Thursday, 21 August 2014

Dawkins Go Home: Jesus No, Eugenics Yes

I didn't want to be doing this.  I wanted to find a nice quiet few minutes so I could organise some photos of my trip with Fliss to Scotland, and to fill you in on our exploits in Greece.

Instead, we have to deal with Dawkins.  Again.
Abort [the Down's Syndrome baby you are pregnant with] and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
There's just nothing left of the man who wrote The Blind Watchmaker any more.  He's been eaten from the inside out by the worst kind of smug, gloating internet troll, a spiteful ghost haunting better people's feeds, grinning from ear to ear as he announces the Logic of Dawkins defeats your puny, thoughtless feelings.

But it isn't the initial tweet I want to talk about. It's so obviously actively vile-going-on-evil that there's nothing to pick at.  It's Dawkins' reply to his critics that we can gain something other than nausea by reading.
Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted.
This is the worst kind of bad faith goalpost-moving. Dawkins didn't recommend something, he said not doing it is immoral. That's like saying The Smiths called their second album "Meat is Murder" in an attempt to recommend goat's cheese salads. We should also note that just because something does not become moral just because it is common. More to the point, just because something isn't common does not make it immoral, as you'd think a man dedicated to furthering the cause of atheists in strongly religious societies would find easy to comprehend.

I have no intention of discussing the moral quandaries involved in making this sort of decision.  That's not my place.  I've never discovered my partner is pregnant with a baby demonstrating signs of Down's Syndrome.  Even if I had, I'd still not be in the driving seat, for obvious reasons. What I will say is that it's possible to support both sides of a binary decision. You can defend the morality of those who choose option A without calling those who choose option B immoral. You just have to be, you know, a fucking human being about it all.

But it isn't just the sheer awfulness of Dawkin's position and the objectively terrible argument he's using to defend it, it's what the interaction between the two shows: a complete disinterest in the responsibility of people with platforms to consider how they are used.  In Dawkin's world, it would seem you can state that in a world with total information/abortion access no people with Down's Syndrome should exist, and not think it's worth ensuring your accompanying argument survives the most casual inspection.  Because why would that be worth it? Just toss out your fifteen seconds of thought on the subject and move on.

It doesn't matter how many people (Dawkins has one million followers) will be infuriated, enraged or made miserable by his incoherent bumbling. It doesn't matter that when you put so little thought into so emotive a topic and start spouting off about it, you are telling people no more thought is needed and those seeing greater nuance are simply wrong.  It doesn't matter that there are still many people who look up to you and might take your definitions of immorality to heart. All that matters is that you can say whatever you like, whenever you like, because you're Richard Dawkins, and to silence you is to silence SCIENCE!

I really don't think that's a bad definition of a monster at all.

Update: Dawkins has no clarified that he is not telling pregnant women not to do, only saying that if they disagree with him, they are immoral.  Good to have that cleared up. 

He's also whining that he isn't advocating eugenics, because Down's Syndrome apparently contains little in the way of hereditary aspects.  Which, fine. That seems like using pedantic definition-quibbling to side-step an entirely fair general accusation, but perhaps we shouldn't suggest Dawkins is embracing eugenics.  Just, you know, mass extermination, a fact that does not become palatable simply because he doesn't want the end of Down's Syndrome people to be applied retroactively.

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