Parents, siblings of people with Down’s fuming mad at Richard Dawkins
Last week, LifeSiteNews reported on Tweets from atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins, who said that to bear a child with Down syndrome to term is "immoral," and that abortion is the "civilised" option. After an international outcry from pro-life leaders and Down syndrome advocates, Dawkins attempted a partial retreat on his blog, but ended up mostly doubling down on his heinous statements.
In his blog post, Dawkins said that while "phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding," he "can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand."
Normally, I am sympathetic to Dawkins' point about "wanton eagerness to misunderstand." After all, we live in a time when the smallest statements get put on social media, misconstrued -- both purposefully and accidentally -- and then what I call the "outrage industry" gets involved.
However, in this case, there is no "misunderstanding," and the reaction is perfectly matched to who Dawkins is. Not only did Dawkins plainly say that it was immoral to knowingly birth and raise a child with Down syndrome, he also said abortion was the "civilised" option that would avoid "suffering."
After Dawkins' statements, LifeSiteNews interviewed the mother of Kevin, a man with Down syndrome, as well as Kevin himself. Both were charitable and positive in their response. However, many relatives of those with Down syndrome were less willing to let Dawkins get off so easily.
Perhaps most prominently, Sarah Palin -- whose son, Trig, has Down syndrome -- told Dawkins that "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."
My brother is down syndrome Mr Dawkins your saying he shouldn't. Have been born. So hitler had the right idea did he? @RichardDawkins— Lord Snoutintrough (@Rowland72James) August 21, 2014
Facebook also saw reactions (h/t to Huffington Post):
- "My son enjoys a full and active life, has been in mainstream school with supportive friends and peers and some outstanding teachers and support staff, achieved 4 GCSE's and is an Olympic Gymnast. Stick that in your pipe Dawkins!" Jane Hawkins wrote.
- "My 20 year old brother is observant, compassionate and brilliantly funny! More of this contribution to society please," said Jo Habgood.
- "I found out during pregnancy that my daughter had Down Syndrome and I continued with the pregnancy," Lucy Burns posted. "I don't consider myself immoral. I love my daughter, who is an absolute joy and brings a smile to everyone she meets. She enjoys life and we enjoy her. I suspect those who made the sad decision to terminate feel far worse than I do every day. I think that is the true measure of whether an act is immoral or not."
Even NPR hopped on the bandwagon, in its own way, with an article noting how it is people with Down syndrome who are helping scientists make great gains in Alzheimer's detection and prevention.
Over at FirstThings.com, the adoptive parent of two people with Down syndrome targeted Dawkins' statements, and closed with this:
I wonder, if you spent some time with them, whether you’d feel the same way about suffering, about happiness, about personal dignity. I wonder, if you danced with them in the kitchen, whether you’d think abortion was in their best interest. I wonder, if you played games with them, or shared a joke with them, whether you’d find some worth in their existence.
And so, Dr. Dawkins, I’d like to invite you to dinner. Come spend time with my children. Share a meal with them. Before you advocate their deaths, come find out what’s worthwhile in their lives. Find out if the suffering is worth the joy.
I don’t want you to come over for a debate. I don’t want to condemn you. I want you to experience the joy of children with Down syndrome. I want your heart to be moved to joy as well.
My high school biology teacher, a self-described atheist who was in his late sixties, told our class about his nephew, who had passed away years earlier. That nephew had Down syndrome, and according to the teacher, if all people in the world had Down’s, the world would be a happier, more peaceful place. "Not much would get done," said the teacher, but everyone would be happy.
One of the few positives of Dawkins' atrocious statement has been the widespread pushback he has received. Perhaps another is a reminder that the answer to the question "what is the value of life" is the question itself.