A Dose Of Dawkins’ Own Medicine?

Screenshot of Richard Dawkins' controversial tweet exchange regarding Down Syndrome. Image credit

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

That’s what Richard Dawkins, atheist biologist and bestselling author of the “God Delusion,” tweeted back when one of his followers (“one of our respected regulars on RichardDawkins.net,” as Dawkins described her) posted on Twitter: “I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.” (Source: The Independent)

I just hope Dawkins saw this before he tweeted his apparent “heartless and callous” tweet. Image credit

Not surprisingly, he got a lot of hate tweets. According to Dawkins, “[T]he whole affair blew up into [a] feeding frenzy”. (Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation)

“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Richard Dawkins’ advice to women pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome. Image credit

In his “apology,” Dawkins blamed the seeming brouhaha on Twitter’s 140-character limit. He explained that if he had more than 140 characters, he would have answered it this way:
Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do.  I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else. (Ibid)
Dawkins claimed he regretted tweeting his answer instead of sending a full response and apologized for it. (Haven’t he heard of Twitter apps for tweeting long messages like TwitLonger?)  
That’s what I would have said, if a woman were to ask my advice. As you might notice, it takes a lot more than 140 characters! I condensed it down to a tweet, and the result was understandably seen in some quarters as rather heartless and callous“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Of course I regret using abbreviated phraseology which caused so much upset. I never wanted to “cry havoc”! (Ibid. Emphasis mine.)

In fairness to Dawkins, 140 characters are really not enough to explain his stance on a complicated issue. (However, I still disagree with him about aborting babies with Down Syndrome.) 

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To his credit, he found it understandable that people got upset with his apparent “heartless and callous” tweet.

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Sadly, he ruined his apology by blaming the “feeding frenzy” on his critics’ alleged tendency to twist his words. “My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.” (Ibid. Emphasis mine.)

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For me, it’s a dose of his own medicine. Why? It is because atheists like Dawkins tend to wrest Bible verses out of context. They apparently twist it to fit their straw men or caricature of Christianity. Now, Dawkins knows how it feels to be misquoted. 

That is, if Dawkins’ tweet was really taken out of context. But, I’m afraid it wasn’t so. It’s not due to “a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.” In a follow-up tweet, it appears he even belittled people with Down Syndrome.

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He even came across as condescending when he labeled the decision to keep a child with special needs as an emotional decision but not a logical one.
Those who took offence because they know and love a person with Down Syndrome, and who thought I was saying that their loved one had no right to exist. I have sympathy for this emotional point, but it is an emotional one not a logical one. (Richard Dawkins Foundation. Emphasis mine.)
Even with his lengthy explanation, the fact is, Dawkins crystalized it in 140 characters. It’s not a slip of a keyboard. It’s his real view of life. It appears that for Dawkins life is only precious when it’s useful in his eyes. If somebody is supposedly going to be a “burden,” abort him. His tweet merely revealed what happens when we bring his philosophy to its logical end. Dawkins’ view of life is actually meaningless.

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There is more to life than logic. It is called love. And I’m not being mushy or idealistic about it. I know how hard it is to take care of such a child. Derek, my youngest son, has autism. I know how heartbreaking it is to imagine how he would live (read: survive) when we leave him behind upon our death. Yes, at times I worry about “who would care for [him] after [we] are gone.” But I won’t have it any other way. 

Our recent family picture. Derek is the one wearing a white undershirt.

I know what I am talking about. I disagree with Dawkins. I did not condemn myself as a father “to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child.” Derek made my life more meaningful.

Something that Dawkins would have understood if he had a child with special needs... if he would choose to keep the child.


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