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Saying you should abort is as wrong as saying you may not abort

Oy, Richard Dawkins and Twitter again.

InYourFaceNewYorker ‏@InYourFaceNYer
@RichardDawkins @AidanMcCourt I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.

I’m fully in agreement with Dawkins that abortion is not an unethical choice. The woman can choose whether to keep a child or not, and it is perfectly reasonable, and even responsible, for her to include any information about genetic disorders in making her decision. However, singling out children with Down Syndrome is seriously problematic — it is not immoral to have a child with Downs. It is immoral to insist that a fetus with Down Syndrome should be aborted.

I recommend reading any of Michael Bérubé’s stories about having a child with Down Syndrome — he doesn’t have any regrets at all. Or you could read about how Bérubé schooled Peter Singer, and Singer did the right thing and changed his mind. He also wrote a book on the subject, reviewed in the NY Times.

We should not judge a person’s humanity by the number of chromosomes they have, or how intelligent they are, or by how close their appearance fits a particular standard.

Comments

  1. Saad says

    Ooh, that’s a very poor way of putting it too. Shame.

    But I also don’t agree with the “many people with developmental disabilities make contributions to societies” argument against abortion in such cases since that is then just treating them as commodities and deciding their fate on the question, “Well, will he be able to come up with a more efficient fuel?”

    The decision on whether to abort or not should really be heavily based on the quality of life the person will be able to have with that condition.

  2. Ichthyic says

    Ouch. another self-hammered nail in Dawkins’ retirement coffin. As many things as Richard has said over the last few years that have drawn some fair criticism, he usually will couch those criticisms as somewhat unfair because “context”, “real meaning”, etc/whatever. I can’t see how he can spin this one. It is a very clearly stated belief: You are doing all of society a disservice by keeping a down-syndrome child alive.

    HOLY FUCK. Aside from this says about Richard, the statement will be used to promulgate the endless claims of creationists that evolutionary biologists are all “eugenecists”.

    thanks for throwing a fuckton of gasoline on that fire there, Richard.

    *sigh*

    But I also don’t agree with the “many people with developmental disabilities make contributions to societies” argument against abortion in such cases since that is then just treating them as commodities and deciding their fate on the question, “Well, will he be able to come up with a more efficient fuel?”

    good point. It’s this very “economic decisionmaking” process that has lead to the kinds of racism and segregation we have seen throughout human history. OTOH, I think my biggest problem with it is NOT that an individual weighs the pros and cons of raising a child, of whatever stripe, but that they extend THEIR decisionmaking process to others as if it was the only reasonable choice, period. This, in fact, is what Richard just did, and it fairly well disgusts me, sorry to say.

  3. Ichthyic says

    You are failing to distinguish between how to treat a person with an unfortunate condition and deliberately creating such a person.

    congratulations, you’re a bouncing baby Eugenecist.

    you’re making the EXACT same rhetorical argument that eugenecists did.

  4. sw says

    I essentially agree with Dawkins that that would be the best choice in that unfortunate situation. And I really don’t see what’s so problematic about him saying it. He’s just giving his opinion, he’s certainly not forcing anyone to do anything.

  5. sw says

    I should clarify that I mean I think it would be the best choice FOR ME, and other may make different choices for themselves.

  6. says

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking of Michael and Jamie Bérubé in connection with this. And Peter Singer, for that matter, but I’d totally forgotten about the schooling. Must read that again.

  7. Saad says

    Ichthyic #4

    you’re making the EXACT same rhetorical argument that eugenecists did.

    I think his point is right if the decision to abort is based on what we know of the congenital defect and the quality of life of the person once they’re born and start growing up. It is not a good point if it’s based on how that person will fit into society and if he/she will be a burden or not. Obviously, there are plenty of congenital diseases which lead to a terribly uncomfortable and brief life. I think in those cases, it is the correct thing to do.

  8. anteprepro says

    sm sez: He’s just giving his opinion, he’s certainly not forcing anyone to do anything.

    Dawkins sez:

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

    That sounds very general, very universal, and very much like a command, or at very least like a suggestion that he is empathically stating is the Moral Way.

    “Just his opinion” is an utter cop out.

  9. exextremis says

    You contradict yourself PZ. Surely if it is responsible of a woman to consider genetic disorders in deciding whether to abort, it is irresponsible for her not to do so?

  10. says

    We should not judge a person’s humanity by the number of chromosomes they have, or how intelligent they are, or by how close their appearance fits a particular standard.

    Agree 100%. At the same time, if you look at the abortion statistics for Down’s Syndrome pregnancies in Europe (i.e. where abortions are widely available), 92% of such pregnancies are aborted. In essence, the public agrees with Dawkins — abort and try again.

    It is also perfectly understandable that many those who have children with Down’s Syndrome could not countenance a world without them. Indeed, I remember having a discussion with such a parent in the comment section of a Guardian article about the possibility of ‘curing’ Down’s Syndrome in vitro, using chromosome therapy.

    He said, even if a cure was available, he would refuse to allow his daughter to be treated, since she would not be the sweet, loving innocent young women he had loved and cared for as she grew up. But of course he would say that, given that he could not imagine his life without her as she was, with Down’s Syndrome. In reality, in the event of a successful cure being applied, he would have still have the same daughter, only a healthier one, and one who would not need as much dedicated care and attention and one to whom all of life’s choices would be available to her.

    The equation changes once you have and know a Down’s Syndrome child. As human beings and parents, there is no getting around that.

  11. anteprepro says

    How about people not play nebulous, vague, abstract Armchair Abortionist games? The decision to abort or not is one that is based heavily on the situations of the mother, and her own considerations of what the life of the child will be like. It is HIGHLY situational. A decision that will vary on a case to case basis, reasonably informed by particulars of the biological issues that the potential child might deal with, as assessed by an actual fucking doctor looking at an actual fucking fetus, and not based on generalities and asinine rules of thumb.

  12. Amphiox says

    To argue that there are valid PRACTICAL reasons for aborting a Down’s Syndrome fetus is a viable argument.

    To say that not doing so is IMMORAL as Dawkins does is simply not tenable.

  13. Ichthyic says

    I essentially agree with Dawkins that that would be the best choice in that unfortunate situation.

    that’s NOT what he said.

    please, for the record, so I understand you can read… what did he say?

  14. Ichthyic says

    . It is not a good point if it’s based on how that person will fit into society and if he/she will be a burden or not.

    exactly why using a moral argument is so fucking problematic, you see?

  15. Amphiox says

    Is the assumption that a person with Down’s Syndrome is going to suffer born, and thus it would be wrong (immoral) to enable such a birth?

    Well I ask everyone this, do human beings with Down’s Syndrome have agency and autonomy or do they not?

    If they do, then who presumes to judge for them whether or not they (as a blanket group and not as individuals) will suffer by living, to the extent that not aborting them becomes “immoral”?

  16. mudpuddles says

    I’ve never commented on any of Dawkins’ dumbass tweets before. Others have said anything I could have said about those more eloquently than I could. But Jebus how much more fucking moronic and disgusting could he be? Can he really be so utterly clueless? For a very significant number of Down’s sufferers, their disability is no worse – in terms of their ability to lead a happy and fulfilled life – than someone being born with any minor physical imperfection. My brother is 30 years old, and has DS. He s very happy. He is very much loved and loving and very capable. He graduated secondary school, and has a diploma in education. He is a wonderful, happy, much loved and loving person. Dawkins thinks our parents should have aborted my brother if they had the option? Why? What about people likely to be born blind, which can often be determined before birth ? Or without the normal complement of limbs?
    Fuck you Dawkins, you disgusting gobshite.

  17. sambarge says

    He said, even if a cure was available, he would refuse to allow his daughter to be treated, since she would not be the sweet, loving innocent young women he had loved and cared for as she grew up.

    Now that is immoral. Withholding treatment that could vastly improve her life so that he can have his cuddle bunny? People with Down’s Syndrome are no more “sweet, loving, innocent” than people without Down Syndrome.

    I get loving your child no matter what but I don’t understand withholding medical treatment that can make their lives better just to satisfy yourself. That is immoral. No less immoral than Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses withholding medical care because of their faith.

    Dawkins statement that you must abort and try again or be immoral is just stupid – and spoken like someone can’t get pregnant. The person with the baby in their uterus gets to decide. All others, fuck off.

  18. Amphiox says

    At the same time, if you look at the abortion statistics for Down’s Syndrome pregnancies in Europe (i.e. where abortions are widely available), 92% of such pregnancies are aborted. In essence, the public agrees with Dawkins — abort and try again.

    Is that 8% that does not abort IMMORAL for choosing not to abort? Does the majority of the public agree with THAT? Because that is what Dawkins is saying.

  19. mudpuddles says

    I’d love Dickhead Dawkins to tell my brother to his face that our parents should have aborted him and “tried again” if they had the chance, and see he copes with my brother’s response. Prick.

  20. Ichthyic says

    I think this statement of Richard’s will end up being even more well tread by the relgionauts than the “religion is child abuse” one.

    it is unambiguous, short, and needs no spin. they can just quote it verbatim, drop the mic, and walk offstage.

    In the annals of “more harm than good”, this single tweet could end up setting atheism, science, and evoltuionary biology back significantly in the public eye.

    Frankly, I would bury it as deep as possible. right now.

    I hate to say it, but this needs to be memory holed.

  21. Ichthyic says

    In essence, the public agrees with Dawkins — abort and try again.

    NOT THE FUCKING POINT.

    also… argumentum ad populum, fyi.

  22. Amphiox says

    Dawkins statement that you must abort and try again or be immoral is just stupid – and spoken like someone can’t get pregnant. The person with the baby in their uterus gets to decide. All others, fuck off.

    It is quite notable that here we have yet another example of a man telling a woman (and indeed, with the choice of generalized language, by extension ALL women) what to do with her uterus, AND using MORALITY as the justification….

  23. Becca Stareyes says

    Yes. I don’t doubt that few parents are prepared to raise a kid with that level of special needs. But for a disorder for which one can live years with a satisfactory quality of life, it’s not immoral to carry the pregnancy to term. (Not coming up with a plan once you learn the news seems more immoral.)

    Hell, even in cases where the fetus does have an birth defect that will kill them at or near birth, I’m leery of condemning mothers who want to carry to term for whatever reason. It is their body, and their choice: I just hope palliative care is standing by on delivery.

  24. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is that 8% that does not abort IMMORAL for choosing not to abort? Does the majority of the public agree with THAT? Because that is what Dawkins is saying.

    No morality involved. Simply, are the parents willing to spend the extra effort necessary take care of the infant/child.? If the answer is yes, more power to them, and any relief that can be provided to primary care-givers in such situations. I no, their choice.

  25. Ichthyic says

    …for the sake of reason itself, Twitter should just rescind Dawkin’s account, and forbid him from ever creating a new one.

  26. exextremis says

    Becca Stareyes

    Hell, even in cases where the fetus does have an birth defect that will kill them at or near birth, I’m leery of condemning mothers who want to carry to term for whatever reason. It is their body, and their choice:

    Once they give birth, it’s no longer just their body. They’ve made a choice to create a human being that will suffer and die in short order. I have no problem condemning that choice.

  27. mudpuddles says

    @Becca, #26

    I don’t doubt that few parents are prepared to raise a kid with that level of special needs

    Exactly what level of special needs are you talking about? You do realise that not all DS people have severe disability, don’t you? The level of special needs varies hugely between DS people. Some need very little additional care above any other human being.

  28. Saad says

    Why is it that the topic of the female is the one topic where even the more seemingly progressive and reasonable people lag far more behind than they should?

    > My uncle is sick with a horrible terminal illness. What are your thoughts on medical euthanasia?
    [without hesitation or reservation] Well, it’s his decision! What does he want to do?

    > My sister is has a complicated pregnancy and/or the child will have such and such conditions. What are your thoughts?
    [without hesitation and reservation] She should (should not) abort! She definitely should act this way because it seems the most moral way to me.

  29. Ichthyic says

    In the thread PZ links to, Raging Bee wonders:

    Is Dawkins being paid to reinforce negative stereotypes about atheists?

    It’s *almost* reasonable to ask such a question.

    not quite, but almost.

  30. ButchKitties says

    anteprepro

    I do have one rule of thumb about abortion, for those who need to simplify things down to generalities. Does the woman want an abortion? Then she should be able to have one. Does she not want an abortion? Then you should not force one on her.

  31. Ichthyic says

    Well, it’s his decision! What does he want to do?

    fuck me, but you’re being obtuse here.

    Richard:

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

    you can’t see the difference?

    really?

  32. Ichthyic says

    My apologies, I think I read you wrong. you weren’t defending Dawkins, but criticizing him.

  33. shadow says

    @33 (ButchKitties):

    Agree completely. It is her choice. If she wants input from partner/doctor/whoever, that is also HER CHOICE.

    Not mine, RD’s, PZ’s, minister, politico, judge, or anyone else — hers.

  34. Ichthyic says

    In all fairness, I should have formatted that better.

    I think my brain threw a loop at the

    She should (should not) abort!

    part.

    :P

  35. Ichthyic says

    I do have one rule of thumb about abortion, for those who need to simplify things down to generalities. Does the woman want an abortion? Then she should be able to have one. Does she not want an abortion? Then you should not force one on her.

    This has ended up over decades being my only statement on the issue as well, as it ended up being the only one I simply could find no fault with.

  36. mudpuddles says

    @ Butchkitties, #33
    The problem is not just that Dawkins is prescribing an abortion as a solution to a problem he has no insight into and which is never anyone’s choice to make expect a pregnant woman’s. The problem is that he has judged a huge group of people as either living an unhappy or unpleasant existence, or one which burdens society unfairly, and decided that it would be better for them or someone else or for society if such people did not exist. Which is just entirely fucked up.

  37. Ichthyic says

    Choosing to carry a fetus with known problems to term is the same as deliberately inflicting those problems on a person without them;

    this is the argument of the burden to society and person that eugenecists used.

    you can apply the same TO ANYTHING that could be called a detriment to any hypothetically born human being.

    being born black into a society where blacks are slaves, for example….

  38. Ichthyic says

    I will bet you that if there WERE a concrete series of genes that dictate sexual preferences, people in Russia, Uganda, Kenya, and many other places would be talking about how having a homosexual child would be a burden to the child and society.

    It’s a VERY poor argument to be making.

  39. sugarfrosted says

    Let me guess, Dawkins would also tell me it’s immoral for me to have kids at all since I have Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy. (If I had a daughter she would be a carrier. She would have a 25% chance of having a child that was effected, 25% of her having a child that was a carrier.) There is 1/8 chance of having a grandchild that was effected.
    It’s a genetic disorder that is relatively minor, though. The stakes would be higher with something like Tay-Sachs admittedly. People have actually told me that it would be moral for me to have children and one person dumped me over it (she wanted children.)

  40. Saad says

    Ichthyic #42

    But the slavery example is one where the harm will be done to the healthy child deliberately by an external agent, the slave traders.

    Whereas something like this has only internal causes inherent to the pregnancy itself and the course of the child’s life cannot be changed by moving to a different location, keeping him/her hidden, or finding some way to protect him/her from slavery.

    Prognosis from above link:

    If the infant is not stillborn, then he or she will usually die within a few hours or days after birth from cardiorespiratory arrest.

    I think in cases such as that, yes, there is a moral responsibility to take the action that avoids that suffering on a baby.

  41. says

    My aunt recently died of Down’s. She was 62. She made it to 4th grade in a regular school. She could read and write, and had a wicked sense of humour. She never lived on her own. She loved to bowl and adored country music and wrestling. Watching her slide into dementia and death was very hard.

    Dawkins is an ass if he thinks this a one-size-fits-all yes/no thing.

    Actually, reading that tweet, fuck the qualification, Dawkins is an ass.

  42. yazikus says

    People are blinded by the fallacy that because the fetus has these disabilities “naturally” there is some virtue in letting it become a person.

    Clearly Hyman has no problem with ableism.

  43. anteprepro says

    Hyman Rosen trolling his second thread:

    Choosing to carry a fetus with known problems to term is the same as deliberately inflicting those problems on a person without them;

    Not really. Since a person without them currently exists, without them. A fetus with them either will not exist or will exist with the problems. It cannot exist without them. It is not similar at all.

    in both cases you are causing a human with problems to come into existence.

    I believe the above is the most clear and abstract illustration of ableism I have ever seen.

    A fetus is not a person, so there’s no reason to allow it to become one once it’s known, or likely, that the person it will become will have disabilities more than a reasonable distance from what is typical.

    And this is one of the more disgusting and blatant illustrations of ableism.

