Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Turning right and wrong upside down is a human habit that goes back thousands of years. Modern times are no different. Famous evolutionary biologist and professor of Oxford University, Richard Dawkins, recently showed his hand in a twitter conversation that has gained media attention. The British Broadcasting Corporation, a public service broadcaster among many others in the United Kingdom, reported that a twitter user said to Dawkins, “I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down’s Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.” Dawkins replied, “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice” (emp. added). He said: “These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings.” After coming under some fire for his comments, he defended himself by saying, “I do not for one moment apologise for approaching moral philosophic questions in a logical way. There’s a place for emotion & this isn’t it” (as quoted in Hawkins, 2014).
It is a scary thing to admit that he is right, from a naturalistic perspective—the worldview that he holds. His thinking is a logical outgrowth of naturalism. If naturalism is correct, we are the end result of evolution, where the ultimate law of the Universe is “survival of the fittest”: might makes right; the strong survive. If naturalism is correct, it would make sense that one should do whatever is necessary to encourage the survival of the species, including helping nature eliminate the unfit (cf. Lyons, 2008). Why would one spend time, energy, and resources helping someone who is a significant “drain” on society? Why would one try to keep those around that are loaded with harmful mutations, syndromes, and disorders? From a naturalistic perspective, such behavior would be fighting against progress and evolution. It would be “immoral.”
The day after the public backlash from his comments, Dawkins attempted to calm the furor he generated by further clarifying his thinking on his Web site. He said,
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…. 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…. 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…. [W]hat I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse (2014, emp. added).
What a selfish and scary society in which to live—reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Imagine being deemed unfit because of the effort others must exert to help you. Imagine being deemed “unfit” because of your ailments or aches and pains, your age, your race, your financial situation, your I.Q., your level of education, your psychological state, or worse, your beliefs. Who would have the right to be the fitness police? Who would be deemed the fitness judge? Dawkins? How is he qualified to deem what is moral and what isn’t, considering the fact that there is no such thing as “immorality” if naturalism is true (cf. Lyons, 2011)? [NOTE: See Butt, 2008 for a thorough discussion of other disconcerting implications of naturalism.]
If naturalists had their way in determining laws based on their standards of morality, progress would be hampered. As our growing understanding of genetics allows us to anticipate disorders that will likely arise in an individual, people that would even be deemed valuable by naturalists in the future if they were allowed to live would inevitably be wiped out. Famous atheist, theoretical physicist and cosmologist of Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking, was diagnosed, decades ago, with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), is permanently in a wheelchair, must communicate through a computer system operated by his cheek, and must “have around-the-clock care” (Harmon, 2012). Ironically, he would have likely been killed off long before he became the famous naturalistic thinker and influence that he is now. Truly, the fact that people with such conditions have proven themselves to be of benefit to society is a strong argument against abortion of the “unfit.”
Eerily, the United States might not be as far from a society in which Dawkins’ thinking has free reign as we might think. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 15% of Americans believe we owe our origins to naturalistic evolution (Newport). That figure translates to about one in every seven Americans who you meet on the street being naturalists. If those individuals follow out the logic of their worldview, they will be forced to think the same way Dawkins does about the “unfit.” This implication of the naturalistic mindset and the millions that are affirming naturalism highlights the paramount need for Christians to be prepared to defend the truth from the dangerous doctrine of naturalism. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” [NOTE: See Miller, 2013 for a scientific refutation of naturalism.]
Butt, Kyle (2008), “The Bitter Fruits of Atheism (Part I),” Reason & Revelation, 28:49-55, July, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=603.
Dawkins, Richard (2014), “Abortion & Down Syndrome: An Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar,” Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, August 21, https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/abortion-down-syndrome-an-apology-for-letting-slip-the-dogs-of-twitterwar/.
Harmon, Katherine (2012), “How Has Stephen Hawking Lived to 70 with ALS?” Scientific American, January 7, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stephen-hawking-als/.
Hawkins, Kathleen (2014), “Richard Dawkins: ‘Immoral’ Not to Abort Down’s Foetuses,” BBC News Ouch, August 21, http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-ouch-28879659.
Lyons, Eric (2008), “Save the Planet…Abort a Child!?” R&R Resources, 7:8-R, February, http://apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/28_2/0802.pdf.
Lyons, Eric (2011), “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God,” Reason & Revelation, 31:86-95, September, http://apologeticspress.org/pub_rar/31_9/1109.pdf.
Miller, Jeff (2013), Science vs. Evolution (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Newport, Frank (2012), “In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins,” GALLUP Politics, June 1, http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx.