decision, in circumstances where such a decision was available,”

      I don’t see much wrong with that position. Where he would definitely be in error would be to state that it would be “immoral” not to abort a baby with Downs syndrome, if indeed he did say that. Simply because giving birth to a handicapped child has nothing to do with morality, but a lot to with the virtue of human love.

      • Danny

        Once you start to view morality in terms of human wellbeing and suffering (see Sam Harris – The Moral Landscape) then you could quite justifiably take a moral stance to abort in order to save the child and family suffering. No-one is saying that a child with Down’s won’t be loved etc. but if you had a choice between a Down’s child and a child without Down’s which would you pick? Ask yourself why you would make that choice and I think you’ll have your answer. I believe that is what RD is saying and I don’t think it’s that controversial.

        • nowistherighttime

          His original tweet can hardly be miss-interpreted. I’ve never understood why Dawkin’s Disciples defend him so vehemently, the man has lost his marbles.

        • nowistherighttime

          The noted atheist philosopher of religion Michael Ruse destroys Harris’ hubristic “Moral Landscape” in this concise article in Religion Dispatches


        • Karen Edscorn Board

          If morality is simply a matter of “human wellbeing” — most individuals with DS would argue that their wellbeing is quite high — and they have a way of lifting the wellbeing of those around them. A low intelligence, and even health issues does not necessarily preclude wellbeing. I would question any standard of moraliity that considers individuals with Down Syndrome to be a blight upon society, and I question any standard of morality that argues it’s immoral of parents to bring them into the world.

          • anon

            But the foetuses would not argue anything or care. Because a foetus is not a person, not sentient and has no rights under law.

            Conflating living human beings with foetuses is not helpful.

          • lan1k

            It isn’t alive? I’m curious what your definition of ‘alive’ is. Mine involves having functioning cells and being a genetically distinguishable entity.

        • Karen Edscorn Board

          This standard of “morality” rather puts one on a slippery slope. If morality is about “well being” (meaning, I suppose, the well being of those with average or high IQ and those who enjoy good health) and if it’s ok to abort fetuses who don’t measure up, then who’s to say the next step isn’t euthanizing children or adults who are suffering. What if, say, we started mercy killing of everyone with diabetes or a heart condition or with AIDS because their well-being is diminished?

        • mandelson

          Ok so we should be able to abort girls, homosexuals, cleft palates, short people its all a matter of subjective morality right? Sounds like nazi eugenics to me.

          • getlost

            Yay! Another Godwin!

            You are aware there is no test for cleft palate, shortness or homosexuality, right? Other than that, people already abort foetuses every single day for whatever reason they like. It’s already happening. It has never stopped happening. And since foetuses aren’t people, it’s fine.

            Moving on.

          • Bagehot

            Cleft palate can show up on sonograms, wise guy. So can many other disorders, spina bifida for example. There are others in addition to DS which show up upon genetic testing, such as Klinefelter Syndrome, Turner’s Syndrome, XXX-Syndrome, XYY-Syndrome, and so forth. These put the child at varying degrees of risk. Many of the resulting defects are correctible, either surgically or therapeutically, and a significant number of the adults who grow up with these rare genetic conditions turn out to be normal. Your statement that “foetuses aren’t people” is a moral judgment, not a fact. Many would argue exactly the opposite. Your indifference to abortion at whim is very striking: what other forms of life do you regard as having no right to existence?

          • mandelson

            Thank you Dr Mengele

          • mandelson

            You appear to revel in the destruction of humanity “for whatever reason they like”. Freedom for some destruction and death for others. I think you would score highly on a test for psycopathy.

          • Mary Whiteis

            Fallacy. Just because you assert that the human fetus is not a person, does not make it so. I assert that they most certainly are. The fetus is a normal stage of human development, a finite period of time in each of our lives. Thus, I equate all abortion with state-sanctioned murder.

          • Danny

            So you’re saying that having a girl equates to suffering? I’m afraid I don’t agree with the comparison.

        • lan1k

          What you are talking about follows in the case of adoption, where you have a choice between two children: one with downs, another without. What Dawkins is talking about leaves you with the choice of a child with downs and a corpse.

          • Danny

            No-one is suggesting that in the case of choosing between two children, that we do not chose the child with Down’s. In fact if I could make that child’s life better I might indeed choose the child with Down’s over the one without. What I believe Dawkins is talking about is given the choice at a stage where abortion is possible then it makes sense to do that. If you are anti-abortion then that is different issue? We’re not allowing the child to be born and then killing it. If you could detect the disability within say the first trimester then why not.

      • truth_machine

        “if indeed he did say that”

        Don’t they have google where you live? Dawkins (for whom I have some admiration, just as the author of this piece does), was an ass, and you’re being one for acting like the author is lying when Dawkins’ tweet is extremely well documented and he has even apologized for it.

      • Jack Cowell

        Those two statements are however, in reality, incompatible. You cannot say that you would love a child with down syndrome in hindsight, but you would abort beforehand. That is just a weak overture to how humane and lovely you are. Saying that you would abort is to say that you would not want the child that it would become; you can’t have both. A fetus does not stay a fetus. A fetus with down syndrome eventually becomes the daughter he says he would thank God is alive.

        A truth table may reveal it to be compatible, but reality does not.

    • truth_machine

      Really? “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

      Dawkins should lay off the tweets.

  • Jim Jones

    > “… if he’s a luxury society can’t afford then that’s not a society I want to live in.”

    Then avoid the USA – and modern Britain as well – and many more.

    Woman working 4 jobs to make ends meet dies while napping in car between shifts.

    Once, our societies had the support for families with extra pressures. These days, politicians have stripped those protections away in the interests of cost efficiency and profits for corporations and the extremely wealthy.

    Don’t blame the messenger.

  • tommy

    There’s a far greater difference between aborting a fetal embryo and killing a child. This article seems to suggest Dawkins was suggesting killing children, which is clearly a strawman argument.

    Dawkins comments (which have been blown out of proportion), and you need to remember he’s by trade an evolutionary biologist, is about how we as a species can evolve).

    I’m sure Eddie brings love and joy and wonders and I wish nothing but the best for you and Eddie. I’m equally sure that if you had a magic wand and could wish away the Eddie’s down syndrome you could.

    If you have a decission between a number of embryos and one has Down Syndrome and one does not, I’m sure that most people would agree that it’s an ‘easy’ option.

    Again, this isn’t saying anything Eddie!

    This is simply stating a thing we already do, we try to get the best and healthiest chances for our children.

    • I think it does ‘represent the actual discussion’ because it moves away from abstraction (which may be a more comfortable realm for a lot of us) to the reality of an actual person with Down’s syndrome. And an actual family that loves him. And an actual community that accepts and embraces him. I think it’s very valuable for doing that.

      • anon

        But Dawkins was only talking about foetuses. Not human beings.

        • nowistherighttime

          Same thing. And he is talking about bringing the child into the world and this bringing of the child into the world would be ‘immoral’. How does it follow that it is ‘immoral’ to bring such children into the world, simply on the grounds that Dawkins regards them as ‘unhealthy’. Where do you draw the line and who draws it? How has he jumped from a fact, an ‘is’, the child ‘is’ unhealthy, to a moral ought, the child ‘ought’ not to be brought into the world – it is ‘immoral’. Life is full of both suffering and happiness, ill health and good health, it’s inescapable.

        • anon

          And as we all know, a foetus is not sentient, has no rights and is not a human being. As recognised by law.

          • nowistherighttime

            What does the quality of sentience have to do with whether it should be regarded as human life? The law doesn’t recognise that a ‘foetus’ isn’t a human life, only that abortions to a limit are legal. However if your relying on law as to define what is human and what isn’t it becomes merely subjective, as though a legislator determines when something have the value of existence, or is deemed human. The Nazi party for example had their own opinions on the topic.

            You can dress it up in a la-de-dah fancy Latin name but nonetheless it’s still a living human organism. It’s the oldest trick in the book, dehumanise before you kill. “Ok, it looks like a human, acts like a human, but we know it’s not a human, it’s a jew”

            But I digress. You haven’t dealt with my core argument in the slightest.

          • Yes, but then again Scott Peterson is on death row in California for the first-degree murder of his wife and the second-degree murder of his unborn son. A society that does not value and protect its children is one doomed to fail. I support abortion as the circumstances merit it but all the same, it ought to be a last resort.

          • anon

            No, I’m sorry. Many foetuses don’t become human beings, they are spontaneously aborted. And you might as well worry about women taking the pill and all the possible lives that have been avoided. We can never conflate foetuses with human beings, it is dangerous to allow that to happen.

          • Oh come on. Human beings have to come from somewhere.

          • A human being is made, not born. But to be made, we in our pathetic unformed vulnerable state must be made. Many are lost along the way. Women don’t want them (you’re speaking to Exhibit A — I never wanted children in my whole life). But thank god our parents loved us when we were hardly lovable. Otherwise, where would we all be?