    I cannot even put into words how vile your words are. Below contempt.

    People are blinded by the fallacy that because the fetus has these disabilities “naturally” there is some virtue in letting it become a person.

    And it isn’t fallacy to assume that disabilities are such an inherent evil that it is preferrable for people with disabilities to just not even be born?

    Well fuck you, Spock. Your lack of empathy has made you the worst at logic among us.

  44. says

    You are failing to distinguish between how to treat a person with an unfortunate condition and deliberately creating such a person. If pollution caused an increase in Down’s children, would you hold the polluter blameless? How is that different from allowing your fetus, who is not a person, to develop that way?

    You have an unacknowledged prior: that life with trisomy-21 is not worth living, and that we are morally culpable for transmitting our flaws to our children.

    I’ve got news for you: we’re all fucked up. Every one of us. FUCKED. UP.

    I’ve got a paternal family history of heart disease — the men in my family tend to die in their 50s. I’m fat, unathletic, and homely. How dare I deliberately create children with the potential for such horrible problems? What if I had male pattern baldness? What if I had merely an average IQ? What if I looked even less Aryan?

    You don’t get to decide. You’re fucked up, too.

  45. chigau (違う) says

    Hyman Rosen
    I note that the person depicted in your avatar wears glasses.
    Is there something defective about his eyes?

  46. Ichthyic says

    But the slavery example is one where the harm will be done to the healthy child deliberately by an external agent, the slave traders.

    doesn’t matter what the agent is. the argument underlying why to abort is the same; that it is a “detriment to the child”.

    the risk of simply being born dead is not at issue here.

  47. says

    NOT THE FUCKING POINT.
    also… argumentum ad populum, fyi.

    It was an observation, not an argument. I didn’t argue the morality of the decision to abort one way or another. No need to fly off the handle just because I didn’t hone in on the nub of Dawkins’ transgression the way you wanted.

  48. Menyambal says

    Fine, Hyman Rosen, if you feel that way, have an abortion. Anybody who feels that way can have an abortion. Go to it. But you made a blanket statement there, and it was about your feelings, yours, in a discussion about not making blanket statements.

    I know a couple who didn’t abort, and who gave their child the best life and the best care that anybody could have. They . . . (sorry, gotta go cry …

  49. yazikus says

    I remember watching that episode of Star Trek where the technology for Geordi’s glasses saved that planet that loved eugenics from… a tractor pull… or something, in an ethics class in school. I would recommend it for anyone proposing eugenics. Also, see Gattica.

  50. Saad says

    Ichthyic # 53

    Actually, I kinda see the problem. It certainly is a where-do-you-draw-the-line issue here.

    (not posting this as a display of civility fetish, but because a main reason for taking part in these discussions is to test your opinions against others’ reasoning and see if it changes your mind)

  51. sugarfrosted says

    @56 Not a fan of that movie. My dad really liked it and told me how unethical it would have been for me to have my child’s dystrophen gene repaired if it were possible.

  52. yazikus says

    My dad really liked it and told me how unethical it would have been for me to have my child’s dystrophen gene repaired if it were possible.

    sugarfrosted, that sounds fucked up and I’m sorry your dad thinks that. I haven’t actually watched Gattica in a loooong time, so I’m going off of what I took from it. Perhaps it deserves a more critical viewing.

  53. anteprepro says

    Oh fucking Christ nuggets. Per the article linked by Ichthyic , Dawkins also said:

    People on that [autism] spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

    And then there is this exchange:

    Dörte Faatz @Bitch2410: Try again and bring a little Adolf into the world? DS people never do any harm to anybody.

    TEHDAWK: @Bitch2410 I read a short story about that. How Hitler’s mother almost had an abortion! I think it was by Roald Dahl.

    What the fuck is wrong is Dawkins? It’s like even the slightest capacity for understanding human emotions is just completely gone. Like he is the first fucking biological android or something.

  54. anteprepro says

    Oh fucking Christ nuggets. Per the article linked by Ichthyic , Dawkins also said:

    People on that [autism] spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

    And then there is this exchange:

    Dörte Faatz: Try again and bring a little Adolf into the world? DS people never do any harm to anybody.

    TEHDAWK: I read a short story about that. How Hitler’s mother almost had an abortion! I think it was by Roald Dahl.

    What the fuck is wrong is Dawkins? It’s like even the slightest capacity for understanding human emotions is just completely gone. Like he is the first fucking biological android or something.

  55. Jackie says

    How perfect do people need to be before we see their existence as automatically immoral?
    I have a dyslexic child with ADD, two more with ADD and speech delays and one on the spectrum. Are they worthy enough or is their existence a tragedy?

    Because if you remove all of the strides humanity has made due to the work of imperfect people, it would be a much less wonderful world.

    You know, my mom once told me that it was immoral to bring a mixed race child into the world, because of how hard people make their lives. Aren’t bigots ridiculous?

    Where exactly does this eugenics shit end?

    You know who gets to decide whether or not to get an abortion? The pregnant person. Everyone else should shut up unless it is to reaffirm their support of that right to choose.

    I have a cousin with Downs. He’s a joy to his family. His long term girlfriend adores him. He’s held a job longer than many able people do. He won medals in the Special Olympics. He’s a weight lifter who was never supposed to make it to his 30’s. Many younger kids with Down’s and their parents see him as an inspiration. I’d trade a dozen smug atheist assholes lives for his if I had to make the choice.

    My husband used to work with special needs adults. One of the guys worked 5 days a week, volunteered calling bingo for elderly people in a nursing home on Saturday and went to church with his mom and aunt every Sunday. Don’t tell me his life is an immoral thing. What’s immoral is being as educated as Dawkins and yet being such a shitty human being that you use your voice to insult rape victims, women who don’t want to be harassed and the parents of special needs children.

  56. carlie says

    Those of you in this thread agreeing with Dawkins: What, exactly, are these “problems” you’re saying are so insurmountable that people shouldn’t be burdened with existing with them? No, seriously. LIST THEM. List every single problem that you think someone with Down Syndrome has to deal with, and then we can address whether those problems are societal or physical, and if physical whether they are worse than all of the other physical problems exhibited by people we don’t blink an eye at if they reproduce. LIST THEM OR STFU.

  57. carlie says

    People on that [autism] spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

    Holy fuck. So someone’s worth is determined only by how much they have to contribute to society? Really?

  58. Jackie says

    My dad was diabetic. That greatly enhances his children’s risk. Was my mom immoral to have had us?

    I have arthritis and passed it on to my biokid. Is that immoral?

    I really need to know how whether or not the women in my family made moral choices…not that my mom had a choice in having me.

    What about poor women? Should they all abort to save their children from the pain of being born poor?

    I’ve heard people make that claim too.
    *SPIT*

  59. Saad says

    carlie #65

    Yeah, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever read from him. Fucking Dawkins. I don’t believe in perfect heros; I just sincerely wanted to continue liking you in general, but god damn.

  60. Jackie says

    What if I had male pattern baldness?

    I note that the person depicted in your avatar wears glasses.
    Is there something defective about his eyes?

    THIS

  61. Jackie says

    Dawkins thinks very highly of himself, doesn’t he?

    Yet there are many, many people who don’t think he has much to contribute to society.

    I’ve become one of them.

  62. mudpuddles says

    Actual Dawkins:

    People on that [autism] spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

    Shorter Dawkins: “Unless your disease makes you special, you should be aborted.”

    I wonder what he thinks of the fact that DS confers a reduced susceptibility to most solid cancers? I’d call that “enhanced”.

  63. Björn Carlsten says

    I think Dawkins expressed himself quite clumsily and went too far with his absolutist framing. Nevertheless, I also believe this is an interesting issue to ponder from a from different philosophical angles.

    The heart of matter seems to me to be whether or not it’s a moral thing to bring a child with Down’s Syndrome into existence, when there theoretically exists an option to do otherwise. As Dawkins insensitively put it, “Abort and try again.”

    (At this juncture of the analysis, it would be a distraction, in my opinion, to invoke the woman’s right to choose, as if that would settle every possible moral quandary on this topic. A quick reductio ad absurdum: suppose a woman learns with 100% certainty that early in her pregnancy that her foetus, due to a congenital disorder, would suffer constant and unceasing agony from the moment it developed a nervous system; if the woman’s right trumps all other considerations, then we would be forced to conclude that it would not be immoral for the woman to not abort the foetus. If you are comfortable with this conclusion, fine, but I’ll disagree; however, if you agree with me that this conclusion is troubling, we can proceed with the analysis. N.b., I’m not saying this hypothetical fairly represents the situation for pregnant women who are told to expect their child to have Down’s Syndrome; I only sought to lay the meta-ethical groundwork for the discussion and proceed from there.)

    So, onwards: if we peel back another layer of this discussion, we arrive at the question whether, if given the choice, it would be morally preferable, all else being equal, to A) bring a child with DS into existence, or to B) bring a child into existence who does NOT have DS. This is different from the abortion scenario, because this hypothetical doesn’t presume that there is a fertilized embryo that has been screened for congenital disorders, and the choice for the woman is whether or not she wants to let the child come to term or if she wants to abort. This would be more like a designer-baby scenario, where the doctor asks the prospective mother, “Do you want us *make* your child have DS, or would you prefer if we didn’t do that?” (Or, if you want to be fantastical, an all-powerful genie offers a woman the choice if she would prefer her not-as-of-yet conceived child to have DS or not.)

    The thought experiment above brings the crucial question into focus whether it’s immoral for a parent (or anyone else, really) to decide if a child has DS or not.

    If the judgment is that it’s not immoral to decide that a child should have DS, I think it would be reasonable to say that it’s also not immoral to allow a foetus with DS to be born. However, if the judgment is that it would be immoral to make this decision for the future child in the scenario as outlined above (as I happen to think), then refocus our attention to the meaningfulness of the similarities and differences between this admittedly speculative scenario and the original issue: whether it’s immoral to let a foetus with DS be born (and here, I am uncertain).

    So, while I do believe Dawkins did put his foot in his mouth, I do think the question that he addressed merits discussion, and that his answer is not quite as unreasonable as it’s made out to be. Within certain normative frameworks (e.g., some flavour of utilitarianism), his is a valid conclusion, and it’s worth discussing.

    (PS nothing in this post should be construed as an argument against a woman’s legal right to abort or not to abort.)

  64. anteprepro says

    Jackie:

    What about poor women? Should they all abort to save their children from the pain of being born poor?
    I’ve heard people make that claim too.

    Interestingly, one of the primary goals of the eugenics movement was to stop the poor from having children. In fact, some early eugenicists spoke of poverty as if it were itself a genetic ailment. Oh, the science and scientists in the era of phrenology.

  65. Ichthyic says

    his answer is not quite as unreasonable as it’s made out to be.

    fail logic is fail.

    you did not rule out why his argument from morality is a failure, which is really all there IS to what he said.

  66. anteprepro says

    Björn Carlsten: All of that is irrelevant. I’m fairly certain most people here would agree that if people were given the choice to outfit a fetus with either the Down’s Syndrome gene set or the non-Down’s Syndrome gene set, the latter would be preferred since the former makes life harder for the child. But as I stated earlier, it doesn’t matter because that is not how it fucking works. The fetus is already there, and it already has Down’s Syndrome or it doesn’t. If the fetus has Down’s, it will not ever have the choice to live without it. It will either live with Down’s or not at all. The question isn’t between “neurotypical fetus” and “Down’s syndrome fetus”. It is between “giving birth to Down’s Syndrome child” or “aborting Down’s syndrome fetus”. It is not a matter of the relative merit of living with a disability or living without one. The area Dawkins is discussing is comparing the value of living with a disability or not living at all. Which is an entirely different issue, and it is absolutely FOUL that he just outright assumes that the latter is preferable, in all circumstances.

  67. Björn Carlsten says

    #75, Ichthic
    fail logic is fail.
    you did not rule out why his argument from morality is a failure, which is really all there IS to what he said.

    Not meaning to be difficult, I don’t really see the logic fail (mine or Dawkins’s). The problem seems to be that Dawkins operates with certain moral premises, which can be inferred from what he wrote, but that not everyone agrees with those premises. I’m not sure I agree with the implied moral premises either, but a respectable case can be made for them, I believe, which I attempted to do in my post.

    (off-topic: which HTML tag do I use to quote?)

  68. sambarge says

    A quick reductio ad absurdum: suppose a woman learns with 100% certainty that early in her pregnancy that her foetus, due to a congenital disorder, would suffer constant and unceasing agony from the moment it developed a nervous system; if the woman’s right trumps all other considerations, then we would be forced to conclude that it would not be immoral for the woman to not abort the foetus.

    I suppose it depends. Is the fetus gestating in her body? Yes? Then she has the right to choose whether to bring the child to term or not. Why? Because it is her fucking body. Her body. Not your body. Not society’s body, Not Dawkins’s body.

    Her body. Her choice.

    That’s it, that’s all. Playing philosophical games about the extent of rights to bodily autonomy must be a real laugh riot when it’s not your rights being tossed about.

  69. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    BC#77:

    off-topic: which HTML tag do I use to quote?

    Which HTML tag do I use to quote?< equals:>

    off-topic: which HTML tag do I use to quote?

  70. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I think Dawkins expressed himself quite clumsily and went too far with his absolutist framing. Nevertheless, I also believe this is an interesting issue to ponder from a from different philosophical angles.

    Oh, sorry. Here we’re talking about real people and real effects on real lives in the really real world.

    Can you, like, masturbate in private like a reasonable person?

  71. Ichthyic says

    I don’t really see the logic fail (mine or Dawkins’s)

    of course you don’t.

    how about you try reading the link I posted at 69 to start your education with.

  72. Christopher says

    Regardless of the choice to abort or not, it is highly likely that the woman in charge will frame her chosen path as a moral decision:

    * “It would be immoral for me to saddle a child with this ailment when I have a choice to avoid it”

    or

    * “It would be immoral for me to abort this fetus just because it has this ailment”

    I don’t think I could fault the logic either way.

  73. says

    The problem seems to be that Dawkins operates with certain moral premises, which can be inferred from what he wrote, but that not everyone agrees with those premises.

    This supposed moral premise- ‘It is immoral to bring a child into the world who has a mental disability’?
    On what grounds does he base this? Does he think he there is something wrong with people who have mental disabilities? Since they can and do lead fulfilling lives and they bring no harm to others by living, I fail to see where it’s a moral issue.

  74. Ichthyic says

    I don’t think I could fault the logic either way.

    how about:

    “It would be immoral for you not to abort that child”

    you seem to have missed a key part there.

    I’ve had all I can take of the dull and obtuse for this thread.

    ta.

  75. Björn Carlsten says

    #76, anteprepro

    I respectfully disagree that the comparison is irrelevant. The question is whether the thought experiment is in any meaningful way analogous to the practical situation under consideration; I would say that it can be, depending on how meaningful one considers the salient similarities and differences to be (and there are both similarities and differences).

    Nevertheless, the issue that you home in on, “the value of living with a disability or not living at all,” is a difficult one, and I’ll agree that it at the very least was presumptuous of Dawkins to pretend that it’s a settled case. But a reasonable case can be made, I believe, that in some situations it’s preferable not to exist, rather than exist with a disability (such as the hypothetical constant agony affliction I stipulated in my original post (#73)). The question becomes whether DS is sufficiently awful that non-existence is preferable. Dawkins obviously thinks it is; I’m not as certain (less certain, having read some of the links provided in the OP), but to say that Dawkins’s position is utterly unreasonable I don’t think is warranted.

  76. Christopher says

    Is it immoral to even have genetic testing done? What’s the point aside from having an option to abort a malformed fetus? If choosing to not bring to term a malformed fetus is itself immoral like some here claim, doesn’t that make the test also immoral?

  77. Athywren says

    @tacitus, 12

    If you look at the abortion statistics for Down’s Syndrome pregnancies in Europe (i.e. where abortions are widely available), 92% of such pregnancies are aborted. In essence, the public agrees with Dawkins — abort and try again.

    Do they agree with him that it’s “immoral to bring it into the world”? Or is it that they think it’s too much for them to cope with?
    I can understand one, but the other, frankly, is repugnant.

    Personally, I am actively opposed to the idea of being a parent. I have calm, logical, rational reasons for this as well as personal and emotional ones. Even if I lay out my logical argumnts against bringing more children in the world, several of which do support the interpretation that it is immoral to bring more children into the world, surely I would be perceived as a monster if I were to suggest that everyone has a moral duty to abort their pregnancies? Why should this be different? Because the problems involved in raising and being a disabled person in this world are more apparent than the problems related to the vast numbers of humans occupying this planet?

