You may have, by now, come across this video of Richard Dawkins being interviewed about his views on Downs Syndrome children. The long and short of it is that he insists it is adding suffering to the world, deeply damaging, if one brings a Down’s Syndrome child into the world. Listen to him here:
"How do you think it's immoral to bring a child with Down Syndrome into the world?"@RadioBrendanRTE spoke with Professor Richard Dawkins who believes children with Down Syndrome can potentially increase the amount of suffering in the world.
Listen back: https://t.co/TwLQ9VhSdB pic.twitter.com/B2himKI7kU
— RTÉ Radio 1 (@RTERadio1) May 11, 2021
What is most telling about the video is that, despite being asked, Dr Dawkins had absolutely zero evidence for his position. Not only did he have no empirical evidence – studies, polls or stats – nor did he so much as have any anecdotal evidence. He cited no study to support his position, he offered no anecdotes that supported his position and he admitted that he didn’t know any Down’s Syndrome people personally so that he had no experience to support his position either.
Had he looked at any empirical evidence, he would have seen study after study showing that Down’s Syndrome people are amongst the happiest in the world. Had he known any Down’s Syndrome people he could have seen as such for himself. Had he tried to speak to any, or parents of Down’s Syndrome people, he would have discovered that their parents frequently speak about the joy their children, despite their condition, have brought into their lives.
Despite the evidence against his position, and regardless of the total lack of any evidence he had for his own personal view, Dr Dawkins nonetheless didn’t row back. The closest to backing down was when he withdrew the word ‘immoral’ and instead insisted it was (minimally) unwise. That was as good as it got. There was no climb down, just a pressing on and doubling down – in the face of evidence to the contrary (both emperical and anedcotal) and his own admitted lack of any sort of evidence whatsoever – he maintained he was right.
Next time Dr Dawkins begins spouting off about Atheism, it might be worth remembering this little exchange. It is worth remembering for at least two reasons.
First, for a man who claims to be all about evidence and following the science, he was prepared to double down on a position for which he had none. His position on Atheism is not all that different when one probes into it. He insists he is right, and that Theists are wrong, but he has little in the way of evidence to support his case. When evidence to the contrary is pointed out, he doubles down. When trained philosophers tell him his argument – which is usually not so much argument as just sneering at a position with which he disagrees – has significant holes in it, he simply sticks with his utter certinty that he is right. His position on Down’s Syndrome lays bare his modus operandi.
Second, it is worth remembering because when the moral argument inevitably rears its head, this will act as exhibit A. The moral argument does not posit that not believing in God makes one immoral – only the obtuse or those more interested in scoring political (and somewhat asinine) points claim it does. The moral argument argues, if God does not exist, there is no grounds for objective morality. There is no more reason that your opinion on what is moral is any better than mine. Objective morality must be grounded in something. But, of course, if you insist that objective morals do not exists, there is little reason not to claim that it is perfectly legitimate to off people with Down’s Syndrome. It is a mere opinion, no worse than anybody’s else’s. It cannot be that surprising, then, that a man who insists objective morality does not exist finds no moral objection to what amounts to eugenics at best and the systematic eradication of an entire group of people. It is worth remembering this discussion – based on no evidence whatsoever – when Dr Dawkins insists that rejecting objective moral values does not lead to immorality.