          • lan1k

            A foetus is a genetically distinct living entity, with 26 pairs of chromosomes inherited from two adult human beings that, if left alone, eventually develops into a newborn baby, just as that newborn baby eventually becomes a child, and the child an adult human being. What is dangerous is the pseudoscientific approach you take at defining life and humanity.

          • Mary Whiteis

            “And you might as well worry about women taking the pill and all the possible lives that have been avoided.” What? Go back to basic biology class.

            “We can never conflate foetuses with human beings, it is dangerous to allow that to happen.” Dangerous to whom/what? You seem to willfully deny basic truths in order to avoid some unexpressed danger.

        • Foetuses become human beings. Surely that’s relevant?

    • Mary Whiteis

      ” you need to remember he’s by trade an evolutionary biologist, is about how we as a species can evolve.” Evolve into what? I want no part in what you are peddling. This is what we get when we reduce human life to a commodity.

  • Pootles

    For once, there is a clear comparison to be made between the view that Downs

  • Kevin Sagan

    I have two feelings about this.

    1: If your doctor could test an ovum for potential to develop DS (biologically impossible, this is hypothetical), would you skip an ovulation cycle to avoid it?

    2: Even IF Dawkins is right, we are at a point, socially, where declaring women’s reproductive decisions “immoral” harms the greater good more than sparing a few people from DS would. Oppression of women is the far more severe concern.

    • Your last point: or is the issue here with vulnerable humans not somehow part of the same concern, the same risk? That might does not make right (to put it one way)?

    • anon

      Yes, I do see your point. But as he was only answering a question asked of him, and is in no way advocating for forced abortion, and has in fact stated clearly since then that he is opposed to such an idea, I am not overly concerned about his comment. I do think it was ill thought out and he really should not Tweet without a bit more thought sometimes.

  • Pootles

    There is a clear comparison to be made between the view that Downs babies be aborted and Nazism.The Nazis were unable to tell if a foetus had medical issues, so they did the killing after the birth of the child. Had the Nazis had

    • getlost

      Yay! Another Godwin!

  • Aljo_C

    What Dawkins is saying is that if you have a choice between a healthy child and one with Downs, it would be immoral to chose the latter, because morality is about maximising quality of life. What’s wrong with that? He is not saying that we should not take care of those that are born, as the writer would have us believe.

    • Danny

      exactly right

      • Andrew Katz

        Or not. Since Dawkins was clear to point out that DS is not heritable, and therefore has nothing to do with removing anything from the gene pool.

    • FireDragons42

      Indeed, he said it poorly – due to a limitation of twitter’s character limit – but the idea behind it wasn’t a horrible thing.

      I still think my preferred wording would be that it would be moral to abort and try again for a healthy embryo, but if parents who have the resources to take care of the resulting child choose to go ahead with the pregnancy or choose not to have testing done (or who ask to only be informed of life-threatening genetic aberrations) then it is morally neutral.

      What would be immoral would be to purposely be looking to create children with handicaps whether or not you have the resources to take care of them.

      Of course that idea can’t really be condensed down to 140 characters which is why I’ll never be on Twitter.

      • I guess that what Mr Barnes is saying is that Eddie is not ‘unhealthy’, nor does he bring ‘ill health’ to his family and the world.

        • anon

          Unfortunately, DS very much does mean not healthy.

          …”babies born with DS have intellectual impairment. They also frequently have other medical problems including epilepsy, hypothyroidism , crossed eyes, near-sightedness or far-sightedness, cataracts, hearing impairment that makes it difficult to process auditory information, heart defects, intestinal malformations, hernias, and a marked susceptibility to respiratory infections, such as pneumonia. Childhood leukemia is as much as 20 times more common than average for them.

          Down syndrome individuals appear to age at an accelerated rate. By age 35, at least 25% of those who have non-mosaic Down syndrome have begun to develop Alzheimer syndrome.”


          • nowistherighttime

            But Dawkins is not talking about ‘health’, but morality. It doesn’t follow that because something is ‘unhealthy’ therefore it is ‘wrong’ to bring such children into the world.

            He’s jumped from an ‘is’, a fact about said child, to a moral ‘ought’, ‘ought’ not to be brought into the world. It’s a fallacious jump, the Naturalistic Fallacy. You can derive a moral ‘ought’ from an ‘is’, a fact.

          • anon

            But I was responding to a commenter who wants to believe DS babies are not unhealthy. As you know.

            We understand – you hate Dawkins and will continue to troll the forum relentlessly. Not sure why you are so enraged, but regardless this will be my last response of any kind to you.

          • nowistherighttime

            Hardly enraged, citation please? Neither relentlessly, I’m drinking tea and enjoying a few slices of toast with homemade pear chutney before I begin my day of work.

          • Well, that’s true enough. I’m not a champion of DS. But lots of people have lots of health problems at some point in their lives — particularly, as they age, the suite of afflictions known to some as ‘the diseases of civilization’. The point is that Eddie is here now and his people love him. (Not being loved would certainly be a problem, but that is also true of old folk that risk abandonment for being difficult, unsightly, and uncuddly.) My own grandparents, in their late 80s, have a host of health problems now but nobody’s saying they shouldn’t exist.

          • Alex Creel

            Surely it’s not only the Downs sufferer who’s affected by the health problems listed above though – it’s the parents also. Some frame the question as ‘would you bring a child into the world who is likely to have these health problems’ but I’d frame it as ‘am I capable, do I have the time and resources to be able to support someone with these health problems’. If the answer is even slightly doubtful I shouldn’t bring that child into the world.

          • anon

            Well, we could then start going into the morality of society, that a society is immoral if it does not care for its disadvantaged. This becomes a long and winding road.

            Bottom line, it’s has to be every individual parent’s choice. And honestly, I think most parents these days choose to abort for all the understandable reasons.

            And we do need to keep picking up people who try to conflate a foetus with a human being. Dawkins was simply not discussing living human beings or in any way suggesting that we do not look after human beings with disabilities as some are trying to suggest.

            In fact, we’ve had people squawking that he is anti choice lately. Because he said – and I quote:


            “Blogger said woman’s rights over own body extend to abortion even if fetus conscious & writing poetry in womb. I profoundly disagree. That really would be murder most foul. I’m pro-choice precisely because (to the extent that) the foetus has no brain to be conscious with.”

            So it’s absolutely clear, Dawkins cares about sentient human beings and that’s why abortion is fine by him, because as we all know foetuses aren’t human beings.

          • Karen Edscorn Board

            No, we DON’T all know that fetuses aren’t human beings. At the point that DS would be diagnosed in the womb, the child would have fingers and toes and a beating heart and a brain (the thalymus is completely formed by week 20). I don’t quite get the philosophy that a child doesn’t become “human” until he or she passes through the birth canal.

          • Listen, I understand: a child is ‘a pig in a poke’ and a huge gamble, no matter what resources, brains, and beauty you have in the making of it (him/her). Parents want children I think for essentially selfish reasons — meaning, they are concerned above all with enhancing their own happiness, even if they also think they can provide happy circumstances for the child. (Look at Robin Williams. I’m sure his parents wished him well but his life was a mixed bag and in his misery he ended up killing himself.) So in a way, the whole question of who should be having children in what circumstances and for what reasons is already queered or perhaps anticipated by the question of whether having children is really good at all — whether life is worth living no matter what.

          • Paulina

            But the child that shouts ‘I didn’t ask to be born!’ has a point.

            Does it? There was no “I” to ask or not to ask for something. There was nothing. And now there he/she IS.

          • Well obviously. My point is that life is not just a gift, it’s also a trial and even a penalty. Parents also impose on the child the necessity of death — which most people fear and don’t enjoy when it comes — by giving birth to it. Maybe there’s a moral draw, but sometimes there isn’t. Prince George will have the best of most things and probably a good life, but the umpteenth child of a poor family may well feel that his parents shouldn’t have bothered.

          • DanV

            “My point is that life is not just a gift, it’s also trial and even a penalty.” “Parents also impose on the child the necessity of death” – speaking from experience, those are the thought processes of someone suffering from chronic depression. I hope you’re not, but if you are you should know that it is possible to develop a healthier outlook on life.

          • Hi. No, not depressed, though I’ve had a hard time of it, sure. And I’m one of the lucky ones!

          • DanV

            OK, well hope the hard times worked out for you, and that whatever it was that made you think of life as a penalty, doesn’t do that any more. All the best.

          • All the best to you, Dan.

          • Hi Alex – ‘happiness’ or ‘meaning’ ? Seriously who would think birth, lack of sleep etc etc looks happy?

            We all offer more to the world – and our parents – than our death. At least I would hope that to be the case. Suicide – if we select that path – gets in the way of remembering a bluddy great life.

          • That may be so, but who is Alex?