  78. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    If choosing to not bring to term a malformed fetus is itself immoral like some here claim

    Has anyone claimed that?

  79. stewartlaw says

    Framing termination as a moral choice, especially when you are a man who will never have to face that choice, is extremely problematic. The choice to terminate or carry a pregnancy is, and always should be the woman’s choice, and what men should be doing is both respecting that choice, and working to ensure the right to choose is available.

    As for the casual eugenics part of his comments? Absolutely disgusting, and a very slippery slope.

  80. anteprepro says

    Master Logicians Who Still Fail Logic: Here is an analogy. Maybe it will help you from avoiding into the emotional pitfall of using your utter lack of emotion to avoid seeing the obvious.

    I have a magic bag. If you toss a single fruit seed into it, a week later, a full grown fruit will have grown back.

    I like oranges. I don’t dislike apples, but I prefer oranges.

    If I were to put a seed in the bag, I would definitely put in an orange seed. I would pick orange over apple 99% of the time.

    Last week, someone throw a seed into my bag. I didn’t see what it was. I wondered what it would be? If it was an orange, that would be great. But what if it were an apple?

    So I now open my bag. It was an apple. Do I weep over it not being an orange? Do I throw it away because it wasn’t an orange? Or do I enjoy it because even if it wasn’t ideal, it is there, and it is still a pleasant and delicious little snack?

    99% of the time I would pick the orange over the apple.
    99% of the time I would still eat the apple if I had the apple.
    Two. Separate. Things.

  81. Christopher says

    how about:

    “It would be immoral for you not to abort that child”

    you seem to have missed a key part there.

    Unlike Dawkins, I don’t think either choice taints a person as immoral.

    Personally the category of things I find immoral is very, very small because life is messy and edge cases abound.

    Is it the word “immoral” that doomed Dawkins? If he had said, “if anyone asked my opinion whether or not to bring a DS fetus to term, I’d reccomend aborting and trying again” would that have been OK? Is the problem him branding those who make different choices with a the scarlet letter of immorality the problem or is it his opinion itself?

  82. carlie says

    Bjorn Carlsten at #73:

    The heart of matter seems to me to be whether or not it’s a moral thing to bring a child with Down’s Syndrome into existence, when there theoretically exists an option to do otherwise.

    Nope, you have to start before that. What is it about DS that makes their existence a moral dilemma? Again, as I said in #64, list those reasons. List exactly what it is about them that makes their lives more difficult, worth less, than the lives of other people. List why you think they should be singled out, rather than being nearsighted or prone to heart attack or with the BRCA1 gene.

  83. Christopher says

    Nope, you have to start before that. What is it about DS that makes their existence a moral dilemma?

    Would it be moral for a person to choose to have a DS baby (ie aborting non-DS fetuses or genetically engineering a DS fetus)?

  84. carlie says

    Is the problem him branding those who make different choices with a the scarlet letter of immorality the problem or is it his opinion itself?

    It’s both, separately. One problem is that he declares it immoral (and seems to think that his word is always and forever the final, most logical word, so no one who disagrees with that could be right). The other is what I just said in #92 – his opinion seems to be formed by the vague thought that having DS is “bad”. What degree of bad? In what ways? How much of it could be alleviated by simple societal accommodations? What amount of suffering do people with DS have? What about how much of a spectrum the severity of symptoms are? He is speaking authoritatively on a topic he doesn’t understand. That’s the real problem. Again.

  85. anteprepro says

    Bjorn:

    But a reasonable case can be made, I believe, that in some situations it’s preferable not to exist, rather than exist with a disability

    Some situations. Does this sound like Dawkins is talking about “some” situations?

    Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice…..
    People on that [autism] spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

    Really? You are going to try to defend that by saying “in some situations”?

    but to say that Dawkins’s position is utterly unreasonable I don’t think is warranted.

    Oh no, certainly not if you are going to actively take words OUT of his mouth! Sure, his actual words are pretty damn unreasonable, but if you add “some” in there then he is being perfectly logical and all of us are just Over-reacting!

    Quit with the faux-philosophical wankery already. You will be handled more harshly if you continue to handwave and excuse Dawkins shitty ableism.

  86. anteprepro says

    Christopher:

    If he had said, “if anyone asked my opinion whether or not to bring a DS fetus to term, I’d reccomend aborting and trying again” would that have been OK? Is the problem him branding those who make different choices with a the scarlet letter of immorality the problem or is it his opinion itself?

    That’s part of it. The other part is exaggerating the degree of debilitation, suggesting that Down’s Syndrome cases are uniform, implying that the life of a disabled person is so miserable that it is not worth being born into, and displays a characteristic utter lack of empathy. See my quotes from 61. The “immoral” line amplifies all of that, but even if he said “in my opinion”, with less of an air of judgment and slightly more humility, I trust that if he was asked to give justification for that opinion, he would still step in it again. The less Dawkins says, the better, it appears.

  87. carlie says

    From the Berube piece linked in the OP, and quoted by Ophelia:

    The larger point of my argument with your claim is that we cannot (I use the term advisedly) know what to expect of children with Down syndrome. Early-intervention programs have made such dramatic differences in their lives over the past few decades that we simply do not know what the range of functioning looks like, and therefore do not rightly know what to expect. [...] I’ll never forget the first time I saw a young man with Down syndrome playing the violin—quite competently, at that, with delicacy and a sense of nuance. I thought I was seeing a griffin. And who could have imagined, just forty or fifty years ago, that the children we were institutionalizing and leaving to rot could in fact grow up to become actors? [...]as we learn more about Down syndrome, we honestly—if paradoxically—don’t know what constitutes a “reasonable expectation” for a person with Down syndrome.

    So, what’s the moral dilemma again?

  88. Björn Carlsten says

    78, sambrago
    You’ll note that I specifically wrote that I wasn’t arguing that the woman shouldn’t have the legal right to decide whether to abort or not to abort. I always wrote in terms of morality, and morality =/= legality. And I certainly don’t advocate restricting the woman’s legal choice. But to pretend that this issue doesn’t have some nuance to it is silly. For one thing, not all moral systems recognize absolute rights, such as some varieties of utilitarianism, and these are not fringe positions in moral philosophy.

    I would pose a question to you, sambrago, if I may: do you believe that there should be absolutely ZERO restrictions when it comes to abortion rights?

    #80, Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)
    Oh, sorry. Here we’re talking about real people and real effects on real lives in the really real world.
    Can you, like, masturbate in private like a reasonable person?

    That’s uncalled for. I don’t think I’ve been disrespectful or insensitive in my comments.

    Nevertheless, according to your logic, the entire field of applied ethics is illegitimate, since it wrestles with questions “about real people and real effects on real lives in the really real world.”

  89. xavierninnis4191 says

    I confess that a fair good percentage of Dawkin’s foolishness that has raised such a stir around these parts hasn’t much upset me, but this is truly beyond the pale.
    It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice. Simply vile.

  90. anteprepro says

    Oh my god, Bjorn, you have turned the pretension up to fucking eleven. Please, for fuck’s sake, don’t start whining about tone. Your “civility” doesn’t change the fact that you are bleating about philosophical bullshit in order to come up with your ridiculously thin and convoluted defense of Dawkins. Your handwringing treatises on moral theory are NOT HELPING. If you do not understand that and yet continue to push forward with dumping your philosophy textbooks in this thread, you will get pushback and your whining will not earn you sympathy on this blog.

  91. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    That’s uncalled for. I don’t think I’ve been disrespectful or insensitive in my comments.

    But you have, by barging into a discussion about people whose lives are actually or potentially affected by something to pontificate about it as a matter of abstract principles.

    Nevertheless, according to your logic, the entire field of applied ethics is illegitimate, since it wrestles with questions “about real people and real effects on real lives in the really real world.”

    What.

  92. Björn Carlsten says

    95, anteprepro

    Some situations. Does this sound like Dawkins is talking about “some” situations?

    I will admit to expressing myself too charitably towards Dawkins (who was stupid to say what he did), but my motivation was simply to get to the moral aspects behind it all, something which I believe warrant discussion. I do believe that the thesis “it’s more moral to abort children with DS than not to” does lend itself to interesting (and important!) philosophical analysis, and that the answer isn’t a foregone conclusion (and yes, it was wrong of Dawkins to imply that this was the case).

  93. sambarge says

    I would pose a question to you, sambrago, if I may: do you believe that there should be absolutely ZERO restrictions when it comes to abortion rights?

    My name is sambarge and yes, I believe there should be zero restrictions on a woman’s access to an abortion. It is a medical procedure that concerns no one but the woman who may or may not require it (and the medical professionals who perform it).

    Before you swallow your tongue at my grossly aphilosophical position, be aware that is exactly how abortion is currently treated in Canada and we have managed to hobble along as a country. Shockingly, Canadian women are neither aborting in greater numbers nor birthing DS babies in greater numbers than the rest of world.

    Personally, I am appalled at your bullshit philosophical discussions about how much freedom to give women. Don’t reply to me or ask me any other questions. I won’t answer.

  94. chigau (違う) says

    In the midst of a highly charged discussion it is a good idea to get the names of other commenters correct.
    sambrago ≠ sambarge
    Doing otherwise is disrespectful and indicates that you don’t really give a fuck about the other commenters.

  95. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    “Not on my kitchen table” is a reasonable restriction on abortion. As for the rest, fuck off with the “what if”s.

  96. anteprepro says

    Dawkins’ Next Hit: “You know, Hitler had some good ideas. Oh hush, not THOSE ideas. I’m just being logical here! Just logic!”

  97. Akira MacKenzie says

    You hear that smacking sound, Richard? That’s the sound of thousands of anti-choicers licking their chops at the opportunity to use your ill-founded comments as evidence of of the “immorality” of legal abortion for any reason. Whatever your intentions, you’ve just given them ammunition to use against reproductive rights by tying it to eugenics and the so-called “Culture of Death.”

    Of course, since you’ve got a penis, that really doesn’t affect you much, so what do you care, eh?

    Thanks once again for making women’s lives all the more difficult, you obnoxious turd.

  98. carlie says

    anteprepro: I sense a meme.

    Dawkins’ next hit: “Cybermen really aren’t a bad idea. Metal shells would be an improvement on the human body.”

  99. anteprepro says

    Watch Dawkins’ narrative change before our very eyes:

    Apparently I’m a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted……

    If you don’t understand the point, look up “The Great Beethoven Fallacy” in The God Delusion…..

    So, is anyone who doesn’t follow Roman Catholic “morality” on abortion beyond the pale? Well I’m proud to be beyond that particular pale…..

    Down syndrome screening is NOT eugenic. Almost always caused by non-hereditary chromosomal abnormality, heavily influenced by maternal age…..

    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…..

    Woman said she wouldn’t know whether to abort. I told her what I would do & why. I OBVIOUSLY wouldn’t TELL a woman what to do. Up to her.

    I REALLY don’t think Dawkins is as good at logic as he thinks he is. I mean, by god, it is like he shoots himself in the foot five times and then moves it three feet to the left and tries to say “hey, look, my foot is nowhere near the place where I was shooting, and all of that blood is just circumstantial evidence and proves nothing”.

  100. Björn Carlsten says

    #103, carlie
    Sure, I’ll answer your questions. I didn’t mean to ignore you, it’s just that I’ve had a lot to respond to.

    Nope, you have to start before that. What is it about DS that makes their existence a moral dilemma? Again, as I said in #64, list those reasons. List exactly what it is about them that makes their lives more difficult, worth less, than the lives of other people. List why you think they should be singled out, rather than being nearsighted or prone to heart attack or with the BRCA1 gene.

    Of course, you’re right, the first question is if children with DS have lives that are “more difficult, worth less, than the lives of other people.” If not, then that settles the discussion. Personally, I am uncertain on this matter, with a slight bias towards the position that it would be better, on net, if the syndrome didn’t exist in the first place. I did kind of get to this in my original post (#73), with the thought experiment where I asked if it was immoral to give a child DS, if one had the choice not to. I will confess to working under the assumption that DS is “bad” in some sense (meaning, it would be better not to have DS). I will also confess that I’ve become less certain on this point after having read some of the links in this thread.

    #101, anteprepro
    Well, I’m a newbie when it comes discussions on these posts, and obviously I don’t completely understand the etiquette rules at play. For that I apologise. I didn’t intend to be an advocate for Dawkins, but only sought to use his comments as a springboard for an issue that I find interesting. If this isn’t the forum for that kind of discussion, I’ll withdraw. But before I do that, I only think it fair that I’ll respond to the questions posed to me.

  101. carlie says

    with a slight bias towards the position that it would be better, on net, if the syndrome didn’t exist in the first place.

    Sure, but it would also be better if hearing loss didn’t exist. Or nearsightedness. Or cataracts. Or diabetes, Or heart disease, etc. and etc. forever. But we don’t limit how people with those things reproduce, or vilify them if they do.

    after having read some of the links in this thread.

    Thank you for doing that, no matter what your opinion on them is. Seriously. Too often people come in with an opinion, other people spend a lot of time finding resources to provide, and the first person ignores them entirely.

  102. Björn Carlsten says

    #106. chigau

    In the midst of a highly charged discussion it is a good idea to get the names of other commenters correct.
    sambrago ≠ sambarge
    Doing otherwise is disrespectful and indicates that you don’t really give a fuck about the other commenters.

    Yes, that was a silly mistake of mine. I would respond and apologize to the poster in question, but since I’ve been asked not to, I won’t. I would just say that I think my response was precise enough–the mistake with the name notwithstanding–that I can’t be accused of not giving a fuck about the other commenters.

  103. anteprepro says

    Fuck thought experiments, and fuck Hyman Rosen.

    God damn, Hyman, you really are becoming quite the odious troll really fucking fast.

  104. carlie says

    It’s actually both funny and sad how some posters here regard aborting a fetus as killing their favorite disabled person who has a good life.

    No. You misunderstand.

    We are saying that you cannot make a sweepingly generalized statement about a particular disability and how much the person with it will “suffer”, or, more to Dawkins’ point, how much they will “contribute” to society. That’s great that you and your wife got testing. Now, what if it had come back with a problem, but you decided that you wanted to have that child anyway, and someone told you you couldn’t and had to abort? That’s the position that Dawkins took.

  105. says

    I’m sorry, Hyman, but after considering your deficiencies as a human being, and how you couldn’t possibly contribute to the discussions here in a reasonable manner, I felt morally obligated to abort any further participation by you. You seem to be lacking something. I think it’s empathy.

  106. Ed Seedhouse says

    For the life of me I cannot see how only those who have “something to contribute” should be allowed to live.

    But then I’m 70 and retired, and suck pension money and consume material resources without really “contributing” much of anything. So I guess I’m biased.

  107. anteprepro says

    (I actually have no problem with thought experiments. The problem is when the “thought” is minimal, at best, and the “experiment” is to see how long it takes for jabber an audience into submission. They are a tool, just as logic is a tool. They are useful, unless they are used by tools)

  108. chigau (違う) says

    Hyman Rosen

    Myopia is well within the norm.

    My defect is OK.
    Yours, not so much.
    .
    Hyman Rosen

    When you lack an ability common to most other people, you’re going to have trouble, because people have arranged the world around them to use the abilities they have. If you can’t hear and everyone around you is communicating by sound it’s remarkably silly to pretend that you are not lacking something.

    You are a horrible person.

  109. Björn Carlsten says

    #117 carlie

    Sure, but it would also be better if hearing loss didn’t exist. Or nearsightedness. Or cataracts. Or diabetes, Or heart disease, etc. and etc. forever. But we don’t limit how people with those things reproduce, or vilify them if they do.

    Oh, I agree, on all counts. And I wouldn’t limit their reproductive choices, or vilify them (as Dawkins did). In essence, DS is no different in this regard, and it’s regrettable it was singled out. Just some clarification as to what was on my mind when I wrote my posts: given possible advances in biotechnology which might allow for an increased degree of modification of the biological traits of foetuses, we are going to be confronted with these kinds of questions, and I think the questions are important. Now, perhaps it was not so wise of me to choose this particular time and this precise topic to wade into the discussion…

  110. anteprepro says

    My myopia is definitely not well within the norm. Tragically, Hyman is not here to educate us all on whether I should have been euthanized or eugenicized to spare me such prolific atypicality. Deviation from the norm requires swift mercy killing, as we have all been informed, but with this additional information of acceptable levels of deviation, I simply do not know whether or not I should have been left on mountaintop in Sparta to be frostbitten and eaten by wolves. I just do not know. It is almost like eugenics is arbitrary and is frowned upon so much because arbitrarily assigning people the death penalty for being slightly different on a handful of subjective metrics is a very dangerous game to play. But that simply couldn’t be so. Perhaps another disciple will come along and spread the good word of Lord Dawkins, and let us know who among us are truly fit to live.

