Commentary Magazine


The Nasty, Brutish World of Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, a prominent atheist, and a moral fool.

I say that in part (but only in part) because a woman seeking advice from him via Twitter confessed that she wouldn’t know what to do if she were pregnant with a child with Down syndrome. “Real ethical dilemma,” she wrote. But not for Dr. Dawkins. He tweeted this back: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Now that is a revealing adjective, isn’t it? Note what Dr. Dawkins isn’t saying. He didn’t say (as he later claims, when clumsily and misleadingly trying to clean up his mess) that he was merely recommending that the woman abort the child. Nor did he say it’s a morally complicated decision that should evoke sympathy. Or that it’s an agonizing matter she should, say, pray over.

No siree. From his Moral Mt. Olympus Dr. Dawkins decrees that parents who decide to give birth to, and unconditionally love, a Down syndrome child are committing a moral wrong, a moral evil.

Which raises some questions: Having given birth to a Down syndrome child, what should happen to that child? Under the theory that it’s better late than never, should the infant’s life be terminated post-birth since it was immoral to allow him to be born in the first place? If not, why not? On what basis does Dawkins decide people have moral worth? What’s the intelligence quotient that allows one to be welcomed in life rather than terminated? What other imperfections morally compel us to abort a child? And why stop there? What physical and mental imperfections should be eliminated by society in order to help us meet the ethical standards of Richard Dawkins? (Those standards, for the unaware, include a defense of “mild pedophilia”.)

Dr. Dawkins doesn’t seem to understand that Down syndrome children can live rewarding lives and can themselves touch the hearts and souls of others; and that there are parents of Down syndrome children who come to see the extra chromosome as not only associated with delays and impairments but also sweetness, joy, wonder, patience, and love.

For Dawkins, human dignity is not intrinsic; people’s worth is judged on whether or not they have 46 (thumbs up) or 47 (thumbs down) chromosomes. If children have intellectual disabilities or developmental delays–if they have flattened facial features, short necks, small heads–then off with their head. Or, to be more precise, suck out their brains, which collapses their skulls. In the nasty, brutish world of Richard Dawkins, this is what the mother and father of a Down syndrome child are morally obligated to do.

In our neighborhood there’s a young man with Down syndrome whom we often see running. My 10-year-old son and I have several times talked about him and how we admire him. Just the other week David asked me what the person’s condition was, and I explained to him what Down syndrome is. We spoke a bit about how a person’s worth isn’t based on intellectual abilities; it’s based on being a child of God. And that character matters more than intelligence.

Last night, after reading the comments by Dawkins, I asked my son what in particular he liked about this fellow. He replied, “I like that he’s so dedicated even though he has a sickness [Down syndrome].” He added, “I like that he’s so dedicated when so many other people who don’t have Down syndrome aren’t that way.” And then he added, “He’s kind of inspiring.”

Indeed he is. That person’s life has as much meaning as does Richard Dawkins’s. I would also wager a good deal of money that if he isn’t the intellectual equal of Dawkins, he is morally superior to him. And I for one would much rather have the young man with Down syndrome in my neighborhood than Richard Dawkins.

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

6 Responses to “The Nasty, Brutish World of Richard Dawkins”


    “…For Dawkins, human dignity is not intrinsic; people’s worth is judged on whether or not they have 46 (thumbs up) or 47 (thumbs down) chromosomes.”

    Mr. Wehner is this really news for you? Atheists have always judged people this way.


  2. ANDREW MULLEN says:

    Thanks, Peter. I know Commentary readers don’t generally have much good to say about Sarah Palin, but in this case her response to Dawkins today was gracious even as she subtly turned the tables:

    Mr. Dawkins, I’d let you meet my son if you promised to open your mind, your eyes, and your heart to a unique kind of absolute beauty. But, in my request for you to be tolerant, I’d have to warn Trig he must be tolerant, too, because he may superficially look at you as kind of awkward. I’ll make sure he’s polite, though!


    Sarah Palin & family

  3. KENT LYON says:

    Dawkins comment reminds me of Oliver Wendell Holmes majority opinion in Buck v. Bell: Three generations of imbeciles are enough. sterilize her.
    He wrote that about a normal young woman who had become pregnant out of wedlock consequent to a statutory rape. The child he termed an imbecile was also normal. Both the young woman and her infant were judged to be imbeciles because the young girl’s mother was in a mental institution. OWH was of course an avid Eugenecist. Eugenics was the foremost project of Progressives in the first half of the 20th Century. in America it took the perverse form of forced sterilization of those deemed unfit. Eugenics was carried to its logical extreme by Hitler so Eugenics went underground. Dawkins’ statement shows clearly that eugenic attitudes remain popular among our intellectual elite. Today eugenics is pursued via abortion, encouraged for the unfit. It remains a display of bigotry. As evidenced by the clamor for abortion rights, eugenics remains the policy of one of our major political parties.

  4. CHERYL WALKER says:

    An just what would the good Mr. Dawkins have to say about Steven Hawkings? Does he have any profound words to the parents of children with Autism? (Some of them are gifted and some have normal intelligence and some are retarded, intellectually.)Mr. Dawkins sounds like the Nazi guards, who decided life or death for millions of people during WWII. I suggest we put Mr. Dawkins humanity on trial and see how far he gets?


    It seems to me, Dawkins was saying, it is not immoral to abort a problematic fetus, and raise a healthy child instead. What is immoral is telling pregnant women faced with that decision that to be good they must bring that sickly fetus to terms.

    In fact this is not an ethical matter but a common sense decision which favors health. It is perverse to pretend that there is nobility in sickness and wretchedness, that they have a moral edge over health and happiness.

    We are not just the children of God. We are adults with the God-given power to think sensibly.


    Although I’m sure Dr. Dawkins would scoff at the thought, I will continue to pray for his redemption. I can’t imagine what life event shaped him into a man who would use his intellect convincing people there is no God so if a baby is not 100% the most utilitarian answer to such a vexing problem is to kill the child. I would ask him if I could, “Given the chance, Dr. Dawkins, would you execute the defective baby yourself or would you job it out to a minion?” (At least Pilate felt the need to wash his hands afterward.) Would you go the lethal injection route or would you save the babies up until you had enough to fill a gas chamber? Details, Doctor. These things need to be planned for. Somehow I picture you more the bloodless bureaucrat in the mold of Eichmann. Putting in your day’s work then home to dinner and a nice bottle of wine. You may possess no conscience but there is a God. A fact that will no doubt cause you some consternation when the time comes and you must stand before Him to explain how you spent your time on this Earth.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.