Iain Brassington comments on Dawkins’s Twitter adventure today at the Journal of Medical Ethics blog (which is a subset of the BMJ blog).
Look, I know that Twitter really isn’t the place for nuanced debate. But, by that token, everyone else should realise that as well – especially intellectual superstars. So how, then, to explain Richard Dawkins’ spectacular foot-in-mouth moment earlier today?
Well, one leg of that explanation would be that actually Dawkins appears not to realize that. I honestly don’t know why, because 1. I know that people very close to him have told him it, and 2. it seems so blindingly obvious once you’ve been using Twitter for awhile, as he has. (Not to mention 3. doing so has blown up in his face about ten times now, and the last time was just three weeks ago.)
But another leg of it would be, I think, that he doesn’t realize it in the moment, and then when it all goes pear-shaped he gets irritated instead of getting quiet. SIWOTI, basically.
So why doesn’t he realize it in the moment? I really don’t know. I would think the problem with today’s would just jump right out at you, while you were typing. I don’t know why such things don’t jump out at him.
I do know a few people like that though – people who just say startlingly rude things to other people, apparently without any idea that they’re saying something rude. On the other hand none of them are famous best-selling Oxford professors.
Brassington quotes the infamous tweet.
Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
Oh, crikey. He actually said it. I don’t want to raise the spectre of The Paper Of Which We Do Not Speak, or even to delve into questions of procreative beneficence; what’s important about this is a deeply stupid thing to say in its own right. After all, you can think what you like about the permissibility of abortion, but I don’t think that anyone is really suggesting that a woman who is pregnant ought to abort. The most defenders of abortion would want to say is that it’s permissible to abort. Procreative beneficence says that you ought to select against “disabled” embryos if only one can be implanted and one is going to be implanted; but it doesn’t say that you ought to terminate a once-begun pregnancy. Nor should it: to make that kind of statement is indefensible for more or less the same reason as a statement to the effect that a woman isn’t allowed to have an abortion – to wit, there’s light years between a right to abort and a duty to abort. The former is about a woman’s ability to choose what kind of pregnancy she has, and what kind of child she’s willing to gestate; the latter is… well, it’s the opposite of that. Choice is minimised.
A little dialogue ensued on Twitter:
Dr. Steve Cooke @SteveCooke 2h
@IBrasso @OpheliaBenson it’s easy to forget (more so because Dawkins also forgets) that Dawkins is a scientist not an ethicist.
Synthetic Future(s) @SynFutures 2h
@SteveCooke @IBrasso @OpheliaBenson Is it?!