  111. gakxz1 says

    I don’t really understand why Dawkins is, apparently, incapable of apologizing for tweets of his which are, obviously, rather terrible. Does he see any walking back as a sign of weakness, or that the internet is a harmless medium and, ohh well, whatever I say on it isn’t very important? Is it so hard to say, “Well, upon further evaluation, what I said was shity, I see that now, I’m sorry”, rather than playing some strange game where everything uttered under his account can retrospectively be justified in full?

  112. anteprepro says

    gakxz1:
    Here is my speculation on the subject:

    I think Dawkins’ own influence has gone to his head. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In his case, tons of attention from stupid Christians who see him as King of Atheism, and tons of attention from sycophantic atheists who see him as a personal idol has undoubtedly fed into his ego, which was already well-fed by the time of writing The God Delusion, as evidenced by the title alone. He believes his own PR. He thinks that he is great and damn near infallible. He is so used to dealing with inane criticisms from Christian apologist hacks that he now glibly dismisses all criticism in the same knee-jerk and sardonic fashion. He is so used to being Oh So Right about evolution and atheism that he can’t fathom his True Logic failing him when he decides to opine on every other topic under the sun.

    It’s essentially similar to an observation about Nobel Prize Winners. That they might be damn good in their area of expertise, but when they start taking that established cred and start expanding into other areas beyond that expertise, they are often cranks. Arrogant and ignorant. The smartest people out there can still fall into the trap of believing they are right about everything just because they have a proven track record of being right in a very specific area of knowledge. Depressing but true.

  113. The Mellow Monkey says

    Hyman Rosen @ 115

    If you can’t hear and everyone around you is communicating by sound it’s remarkably silly to pretend that you are not lacking something.

    Wow.

    Wow.

    I’m honestly a little disappointed PZ banned this fuckhead before I got to respond to this.

  114. Anri says

    Presumably, in a society in which women are disadvantaged compared to men, aborting a female fetus is the sensible moral choice.

    Am I doin’ it right, Dawkins?

  115. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Wow.

    I think I’m glad I missed this.

    Extremely glad.

    Just the first couple of comments from the banned fuckweasel were sending me over the edge. I won’t read the thread for my blood pressure.

    I *understand* where Dawkins is coming from. I don’t agree with it, but I understand the idea at the base of it I used to get in a lot of trouble with commenters at RH Reality Check for admitting that I didn’t think eliminating Down syndrome was a bad thing. Not that anyone should have to, or be encouraged to, abort. But if DS didn’t exist I think that would be a good thing. I get frustrated by people romanticizing it (including some of the people who specifically want to adopt children with DS. Being willing to adopt a special needs baby is a good thing; fetishizing it somehow and only wanting one with this particular disability is another). Of course I want acceptance and opportunities for my daughter, and will fight like hell for them. It doesn’t mean I think being born with a disorder that will result in developmental disability and the potential for a host of health problems is a GOOD THING. If I said, “it would be awesome if pancreatic cancer disappeared,” I’m not saying I don’t like people with pancreatic cancer or don’t want them to exist. I want the cancer to not exist. Why is it different for a chromosomal anomaly? Because people associate the person exclusively by that part of them, it defines them. And that’s terribly wrong.

    People with Down syndrome aren’t all like Corky from “Life Goes On” or that cute couple getting married on the documentary on Netflix. Most have more significant impairment. Up to 60% of infants with trisomy 21 have heart defects, many requiring open heart surgery. Up to 80% have hearing loss. They have an increased risk of gastric issues, bone and blood cancers, and respiratory problems. The average lifespan is shorter, and many people may start exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia in their 40’s. If I could keep my child from having to face these challenges I would. If I could keep me and my family from having to face them with her, I would. I’m a selfish bitch that way.

    Had I known I was carrying a fetus with trisomy 21, I very likely would have chosen to abort. It’s estimated 80% of conceptions with the disorder are miscarried. No other trisomy is generally considered to be survivable, with the exception of sex chromosomes. This does not mean I love my child any less, knowing that essentially there was an ‘accident’ in her conception It’s being realistic, and knowing my family and my depressive issues.

    Nobody, ever, should take a moral stance on if a woman should continue a pregnancy in this circumstance. Whether it is to shame her into continuing, or encouraging her to abort. Ever.

  116. Jackie says

    Is it immoral to even have genetic testing done?

    What part of not your business what pregnancy a woman chooses to continue or not are you having trouble with?

  117. Amphiox says

    Eugenics is good.
    As long as *I* am on the Decision Committee.

    But what if you get outvoted?

    You have to BE the Decision Committee!

  118. Brony says

    Richard, if you double down too much and too fast you will break your forehead one of these days.

  119. says

    @anteprepro 132

    It is almost like eugenics is arbitrary and is frowned upon so much because arbitrarily assigning people the death penalty

    This part of your post (and, to a more ambiguous degree, some stuff you previously posted) equates abortion to the death penalty. That’s silly. Unless you have stopped talking about abortion for some reason?

  120. Brony says

    OK, the simple version.

    If you are forcing someone else to do it or telling someone else to do it’s monstrous at worst and rude at best.

    If you are choosing to do it, it’s no one business but yours in terms of personal autonomy (hypothetically, just look at birth control), but freeze peach lets them be rude and we get to be rude back.

    If you are a person that does not want the “burden” of social responsibility of someone you have one moral and ethical option and that is to fight for more science and medicine research. It would be nice if we could swap out genes, control regions, target extra copies of chromosomes for careful destruction, remodel white-matter pathways and ganglia, and more than we can possibly imagine with full consent and moral and ethical considerations.

    The other way is to be rude, lazy, and frankly selfish.

  121. 2kittehs says

    Icthyic, #3:

    HOLY FUCK. Aside from this says about Richard, the statement will be used to promulgate the endless claims of creationists that evolutionary biologists are all “eugenecists”.

    thanks for throwing a fuckton of gasoline on that fire there, Richard.

    Is it quite, quite certain that Dawkins isn’t a fifth columnist for the creationists? A sleeper agent? /s

    I wonder, has Dawkins ever met anyone with Down’s syndrome? Has he the slightest clue what he’s talking about?

    Typical of him to put himself squarely in the “I know what’s best for women to do” camp with the “immoral” line.

    carlie, #69

    People on that [autism] spectrum have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. DS not enhanced.

    Holy fuck. So someone’s worth is determined only by how much they have to contribute to society? Really?

    Makes me wonder how much one has to contribute, too. If someone’s just lived a quiet life and muddled along and not been a Great Sciency Dude or whatever, are they contributing sufficiently?

    Jackie, #74

    Dawkins thinks very highly of himself, doesn’t he?

    Yet there are many, many people who don’t think he has much to contribute to society.

    I’ve become one of them.

    Ditto. I’ve always disliked him, but he’s proving there’s no bottom of the barrel these days.

    Ah, I was going to respond to Hymen Rosen’s twaddle at 119 but I see PZ has booted him. Good riddance.

    gakxz1, #133 – I’d say it’s simply that Dawkins is a horrible human being. At the very least he’s had an empathy bypass for all those inferior people who aren’t him.

  122. says

    I think the main point here is that Richard Dawkins is a horrible person, and anyone who calls him “friend” should be ashamed. We don’t need to debate anything else, other than the fact that Dawkins once again came stomping into an emotional minefield with his signature “I’m an ignorant rich white dude, and the ‘rich white’ part trumps the ‘ignorant’ part… so you all have to take my utterly foolish and ill-informed inhumane bullshit seriously once again. And buy my books, and donate to my nonsense ‘non-profit’ cash grabs!”

    Richard Dawkins is a bad person. That’s it. He’s ugly on the inside, his personality is corrupt and rotted from stem to stern. Everything else anyone has to say is window dressing as far as I can see. He’s a mean-spirited cruel person, and that’s all that really matters.

  123. says

    gakxz1

    I don’t really understand why Dawkins is, apparently, incapable of apologizing for tweets of his which are, obviously, rather terrible. Does he see any walking back as a sign of weakness, or that the internet is a harmless medium and, ohh well, whatever I say on it isn’t very important? Is it so hard to say, “Well, upon further evaluation, what I said was shity, I see that now, I’m sorry”, rather than playing some strange game where everything uttered under his account can retrospectively be justified in full?

    I think he doesn’t apologize because, in his arrogance, he doesn’t see what he says as wrong. It’s part of empathy deficiency. He doesn’t appear to try to imagine the world through the lens of other people. He needs to walk, nay RUN, a few marathons in the shoes of a LOT of other people. Maybe then it’ll trigger his empathy. It’s in there, somewhere, buried deep.

  124. Lyn M: G.R.O.S.T. (ADM) -- Membership pending says

    Please permit me some questions and the mention of some concerns about the logic in the tweet, since that seems to be of great moment to some.

    1. How do we know what sort of life a DS child would have, just knowing the fetus is DS?
    2. How do we then move to the next stage, and decide that going to term with the fetus must be immoral?
    3. Let us take a look at what we need to make a decision. If we knew the future, it would be easier to list factors (Good point, Carlie) that might assist in making a decision as to the morality or not, of a given situation. This is impossible.
    4. If, not knowing the future, we nevertheless had a perfect list of factors to consider, or even a well-understood widely accepted list, we could analyze each situation. We do not have such a list.
    5. Next, were we able to analyze the situation according to some accepted list of relevant factual considerations, we must decide if it is possible to draw a line between moral and immoral.
    6. Let us say it is possible to decide, then where should the line be drawn dividing a moral from an immoral action? Further to that, who draws the line? What is to be done if the actual person involved does not agree with where that line fell?
    7. And since in real life, perfect agreement frequently is not obtained, what happens if there is not even general agreement with where the line was drawn?
    8. Finally, how would the rule be applied, in fact, to a real person? By whom?

    It appears to me that the tweet in question was not well thought out. Further, it seems to me given the aforementioned concerns, that there is nothing to be said against the person’s own decision affecting the person’s own body.
    And this analysis obtains, I would argue, even if the person is female.

  125. says

    carlie @69:

    Holy fuck. So someone’s worth is determined only by how much they have to contribute to society? Really?

    As the plot for a sci-fi movie that explores what a really horrible idea this is to hold in real life, this could be interesting. But to apply it real life, fuck, but it’s a horrible idea.

  126. Ichthyic says

    It appears to me that the tweet in question was not well thought out.

    that would be a good conclusion to make, yes.

  127. PaulBC says

    I agree with PZ and think Dawkins is very wrong here.

    This “moral” issue seems to be less about helping people with Downs syndrome, whom my limited experience suggests are conscious of their own existence and wish to continue it, and more about helping those who consider the very existence of cognitively impaired individuals as some kind of affront.

    I can see how parents might choose to terminate a Downs syndrome pregnancy, but I don’t see why it is bad for there to be people with Downs syndrome. I don’t think Dawkins is even going for a utilitarian argument based on limited resources. It just seems that he feels that this is unleashing some kind of unbearable suffering on the child. I suspect most of the suffering is going on in the mind of the “normal” observer.

  128. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Desert Son, #137:

    And anything by Kevles on the topic. he has a number of articles, but his masterwork on the topic is, “In the Name of Eugenics.”

    A must read. it’s only 500 pages or so [click, whirrrrrrr...] okay, 426. Should be easy to put out in 140 character chunks for poor Mr Dawkins.

  129. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    My depression and ADHD and general anxiety disorder caused me great suffering. It is therefore unreasonably immoral for my mother to have had me, or for anyone to allow a fetus with conditions such as mine to come to term. REALLY? Because that’s the conclusion we can reach from that line of reasoning Dawkins exhibited. And it’s so simplistic a line of reasoning that I feel Dawkins is immoral for not having aborted it mid-sentence.

  130. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    Setting a concrete line in the sand about the qualities a person must/must not have based on a perception of the suffering of those people is just an extremely self-centered rationalization based on how that individual feels they would not want to be different from what they are. They presume they would know they would be missing out on their current experiences. But such presumptions are bullshit. An inability to experience extraneously what is not our current condition prevents any meaningful declaration about the “suffering” of an individual born into whatever condition they were born in. Even by those who may share in that condition, but to a different degree, since even then the experiences of others are extraneous to the self. So the expectation of suffering is merely presumed – and for all cases – just to make a blanket declaration about how horrible it must be to be a certain type of human being, and anyone that allows that must be immoral by extension. I’m sorry, what the fuck?

    Why should we not take into account the suffering of the mother were she to abort against her own guiding principles? Why is her decision not relevant to this matter? Because if we’re going to say it’s immoral to do something, then what is the next logical step to combat perceived immoral behavior other than to regulate it? And would you look at that – more conservative opportunities to restrict the autonomy of women! That may not be intended, but the possibility to justify such restrictions is there, and that is clearly an immoral outcome.

  131. Amphiox says

    Frankly, having DS children take a test to determine if they are mentally capable of informed consent for medical interventions, and upon passing that test, handing them a cyanide pill, which they can either throw away or ingest of their own free and informed will, is arguably a morally superior position than what Dawkins has puked here.

  132. loopyj says

    Richard Dawkins is allowed to have as many abortions and for whatever reasons he wants. His body, his choice, right?

  133. Ichthyic says

    I don’t think Dawkins is even going for a utilitarian argument based on limited resources. It just seems that he feels that this is unleashing some kind of unbearable suffering on the child.

    I think that still qualifies as a utilitarian argument, as it’s all about minimizing perceived negative impact to society, including the potential suffering a DS child would undergo.

    it’s actually an entirely pure utilitarian argument, including the statement of morality.

    but, being a utilitarian myself, it’s also easy to see the problem with it: there is no independent judge of what defines “suffering”.

    if you look at Dawkins rape arguments, they ALSO are purely utilitarian. And, again, he himself judges the levels of suffering.

    in fact, if you look at EVERY argument he’s been criticized for, you will find pure utilitarianism behind them as a philosophy (including what constitutes child abuse).

    the problem is not the philosophy of utilitarianism, the problem is, that Richard thinks he has the ability to objectively measure suffering for everyone, not just himself.

  134. Ichthyic says

    ideally, utilitarian philosophy are not based on one man’s opinions; they must be based on the best information available from all sources available.

    this is why it’s damn near impossible to get it right.

  135. azhael says

    I’m all in favor of genetic testing. I think it is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
    I’m definitely in favour of people using it to detect genetic defects that will result in severe health problems to their offspring so that they can make an informed decission as to wether to go through with the pregnancy or as it has been put here “end it and try again”. I think that’s good for the parents, the resulting offspring, society, the species…i think it’s a good thing, period.
    However, as others have pointed out, any characteristic can potentially be undesirable for a society, so it could happen that people would screen for non-medically significant phenomena like being myopic, or a culturally disadvantaged phenotype like female or black. To me that would be really fucking stupid and in the most extremely stupid cases like gender or skin colour, potentially against the best interests of the species, even (for an extra dose of stupidity).
    So clearly it can be used for good or for evil, and the difference, to me, lies in wether the characteristics that you are screening against are medically significant (which is a problem because that can be vague territory). This is why it confuses me so much when people do things like comparing myopy with DS and saying that if aborting fetuses with DS were the moral thing to do (i’m not saying it is), then so would it be to abort fetuses that would develop into myopic individuals. Why not right? I know it’s a slippery slope, and i know there are no clear divisory lines, that is precisely the reason why i say i’m confussed. One extreme, the myopy/female/brown eyes side, is obviously absurd to me, no problem there. In fact those would be criteria that could be very validly argued against. The other extreme, the medically significant phenomena that cause severe impairment or are life-threatening, also seem to me to be very clear. They are justifiably non-desirable traits, and i find myself at a loss trying to legitimately argue against that. And this is were my confussion reaches epic levels. To me, anyone who is fully aware of their fetus carrying one such disorder has a very clear choice to make, so clearly cut, in fact that i find myself unable not to pass judgement on that person if she chose not to abort it. I’m fully on board that the abortion is her choice and that forcing her to abort would be as bad as preventing her from doing so…..and yet, if she knowingly, consciously chose to have a child with a very severe disorder that will impact their quality of life in dramatic ways, i would be repulsed…i can’t help it…it would disgust me to know that someone chose to inflict that purely biological destiny on a child when it could have been prevented before there was any child at all. I can’t scape that thought… it could have been prevented and it wasn’t…doesn’t that carry a moral responsibility? Otherwise it is a negation of the negative effects of a given syndrome or disorder. Why consider them medical issues at all then…?
    It gets worse….i feel that way instinctively when it is a very severe disorder and the exact opposite when it is a trivial, non-medically significant trait..but what about all of the various disorders and syndromes that are in between? DS varies wildly in its effects. As far as i understand, they can’t be predicted, they can only be observed as they manifest. So one individual with DS could be very midly impacted by the disorder, whereas another could have its lifespan very severily reduced, severe degenerative health issues, be barely responsive to external stimuli, etc (my neighbour is unfortunately such an individual, she is about 27 i think and not expected to live much longer).