          • Apologies Shenandoah

          • Cheers, mate.

          • The Hun

            Agree, I would add to this the question of the future of the child after the parent/s die.

          • Karen Edscorn Board

            Not every child with DS has the laundry list of ailments you listed. My own son has a perfectly healthy heart, perfect hearing and sight, had 100% attendance at school for the past year, and had far fewer of the normal childhood illnesses (ear infections, etc.) that his siblings had.

          • anon

            Yes, ill health is not confined to persons with DS, that is true. Unfortunately persons with DS are guaranteed to have some or even possibly all of those health problems, as well as intellectual impairment.

            I don’t think it is immoral to allow a foetus with DS to go full term, it’s every woman’s own choice and there are all kinds of factors we cannot know about in each individual case. I did relief work at a special needs school for 12 months. Those children had meaning and worth to me and I am sure to their parents. I don’t judge a person’s worth on whether they are “normal” or “healthy”.

            But they were the lucky ones. In a safe and loving environment being cared for by compassionate people, with parents who cared enough to seek out an environment like that, and were lucky enough to be able to access it.

            It’s a hell of a world even if you’re healthy and not intellectually impaired and it is a world with many predators in it who walk on two legs. To knowingly bring a child into the world which is definitely going to have ongoing and chronic health issues, possibly severe ones, will depend on the kindness and decency of others forever, and definitely will have intellectual impairment of some kind, well it’s a big decision.

            I would imagine those are some of the reasons why most people simply choose to quietly abort foetuses with DS.

            I see what Dawkins was trying to say – and after all he was answering a question a woman asked of him, not just pontificating. I was on Twitter for a year, though I ditched it in 2013 and discovered he is one of the “celebs” on twitter who genuinely interact with their followers. But I do think he should think longer before tweeting sometimes and avoid hot button words like “immoral”.

          • It’s a good argument and I agree with it, but sadly.

          • Bagehot

            Actually some Down’s are very high functioning, and many do not bear most of the visible signs of the syndrome; studies have shown that if no one can perceive them as being Down’s, they are much more likely to be treated as normal, and to respond normally, i.e., as if they were of normal intelligence. Dawkins’ whole exercise in eugenics is founded upon both defective morals and abysmal ignorance.

          • getlost

            There is no such person as a person with DS who can “pass” for not having it. That has never happened. I am sorry if that is a hope you cling to, but however high functioning they are it is always, without fail, obvious they have Downs.

          • Bagehot

            Wrong, and I’ve known some examples who only showed up upon genetic testing. (Which is, of course, what causes the dilemma Dawkins postulates in the first place.) Where, exactly, did you get your facts from? Are you a practicing psychiatrist?

          • getlost

            No, you really haven’t. Do feel free to provide photographic evidence and citations. Sometimes it is not immediately obvious that a newborn baby has Downs, but within weeks, if not days, it always becomes obvious. And it is always, without fail, obvious in older children and adults.

            I’m sorry, this is obviously upsetting to you, so I will just leave it alone now.

          • lan1k

            Have you heard of genotype VS phenotype? I had a classmate in high school who they only discovered had DS when they were testing for celiac. He’s very bright—way above average, shows no signs of downs, and got into Penn early decision. I would suggest you stop asserting absolutes like this because you are not omniscient and what Dawkins is suggesting is a revival of eugenics: a pseudoscience popular with the KKK, the Nazis, and other racists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

          • Karen Edscorn Board

            I find your point about depending on the kindness and dependency of others a bit poignant. In my own experience, the unexpected birth of our child with DS rather converted me from being a self-centered, highly driven, impatient, snide person to someone who’s beginning to learn the virtues of patience, kindness, selflessness and compassion. He’s made me a better person, and, I hope, a person who can make better contributions to society than I was previously.

          • Karen – thank you. Was beginning to think that a soul cloaked in a great body is the only one we should tolerate at the breakfast table (even if they are sporting the most horrid of horrid personalities).

          • willshome

            Not yet. Wait till this government gets done with privatising the NHS.

          • To the contrary: it’s a purely public health service that causes rationing, long queues, cancellations, and the dearth of appropriate treatments or drugs (things that do not happen in the USA, where I live).

          • Pacificweather

            If you have a job with health insurance. Although separated my US colleague and his wife cannot divorce because she relies on his health insurance. That maybe a good thing but if they were not on good terms it might be a problem. Even health insurance has its limitations in the USA. Not forgetting that if Britain spent 14% of GDP on the NHS it would be the best in the world.

          • Nothing is perfect: agreed. What I advocate but the Left won’t countenance is an insurance program with the choice of a HIGH deductible (say, $10,000) and catastrophic coverage. In short, I agree to pay for my bandages and pills and even minor operations, if you agree to pay for treatment of a serious illness such as cancer. I don’t need a medical program for anything for more than that because I’m solvent and healthy. Millions of people just like me are in the same boat. But we pay through the nose for other people’s healthcare, anyway.

          • Pacificweather

            Isn’t paying through the nose for other people’s healthcare what insurance is, until you get hit by a drunk driver. It’s just that the U.S.A. spends 14% of GDP on insurance and we pay 7% on a national insurance policy. If we split the difference and paid 10.5% we would have a health service as good as the USA at a lower cost.

          • I don’t want to pay that much for health care I don’t need and perhaps never will. I’m prepared to pay for the small things. I think we all should, if we have the means. What we really need help for are the REALLY big expenses. That’s my point. (The people that can’t cope with even the little expenses are and would be covered in any case, by the medical safety net.)

          • Pacificweather

            Sounds good but how is your million dollar operation paid for? It seems what you are saying is I don’t want to get sick. Ahmen to that but what if you do? My house hasn’t burnt down in 40 years but i’m not cancelling my house insurance.

          • I’m saying: I would buy insurance. But it would be less costly insurance because I would only make a claim for a large item over $10 Gs. I wouldn’t claim for all the bits and pieces that people constantly claim for, which they COULD pay for themselves, and which is making healthcare unaffordable and insurance premiums too high.

          • Oh, and as a further note: I don’t think I should have to pay for other people’s contraception, which is like asking me to pay for their drinks or ski chalet. And yet under Obama, I do. (It rankles all the more since I am celibate: c’est la marriage.) What do I get in return for that? I’ll buy my own vino, thank you!

          • Pacificweather

            So you woul prefer to pay for their birth, education, drug treatment, and imprisonment? No you wouldn’t but you are going to whether you like it or not. I’d pay the for the contraception and smile at my tax savings.

          • willshome

            Given which, it’s astonishing what a trail of affection they leave behind them.

          • anon

            Well, not really. Nobody said anything about people with DS being unlikable or unloveable. The point was simply that they are unhealthy and undoubtedly have a much more difficult life than a person who does not have intellectual and physical impairments.

          • Karen Edscorn Board

            Well, if it all revolves around “health’ than I suppose no one with a family history of heart disease or diabetes should have children.

      • willshome

        If number of characters was an issue, Dawkins should have thought about replacing “immoral” with “unkind” if he meant unkind or “greedy” if he meant wasteful of the public purse. Either way he’s wrong.

    • truth_machine

      What’s wrong with it is that he’s wrong — it’s not immoral — and this article gives a cogent counterargument to anyone honest enough to listen.

      “He is not saying that we should not take care of those that are born, as the writer would have us believe.”

      The writer made no such claim. Rather, he wrote “Which is a hard-nosed notion, and if it were followed through logically, as Dawkins insists an argument should be” — the claim here is not that Dawkins DOES follow through logically on his concept of morality; he’s more humane than that. Many thoughtful people, largely atheists by the way, have been highly critical of the logical flaws in the Sam Harris brand of utilitarian morality that Dawkins is dabbling in here.

      • anon

        The writer did say that. He said “Logical inference: a person with Down’s syndrome is better off dead.” A foetus is not sentient and not a person and Dawkins did not advocate killing people, only aborting foetuses.

        • nowistherighttime

          That is essentially what Dawkins said, why so defensive? I cannot understand why his community of follows treat him as though he tweets from the Chair of St. Peter

          • anon

            That is not what Dawkins said. Why so defensive and aggressive?

            Let’s just stick to the facts and not bandy silliness around.

          • nowistherighttime

            We are, tell Dawkins that before he dabbles with Facism.

          • anon

            Ah, you’re one of those. Yes, yes we get it, you hate Dawkins and will make up anything at all if it suits your script.

            No point in talking to someone who is coming from a place of hate and fear. So, I won’t.

          • nowistherighttime

            How have you made the inference from what i’ve wrote, to ‘i’m coming from a place of fear and hate’, it’s hysterical, but hardly surprising. p.s I know why you’ve made such inference – prejudice – I just think it’s sadly predictable from a Dawkins Disciple

        • SimonToo

          Exactly. A foetus is not viable, is it? Mind you, nor is a new-born infant left to its own devices. (New-born twins might of course be discovered and suckled by a she-wolf, and go on to found Rome, but that cannot happen very often).

