Richard Dawkins: Keeping Fetus With Down's Is 'Immoral'
Renowned atheist sparks a Twitter war
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2014 3:30 PM CDT
Professor Richard Dawkins, ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author of books including The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene, is seen at Random House, London, on Wednesday, August 14th,2013.   (Fiona Hanson/AP)

(Newser) – What to do when you're pregnant with a fetus that has Down's syndrome? Simple, tweeted Richard Dawkins: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice." The renowned evolutionary theorist and atheist later apologized for sparking a Twitter war, and conceded that his "phraseology" was a little off, but he stuck by his guns in a blog on his website:

  • "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."

Not all the Twitter responses were exactly favorable (or really printable), but Huffington Post rounds up a few:

  • "Who decides who gets to do the utility/suffering calculus? Very slippery slope indeed."
  • "Have you ever met someone with Downs Syndrome? See if you still think they’d’ve been better off never born."
  • "I have a cousin with Down Syndrome who is one of the most lovable and life-loving kids I know. Your tweet sickens me."
The row started when a woman tweeted that she would consider it "a real ethical dilemma" if she were pregnant with a Down's-syndrome baby. Dawkins later explained that he had no intention of "bossily" telling her what to do, and respected her right to choose; he also sympathized with people who "know and love a person with Down's syndrome." But, he added, while he has "sympathy for this emotional point ... it is an emotional one and not a logical one." The Down's Syndrome Association responded by saying that people with the condition "can and do live full and rewarding lives" and "also make a valuable contribution to our society."

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Andrei Bilderburger
Aug 30, 2014 5:40 PM CDT
The most shockingly immoral thing here is someone proposing to make this sort of decision for someone else. It's none of Dawkins' business nor does he have any relevant expertise. It is clear he has never spent any time with Down's Syndrome people or their parents.
Joe Curmudgeon
Aug 28, 2014 3:13 PM CDT
Dawkins statement is absolutely logical and makes perfect sense if morality is not part of the equation. Ethics is, but ethics is just the set of rules we all agree to. To complete the idea though, it would also make sense for government to fine or otherwise punish mothers who bring imperfect children into the world because the mother imposes costs on society and decreases society's total utility. The logic also applies to the living. If you start to generate negative utility then society would have the option to end your life. Think about someone who is old and can no longer contribute enough to society to offset their healthcare costs. Total utility would be increased by allowing the person to expire, and since sustenance is no longer considered a "standard of care" in some instances, it would only be a small step to denying food and water to an incapacitated individual. Yes, eugenics is certainly on the table, and euthanasia is as well. If you believe that humans are intrinsically no different from animals then the logic is unavoidable. Just to clarify - I don't agree with Dawkins. But his logic clearly leads to very specific results. We've seen this before.
Aug 25, 2014 5:16 PM CDT
So, what about a child with any other "defect". Just abort them all? Say, wrong color eyes or the gene that keeps you short or near sighted?