    Anyway, that’s how i feel about the subject and how i feel is conflicted and confused.
    As for what RD said, he is old enough and a professional writer. If he wanted to say “i would personally consider aborting the fetus and starting again because it is a genetic disorder that bla bla bla” then he should have said that instead of “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”.

  136. carlie says

    because, in his arrogance, he doesn’t see what he says as wrong. It’s part of empathy deficiency

    But it’s NOT just that. He keeps interpreting all criticism of what he says as being about emotions and empathy and all of those soft “non-logical” things, but it’s NOT. He legitimately doesn’t have all of the facts at hand, and is making conclusions with incorrect assumptions. His logic IS faulty, because he is starting off with the wrong information. In the rape comments, he was starting off with the incorrect assumption that stranger rape is always more traumatic than acquaintance rape. In this case, he’s starting off with the incorrect assumption that people with Down Syndrome have painful, terrible lives that contribute nothing to society. If he wants to be a Vulcan, fine, but then he has to make absolutely sure that what he’s saying is founded on actual truths, or it all falls apart. And he’s not. He’s starting off with actual incorrect information, and then arrogantly dismissing anyone who tries to tell him that as overly emotional.

  137. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    anteprepro,
    Thank you for listing following tweets from Dawkins (in 117):

    Apparently I’m a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted……

    (link to the whole collection of tweets)
    Recommend ≠ say doing otherwise is immoral

    So, is anyone who doesn’t follow Roman Catholic “morality” on abortion beyond the pale? Well I’m proud to be beyond that particular pale.

    What was this about? Did someone in their responses cite religion or does he just have to turn into religious talk? I realize that a lot of hang-ups people have have something to do with religious background, whether people are conscious of it or not, but it is actually possible to have opinions different from Dawkins, regarding morality, that are not connected to Roman Catholic morality.

    Down syndrome screening is NOT eugenic. Almost always caused by non-hereditary chromosomal abnormality, heavily influenced by maternal age…..

    Agreed. I think it’s a good idea to check whether one’s fetus is healthy, and make decisions accordingly. I’m not sure I’d be able to deal with baby of any kind, and I’m almost certain I wouldn’t be able to take care of a child with Down Syndrome so I know what decision I would make. For someone else “make a decision accordingly” would mean mentally preparing themselves to not having a perfectly healthy baby they were expecting, reading up about how to care for a child with Down etc. I don’t consider the other person’s decision any more or less moral than my hipothetical one.

    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.

    Oh, the Vulcan approach again.

    A woman whom I know & like said she’d be uncertain what to do if pregnant with Downs. I said what I’d do & why. Happens to be what most do.

    Woman said she wouldn’t know whether to abort. I told her what I would do & why. I OBVIOUSLY wouldn’t TELL a woman what to do. Up to her

    If I were a woman with a DS fetus I personally would abort. So do most women in fact. If you wouldn’t, good luck to you, it’s your decision,

    Except that’s not what you said in that first tweet. You made a statement about the morality of the action, you didn’t just say: I think it would best to abort or I would abort or even You should abort because I the moral arbitrer tell you so.

  138. satanaugustine says

    I don’t (completely) get (some of the) outrage over this. For some reason, a Dawkins fan decided that Richard is an advice (not columnist, because one cannot write a column on Twitter) Tweeter and thus asked for his advice. Dawkins offered his opinion (granted in an unnecessarily authoritarian manner about something he is not an authority on). But it was only his opinion. It needn’t be taken as definitive or correct (although a serious Dawkins fan may do so; such is the problem with our psychological inclination to have heroes and to see them as experts on everything; Paul McCartney is a hero of mine because of his superlative musicianship and for being the greatest songwriter of the rock/pop era, but I’m not going to ask him for moral guidance). My guess as to why Dawkins would see bringing a child with Down’s Syndrome into the world as immoral is out of concern for the quality of life for a person with Down’s Syndrome. A person with Down’s Syndrome is in the very least going to be faced with a great deal of taunting and teasing and bigotry about their disability in addition to suffering from the symptoms of their disability (which sound very miserable). Just as in the case of a woman who does not have the financial or emotional or family resources to be able to provide a happy life for a child and thus decides to abort because she realizes that she cannot handle being a parent and thus desires not to bring a child into this world who, due to a very poor (in many ways) environment, is likely to have an unfulfilled and unhappy life so also with a woman who knows or fears that she cannot be a proper parent to a child with Down’s Syndrome and/or knows they would suffer and thus decides that bring such a child into this very cruel world. Why would anyone want to bring a child who will inevitably suffer even more than most people?

    Perhaps Dawkins should have responded by saying that he is not qualified to give such advice or written an article on his website giving a more detailed, nuanced explanation of his opinion and provided a link in his tweet rather than responding in the manner he did.

    I personally believe that bringing any child into this world is immoral. It’s a horrible place what with disease, war, being at the mercy of idiots who don’t actually care about their fellow human beings, the epidemic of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders (many of which are a response to living in this terrible world), the stresses of working. in most cases, jobs people hate and getting paid poorly for it, the stresses of the pace of modern life, rampant ignorance and irrationality, not to mention things like natural disasters, accidents, famine, the inevitability of the death of everyone you love, and a whole hell of a lot more. This world means suffering for the majority of people who live in it, far too many of whom still live short, brutal lives. And lest I forget, Global Warming and all of the disasters this will cause. This is no place to bring children into. And I love children! But this world is not good enough for them. I have nieces and nephews who I enjoy, but I will not be responsible for bringing any children into this world. With my disabilities (chronic depression, recurrent severe major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and primary insomnia, fibromyalgia) I know suffering all too well. Do my disabilities inform my worldview? Of course, but depressed people often view things more realistically (see Depressive Realism) and a “normal” mood, which is described as mildly good, requires some degree of self-delusion. Anyone who looks at this world realistically should be at least somewhat depressed (though not necessarily and not usually clinically so) or in the very very least acknowledge that this world is, on balance, a depressing place.

  139. carlie says

    It needn’t be taken as definitive or correct (although a serious Dawkins fan may do so; such is the problem with our psychological inclination to have heroes and to see them as experts on everything;

    The problem is that, to most of the world, he is the face of atheism. And the rest of us don’t take kindly to being smeared with his brush.

  140. Maureen Brian says

    I am absolutely horrified at the number of people who will come onto a science blog with absolutely no knowledge of Down’s Syndrome and knock themselves out in defence of Dawkins, whose habit of beginning his “logical arguments” with a totally dodgy premise and becoming peevish when challenged, must be regarded as a feature not a bug.

    What would the dear man have to say for these holy warriors to ask themselves, “Hang on! Is that really true?” before they start laying into the people who do know what they’re talking about?

    I’m also cheering for carlie whose perfectly reasonable question has still not been answered by Bjorn-the-Textbook.

  141. says

    I’m with Dawkins on this one.
    Well, almost. He is obviously wrong about it being “immoral”. Morality is based on the mores of society, and as the debate above shows, it is not “immoral” to bring such at child into the world.
    I would have said “bad choice”, “unethical” or “should be considered immoral”.
    If we hypothetically could ensure everybody good, happy, long, disease-free lives, just by screening/aborting embryos, we would be ethically obliged to do so. This is the dual situation.
    Here (Denmark) we screen for Downs, and 99% choose to abort. So for practical purposes, most people agree.

  142. dianne says

    IMHO, the only good reason for anyone to have an abortion is that the person who is pregnant does not want to be and wants to end it that way rather than via delivery of a term or near term fetus. Her (or his) reasons are not relevant to anyone else.

    As far as DS goes, I would like to point out that DS has a spectrum of manifestations ranging from happy go lucky kids with no real medical problems to kids who are born with major, sometimes uncorrectable, organ defects (usually cardiac) and get a rather nasty form of leukemia in infancy. Phenotype matters in making these decisions. Also, social situation and parent’s strengths and weaknesses. I have no judgement on anyone who chooses to abort or who chooses to carry to term.

  143. Maureen Brian says

    mortenchristiansen @ 169,

    There is all the difference in the world between a woman (and her family if she chooses to involve them) being free to abort after tests and someone being urged, nay berated, into aborting on the basis of the ignorance of another person.

    Why do I say ignorance? Because all the tests can detect is the presence of the extra copy of the chromosome. They cannot – and no-ne with the requisite knowledge would suggest that they could – predict how “bad” or “good” the effect will be, let alone how resourceful and well supported the parents will be. This is not a question which could ever have a simple yes/no answer or where the woman’s autonomy should be over-ridden, by retired professors or by anyone else.

    For your reading list:-

    Basic FAQ on Down’s – http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-faqs/faqs/general-faqs.html

    Alex Gabriel’s blog – http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2014/08/20/richard-dawkins-abort-downs-syndrome-foetuses-because-it-would-be-immoral-to-bring-it-into-the-world/ (Alex, by the way, was very nearly lost to us because people who did not even understand the statistics kept urging his mother to abort on the off chance that he had Down’s. No tests, just the fact that she was over 40.)

  144. carlie says

    I would have said “bad choice”, “unethical” or “should be considered immoral”.
    If we hypothetically could ensure everybody good, happy, long, disease-free lives, just by screening/aborting embryos, we would be ethically obliged to do so. This is the dual situation.

    That is truly chilling. So giving birth to someone who might have any problems at any time is immoral and unethical? Have you never read dystopian fiction? Have you never seen Number 12 looks just like you? Here’s the thing – if Dawkins had said that about Tay-Sachs, or anencephaly? Then there’s a case to be made. You’re talking about an extraordinarily short, painful life, guaranteed. But he chose to make that stand for a syndrome that, as dianne said, is highly variable, and, as Berube said, for which some symptoms can be greatly attenuated by proper treatment and accommodation.

  145. dianne says

    If we hypothetically could ensure everybody good, happy, long, disease-free lives, just by screening/aborting embryos, we would be ethically obliged to do so.

    1. We can’t and won’t ever be able to. Environment matters. 2. If we did, we’d probably be setting ourselves up for some kind of evolutionary bottleneck that would kill us all in a few years. For example, suppose we eliminate hemoglobinopathies through screening and selective abortion or even pre-conception screening. Then we all die when the malaria mosquitoes expand again. There is no “perfect” set of genes, only genes that work well in a given environment…and can mean disaster when the environment changes. 3. Don’t be such a lazy butt. We can give people long, happy lives with the occasional disease with medicine.

  146. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    @170

    I do have to disagree with the statement “phenotype makes a difference”. Technically it does, but not in ways that we can currently detect. There is no way of knowing from they type of DS how profound any of the effects will be. The only exception might be mosaicism, but even then the effects can be anywhere from nonexistent to pretty significant. At this juncture one can’t look at the phenotype and know how much the trisomy will affect them. My daughter has a translocation form of Down syndrome (Robertsonian 21) with only a piece of the #21 stuck to one of the #21 pair. She only has a portion of the repeated genetic material but clearly has Down syndrome. It is interesting in that her phenotype is -technically- 46, XX because the portion of repeated material is stuck to one of the chromosomes.

  147. carlie says

    1. We can’t and won’t ever be able to. Environment matters. 2. If we did, we’d probably be setting ourselves up for some kind of evolutionary bottleneck that would kill us all in a few years. For example, suppose we eliminate hemoglobinopathies through screening and selective abortion or even pre-conception screening. Then we all die when the malaria mosquitoes expand again. There is no “perfect” set of genes, only genes that work well in a given environment…and can mean disaster when the environment changes. 3. Don’t be such a lazy butt. We can give people long, happy lives with the occasional disease with medicine.

    I just wanted to amplify that because it is so correct and so well stated. Thanks, dianne.

  148. ButchKitties says

    Dawkins was not content to put his foot in his mouth. He needed to felt the need to cram in his leg all the way up to his knee. I can’t decide if I do or don’t want to know what his rationale for a cut-off date is.

    Women have a right to early abortion. Choice is theirs. Down Syndrome is 1 of the commonest & most moral reasons to exercise that right.

  149. hexidecima says

    on the subject of parents with “not having regrets” on having children with Down’s Syndrome or other problems, have you*ever* heard one claiming that they do have regrets? I have not and I think that is because people, like so many here, would be utterly horrified if they said such things, even if that was the way the parents honestly felt. It is socially unacceptable for parents to say “I would not have had this child if I had known. It was a mistake.”

    To claim that since one person says that they have no regrets, no one does is ridiculous, especially since there is no way for them to be honest about what they may feel and not be decried as horrible people.

  150. enigma says

    It is up to us to make some determination as to quality of life in our society of the individual we are bringing into the world with this handicap. This is not like nearsightedness. Whether their parents love them, are willing to care for them, get great enjoyment out of them and make arrangements if anything happens to them should be irrelevant. DS people can enjoy life but they are severely handicapped. They may inspire us and make us feel good about ourselves but is that a good enough reason to make them live this life?

  151. ragdish says

    “It would be immoral to decline vitamin K during pregnancy to prevent fetal hemorrhage”

    Vitamin K would thus prevent fetal brain hemorrhage which would lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or an infant who will have lifelong cerebral palsy. The vast majority of pregnant women would elect to receive the vitamin K shot. Now this is not implying the following:

    “Individuals with cerebral palsy have no right to live” and the ones who did advocate this thankfully were vanquished after D-Day.

    Is the first statement truly different from saying “it would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice”. Whether it is declining the vitamin K shot or not aborting a fetus with Trisomy 21, why is this not moral equivalence? Neither statement in any way implies that a fully conscious human being has no right to live. Here are the list of complications of Down Syndrome:

    Developmental delay
    Atlanto-axial dislocation with spinal cord compression and respiratory arrest
    Moya-Moya Syndrome with hemorrhagic stroke
    Congenital heart disease
    Early onset Alzheimer’s Disease
    Myeloproliferative disorders
    Immunosuppression
    Seizures
    etc….

    Indeed, given the context of making a choice to bring someone into the world with the risk of such misery and suffering, is it not valid to have the opinion “it would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice” without being called covertly called a Nazi or eugenics supporter?

  152. ButchKitties says

    People who live with DS, or any type of mental disability, already struggle with a great deal of prejudice. If you declare that giving birth to a child with DS is immoral, you are justifying that prejudice. You can split hairs about the distinction in your position between aborting a DS-positive fetus and killing a child with DS all you want. You are still saying that a life with DS is not worth living. You are saying that those mothers made an immoral choice. That justifies prejudice against families that already have enough on their plates.

    Dawkins cannot pretend that he is doing these thought experiments in a vacuum. He is making these statements in the real world, where there are real people who can and will be hurt by them. He is dead wrong when he says that there is no place for emotions on this subject. It’s ludicrous and highly illogical to ignore the existence of emotions and to neglect the emotional health of others. We are social, emotional animals.

  153. carlie says

    DS people can enjoy life but they are severely handicapped. They may inspire us and make us feel good about ourselves but is that a good enough reason to make them live this life?

    Have you ever given a single thought to finding out if they think that their lives are full of suffering?

  154. ali says

    Everything is fine. He nopologized. You just don’t understand him. He did mean what he say but differently. He was just very logical. Why did you call him a Nazi for making a point of pure reason?

    Why, oh why do we not get it? Over and over again….

  155. dianne says

    @179:

    It is socially unacceptable for parents to say “I would not have had this child if I had known. It was a mistake.”

    It is socially unacceptable and often psychologically unacceptable to parents. But that doesn’t make it untrue. My parents had a kid with depressive tendencies and possible Asperger’s and I really think their lives would have been easier if they’d simply skipped on to the next egg/sperm combination. Yeah, of course, I mean me. I’m not suicidal, I’m happy to be alive and all that, but if I’d never been and they’d had a kid with a better brain it probably would have been a better thing all around and I certainly wouldn’t ever have suffered for it. Whatever that adds to this debate.