    • nowistherighttime

      How is morality ‘about maximising quality of life’, the quality of life for a serial killer will be wholly different to that of Eddie

    • Karen Edscorn Board

      Since when is morality about maximizing quality of life??? Quality of life for whom? And at the expense of whom?

      • nowistherighttime

        Exactly. I posed the same question and he refuses to answer.

      • anon

        Argue all you want about quality of life, but aborting foetuses is at the expense of nobody. Foetuses aren’t people. No sentience, no rights, not human beings. As recognised by law.

        • nowistherighttime

          That’s not what he asked though. Morality has nothing to do with ‘maximising quality of life’ – that is the point – do you defend Dawkins claim that it is ‘immoral’ to bring such a child into the world simply because he deems to be undesirable?

        • lan1k

          Why is a foetus not a person? Does it ever become something other than a human being? Outside of mythology (e.g. the minotaur) has a woman ever given birth to something that isn’t human? Does a foetus not (usually) have 26 pairs of chromosomes, like the two adult human beings it obtained them from? Are you able to read minds? Are you able to determine at what instant sentience begins? And since when is abortion free? The equipment and procedure cost money; whether or not it is subsidized by your taxes is a separate matter. As for the law, in some jurisdictions murdering a pregnant woman results in a charge of double murder; is there not thus a right to life?

        • Mary Whiteis

          There is a psychological cost to the pregnant mother who aborts, her mate, and her family. To those women who abort thinking they will have another child when it is more convenient or desirable and then don’t, they sometimes regret not being a mother to that child. Also, there are health consequences such as increased risk of breast cancer for those women who have been pregnant and never carried a child to term compared to mothers and even women who have never been pregnant at all. And, there are the procedural, monetary costs for abortions which I am sure you will argue are minimal in comparison to the money required to raise any child. But, they are still actual costs.

        • Ahnon IMaus

          Anon you state: “Foetuses aren’t people. No sentience, no rights, not human beings. As recognised by law.”

          You are obviously not a lawyer. Many genetic mutations are not discovered until after the legal term from conception after which abortion is illegal.

          There are also many jurisdictions where abortion is illegal full-stop.

          Abortion is illegal precisely because the foetus is a human being, just at an early stage of development. Without interference from eugenics they would be born as full-term human beings.

          You may have the freedom to abort your own foetus in certain countries at certain times, but this does not give you a right to impose you disrespect for the principle of the right-to-life on other people’s foetuses.

    • willshome

      But you don’t have that choice. If, at a certain point in pregancy, you could flick a Downs/NoDowns switch, I guess everyone would go for NoDowns (even though the world would indeed be the poorer for it in some ways). But there isn’t. What Dawkins said was dump this one and try again. Which is as contemptuous of the woman as it is of the foetus. Nature doesn’t always give second chances.

    • Terry Field

      What is wrong is simple. There is no single harmless choice made. The rejected life is killed. As a separate action, another life is elected.
      Killing first, or no choice to be had. That makes you and me like a supermarket fruit, blemished rejected, perfect accepted.
      You may like that. I do not.

    • Zionist lackey

      He said no such thing. He did not say ‘if you have a choice’; he actually suggested that allowing such an embryo to survive is unethical and immoral (and if he had is way it would no doubt also be illegal); he then advises women carrying a Down’s child to have an abortion and try again. This is eugenics pure and simple. Historically, eugenics means purifying either the race or the species, by eliminating the ‘impurities’. What these ‘impurities’ are appears to be a matter taste.

      The Nazis took a broad brush view, seeing not only the disabled, but Jews and gypsy’s as being all part of the impurity. Dawkins on the other hand confines himself to certain hereditary conditions including those involving mental impairment . . .so no doubt Stephen Dawkins would be off the hook.

      Eliminating Down’s syndrome from the native stock (as a Nazi would express it) would be the beginning of a very steep slippery slope that will eventually face direct comparison with what the Nazis were attempting – the irony is bleak indeed.

      • Clark Gwent

        This is what happened. Dawkins was asked by a woman who was carrying a DS child if she should abort, as she was feeling conflicted. He was asked to reply scientifically and logically. It was also supposed
        to be a private reply, seen by no-one but people who followed both him and her on Twitter. He also – in a later, lengthier, reply- expanded upon it, with added caveats about emotive and other issues which were not in the question as set. Then the Dawkins-bashers got a hold of it and it turned from a perfectly logical (and not even cold/dispassionate if you consider the caveats) reply into “Dawkins is like Hitler or one of those mad fellows. Down with this type of thing.” PS you do not understand eugenics.

    • Ambientereal

      When a woman is pregnant, this choice doesn´t exists. The already living fetus doesn´t disappear when you take “the other” choice. Also “the other choice” has moral questionings and it is to the parents to decide one or the other. No one can tell which one is more “moral”

    • Ahnon IMaus

      What he is saying though is that we should kill any foetus in the womb that does not adhere to our definition of normality; and over which we presume to decide their right to life is our decision.

      I did not realise Dawkins was a supporter of eugenics. Until now.

  • dbsherri

    I just watched “Unbelievers” and was impressed with him. Now, having a horrific genetic disorder myself, not so much. For me, it all goes back to faith (religion is the word they use; faith is different). I feel I was put here to learn something from my disorder, which is horrifically painful physically. And if there is nothing but nothing after I die, who shall I be mad at?

    • Jim Jones

      > And if there is nothing but nothing after I die, who shall I be mad at?

      At religion. Despite contrary claims, it has worked steadily against science. It’s reasonable to anticipate that in the future, no child will be born with any disability. I certainly expect that will happen long before jet packs or flying cars.

  • Paddy S

    If people want to read or watch blind faith in action look at Dawkins and his followers.

    • Nelson

      Christianity and its idiots really have no qualm about being stupid eh?

      Have you ever witnessed gods miracles? No you have not. That’s blind faith.
      Don’t tell me you have by the way. The world would be a very different place if there was evidence for a deity.

      • Paddy S

        The world would be very different to without militant atheists – imagine no Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hohxa, Deng, Himmler, Heydrich and on and on…..

        • anon

          Oh dear, that old chestnut.

          Sometimes atheists do bad things. They never, ever do them in the name of or because of atheism. Because that’s not possible. There are no edicts, no book, no rules, no laws, no collection plate in atheism. You can be any colour, either sex, any sexual orientation. Atheism simpy means no belief in any of the approximately 3,000 human invented gods. Yes, that is all it means. Anything else is in your own mind.

          Getting atheists to agree on anything outside no belief in gods is like trying to herd cats. As it should be. Everyone should think for themselves.

          Oh, and if you imagine that the reason you are not raping and murdering is because your sky daddy told you he would spank your bottom for all eternity otherwise, you are one scary individual and it would be better if you stayed away from other people.

          Religion directly and clearly commands its followers to abuse, attack and murder other human beings. The citations would take pages. Many religious people manage to be decent people by ignoring these commands.

          Militant religionists – abusing, raping and slaugtering since the dawn of time. Militant atheists. Giving lectures and writing books and tweets.

    • Phillip Williams

      Paddy, are you always this way? You didn’t even comment on the article, you just saw the name “Richard Dawkins” and felt the need to belittle him and those who respect him. You are a sad, strange little woman, and you have my pity.

      The article was addressing the question of whether or not it is immoral to give birth to a Downs Syndrome baby when we have the option to abort.

      I personally agree with Dawkins on this topic because of how I define morality, but I understand abortion is an emotional topic that some people are incapable of thinking about rationally.

      • Paddy S

        Firstly you are near blind, I am a guy. Secondly what I said was true, his followers are the most sycophantic you will find anywhere. Thirdly emotion has nothing to do with what I said, while I am against abortion, saying that down syndrome people add nothing to society (which he did in following twitter parts) has horrible taste of eugenics. By the way How do you define morality? You do understand that if atheism is true there is no morality except the will to power as Nietzsche famously stated. But like I said new atheists are the most blind.

        • truth_machine

          “Firstly you are near blind”

          So you are too stupid to realize that we can’t see you and that there’s no picture of you posted? That’s consistent with the rest of your idiocy.

          • Paddy S

            Oh we have an internet atheist here.

        • Stormwhite

          Guh, from an atheist’s point of view, morality is essentially a social construct, not necessarily Nietzsche’s ideology, but rather a set of rules that allow humans to exist together with maximal happiness, so to speak. I suggest you look up secular humanism for an example.

          Dawkins’s argument is an interesting one – I’d argue that it’s a morally neutral decision, dependent on circumstances and what point in the pregnancy it’s at – abortion can have significant side effects, and some people have problems conceiving.

