British radio host Brendan O’Connor confronted atheist Richard Dawkins last week over a controversial comment the world-famous scientist made about babies with Down Syndrome seven years ago.
In the end, O’Connor forced Dawkins into somewhat recanting.
What is the background?
Dawkins ignited controversy in August 2014 when he told a woman that it would be “immoral” to birth a child with Down Syndrome.
“Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice,” Dawkins said.
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins)
Dawkins later explained in a statement:
I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.
What happened last week?
O’Connor, who said he has a child with Down Syndrome, directly confronted Dawkins over his grim position.
“You are speaking to someone who did bring someone like that into the world,” O’Connor said. “I would accept that fact and I wouldn’t judge anyone’s choice about that, but why is it immoral not to abort it?”
In response, Dawkins said people with Down Syndrome increase suffering in the world.
“Well that was probably putting it a bit too strongly, but given that the amount of suffering in the world probably does not go down, probably does go up, compared to having another child who doesn’t have Down Syndrome,” Dawkins said.
O’Connor shot back, “How do you know that it increases the amount of suffering in the world to bring in a child with Down’s Syndrome?”
“I don’t know it for certain. It seems to me to be plausible,” Dawkins responded. “You probably would increase the amount of happiness in the world more by having another child instead.”
Then, O’Connor forced Dawkins to admit he has no scientific evidence to back his claims.
“But you have no reason for knowing that?” O’Connor asked.
“I have no direct evidence, no— it just seems plausible,” Dawkins admitted.
O’Connor responded, “Just, you know, you’re such a scientific, logical person that I thought that you could possibly have some logical back up to it.”
Later, Dawkins admitted that he does not know anyone with Down Syndrome, and when O’Connor asked Dawkins if it would be “immoral for [pregnant women] not to” abort a baby with Down Syndrome, Dawkins attempted to shift the entire discussion.
“Let’s leave out the immoral,” Dawkins said.
O’Connor shot back, “No, but you brought immoral into it.”
“OK, well I take that back,” Dawkins admitted. “I think it would be wise and sensible.”
Toward the end of the discussion, O’Connor sarcastically reminded Dawkins, “You know children who are so-called ‘perfect’ can cause terrible suffering in the world as well, but I suppose we have no way if checking, have we?”
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Author: Chris Enloe
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