  156. carlie says

    Unspeakable Conversations

    He insists he doesn’t want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child. It has nothing to do with me. I should not feel threatened.[...]
    I used to try to explain that in fact I enjoy my life, that it’s a great sensual pleasure to zoom by power chair on these delicious muggy streets, that I have no more reason to kill myself than most people. But it gets tedious. God didn’t put me on this street to provide disability awareness training to the likes of them. In fact, no god put anyone anywhere for any reason, if you want to know. But they don’t want to know. They think they know everything there is to know, just by looking at me. That’s how stereotypes work. They don’t know that they’re confused, that they’re really expressing the discombobulation that comes in my wake.

  157. carlie says

    ali at 183 – and notice, none of the points he said people raised was the one about how Down Syndrome isn’t necessarily a lifetime sentence of suffering. He ignored that one altogether.

    Full disclosure from me – if I had been one of my parents’ friends when my mom got pregnant, and if it had been just a few years later than it was, I would have fully encouraged her to abort the fetus that became me. Not because of any physical affliction, but simply because it was not an optimal time for them. They didn’t have that choice, because it wasn’t legal. I am not arguing against abortion. I’m arguing against sloppy eugenics.

  158. Jackie says

    Would the men telling women what is and isn’t moral to do with their bodies and using ableism as an excuse to do so please fuck off forever?

    That’d be great.

    As to the accusation that I’m confusing aborting a fetus with killing a loved one: Fuck you too.

    Let me make this very clear, if I were to get pregnant todasy I would abort. If there were some magical way to find out the fetus’s future and it turned out that it would grow up to cure cancer, settle mars and end all wars on Earth, tough shit. I do not want to be pregnant again and I don’t want anymore kids. Is that clear enough for you? I am not morally obligated to breed an ubermensch for the fatherland and I’m not morally obligated to abort if you don’t have a use for my offspring. Stop trying to police women’s bodies. Just stop.

  159. Jackie says

    Carlie,
    I can also answer the question “Aren’t you glad you weren’t aborted?” with a firm “No”.

    My mother was forced to carry me to term. She was not old enough to choose for herself at the time. Other people made the choice for her, which is just plain evil IMO. I do not believe in forced birth for anyone, especially not my own mom. That does not mean I think someone making the choice to continue the pregnancy in their teens is immoral. Those who cannot see the difference seem to be having trouble with a combination of misogyny and ableism.

  160. Jackie says

    hexidecima,
    No one said that. No one said that women can make different choices and feel differently about their choices. Stop making shit up.

    enigma,
    Life = suffering. All people suffer. In fact, there are people who have decided to remain childfree just because they do not want to bring another person into such a screwed up world. That’s their choice. That does not mean that it is immoral to have children.

    Since preventing suffering is the excuse for why women’s choices need to be morality policed, why not use it to decide who is allowed to breed?

    Are there men who are immoral for passing on their genes? Should they be considered immoral people for not getting vasectomies? Where are the people moaning about how horrible it is for men to risk impregnating women with their inferior genes?

  161. Jackie says

    Ragdish,
    We do not need you to educate us on DS. Many of us are very familiar with it.

    Refusing life saving medical interventions for a fetus you plan to carry to term is not like refusing an abortion.

    Wow, there are some scummy atheists, aren’t there? No wonder so many people think we’re immoral, hard hearted, monsters.

  162. mildlymagnificent says

    on the subject of parents with “not having regrets” on having children with Down’s Syndrome or other problems, have you*ever* heard one claiming that they do have regrets?

    Most of them weep. And they admit to that.

    Now might be an appropriate time to link to a lovely piece of writing about finding out and then raising a child with a disability. I think some people here have seen this before, but it’s always worth reading.

    Welcome to Holland. http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html

  163. ragdish says

    Jackie,

    You would have no moral issues with a woman who refuses an abortion and chooses to bring a fetus with anencephaly to term? ie. her body, her choice. Not judging you here and respect your values. I’m just curious if there are atheists who have this ethical viewpoint.

  164. carlie says

    I have a very hair-trigger response to people who opine about how difficult it is to raise a child with a disability, and what they must be going through, and whether and how that burden should be lifted from them, if they have never been intimately at the center of that situation. You have no fucking idea. None. And even people who are parents of children with disabilities don’t really know what it’s like for other parents with other children, with other disabilities, with other severity levels of the same disability, with other levels of support networks. And none of the parents know what it’s like to be their children. What we as societies ought to be doing is listening to the people who have those disabilities, to let them say what they need to live well and provide it because that’s what civilized societies do.

  165. irishup says

    Why is it that the topic of the female is the one topic where even the more seemingly progressive and reasonable people lag far more behind than they should?

    – I’ll take “PATRIARCHY” for 500, Alex!

    @181 – I would take it even a little farther. Dawkins (and those who share his POV) elide the fact that we exist in an abelist society altogether. Either from TAB privilege (or internalized abelism) the presumption is of course, that the able-bodied POV is the objective one. They want to pretend that theirs is the “objective” *cough* valuation of disability on which all sufficiently rational people agree. The clear implication being that if you do NOT agree, you are being irrational (= emotional, natch).

    Dawkins isn’t even being particularly original – this is one of those Zombie Thought Experiments that never stays down even when you think you’ve killed it. s.e. smith wrote a great piece on this topic two years ago at Tiger Beatdown.

    In a world where people, yes, celebrate and honour disability, our lives would be valuable and we would be considered on equal footing as nondisabled people. And in that world, people wouldn’t talk about disability in terms like ‘suffering’ and say that parents have a moral obligation to abort to ‘avoid inflicting suffering.’ They’d say that all parents have the right to make decisions about what happens inside their own bodies, on the basis of as much information as possible, and those decisions are private and not subject to public discussion and judgment.

  166. says

    This is neither here nor there as far as Dawkins being an idiot/repulsive goes, but I don’t know why people bother listing to Singer at all. The man is such a staggering hypocrite that, honestly, it’s best to ignore him even when he says something that is not horrible.

    Freaken’ utilitarians. I can’t believe that “ethical” viewpoint isn’t dead yet.

  167. Beth says

    @Chigua #129 and The Mellow Monkey at #136:
    Why is this such an awful point for someone to acknowledge?

    Hyman Rosen @ 115
    If you can’t hear and everyone around you is communicating by sound it’s remarkably silly to pretend that you are not lacking something.

  168. Jackie says

    Ragdash,
    Why would I?
    Anti cephalic babies, if they make it to term cannot feel pain and thus not suffer. I thought you were protecting people from suffering instead of just arbitrarily making value judgments about women’s choices?
    Also, what the ever loving fuck does DS have to do with being born with no brain and no chance of life, much less quality of life?

    Fuck you for comparing people with DS to babies born dead.

    This is not a thought experiment. These are people’s lived experiences and bodily autonomy we’re talking about, even if those people are merely women.

  169. dianne says

    You would have no moral issues with a woman who refuses an abortion and chooses to bring a fetus with anencephaly to term?

    Not Jackie, but, no, not really. She may have reasons for what she is doing that I know nothing about. Maybe the baby’s bone marrow can save her older child from faconi’s anemia. Maybe she wants to donate the organs. Maybe she’d rather at least see the baby rather than have it just disappear in an abortion (now that D &X has been banned, there aren’t a lot of mid-term abortion methods that give you a presentable body to mourn with). Maybe she enjoys getting seats on the subway because she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to give that up sooner than necessary. Not my body or decision.

  170. ragdish says

    Jackie,

    No need to apologize. This is a very passionate issue and I sympathize with your responses. Also, I have no problems getting my ass kicked on Freethought blogs. I love you guys. As I’ve said before, I do mind getting my ass kicked when my paper gets rejected by nasty reviewers from a peer reviewed journal.

  171. David Marjanović says

    Improbable Joe, I like your new name!!!

    What’s immoral is being as educated as Dawkins and yet being such a shitty human being that you use your voice to insult rape victims, women who don’t want to be harassed and the parents of special needs children.

    Seconded.

    Dawkins thinks very highly of himself, doesn’t he?

    Oh yes. Oh yes!

    Goes all the way to Dunning/Kruger.

    the fact that DS confers a reduced susceptibility to most solid cancers

    …That’s fascinating. How does that work?

    He is speaking authoritatively on a topic he doesn’t understand. That’s the real problem. Again.

    Yep.

    That’s uncalled for. I don’t think I’ve been disrespectful or insensitive in my comments.

    Oh, you have been. You’ve taken a real quote about a real situation and tried to use it as a mere starting point for rarefied contemplation of first principles that have nothing to do with the real situation, aren’t even applicable without making a ton of additional assumptions.

    Dawkins, you see, has done pretty much the same: for him, abortion is purely hypothetical, so he contemplated some first principles, made a ton of additional assumptions without noticing, and proceeded to give authoritative, universalist advice about a particular real case.

    Do you understand now why people are puking on your carefully imagined metaethical framework?

    Watch Dawkins’ narrative change before our very eyes:

    [...]

    Woman said she wouldn’t know whether to abort. I told her what I would do & why. I OBVIOUSLY wouldn’t TELL a woman what to do. Up to her.

    Most charitable interpretation: he thinks intent is magic – what he wrote doesn’t matter, only what he meant to say with it does, even if it’s close to the opposite as it is in this case.

    Less charitable interpretation: he’s lying like a politician who says “by broadcasting the whole uncut interview, the evil media misquoted me out of context”.

    I think Dawkins’ own influence has gone to his head. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Like this?

    But it’s NOT just that. He keeps interpreting all criticism of what he says as being about emotions and empathy and all of those soft “non-logical” things, but it’s NOT. He legitimately doesn’t have all of the facts at hand, and is making conclusions with incorrect assumptions. His logic IS faulty, because he is starting off with the wrong information. In the rape comments, he was starting off with the incorrect assumption that stranger rape is always more traumatic than acquaintance rape. In this case, he’s starting off with the incorrect assumption that people with Down Syndrome have painful, terrible lives that contribute nothing to society. If he wants to be a Vulcan, fine, but then he has to make absolutely sure that what he’s saying is founded on actual truths, or it all falls apart. And he’s not. He’s starting off with actual incorrect information, and then arrogantly dismissing anyone who tries to tell him that as overly emotional.

    Exactly.

    You would have no moral issues with a woman who refuses an abortion and chooses to bring a fetus with anencephaly to term? ie. her body, her choice. Not judging you here and respect your values. I’m just curious if there are atheists who have this ethical viewpoint.

    Given that anencephaly* means the absence of a brain (or, at least, most of it – the exact amount of brainstem varies), I really don’t think having anencephaly involves any suffering.

    * enkephalon: brain, literally in-head.

  172. The Mellow Monkey says

    David M @ 202

    …That’s fascinating. How does that work?

    Down’s syndrome suppression of tumour growth and the role of of the calcineurin inhibitor DSCR1

    The incidence of many cancer types is significantly reduced in individuals with Down’s syndrome and it is thought that this broad cancer protection is conferred by the increased expression of one or more of the 231 supernumerary genes on the extra copy of chromosome 21. One such gene is Down’s syndrome candidate region-1 (DSCR1, also known as RCAN1), which encodes a protein that suppresses vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-mediated angiogenic signalling by the calcineurin pathway. Here we show that DSCR1 is increased in Down’s syndrome tissues and in a mouse model of Down’s syndrome. Furthermore, we show that the modest increase in expression afforded by a single extra transgenic copy of Dscr1 is sufficient to confer significant suppression of tumour growth in mice, and that such resistance is a consequence of a deficit in tumour angiogenesis arising from suppression of the calcineurin pathway. We also provide evidence that attenuation of calcineurin activity by DSCR1, together with another chromosome 21 gene Dyrk1a, may be sufficient to markedly diminish angiogenesis. These data provide a mechanism for the reduced cancer incidence in Down’s syndrome and identify the calcineurin signalling pathway, and its regulators DSCR1 and DYRK1A, as potential therapeutic targets in cancers arising in all individuals.

    If you search on chromosome 21 and cancer, there’s some interesting information on the topic.

  173. sambarge says

    All this talk about what is or isn’t moral. Hmm…. If only there was a simple, unambiguous answer to this tough dilemma.

    Let’s see, how about this:

    Let’s trust women to make the right choices for themselves and their children. Let’s give women the information they need and control over their bodies and trust them to make the decision that is right for them without a bunch of people, who are wholly unconnected to her, pontificating about what the “right” thing would be?

    What if we treat women like thinking human beings, capable of making the choice that is right for them?

    And everyone else can just fuck off.

    How’s that? I like that.

  174. Jackie says

    So, here is what I have learned from the comment sections of the Raw Story articles about this topic: Atheism does not just have a misogyny problem, a racism problem and an anti-LGBTQ problem. We have a eugenicist problem. Isn’t that swell? Some atheists do everything they can to prove that just because you can be good without gods doesn’t mean you have to be.

  175. sambarge says

    Some atheists do everything they can to prove that just because you can be good without gods doesn’t mean you have to be.

    How true is this? Very fucking true, that’s how true.

  176. Desert Son, OM says

    sambarge at #205:

    Let’s trust women to make the right choices for themselves and their children. Let’s give women the information they need and control over their bodies and trust them to make the decision that is right for them without a bunch of people, who are wholly unconnected to her, pontificating about what the “right” thing would be?

    What if we treat women like thinking human beings, capable of making the choice that is right for them?

    And everyone else can just fuck off.

    *stands with*

    Still learning,

    Robert

  177. rq says

    spamander @139
    *[support]* That was a good comment.

    +++

    I wouldn’t mind so much if Dawkins would be expressing his opinion. Why, though, does he keep harping on things being moral or immoral? There it was, in one of his follow-up tweets – “Women have a right to early abortion. Choice is theirs. Down Syndrome is 1 of the commonest & most moral reasons to exercise that right.” (thanks to ButchKitties above for that). Okay, it’s a common reason – but why add that ‘moral’ in there? It’s unnecessary and full of judgment towards people who would choose otherwise.
    Using that kind of language to express an opinion just pisses me off.

  178. Eristae says

    I am so teeth grindingly tired of capitalistic devaluation of human lives that are not “productive,” i.e. of human lives that do not manufacture more products of of monetarily value than they consume. The underlying classism is staggering. A person’s value is not determined by how much money they have in the bank, how big their house is, how many possessions they have, or by how much shit they produce. A person with Down’s Syndrome isn’t worthless because they (may) not be able to convince others to give them lots of little green pieces of cloth with pictures of dead presidents on said pieces of cloth.

    Bah. I’m tired and cranky.

  179. Desert Son, OM says

    Eristae at #211:

    Bah. I’m tired and cranky.

    And righteously correct.

    *stands with*

    Still learning,

    Robert

  180. dianne says

    Re people being productive or not…Given the amount of obvious human talent that we waste by not providing people with adequate nutrition, education, opportunity, and freedom from discrimination and harassment, wouldn’t it be better to work on optimally using the talents and abilities that we do have rather than worrying about making sure that every person born is the most useful possible? People with DS and other genetic “defects” contribute to society. Michael Brown…can’t any more.

  181. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    because, in his arrogance, he doesn’t see what he says as wrong. It’s part of empathy deficiency

    But it’s NOT just that. He keeps interpreting all criticism of what he says as being about emotions and empathy and all of those soft “non-logical” things, but it’s NOT.

    I suspect part of it is that Dawkins, in dealing with creationists and religious apologists, developed a heuristic of “if you’re pissing people off, it’s a sign you’re right.” And unfortunately is too fucking arrogant to contextualize or even examine it.

  182. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Freaken’ utilitarians. I can’t believe that “ethical” viewpoint isn’t dead yet.

    As opposed to what, exactly?

  183. ohkay says

    I grew up with two developmentally disabled brothers who lived at home, so I feel fairly qualified to comment on this topic. My brothers were more disabled than many Downs syndrome children are, and they basically could not manage for themselves at all. I’m not opposed to abortion in such situations.

  184. says

    @ 217 ohkay

    I’m not opposed to abortion in such situations.

    I don’t think anyone here is opposed to abortion in any situation. We aren’t anti-choice around here.

  185. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I’m not opposed to abortion in such situations.

    There are 216 comments ahead of you and you still don’t understand what the issue actually is?

    You know, if there were a genetic test for that level of obtuseness…

  186. PaulBC says

    dianne #213

    Re people being productive or not…

    Right. This is about the worst starting point for ethics, and I don’t think even Dawkins would go there.

    Some people may make things “better”, but the great mass of people do not do so in any obvious way, and the most “productive” if measured by contribution to GDP have the biggest environmental footprint.

    Person A: A Downs syndrome adult with a modest apartment, living near caring family and friends who can help with the complicated stuff, and perhaps working as a custodian through a special needs program. Has modest recreational needs, and feels happy when they are met. Also gets a sense of fulfillment out of his job, ignoring the fact that he could be replaced economically by someone with greater skills and efficiency.