          That said, from the utilitarian point of view, if you can choose between DS and no DS, then the choice is immediately obvious for most people – especially considering from the point of view of me, and I assume Dawkins, a foetus is not a person. It does not possess any self-awareness until at least three months into gestation, possibly longer. His point is valid, but he’s phrased it badly and it’s not as black-and-white as he’s making it out to be.

          Just an antitheist’s two cents.

      • Ade Pearce

        That doesn’t sound like pity – sounds more like mockery and contempt. By saying that ‘some people are incapable of thinking about rationally’, you’re dismissing everyone with a different viewpoint. You’re implying (strongly) that anyone who disagrees is irrational and not thinking clearly, and if only they were smarter or calmer they’d automatically agree with you, and that IS blind faith – the ‘I am God’ delusion, which is how the book should have been titled, in my opinion.

        As for respecting him, go ahead, but respect doesn’t have to mean you follow their arguements, or agree with

        what they say. Respect and agreement can exist separately or together, the same as rational thought and

        religious belief. Yes, I know you’ll hate that last bit. But judging people by a single attribute is misguided

        and arrogant, as every hero is an asshole in some respect, as history has proved over and over again.

        Is it immoral to give birth to a Downs Syndrome baby when we have the option to abort? Only we can be certain

        if a life with Downs can be judged as worth less than a life without Downs – and we can’t. We’re not that

        smart, clever or understanding, and we’ve got a hell of a long way to go before we’re capable of that, if

        ever. People can have every disadvantage from day one, and overcome it, or they can have everything on a

        plate, and cause nothing but pain for everyone around them. Your genetic code does not determine your worth.

        Your actions do. And if you take Simon Barnes at his word, then his son with Downs has proven to be worth more

        than most children, and that includes the ‘able-bodied’. Does Simon think a more ‘normal’ child would have a

        life more worth living? No. Is he causing his family pain and suffering, as ‘The Moral Landscape’ might put

        it? No more than any other life has pain and suffering. And that’s the point. Taking a moral stance is about

        doing or opposing someTHING, not passing judgement on the right to exist of someONE because of something they

        may, or may not, be.

        Before I go, I’m sure quite a few people here like to use how Darwin and evolution were rejected by

        Christianity (to start with), and use that to bash religion. But before they start, perhaps they’d like to

        give evidence how the scientific establishment supported Darwin, and how they approved the theory of


        Nothing to say? Hardly surprising, because they didn’t. The scientists of the day tore Darwin to shreds just

        like the religious leaders, because he was saying that such great, learned and noble-blooded men were

        descended from APES. Their arrogance wouldn’t allow them to even consider such a thing, so they supported

        different theories, now proven false. And before you blame the crusades on Christians, find out how much

        conquering Jerusalem was WORTH in money and power, and think about many peasants were recruited for free, and paid (and fed, in many cases) nothing, because their Kings and the Pope called them to war in the ‘name of god’. Still think it was a religious war, and not a con artists war game?

      • anon

        What’s puzzling is that the rampantly religious will use words like faith as an insult against rational thinkers. It’s as though on one level they realise that implying that anybody behaves like a religious person is a the lowest form of insult. While at the same time of course, they are actually insulting their own beliefs and behaviours. Odd.

        • Ade Pearce

          If you’re talking about me, go back to the 1st paragraph of my post and actually read it this time. I said ‘blind faith’ was wrong, not faith itself. This thread has never mentioned faith that isn’t blind, but if you like, I will now.
          Faith isn’t about religion, it’s about hope. People have faith in democracy, that world peace can be achieved, that one day we’ll cure cancer, terraform the moon. Even that they’ll pass their exams. What’s wrong about that?
          And rampantly religious? I’m not religious, and nothing in this thread has yet identified anyone as being religious. “Rampantly religious” is your lowest form of insult, and if you apply it to anyone who disagrees with you, you’re not rational, and you’re not thinking either. A rational thinker can accept that a view they don’t agree with does have merit as long as it’s backed up with evidence, and an independent thinker won’t accept what anyone says without considering it first, regardless of who says it. Whereas “blind faith” is when you accept something without thinking, and you instinctively reject everything that disagrees with you, all without ever considering the facts.

          • getlost

            Pretty sure they were talking about Paddy, two comments up, as they replied to the person who replied to Paddy. Unless you ARE Paddy of course, you sure sound like him.

            But never let the facts get in the way of a good rant!

          • Ade Pearce

            Do you claim that I’m ranting because I have a opinion that’s different to yours, or because you can’t address the points I’ve raised? The first word was “if”, remember? And if you look a few posts up, Paddy was talking about “blind faith” as well, and never identified his (lack of?) religious beliefs – so you can’t be certain who who they were replying to. Unless you thinks mixed up or mistaken posts don’t exist…
            As for your mention of facts, how exactly do I sound like Paddy? We’re different in the points we’re trying to make, the length of posts, comment structure, sentence structure, focal point of arguments, pacing of arguments, self-referencing to earlier posts, even paragraphs and formatting. Are you saying that everyone who disagrees with something is the same person, or are you now going to claim that my denial of something is factual evidence that that something is true? Try seeing the world past your own reflection once in a while…

          • Damaris Tighe

            I’m afraid getlost has form for this sort of thing. On another thread (R*pe is R*pe article) she called several posters who had different opinions from her ‘r*pists’. She also accused me of being a man pretending to be a woman – for the same reason.

  • truth_machine

    Dawkins is not good at moral philosophy:

    “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’s 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.”

    The claim here is that it may be immoral to give birth to a certain child from that child’s point of view. But it’s no benefit at all to *that child* to abort it and give birth to *some other child*. And as the author notes, if one were to follow through on the utilitarian logic here, then it would make sense to kill person A and focus our attention and resources on person B whenever person B suffers less than person A. The author’s argument is not that Dawkins actually is suggesting this, but rather that Dawkins’s logic is in error … which it certainly is.

  • Richard Page

    Richard Dawkins is the worlds most famous atheist, he regales his belief of a none existence outside of our single life experience. I do not for one second believe he meant the “drain on society” angle also proposed (or at least i hope not) but from the angle of he would deny “the one life” a soul would get while subscribing to his belief system, simply because it maybe less satisfactory to the individual is as abhorrent as the alternative viewpoint. Who would we be to decide on another individuals only shot of existence if his “one life” belief is your chosen belief.. it would be like seeing a dying child in the desert in dire need of water, but denying it the water in case it didn’t like the taste. I have only met a few downs people in my life, and I have no personal links to one, but they seem like perfectly well adjusted people that have intricacies that are not familiar to us but that does not in any way make them inferior any more than a different race or sex. I think the world may be a much better place if we were all downs syndrome, happier and less offensive, if anything they’re higher evolutionary than we. Embarrassed to share a “CHRISTIAN”name with the man, (ps I’m not a Christian it was a dig!)/

  • Let’s hear it for Eddie! And for his lovely folks.

  • anon

    Fortunately, Dawkins was only talking about foetuses, not people. “Logical inference: a person with Down’s syndrome is better off dead”. Nope.

    Foetuses have no sentience, no rights and are not human beings. Dawkins was not talking about human beings. A foetus is human only in the way skin cells are human. As recognised by the law.

    As we all know, babies born with DS have intellectual impairment. they also frequently have other medical problems including epilepsy, hypothyroidism , crossed eyes, near-sightedness or far-sightedness, cataracts, hearing impairment that makes it difficult to process auditory information, heart defects, intestinal malformations, hernias, and a marked susceptibility to respiratory infections, such as pneumonia. Childhood leukemia is as much as 20 times more common than average for them.


    So, would anybody choose to give their child Down syndrome? Well of course not.

    A woman on Twitter asked him a question. He answered it. And he stated that a foetus – which is not a human being – should be aborted when you know that if the foetus makes it to full term, the resultant baby will have a high risk of any or all of the aforementioned health issues, will definitely be intellectually impaired and will probably have a shortened life span.

    I don’t agree with him that it is immoral to bring a child into the world when you know it will be disabled. I think it is the woman’s personal choice. And yes, he could have worded it better.

    But he’s not advocating killing people with DS or abandoning them. Josef Mengele he’s not.

  • Teacher

    The problem here is that because you are 100% dedicated to Eddie and have found a school which is prepared to make allowances for his problems you are assuming that the rest of society is the same, and since it is not, could be condemning other Downs’ Syndrome children to a life of neglect and misery.

    A second problem with your argument is a misinterpretation of Dawkins’ words. It is not logical to presume that not allowing a Downs’ Syndrome child to be born is the same as wishing them dead.

    • nowistherighttime

      He also states that such a society is not worth living in, one that will not be prepared to make the necessary requirements to accommodate people who may need more help than the average person. Where exactly do you draw then line, and who decides? Borderline Nazi eugenics. Your presupposing that, along with Dawkins, that there is something ‘wrong’, with Eddie.

      • Teacher

        No, actually I am not. I am saying that, given one’s observation of other people’s selfishness and cruelty, one would think twice before bringing a child into the world who needed more than ordinary amounts of support and kindness. I can think of few other situations as heart rending as the parents of a Down’s Syndrome child having to surrender that child into state care (with all the horror stories we hear about neglect and abuse in that sector) or being near death and seeing a child alone in the world when you go.

        • nowistherighttime

          I don’t see how any of that means it follows that it is ‘immoral’ to bring such children into the world, simply on the grounds that it might ‘suffer’. Are you defending Dawkins claim?

          • Teacher

            It is certainly not immoral. However, from a practical point of view it might result in hardship and unhappiness for the children if a benign cocoon existence cannot be guaranteed for them for the whole of their lives. For the parents whose consciousness of the situation must perforce be greater than that of the children, unhappiness will be the result of recognising that the guaranteed cocoon cannot always be permanently.

    • anon

      Sadly, so true. Persons with DS as well as having intellectual and physical impairments are at great risk of abandonment, abuse and of course without a lot of care and attention simply cannot function freely in society. It’s a terribly harsh world, even for the lucky ones born healthy.

      I still think it is each woman’s personal choice. But yes, when you accept what Dawkins was really saying rather than adding your own script to his words, there is nothing particularly cruel or harsh in what he said.

      And of course, most foetuses with Downs are aborted by their mothers for all these reasons.

  • Retired Nurse

    Heading our way..chlld euthanasia…already practiced in Belgium and Holland (though only about a fifth are officially reported)..http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129580.200-the-world-needs-to-talk-about-child-euthanasia.html#.VAmGqKMd2yE – the ‘after birth’ abortion.Despite the clever marketing of Lord Joffe (the original sponsor of Falconer’s ‘assisted suicide for the terminal ‘ bill) ..we ARE simply importing the Dutch euthanasia bill…the full title of the bill there is the “Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act”.

    Its amazing how many small defects are thought to constitute ‘unbearable suffering’ by medical practitioners if they’re paid enough…some of course, simply like doing it.

  • nowistherighttime

    Imperfection is what makes man man. It’s our individuality. How have we sleep-walked back into the logic of the eugenics of the early 20th Century.

  • Karen Edscorn Board

    As the Mom of a child with Down Syndrome, I agree with this author that Down Syndrome does not mean a lowered quality of life for either the child or the family — and, in fact, our family is stronger because of him. In a way, it’s a bit of a relief to have a child that just enjoys life for what it is, who finds pleasure in the small things, and not have to feel that we’re competing with our peers for a child with the highest SAT scores and what not. Our preconceived notions of what a child ought to be can be happily smashed.

  • Retired Nurse

    Distinct Nazi overtones in everything Dawkins says…Karl Binding …http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Binding – and Alfred Hoche in particular… he argued for the killing of the disabled for purely
    financial reasons. Calculating the “financial and moral burden” on a
    person’s environment, hospital and on the state, Hoche claimed that
    those who were “completely mentally dead” at the same time weighed
    heavily on “our national burden”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Hoche Would love Mr. Dawkins to expand on how he feels his views differ from theirs….

    • Retired Nurse

      Go on Richard…give it a shot….take it on here….

      • nowistherighttime

        He won’t because he’s a scientist not a philosopher. He is philosophically impotent and especially ignorant on ethics, as would seem his disciples judging by the standard of comments on this thread.

      • getlost

        You don’t really think he reads whiny “deliberately evading and missing the point” comments from strangers do you? Except as a laugh from time to time. This is brilliant, Dawkins laughing at his hate mail. My favourite is the church van comment at about 3.15 in, but there are some absolute pearlers in there.


    • getlost

      Yay, a Godwin!

      • doesntmatter20


  • nana

    well said.too many focus on the downs instead of the child or adult.
    dawkins.time to retire and grow carrots.

  • Diggery Whiggery

    Dawkins took the red pill but if he follows his truth through to the logical conclusion he’ll wish he’d swallowed the blue.

    Human intelligence is a strange thing. At a certain level we can be use it to reason ourselves down a path that can only lead to loneliness, desperation and cruelty and yet on the way we comfort ourselves by calling that path the truth.

    • getlost

      The arrogance of stating “I suspect that he already does” when in fact you suspect nothing of the sort and haven’t the faintest clue of how the man feels is quite astonishing really.

      • Diggery Whiggery

        The fact that you felt the need to reply in this way says more about your petulance than my arrogance I’m afraid. I never said that I know for sure what’s going through his mind, hence the use of the word ‘suspect’ (i.e. I have a suspicion and yet accept that it remains unproven). Considering his relatively recent utterings on morality and christianity, I think I have a right to suspect, because some of those comments communicate a certain regret.

        • getlost

          An excellent comedy comment.

          So, we are agreed. You haven’t the faintest clue how he feels about anything at all, nor do you suspect anything about how he feels, but you sure would love to believe you’re right 😀

          Cheers for the chuckles. And cheerio 🙂

          • Diggery Whiggery

            As would you and everyone else on the planet. We all would love to believe that we’re right but in reality we can only ever suspect that we’re right.

            Nuance ain’t your thing is it chuckles?

  • Alex Creel

    A question for Simon Barnes – were you aware of your child’s down-syndrome during pregnancy and were you given the option to abort? if not, I fail to see what relevance your offspring has to this discussion. We’re all able to make the best of a bad lot – whether you consciously chose that for yourself needs to be known before I can take a lesson from your experience.

  • liz

    “Dawkins doesn’t know what it’s like to be dead, and he doesn’t know what
    it’s like to have Down’s syndrome, so I’m not convinced he has a valid
    argument here.”

    He doesn’t know what it’s like to be raped by an acquintance or by a stranger, but that didn’t stop him having an opinion on which was worse. One presumes he means psychologically and ethically, though it’s not obvious from his tweet.

    • Retired Nurse

      ..he may have experience of the third …

      • anon

        Explain your comment.

  • Mc

    The journalist disagrees with Dawkins’ statement that, “…it would be ‘immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare’”.

    If it is wrong to abort a Downs foetus (or any foetus with severe genetic abnormalities), one would have to agree that it is just as wrong to abort a healthy foetus.

    • getlost

      Fortunately, it’s not wrong to abort any foetus at all.

      • What about aborting girls just because they’re not boys?

        • getlost

          What about it? I draw your attention to this sentence:

          Fortunately, it’s not wrong to abort any foetus at all.

          • Well, I think you’re morally blind then. And I would draw your attention to the fact that a good sex balance is extremely important, not only for producing the next generation but for preventing the masses of unmarried and unmarriageable men, such as the Muslim world produces, who are angry and full of testosterone (a very nasty hormone) that can only be expended on cruelty and war.

          • getlost

            Nope. Foetuses aren’t people. Removing one is no different from getting a hair cut. Social issues are irrelevant we can talk what ifs all day. Means nothing. Moving on.

          • Bagehot

            Women do not have “lots of testosterone.” They have very minimal amounts, secreted mostly by the adrenals, which do play a very important role in mediating their sex drive, but anything more than this small amount is usually an indication of very serious endocrine disorders. Where do you get your “facts” from? Your certitude seems only matched by your ignorance.

          • getlost

            Sigh So, because I proved you wrong and enraged you earlier this is your attempt to “win” eh? Nope. You’re simply wrong. A ten second search found this:

            “While we often associate testosterone with men, women have testosterone, too. In fact, a healthy young woman produces 300 micrograms of testosterone per day.”

            From here. http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/most-surprising-testosterone-facts#2

            On top of which, it is a proven scientific fact that women respond much more sensitively to even small amounts of testosterone in their bodies.

            Now, if you’re going to quote spurious facts in future, save us all a bit of time an effort and do ten seconds of research first.

            Since it’s clear that you now have it in for me because I enraged you earlier, I won’t be responding to you again, except if necessary to quote this last paragraph.

          • getlost

            Oh, and finally, even though women do indeed have plenty of testosterone and respond to it more sensitively than men, there is no link to testosterone and aggression anyway.

            “There is absolutely no reliable evidence that testosterone causes “’roid rage” or any type of violent, aggressive or uncontrollable behavior. No violence, aggression or unpredictable behavior has been seen in studies where men were administered testosterone, even at extremely high doses. In fact, the opposite appears to be true; many men with low T describe being more irritable, or having a short fuse, and this often improves with normalization of testosterone levels.”

            From here: http://au.askmen.com/sports/health_200/222b_mens_health.html

            It’s also incredibly easy to find this stuff online. I wonder why people don’t? Easier to believe the debunked myths I suppose. Sigh. Moving on.

          • Bagehot

            Adult, ovulatory females: 0.4 nanogrammes per millilitre of blood plasma. Declining rapidly upon menopause.
            Adult males: 3.0 to 10.0 ng/ml of blood plasma. Between 7.5 and 25 times as much. Depending upon age, as well as other factors.
            (Source; Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 12th ed.)
            I suppose it depends upon what one means by “lots”. . .