    Person B: Corporate lawyer, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Has a favorite surfing spot in Maui and flies there several times a year. Owns a vacation home there, but doesn’t consider it worth the hassle of renting it out, so it sits vacant most of the time.

    Neither of these is a “bad” person in my view. Both are just engaging in the “pursuit of happiness” (a self-evident human right). Person B has a measurable impact on GDP but may actually be producing more churn than benefit. The world would also be incapable of supporting many people like B, but we count this person as a success. Person A doesn’t produce much, but really requires very little in return. The world could support a lot more like A.

    Dawkins view seems to assume that the person with Downs syndrome is by definition unhappy, or a failure, or in some sense an affront to right-thinking people. I have not met many people with Downs syndrome, but I’ve met enough to wonder if Dawkins has met any at all, if he is so certain of this.

    I have a lot of respect for people working in special education, because they have a kind of openness towards disability that I cannot claim, though I am willing to improve over time. The only thing I see in Dawkins’ kneejerk judgment is an aversion towards people whose lives do not meet the standards he sets for himself. He is not promoting an ethical position, but merely the position that the world would be better off if we could prevent the proliferation of freaks that bother him to think about.

  187. carlie says

    My brothers were more disabled than many Downs syndrome children are, and they basically could not manage for themselves at all. I’m not opposed to abortion in such situations.

    What people are opposed to, if you would take the time to read the thread (hint: you’re not really qualified to speak on the topic if you’re not paying attention to the conversation), is other people making that decision for the pregnant person, without her getting a say. Particularly if that decision is a generalized “we don’t let those fetuses gestate”, but overall, nobody making decisions for another person.

  188. Al Dente says

    Azkyroth @215

    I suspect part of it is that Dawkins, in dealing with creationists and religious apologists, developed a heuristic of “if you’re pissing people off, it’s a sign you’re right.” And unfortunately is too fucking arrogant to contextualize or even examine it.

    Dawkins doesn’t even consider the possibility that when large numbers of people criticize something he’s said that maybe the problem isn’t with the critics.

  189. Eristae says

    @dianne/213

    I apologize in advance if what I’m about to write isn’t terribly articulate (as I previously stated, I’m tired, cranky, and depressed, so and this mindset isn’t wildly conducive to being articulate).

    Having said that, what I’m tired of isn’t just that we aren’t pooling our resources efficiently when it comes to maximizing productivity (that we as a society abort fetuses with defects based on the fact that their defects will hamper their ability to be productive while forcing the non-genetically-disabled into non-productivity via lack of nutrition, education, etc), but that we’re using maximized productivity as our measuring stick to begin with. From where I’m standing, the value of Michael Brown’s life had absolutely nothing to do with his productivity or potential productivity. Michael Brown could have lived a full, valuable, meaningful life even if we could all agree that he would consume more than he would produce. If Michael Brown was going to manufacture X units of productivity over the course of his life and consume 10X units of productivity, that would not mean that his life wasn’t worthwhile.

    I think it’s relatively safe to assume that people will generally agree that increased productivity isn’t our ultimate end goal, yes? That increased productivity is a good only insofar as it furthers another goal, correct? It’s why we don’t cheer on Ebola as massively efficient at producing death; no matter how efficient Ebola is at producing death, we don’t like Ebola because we don’t like what it produces. Production is valuable as a means, not as an end. The end value that was Michael Brown’s life isn’t dependent on how good he was or was not at a particular means.

  190. Gregory Greenwood says

    Anti-abortion policies are a problem because they amount to denying women their bodily autonomy by demanding the right to tell them what to do with their own flesh. What Dawkins is doing here pretty much amounts to the same thing – the choice whether or not to abort is the woman’s choice. Advocating for bringing social pressure to bear on women to effectively impose abortion of notional genetic or developmental ‘undesireables’ is every bit as morally repugnant as the anti-choicers who want to convert all women into nothing more than subhuman ambulatory incubators – the issue is still one of the bodily autonomy of women.

    It depresses me that someone as well educated as Dawkins really does seem to need someone to explain to him why eugenics is a bad idea.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————-

    Ichthyic @ 3;

    HOLY FUCK. Aside from this says about Richard, the statement will be used to promulgate the endless claims of creationists that evolutionary biologists are all “eugenecists”.

    thanks for throwing a fuckton of gasoline on that fire there, Richard.

    *sigh*

    Shooting himself – and at the same time all other atheists given how we are so closely associated with him in the public mind – in the foot seems to be Dawkin’s new job description these days.

  191. Björn Carlsten says

    #220,#223
    Good points as to why productivity shouldn’t be the end goal of ethics. If it were, we should be trying to replace every human being with robots (once technology makes that possible&profitable). Of course, different narrowly defined end goals–such as happiness, pleasure, non-suffering, etc.–also yield unpalatable conclusions if you run through the logic.

  192. dianne says

    Eristae, you’re articulate and right. I maybe didn’t write as well since I wanted to point out that even if we take “maximizing potential usefulness to society” as our baseline of “good”, eugenics still doesn’t make sense. It’s a bad measure, but even using it as the measure, “unproductive” fetuses are the least of our worries. Of course Michael Brown’s life was more important than his ability to be useful to society, but it’s clear that he was someone who would have had a “productive” life if he’d been given even 1/10th of a chance. How can we even bother worrying about whether people with DS have a potential to be “productive” when we’re literally throwing obviously classically productive people into the garbage?

    In other words, the excuse doesn’t hold water. It’s sort of like how anti-choicers argue about “saving the innocent baby” when they have no interest whatsoever in “saving babies” from miscarriage, only from abortion. That makes me conclude that they have no real interest in the “baby”, only in controlling the woman. in an analogous way, the lack of interest the average eugenics advocate shows in helping living people achieve their potential leads me to conclude that they have no interest in making people productive and happy or even just useful to society, but only in controlling reproduction.

    Sorry that I didn’t make clear that I thought that this was a completely screwed up way to measure humanity and was only following it out to demonstrate that actually the people who are arguing it don’t believe it either.

  193. chris61 says

    @205 sambarge

    “Let’s trust women to make the right choices for themselves and their children. Let’s give women the information they need and control over their bodies and trust them to make the decision that is right for them without a bunch of people, who are wholly unconnected to her, pontificating about what the “right” thing would be?”

    I would agree with you except for the fact that no family exists in isolation and the choices that a woman makes for herself and her children are also going to affect others. The additional resources required to raise a child with Down’s syndrome are not just additional resources on the part of the woman and her family but also additional resources on the part of society. I think it’s a valid issue to raise although I also think Dawkins was an ass to express himself as he did.

  194. rq says

    chris61
    I’m pretty sure that every pregnant woman is aware of the resources available to her, and takes these into account when making her decision. Trust me, it’s not like women have been having babies in a vaccuum since time immemorial – when we get ‘in that way’, we tend to realize out options (or lack of them) pretty darn quickly, and react accordingly.
    And heck, even then, a woman decides she will raise a child with a disability on her own, because she believes she can do it? I say let her choose what she wants, and have the safety net on standby (just in case, because none of us know when we might need it).

  195. Ichthyic says

    The additional resources required

    didn’t we already cover this long busted myth, aside from it being, again, a utilitarian argument without an objective basis in judgment?

    yeah, as I said upthread, I’M a utilitarian, but still can easily see the flaws in the argument from resources. What is it that prevents others from doing so I wonder?

  196. says

    Yes, before you assume I skimmed and skipped, I have read every post in the thread and sorry for the wall of text. How do you put in paragraph breaks now? Nothing I did worked.

    It is no one’s business what a woman decides to do with her body, right? So why is the general tone of so many posts, “DS people are fabulous, why would any woman make any other decision than to birth them and cherish them”? That is what is said about the baby at the end of ANY pregnancy by the pro-birthers so I’ll just leave out the DS part from now on.

    Have you listened to yourselves in this thread, shaming people who, in your opinion, do not properly cherish the thought of birthing and raising a baby? What I am hearing is, “of course you have the right to choose, but why would anyone choose to do anything other than have that sweet little baby? You just don’t understand the way I do how wonderful and fulfilling a baby can be!” We say we advocate for any woman being able to choose whether or not to be pregnant so stop it with the “babies fart rainbows” syrupy anecdotes and so many “people are wonderful” stories. Yes. ALL babies fart rainbows. EVERY person is a “miracle” and a “gift”. Even so, women have the right to choose for themselves to be or not be pregnant and they should not have to justify their decision either way to anyone – not you, not me, not Dawkins. It’s none of our business and, no, you don’t get to decide that for anyone any more than Dawkins or the most rabid pro-birther does.

    That Dawkins is a tone deaf asshole should not enable a flood of what amounts to shaming here and that is what a lot of the posts in this thread read like to me. {{{hugs}}} to anyone who made that decision. Whatever you did, I support you.

  197. PatrickG says

    @ Gwynnyd:

    So why is the general tone of so many posts, “DS people are fabulous, why would any woman make any other decision than to birth them and cherish them”?

    I have read every post in the thread

    Apparently not for comprehension. I mean, really?

  198. chris61 says

    @299 rq
    My point was that she isn’t going to be doing it on her own, she’s going to be utilizing societal resources. Also when a woman choses to abort one can argue that it’s her body and therefore her choice but when she choses not to abort she’s making choices not only for herself but for another human being (as well as for society in general). I think that even if you believe that there are no circumstances in which it would be immoral for a woman to abort it’s still valid to ask whether there circumstances in which you would consider it to be immoral for a woman to give birth.

  199. says

    Gwynnyd:

    What I am hearing is, “of course you have the right to choose, but why would anyone choose to do anything other than have that sweet little baby?

    That’s what you’re “hearing”, but I have to wonder if you’re not reading your own biases into peoples’ comments, bc I just don’t see what you’re talking about.
    What many people have been arguing is that someone’s worth shouldn’t be determined by their levels of productivity. Other people have been strongly critical (and justifiably so, IMO) of Dawkins’ idea that it is immoral to give birth to a child that has DS. I don’t see anyone shaming women if they choose not to have a child that has DS.
    Can you point to a specific commenter and comment number by someone who is engaged in this shaming?

    Also, paragraph breaks don’t show up in preview.

  200. PatrickG says

    @ Gwynnyd:

    I apologize for the previous response, which was curt and dismissive.

    Respectfully, I suggest that you’ve completely misread the general trend of comments here. As someone who recently was reduced to an emotionally shattered mess by a highly charged thread to the point that I started completely misreading what people were saying and lashed out, I’m more than conversant with how personal bias and emotion can cause incorrect conclusions.

    So: not my intention to cast stones. But I do think your characterization of the comments in this thread is way off.

  201. chris61 says

    @231 Gwynnyd

    I think what people are saying is that choosing not to abort a Down’s syndrome child isn’t necessarily immoral. I don’t think you can take that to imply that they are saying that choosing to abort is immoral.

  202. Jackie says

    Gwynnyd,
    Bullshit. If you read the comments you are lying about their content.

    I specifically said that I would abort ANY fetus. DS fetus? Yep, I’d abort it. Superman/Jesus/Eric Clapton clone fetus? Yep, aborted. Both of those choices are moral.

    My body, my choice and that means that if I felt differently about completing a pregnancy, it would still be my body and my choice. If I choose to complete a pregnancy, that’s my business alone and if it is my choice to give birth to a baby with Down’s it is just as moral as if I do not.

  203. Ichthyic says

    I have read every post

    followed by:

    why is the general tone of so many posts, “DS people are fabulous

    *headdesk*

    this person may have *looked* at every post, but they obviously didn’t *read* them.

  204. Ichthyic says

    I apologize for the previous response, which was curt and dismissive.

    but also evidently the correct tone to take in this case.

  205. Ichthyic says

    *bows in deference*

    self-policing is actually a useful rhetorical technique as well, for that matter

    ;)

  206. Eristae says

    @Gwynnyd/231

    I feel like you are referring to me because I don’t see any posts stating anything like what you are referring to, but my posts do deal with my firmly held belief that having Down Syndrome doesn’t make a life worthless, which I suppose could in some way relate to what you’re saying. However, I’m tired and I’m depressed, and as a result, I’m suffering from a certain degree of “brain fog.” As a result, I could be reading into your post things that you did not intend. If your post does in fact refer to me, please say so and I shall do my best to respond to your points in more depth; it would also be greatly helpful if you could indicate what exactly it is that I said that has led you to believe that I don’t understand “why would any woman make any other decision than to birth them and cherish them?” because this is not in fact my position. If your post does not refer to me, I apologize for taking things overly personally.

  207. PaulBC says

    chris61 #233

    I would agree with you except for the fact that no family exists in isolation and the choices that a woman makes for herself and her children are also going to affect others.

    Nobody exists in isolation, period. So does society get to scrutinize every decision I make for harmful externalities? What if I want to buy a gas guzzling car like a Hummer? What if I want to buy a second home in an area with an already inflated real estate market? Either of these decisions might be frowned upon by others, but most people accept that these are my decisions provided I have the means to carry them out.

    If Dawkins had explained what he would do (abort), and why (he’d prefer not to produce a new person with Downs Syndrome), this would be a fairly mainstream view. If he also emphasized that of course it’s none of his business, (just like it’s none of my business what somebody spends their own disposable income on), then there would be no grounds at all for objection. What he did instead was to take a difficult, individual decision, and rule out one possible choice as immoral.

    Obviously even Dawkins understands that his judgment is non-binding, and it’s clearly within his rights to express this judgment. I’m not sure this actually makes him a “bad” person as much as someone who is entirely tone deaf to the concerns of people who actually face such a decision. The fact that his snap judgment applies to a condition (Downs Syndrome) that does not condemn someone to constant suffering, but is probably more likely to make bystanders feel uncomfortable, is the reason for the backlash.

    Probably there are conditions so debilitating that you’d would literally regret bringing such a person into the world, but Dawkins has leaped to this conclusion over such a small threshold that he comes off as an insensitive control freak at best, and a totalitarian eugenicist at worst.

  208. carlie says

    What he did instead was to take a difficult, individual decision, and rule out one possible choice as immoral.

    And tried to eat that cake he had too, by saying that his position is the only logical one. He gets the nice neat package of saying his view is the only moral one AND the only logical one, and then can’t understand why anyone might disagree with him for any reason other than silly emotion.

  209. chris61 says

    @247 PaulBC

    “Nobody exists in isolation, period. So does society get to scrutinize every decision I make for harmful externalities? ”

    Society reserves the right to do so if enough of its members deem it appropriate. See “smoking in public” for an example.

  210. Jackie says

    Someone reminded me today that Dawkins had previously said that if fetal pain existed abortion would be immoral.

    Dawkins sure has alot to say about what people with wombs do with them.

    He has alot to say about how rape victims should feel and how women harassed by men should feel.

  211. Jackie says

    chris,
    So society should not allow women to carry certain pregnancies to term in the same way it does not allow smoking in restaurants?

  212. Jackie says

    Second hand smoke causes cancer. What exactly does living on a planet with people who have Down’s do to hurt you?

    Also, how many of you who think it is immoral for a woman to carry a Down’s pregnancy to term are “Libertarians”?

    Just curious.

  213. Saad says

    Jackie #250:

    Someone reminded me today that Dawkins had previously said that if fetal pain existed abortion would be immoral.

    What actually disappoints me about Dawkins is how he generalizes and paints with a broad brush on these nuanced issues. And it’s frustrating because on other topics he would be careful and exact as a scientist and science writer should be.

    If I were to “fix that for him”, I would say if fetal pain existed, it would add one more factor to the decision process the pregnant woman would use to decide whether to abort or have the baby. It baffles me that he says all this stuff without actually thinking about it and then sort of apologizes and makes his previous statement slightly better but still misses the main point.

  214. cunninglingus says

    Dawkins has gone from ‘someone I respect’ to ‘someone who fucking embarrasses me’

  215. PaulBC says

    (Trying to avoid proving Godwin’s Law in making this point, so bear with me.)

    There is one funny thing about the question of whether a life is worth living: namely the person living that life is almost never the one asked whether they think it’s worth it. Despite that, my working assumption is that the answer is almost always “yes.” Survival is just a really strong drive.

    So to digress, is the unexamined life worth living? Why not ask someone to examine their life just enough to answer that question. I’m pretty sure you will get >99.9% agreement that even the least self-reflective individual would rather live another day than not. So: Yes it is! Likewise, a person with Downs Syndrome, assuming no severe medical complications, would probably rather continue to live than not.