      • doesntmatter20


  • mandelson

    Dawkins – a functioning brain with a dead heart.

  • anon

    On a different topic, I have just been on the Disqus thread about blocking because, as we can see, there are always trolls who harass and stalk people on comment forums. Everyone (who is not a harassing stalker) should get on and ask Disqus to provide a block feature. If enough people do it, they will eventually cave.

    It is my belief that they are trying to avoid a block feature as it will discourage trolls and stalkers from commenting, and at least half the comments on Disqus have to be being made by abusive stalkers. Just look at this page, some people spend their entire life stalking and trying to harass other people.

    Only an abusive stalker would disagree with the need for a block function, or a site that cares more about clicks than safety and comfort for its real commenters.

  • Giuseppe Cappa

    The average person affected by Down syndrome provides a better contribution to society than Dawkins.

  • investigator

    It has been stated here, over and again, that a foetus has no sentience, is not a person and has no rights.
    Does that mean that the mother has no responsibilities towards the foetus.?
    If a pregnant woman drinks large amounts of alcohol the foetus is likely to experience some degree of damage, brain damage and and bodily damage.
    Amongst the Aborigines in Australia, for example, very many people suffer what is known as “foetal alcohol syndrome.”
    The damage is caused in the womb, to the foetus, but it manifests later, in the born person. Do you consider that the mother has “every right to choose” what she does with her body, by drinking lots of alcohol, and that the existence of people with foetal alcohol syndrome is just bad luck and no-one’s responsibility?

    Let’s consider a hypothetical situation, one which is probably not possible now but almost certainly will be in the near future.

    A parent has a child who has been damaged physically during birth or through an accident shortly afterwards.
    That parent buys a replacement part from a woman who is carrying in her womb a healthy and non- damaged foetus. Maybe the foetus is aborted and maybe not; it might be possible to remove the limb or organ from the foetus without aborting it.
    The central point is that because the foetus has no sentience, is not a person, and has no rights, the mother can “choose” to do what she wants with it; she has no responsibilities towards it.

  • Bar Abbas

    One of Obama’s apparatchik nominees claims that US taxpayers are somehow magically obligated to pay for baby murder.

  • Jess Rose

    Well said. To, ‘Dawkins doesn’t know what it’s like to be dead, and he doesn’t know what it’s like to have Down’s syndrome, so I’m not convinced he has a valid argument here’, I’d like to add, ‘Dawkins doesn’t know what it’s like to be pregnant (and faced with the ethical dilemma of abortion)’.

  • TimboX

    And the percentage of DS people who are able to live fully independent lives and not be dependent on parents, relatives and the state is?

  • Darnell Jackson

    Seems you have a remarkable boy of whom you are immensely proud, this is how it should be.
    It is noteworthy that the vast majority of comments on this particular thread are from strangers to the Coffee House blog.

  • This comment has been sparked by an exchange I just had with someone below.

    Lurking behind the concern for health is also a concern for one’s visual appeal — and it’s not just vanity. I am not going to have many ‘champions’ as I get old — assuming I do — because I have a small family half of whom I do not speak to, and my husband has only his mother, who is 80. (Mind you, people that think they can rely on their children to coddle them in old age are often sadly disappointed, themselves.)

    I work actively on what is called ‘anti-ageing’: I tend myself like a garden (I’m 46). Partly it’s self-love, pure and simple. But also there is the thought that I don’t want to get ugly — that I want always to be cute and appealing if not actually pretty in old age — because I will need people’s sympathy in the future. We all know that old people can be hideous, quite extravagantly, eye-poppingly so, and I have no intention of ever allowing that. Morality is one thing, psychology is another; and I intend to have the psychology of sympathy on my side.

    • Dean Mauldin

      I feel sorry for anyone that is as self centered as you seem to be. I have news for you. The world does not exist for, nor around you. There are million of people in the “old age” range. Myself included. at 81, I don’t think of being hideous. I have a happy smile on my face when I greet friends, my children, grand children and even great grand children. I don’t think of beauty of outside as much as inside. you need to get in touch with real people and learn compassion. who knows, you might turn out to be a worthwhile person and help some of the less fortunate. tho that doesn’t look promising. by the way, did you ever win a beauty contest, or just enter? or afraid to enter, because you knew you would fail?

      • Sorry: Old people do not look good, as a rule. This has nothing to do with self-centredness as such. It has to do with survival. Did I win a beauty contest? I would not enter one. But I was a child model, since you ask.

      • getlost

        People who are consumed by their own appearance find it almost unimaginable that almost nobody else notices them and that others do not feel or act the same way. Ten thousand people could stand in front of them and testify that they don’t feel the same way and that person would still not believe them.

        It’s an inability to stop projecting their own prejudices onto others and a sort of arrested adolescence. We all go through that phase in our teen years where we imagine everyone cares what we look like, notices what we’re wearing etc. The truth is that almost nobody notices anyone else for very long. You have to be extraordinarily stunningly beautiful or genuinely grotesque for anyone to receive even a second glance or a momentary recognition.

        Most of us grow out of this self absorption and, once we hit our 30s, are well on our way to caring a lot more about what is under the surface than on it. We may still find certain people more attractive physically, but most of us can and do value people for other than physical appearance and see past the veneer quite easily by then.

        But we’re all on a spectrum of behaviour and there will always be narcissists at one end and those who are genuinely humble at the other. Most of us, fortunately, fall somewhere in the middle.

        When you have made it your entire life’s work to try to stay attractive, I suppose you have to convince yourself it hasn’t been the waste of time it inevitably has.

  • Further thought: it’s highly significant that human is an adjective. We call ourselves human beings. We are beings that are human. Yes, in the past and even now we are sometimes Man or Mankind, but the human being is a long-standing modern formulation and no less noteworthy for being modern.

    We don’t say ‘the cheetah being’, ‘the monkey being’, ‘the platypus being’. We refer to ‘the human being’. It’s odd. Our self-identification is distinguished from all the animals apart from ourselves. (Even from dogs, the most heart-melting animals in creation.) We are the human beings. Which means that we are beings in a way that no other life-form is.

  • Terry Field

    Dawkins is an intellectual engine. In terms of emotional development, however, rom everything he displays to the world, he appears to be cold as ice. His mind seems like a machine, concerned with the matters the machine is satisfied wit. Other mind-types have more space for allegory, uncertainty, humility, gentleness. Where is his gentlenes. I have not seen a shred of it in everything I have ever soon recorded of his ego in full flight.
    Cold intellectuals, matched with economic imperatives, resulted in the mass use of Eugenics in the USA, and in Germany and other countries.
    Only the defeat of Germany stopped it being overtly practiced.
    Dawkins arguments are required in order to start the process of returning to culling the dependent, irrespective of his actual intentions. He may strenuously reject the potential for such action, but it is unarguable that his approach helps the argument in favour of in-life selection.
    Any human being who has come across Downs children and spends any time with them will see that they have a capacity for joy and love that we fully perfected types are often incapable off.
    Dawkins appears to show no kindness, no compassion born of self-scarifice.
    Just rational, dispassionate slice and dice.
    WHo actually likes this man???
    Respect the intellect, of course.
    Fear the disconnected intellect??

    • rogerrabbit

      Nonsense. I have watched him chatting to people in interviews, you tube videos and giving lectures. He is pleasant, amiable, polite and usually quite gentle until he gets riled. His family and his friends and colleagues and many members of the public like him very much.

      This is just bizarre, hateful nonsense.

      • Terry Field

        SO, another squalid little bigot appears. Your opinion is only yours, and thus of absolutely no value, since we know you for the absolute crackpot that you are. You have no intellect, are often extremely rude, have clearly no judgment and poison comments with your emotionally incontinent ravings. HOW have you survived without your medication for this long???

        Oh, and while you are at it, don’t try to actually respond to the meat of my – or anyone else’s arguments and observations.

        • rogerrabbit

          Hmm. Well you certainly proved me wrong by spewing hateful rage speech at me, weird internet guy.

          Good luck. May you get the counselling you need.

          • Terry Field

            Oh come on. I made serious points you entirely ignored, and proceeded to insult me whilst at the same time saying that Dawkins ‘manner’ was pleasant.
            You got entirely what you deserved.
            I descended to your level of insult and mischaracterisation. You dont like it? Well neither do I.

  • The Hun

    It is easy to moralise in a rich country with very strong social services and financial support for people in need but think of places with far less or non-existent social security network. I know 4 families here in Cape Town with handicapped children, one of them Down’s syndrome, all four ended up with divorce partially caused by the stresses caused by the child’s handicap. In one case the mother simply walked out on her family after a few years because she could not handle her handicapped child. Imagine a single parent trying to earn enough to support herself/himself and a special needs child.