    I can only observe indirectly how this applies to people with Downs Syndrome, but I do have one significant firsthand experience that might be shared by anyone past their mid-30s around here. What hit me some years back is that progressing into middle age is really not such a terrible thing provided your health is good. Aging is primarily a terrible experience for the young people around you who have to see another person falling into decrepitude and consider that this will happen to them as well. There’s a an interesting asymmetry. You can be in a room of people significantly younger, and you may forget your age or even stop noticing that everyone else is younger. What they will never stop noticing is the fact that you’re older.

    Of course, the balance could change with advancing age, and probably will eventually. But I feel it gives me a certain amount of insight into what many people are thinking, but don’t want to say. People are uncomfortable with the existence of others who fail to live up to the standards they set for themselves, whether these are standards of physical or mental prowess, or career achievements. So someone might look at me and think they’d be ashamed of themselves if they couldn’t do a single pull-up. I might look at them and think I’d be ashamed of myself if I couldn’t implement an efficient sorting algorithm. This part is natural, but the judgment does not prove that anyone’s life is not worth living.

    What Dawkins has done is to take a fairly common condition, known historically, that doesn’t even have to be treated medically in all cases, and turned it into an untold horror that must not be allowed to continue. If he had picked something truly debilitating, he might have had a point (though one he might save for a better audience). But under the circumstances, it is about the equivalent of saying DS/old people are icky; why don’t they just go away?

  216. Beth says

    Chris and Jackie, I find your questions and responses interesting. I think Dawkins uses examples like this to elicit responses like both of yours. I think each of you has a valid point and I’m unsure how to weight them against each other.

    PaulBC:

    but under the circumstances, it is about the equivalent of saying DS/old people are icky; why don’t they just go away?

    I don’t think this a valid interpretation of his words. I don’t think you can compare thinking an abortion option immoral to an opinion about whether the type of person that the fetus with the mutation is ‘icky’ and wants them to go away.

    I do think he expresses his opinions because they are NOT currently the majority and he wants to drive the conversation in the public square off that direction. He is not alone in his viewpoint among the educated elite and he wants more people to be aware of this morality and think about it. His provocative tweets do that rather nicely. I suspect he enjoys watching the outcome.

  217. says

    I do think he expresses his opinions because they are NOT currently the majority and he wants to drive the conversation in the public square off that direction. He is not alone in his viewpoint among the educated elite and he wants more people to be aware of this morality and think about it. His provocative tweets do that rather nicely. I suspect he enjoys watching the outcome.

    So he’s trolling.

  218. carlie says

    He is not alone in his viewpoint among the educated elite and he wants more people to be aware of this morality and think about it.

    So it’s a calculated trial balloon he’s floating to see how much other people agree with him that negative eugenics is a good thing? That’s… not a positive interpretation.

  219. PaulBC says

    Beth #256

    I do think he expresses his opinions because they are NOT currently the majority and he wants to drive the conversation in the public square off that direction.

    If so, I think he’s doing a terrible job of it. Suppose he had some long-term strategy in mind and is not just spouting off. Then I think he would wait for a favorable opportunity.

    The first part of Dawkins’ favorable opportunity would be that the condition of the fetus would really result in suffering for that individual, if brought to term. That is not met by DS, which surely imposes a great burden on the family, but not necessarily a burden that is felt particularly by the DS individual. I want to avoid romanticizing things. DS is often accompanied by heart problems and probably other conditions that can clearly affect quality of life for that individual. But I think most of the burden of Downs is felt by others, and much of that “burden” is purely a sense of discomfort that such people are nearby or exist at all.

    The second part of Dawkins’ favorable opportunity would be a forum in which he could make his ethical point without appearing to run roughshod over people’s feelings. This one clearly fails on this account too.

    I agree that in a sense, Dawkins has driven some of the conversation in the public square in his direction, but I don’t see how he has done it in a way that favors his viewpoint. I’m inclined to think that we’re really just seeing the real Dawkins here. He has no particular use for people with Downs Syndrome and can scarcely imagine how anyone else would either.

  220. chris61 says

    @252 Jackie

    “What exactly does living on a planet with people who have Down’s do to hurt you?”

    Doesn’t hurt me personally at all. But I note, as have many others, that medical costs in the US (and elsewhere) are rising extremely quickly. The technology is advancing faster than our ability to pay for it and given that resources aren’t limitless eventually we, as a society, may eventually have to make choices as to what we will pay for and what we won’t. All I’m saying is that it is an issue in which society has a valid interest – as opposed to something that is nobody’s business but that of the woman carrying the fetus.

  221. says

    chris61:

    All I’m saying is that it is an issue in which society has a valid interest – as opposed to something that is nobody’s business but that of the woman carrying the fetus.

    I really hope you’re not saying that in some circumstances society should have a say in a woman’s choice whether to have a child or not…

  222. carlie says

    But I note, as have many others, that medical costs in the US (and elsewhere) are rising extremely quickly.

    How much medical care does a person with DS require compared to the average person? Compared to someone with heart disease? Compared to someone with cancer? You can’t base your opinion on that kind of argument if you don’t even know if it’s true.

  223. Saad says

    The only way society has a valid interest in a woman’s pregnancy is if the baby is going to be a nuclear bomb whose timer will start at the first contraction.

  224. Jackie says

    Chris? You’re slime. You’re garbage.
    Really.
    Dawkins deserves fans like you and you deserve him.

  225. Ichthyic says

    Society reserves the right to do so if enough of its members deem it appropriate. See “smoking in public” for an example.

    wow, poor analogy much?

    but then, I know you are simply incapable of realizing that. I merely point it out because it’s so obvious, it’s hard not to.

  226. Ichthyic says

    If he had picked something truly debilitating,

    I’m struggling to think of something real that actually would fit the case scenario.

    maybe if it was clear that humans occasionally gave birth to sharknados?

  227. Jackie says

    Tony,
    These sorts of debates, whether they are about rape or abortion always boil down to, “Surely women’s bodies aren’t ALWAYS their own? Let’s think up some circumstances in which it’s justifiable for her body to belong to someone else.”

    Always.

  228. Ichthyic says

    I have to agree with Jackie; it does seem to end up that way, regardless of how it started, and it actually STARTED there to begin with!

  229. PatrickG says

    While I agree with Jackie’s point about the ineviitable devolution of these conversations into a fruitless search for scenarios in which it’s “appropriate” or “justified” to control female sexuality and reproductive choice, I am forced to admit that a valid exception has been raised in this thread.

    Nobody has the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination once sharknados are on the table. Nobody.

  230. Jackie says

    So religious forced birthers think I owe the state control over my uterus and atheist eugenicists agree. One because I owe the world babies and the other because I owe the world the right to veto my plans to have a baby they do not approve of.
    So, I’m still a broodmare who is to breed as I am instructed by men who know best. Either way, my body is not my own. The only moral choice is not to have a choice at all, but to do as I am told for the “greater good”.

    Wow.

  231. The Mellow Monkey: Singular They says

    PatrickG @ 270

    Nobody has the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination once sharknados are on the table. Nobody.

    Well fuck. There goes my family planning.

  232. Jackie says

    Why, Chris you devious so&so.
    Pretending to be pro-choice?
    That’s low.
    Low and dumb.

  233. says

    Nerd:
    Thanks for the reminder.
    Chris61, I’d really rather you not respond and just wander off elsewhere. You do not support women’s right to choose, and you’re only going to face justifiable outrage if you continue posting here with the bullshit you’ve said in this thread as well as the one Nerd linked to above.

  234. Jackie says

    clarification:
    Ragdish, I was apologizing for screwing up your nym, not telling you to fuck off. Passion had nothing to do with that mistake. I merely misread your nym.

    …but you accepted the apology you seem to have thought I gave you very nicely. So, there’s that.

  235. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I would agree with you except for the fact that no family exists in isolation and the choices that a woman makes for herself and her children are also going to affect others

    Everyone’s choices affect others.

    Why single pregnant women out?

  236. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    What I am hearing is, “of course you have the right to choose, but why would anyone choose to do anything other than have that sweet little baby? You just don’t understand the way I do how wonderful and fulfilling a baby can be!

    What you’ve actually seen in this thread is, aside from some people making idiots of themselves, most of the posters doing some combination of A) emphatically affirming

    women have the right to choose for themselves to be or not be pregnant and they should not have to justify their decision either way to anyone

    and B) refuting a specific (albeit muddled) claim about the quality of life and prospects of people with Down Syndrome who are already born.

    How the fuck have you not had a fucking heart attack and collapsed from the effort of willfully misreading the thread to arrive at what you claim it “reads like to me?”

  237. rq says

    chris61 @233 (or so)

    whether there circumstances in which you would consider it to be immoral for a woman to give birth

    Yes. When a woman gives birth to an asshole like you. It’s totally immoral to inflict such stupidity on the world.
    Slightly more seriously, do you yet know what kind of a burden on the health care system you will be in your old age? Perhaps there’s a good solution for that, before you get to that point where society has to take care of you and waste precious resources on saving your old, ill ass. That would be the moral choice, wouldn’t it? There’s a lot of better things society could do with that money – like set up better support for people with disabilities, to help them live better lives.

    More seriously, from Beth:

    He is not alone in his viewpoint among the educated elite and he wants more people to be aware of this morality and think about it. [bolding mine]

    You know why I left religion? Because I was sick and tired of (old) men telling me what my morality should be. No gods, no monsters, no fucking thought-leaders. Sick and tired of them saying they had the one true logical morality, the way to live my life, and anything else I did would be immoral.
    And the fuck I care about the educated elite. Like they have the only morality that I haven’t thought of. Honestly, how stupid does Dawkins think we are?
    Whatever happened to thinking for ourselves? Advice, yes. But adding morals to that? No thanks.

  238. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    *spits at the feet of educated elite*
    *throws a glove at them for good measure*

  239. 2kittehs says

    Jackie

    Wow, there are some scummy atheists, aren’t there? No wonder so many people think we’re immoral, hard hearted, monsters.

    ::kitty hugs::

    Yeah, but lots of great ones, too, like most groups of people (not groups like MRAs, obvs). I wouldn’t even venture in here if yez were all horrible Dawkites.

  240. 2kittehs says

    The Mellow Monkey: Singular They

    Nobody has the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination once sharknados are on the table. Nobody.

    Well fuck. There goes my family planning.

    What about kittens? I mean come on, I’ve gotta be allowed to have kittens even if they do grow up to be Basement Cat.

  241. carlie says

    #notalleducatedelite

    (jk)

    Any time someone’s point is “It would really be better for all of us if I made this decision for you”, watch out.

  242. ledasmom says

    maybe if it was clear that humans occasionally gave birth to sharknados?

    Oh, you know my kids?
    chris61@260:

    All I’m saying is that it is an issue in which society has a valid interest – as opposed to something that is nobody’s business but that of the woman carrying the fetus.

    Certainly it’s not as if pregnant women get all sorts of criticism about their choices. I’m sure discussing whether or not they should abort is a completely neutral and hypothetical thing to do with no possible negative effects.
    (sarcasm off).
    In other news, chris61, fuck you.

  243. says

    I’m sure Dawkins would be proud that a “pro-lifer” (though misrepresenting themselves as not being one in this particular thread) is the sole person here defending his position.

  244. dianne says

    medical costs in the US (and elsewhere) are rising extremely quickly.

    Off topic, but…you say that like it’s a bad thing. Let’s put that a different way: The medical industry (yes, it is an industry–in fact, several–sorry!) is employing more people than ever and adding more to the economy than it ever has in the past. It’s product, longer, healthier lives, is demonstrably improving as well: we’re seeing increased life expectancy, lower mortality from heart disease and cancer, and a number of life improvements ranging from people having more choices in body modification to better prosthetic limbs. Medicine’s a growth industry that’s producing what it promises! The only problem here is people’s natural desire to get something for nothing is standing in the way of even greater progress and revitalization of the economy. DS kids are not a problem. Heck, they’re cheap. Have as many as you like without guilt about society having to “pay” for them.

  245. dianne says

    Empathy failures, OTOH, now there’s an area where modern medicine really hasn’t been able to do much. Maybe more money for psych research could make some headway.

  246. LMichaelL65 . says

    My ex and I have a child with Down Syndrome. I was dismayed, but not shocked that Dick Dawkins made such a comment. As an agnostic, this man does not speak for me. Whenever I hear him speak, or read articles he has recently penned, I see an angry, bitter old man. For those that are saying people with Down syndrome don’t, or cannot contribute to society, I say bullshit. Today, people with Down syndrome are contributing society! Many people with Down syndrome are living independently, they are holding down jobs (in fact, many employers have stated that their employees with Down syndrome and employees with other disabilities end up being their best workers!) People with Down syndrome are getting married today. People with Down syndrome are attending College and University today! People with Down syndrome are involved in the arts and entertainment field. For an inspiring look at what a person with Down syndrome can accomplish check out http://www.karengaffneyfoundation.com/

  247. azhael says

    @294
    Sure, and that’s the whole story, is it? You didn’t leave anything out?

    There are many DS individuals that have wonderful lives with few medical issues to worry about. There are also individuals dying very young and having to endure very severe health problems. It’s a complex syndrome, with complex outcomes.

    Personally, i couldn’t care less about wether people with syndrome X are capable of being productive. What matters to me is not the utilitarian point of view, it is wether we can prevent suffering. As someone else said earlier, life is suffering….at some point. There is no way you are ever going to be able to guarantee a suffering free life to anyone. We can however take steps to avoid certain forms of suffering if we can predict the possibility of it ocurring. I would say a large part of our civilization is in fact geared towards that end….prevention and reduction of suffering (because we comprehend the value of a safe, comfortable life). The problem with a syndrome such as Down’s is that you can’t predict the result and it varies greatly. Other syndromes, though, are much more consistently undesirable.

    @255 Paul

    I hear what you are saying and i’m sure it is the case, but i fail to see how it is relevant. We are not talking about individuals who are living and experiencing a life. Of course in most cases they are going to value it and want it to continue, even if there are difficulties. We are talking about fetuses which can’t express their own desire to live or not. Is a life with a genetic disorder worth living? In most cases i’d venture, yes (i do think there are some exceptions, but that’s mostly what they are, exceptions and they happen with or without genetic disorders).
    If it is relevant to ask people with debilitating genetic syndromes if their life is worth living, then it would also be relevant to ask them if they’d rather have a life without their particular syndrome. I bet the answer to both is majoritarily yes.
    In a way it reminds me of the argument anti-choicers make when they ask people if they would have liked to be aborted. Of course the answer in most cases is likely to be no…but so what? How is that of any relevance to a fetus?

    To me this is about the preventability of known detriments, to the extent that they can be predicted. I don’t care about the utility of people (what a rotten way of looking at things) or how happy they could make someone or how inspiring their courage could be for others….or whatever, i care about preventing suffering if i can. There is so much suffering we can do nothing or very little about…at least with genetic dysorders that result in known medical issues we have found a way to predict them before any conscious being has to experience them…..and why wouldn’t we take advantage of that?
    To me, this is also a VERY muddy, very difficult subject with an enormous amount of barely distinguisable shades of grey that cover all the range.

  248. carlie says

    To me, this is also a VERY muddy, very difficult subject with an enormous amount of barely distinguisable shades of grey that cover all the range.

    Then why are you endorsing a one-size-fits-all response to it?

  249. azhael says

    @296 carlie

    Then why are you endorsing a one-size-fits-all response to it?

    I don’t think i did, or at least i didn’t intend to. The main reason why i’m confused as to the morality of carrying DS fetuses to term is precisely because of the unpredictability of the syndrome and how this prevents a one-size-fits-all approach from fitting every case.

  250. carlie says

    azhael – what most of us are objecting to is Dawkins’ view, which is absolutely “it is immoral to carry them to term because it is not worth it to them or to society”.

  251. Ichthyic says

    What matters to me is not the utilitarian point of view, it is wether we can prevent suffering.

    oh the fucking irony.

    THAT IS UTILITARIANISM.

  252. azhael says

    Oh…then yes, much more confused than i thought…
    I assumed utilitarianism was the argument based on wether the individuals are productive and useful for a society, which i think is an absolutely rotten perspective.
    Thank you for the correction.

  253. Ichthyic says

    ah, cool. you sound genuinely interested.

    you might enjoy taking the “trolley problem”:

    There is a runaway trolley barrelling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You do not have the ability to operate the lever in a way that would cause the trolley to derail without loss of life (for example, holding the lever in an intermediate position so that the trolley goes between the two sets of tracks, or pulling the lever after the front wheels pass the switch, but before the rear wheels do). You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the correct choice?

    and you can assume here that “correct” means “moral” in EXACTLY the same way Dawkins meant it when he said: ” It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” applied to the opposite choice, of course.

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