  • Shorne

    “Atheism is a religion itself complete with fanatics and bigots.”
    Vanna Bonta ,American poet, novelist, essayist,

    • ADW

      It has its share of fanatics and bigots, to be sure, but it is not a religion by any sensible definition.

  • DanVL

    I too, have a son with DS. I appreciate the kinship I have with the author of this article and rejoice with Simon and family in their good fortune to have been blessed with Eddie. But, Simon… What if your son was none of those things and enjoyed little in this life and was a true challenge to your ability to love him and show him grace? What if he was born with serious genetic defects which prevented him from living the happy and fulfilling life you describe. Is Dawkins right then? It seems to me you have missed the most key element of your argument and discussion with people who believe as Dawkins does. Eddie is a precious HUMAN BEING. No human is born perfect, and some are born extremely imperfectly. Most of us will grow old and less perfect as our days pass or will be rendered imperfect by accident or illness in this far from perfect world. At what point in a human’s life does one become nothing more than a lump of tissue, ready for the ash heap in the eyes of other humans? At what point is it morally correct to pitch the imperfect or call those who chose to care for the imperfect, immoral? What we need to live and breath into our souls is that to BE human is enough. It is immoral to think otherwise and leads to all kinds of evil.

  • Terence Hale

    “I know that Richard Dawkins is wrong about Down’s syndrome, because I know my son”. To understand Mr. Dawkins’s evolution one must understand toilet format. The gene is the Syphon Unit unit of the toilet, RNA is the toilet seat and proteins are the large bowl for urinating or defecating into. How it works, the Big-Mac came before the toilet as the theory goes and shortly after papyrus. When the large bowl is missed defects in evolution occur.

    • doesntmatter20

      What a fucking whackjob. Oh, I get it the Dawk pays you large amounts of cash to write weird shit that makes you sound like a meth head snorting draino so everyone will look at the crazy fuckers who hate him and start sending him fan mail !

      Man, lay off the shrooms first thing in the morning, or at least stop drinking your breakfast. Too fucking funny 😀

  • Evilpa

    All people with disabilities are our special gifts from God. My niece has Down Syndrome and she is a great joy in my life. All of my nieces and nephews are, but she is a teacher sent by God. She teaches us patience, acceptance and of a love you don’t even know you have inside. God gave us a special gift and I am eternally grateful for her.

  • NIck Ball

    I work in a Leadership role in the NHS, and some of the greatest moments of learning I have experienced regarding how we can make the facilitation of services better have come from discussions with people with Downs – and to be clear I do NOT just mean about services for people with Downs – I mean about services in general. People with Downs bring a different perspective on life which has as many good and bad points as any of the rest of us. Was it immoral of my parents to have me, as I had a greater than average probability of having a congenital heart defect? There is no more “logic” in the arguments put forward by Richard D (of whom I am a big fan) than there would be in arguing that a diabetic is acting immorally if they eat a piece of cake, or that Sir Chris Hoy acts immorally when riding his bike at the limit of its mechanical capability; either practice results in an increased risk of undesirable consequence and associated costs to society. One hugely credible thing has emerged from this discussion though – Simon Barnes’ article. No matter how intellectual the debate becomes, the sound of a proud Dad standing up for his boy was as clear as day. Good on you Simon.

  • tomgreaves

    Dawkins’ intelligence occupies a narrow band on a wide spectrum. He is good on cognitive aptitude but a dunce when it comes to the heart, soul and spirit that makes humanity what it is. Personally I find Dawkins and his kind repugnant and utterly un dignified brutes who have medals for abstract reflection on science, just as the Nazis had. He is a dangerous radical who let his real thinking slip when he suggested that the Down’s syndrome child should be aborted on moral grounds. Goebbels would be proud of him. It’s about time we stood up to the mindset that Dawkins hawks as intelligent and acknowledge that his views are offensive and verge upon psychopathy.

  • creeper

    It’s not “Down’s” syndrome. It’s “Down” syndrome. How can any parent of a child with this condition not know that?

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      Answer my question, then I’ll answer yours. How can anyone come away from this article with a takeaway about punctuation and spelling?

      • doesntmatter20

        Not to mention he can call the sydrome whatever the fuck he wants, his kid, his choice. End of.

  • Richard Martin

    I couldn’t bear to read the whole of this tendentious piece but just to address the first daft thing I came to:

    “[If Dawkins is consistent then] we need to do something about old people, about all people with serious illnesses, about all low achievers.”

    Of course most old people have contributed economically to society through their lives, as well as still being able to look after their grandchildren in a way that Downes Syndrome children haven’t and can’t.

    People who are going to have a child whose scan shows thee child has a serious illness should indeed think seriously about having them, especially as it won’t be (mainly) them who is paying for it.

    It isn’t clear from a scan of the womb that a baby is going to be a low-achiever.

    If Simon Barnes doesn’t want to live in such a world that’s up to him. However, he is forcing other people to live in his kind of world and seems to feel virtuous in doing so. Of course, once you have had the child then that is both your and society’s problem and there’s little you can do about it, but if the foetus is still just a foetus, I personally would be inclined to try again, just as Dawkins suggested. After all, why should I feel entitled to burden other people with the consequences of my decisions?

  • gribblemunchkin

    There seems to be a massive backlash against this from people who know people with DS or are parents of DS that cant get over what they think Dawkins said to look at what he actually said.
    Firstly, he said nothing about people who already exist. He doesn’t believe we should kill people with DS, or old people, or sick people, or people who cost the state because of their disabilities.
    Secondly, he didn’t say that people with DS can’t have rich, fulfilling lives and bring love to their families and friends. He didn’t say that people with DS aren’t loved, are a burden on their parents, or a burden on society or are generally not “worthy” of life.
    He didn’t say anything about about society or people with DS being better off if they didn’t exist.
    What he said was that if you have a choice between having a baby with Downs and having a baby without Downs, it would be immoral to not choose the latter. If you have the choice, why would you inflict your potential child with a serious health problem?
    He also said nothing about those who don’t have a choice, he was specifically talking about those who knew, and knew very early after conception.
    To Dawkins, life does NOT begin at conception. Aborting an embryo that you know is carrying a very serious health issue is not killing a person. To Dawkins, its the same as refraining from sex one evening is not killing the potential child that could have been conceived that night.
    I do think he was a bit trite in suggesting that aborting and trying again was somehow routine and easy, but again, Twitter doesn’t have room for deeper essays. 140 characters isn’t much to write a balanced article.
    I do think Dawkins should perhaps have written a balanced article and merely linked to it instead of summarising in 140 characters.

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      To claim that Dawkins said what you say he said is to read far more into 140 characters than those who decry his statement. Regardless of your take on when life begins, the situation is not one of a woman who isn’t pregnant choosing whether or not she should have a child with DS (as you portray his words). His recommendation was based on an existing scenario.

      I won’t even get into how flippantly and blithely he dismissed the woman’s feelings.

      I doubt seriously that Dawkins agrees with you, that a substantive argument, linked to in Twitter, would have been better. He’s no fool — if he felt the need to elaborate, he would have. No — this was an open-and-shut case for him.

    • doesntmatter20

      As a matter of fact, he did give a full explanation on his site almost immediately after, right here. https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/abortion-down-syndrome-an-apology-for-letting-slip-the-dogs-of-twitterwar/

      And of course, he was only responding to a woman who asked him a question.

      The mistake Dawkins keeps making is assuming people are intelligent enough to understand him and rational enough to use logic. Clearly, judging by the anti choice rhetoric and desperate attempts to conflate blobs with human beings, they’re often neither the former nor the latter.

  • Robert McKenzie

    People should make and live by their own decisions. I would stand up for those that take the difficult and harder choice when presented with life or death dilemmas and would hope that when I face them I can do the right thing, that is to look after the new and helpless or the old and infirm

    • doesntmatter20

      Nah. The harder decision is to accept the scientific proof that the bit of blob you’re carrying isn’t a human being, and just get rid of it. The easier decision is to let sentiment rule and let the blob turn into a human who has a lifetime of crap ahead of them. Of course, after the birth of the disabled and permanently dependent on others child, that’s when the actual hard bit comes. But aborting a blob isn’t hard if you just use logic and science instead of wishing on lollipops and rainbows.

      • Robert McKenzie

        Turns out we have a lob that can write: who’d have thunk?



        +44 7710 836 091

        • doesntmatter20

          Well, you can sort of write, barely, I suppose.

          Sorry, I’m not looking for a date. Try getting a woman, or man, or whatever you are into through eHarmony. Do hope you get plenty of text messages from the weirdos on this board though 🙂

  • Barney Ross

    We should also remember that the simplistic ideology of liberalism attempts to claim that mankind has no spiritual nature.

  • Jon Johnston

    Freedom’s beacon is you. Stay lit: http://bit.ly/DestroyTheLiberalNarrative