Understanding What Richard Dawkins Actually Believes About Abortion and Down Syndrome

dawkins3-314Richard Dawkins created a firestorm last week when he responded to one of his regular followers on Twitter who said she didn’t know what she would do if she found out she was pregnant with a child who had Down Syndrome.

Pro-life people as well as parents of Down Syndrome (DS) children were outraged and social media blew up as a result of this tweet:

When Dawkins realized that others could see that tweet he sent some more tweets trying to clarify his views:

Professor Richard Dawkins at Lib Dem Party Conference, Bournemouth Sept 09. Credit Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography

Dawkins published a very helpful article the following day, apologizing and explaining his views more clearly. The entire post is worth reading.

Here are his main points:

  • Dawkins thought his tweets would only be visible by the person he was responding to, so he wasn’t trying as hard to be politically correct because she is a regular on his website.
  • Without the 140-character limit of Twitter, he would have said this:

“Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do.  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. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”

  • Dawkins regrets his decision to simplify his views on Twitter, causing so much anger and hurt feelings from parents of DS children.
  • If pro-life people are angry about DS children being aborted, then they should direct that anger at the majority of parents who abort their DS children and the doctors who do it, not at Dawkins for agreeing with it.
  • He didn’t mean to imply that he would tell a woman what to do. It’s her choice. He’s trying to say what he would do in the situation.
  • He doesn’t believe that simply because most people abort DS children means it’s necessarily right.
  • His view is not eugenic, because DS has almost zero heritability. (In other words, eugenics is about improving the human race and killing DS people wouldn’t help accomplish that because DS is rarely passed through the genes. If a DS person reproduces, it is unlikely their child will also have DS.)
  • He has empathy for people who were offended because they have DS children, but they are making an emotional argument, not a logical one.

Just like in any dialogue with a pro-choice person, we should start by trying to understand his views, and after what I’ve seen on social media in the last week, I’m concerned that many pro-life people don’t get where he’s coming from. We should be trying to figure out the answer to this question: Why is Dawkins particularly in favor of abortion when the child is diagnosed with DS? (I’ll give you a hint: It’s not that he hates people with DS)

I strongly disagree with Dawkins’ views about abortion, but now that I’ve read his longer post, I’m going to try to explain why I believe his view isn’t as offensive as his first tweet was. One of the reasons I launched Equal Rights Institute is to help pro-life and pro-choice people to have better dialogues. I believe a necessary condition of having a good dialogue is accurately understanding what the pro-choice person in front of you actually believes, which is rarely clear in the beginning of a conversation. I think trying to get into Dawkins’ shoes will be a good exercise.

To understand Dawkins’ tweets about Down Syndrome, I think we need to understand two things:

#1. Assuming my read on Dawkins is right, then from his perspective there is nothing wrong with having a first-trimester abortion.

Dawkins believes that a first-trimester embryo/fetus is absolutely not a valuable human being or person. He could say it’s a potential person, meaning if it grew up it would become a person at some point late in pregnancy, but he seems to believe that at three months into pregnancy it has zero value.

Based on his recent tweets about abortion, Dawkins seems to believe that you should only get legal rights after you have the biological components necessary to be conscious.

If he’s right, then abortion is like having a mole removed, even though if you gave the mole enough time it could turn into a person. That doesn’t matter. It’s not a person right now, and what it is right now matters more than what it could become later.

Side note: This is why pro-life people need to avoid arguing that abortion is wrong because it kills a potential person. I’m arguing that the unborn IS a person, and that pro-choice philosophers have the wrong definition of person.

#2. Dawkins wants to minimize suffering.

Put those together, and OF COURSE he would tell a woman who’s first trimester child has been diagnosed with DS to abort and try again. There’s nothing wrong with the abortion in his view, AND it helps minimize the parent’s suffering by them avoiding the hardship of taking care of a DS child. Abortion is actually the most moral choice in Dawkins’ view, because he believes that minimizing suffering is tied to morality. In fact, Dawkins believes that from the child’s perspective that not aborting it when you had the chance, before it ever became conscious, may actually be immoral, because you’re allowing suffering to take place that never had to begin.

His view is offensive and I strongly disagree with it, but it’s not as bad as some people thought.

I like something my brother Tim recently said:

“There are no Snidely Whiplashes. There isn’t anybody actually tying girls to railroad tracks, twirling their mustaches, and laughing maniacally in enjoyment of their own evil. Everybody rationalizes what they do to themselves.”

whiplash

How does Dawkins justify his views about abortion and DS? He wants to minimize suffering. He doesn’t want to destroy DS babies because he’s evil. He thinks they will suffer and killing them does not cause them to suffer and so in order to create a world with the least amount of suffering, you kill those kids before they become a person deserving of rights. That’s still wrong, but notice what’s motivating his view. He’s trying to stop suffering. He’s not intending to be insulting to parents of DS children.

While I disagree with his methods, I agree with and appreciate his goal of reducing suffering. We disagree about whether abortion reduces suffering, or if it did, whether or not that would justify it. Richard Dawkins is hostile to most of my values, but we can find common ground with anybody.

Except for Snidely Whiplash.

 

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The post “Understanding What Richard Dawkins Actually Believes About Abortion and Down Syndrome” originally appeared at JoshBrahm.comClick here to subscribe via email and get exclusive access to a FREE MP3 of Josh Brahm’s speech, “Nine Faulty Pro-Life Arguments and Tactics.”

Thanks to Timothy Brahm for helping with this post.

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Josh Brahm is the President of Equal Rights Institute, an organization that trains pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly and argue persuasively.

Josh uses speaking, writing and campus outreach to emphasize practical dialogue tips, pro-life philosophy, and relational apologetics.

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  • Tullia_Ciceronis

    Researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston surveyed families where a member had Down Syndrome and found that Down Syndrome is a positive. From MSNBC.com:

    The Reillys represent some of the experiences reported in three surveys conducted by doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston that suggest the reality of Down syndrome is positive for a vast majority of parents, siblings and people with Down syndrome themselves.

    Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome….

    Skotko also found that among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome. A third study evaluating how adults with Down syndrome felt about themselves reports 99 percent responded they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are, and 96 percent liked how they looked. [my emphasis

    So Dawkins is flat out wrong about DS causing suffering. It seems that folks with DS are actually happier than the average person! As a scientist, Dawkins has the responsibility to correct his scientifically inaccurate views about the quality of life of individuals with DS.

    • Great point and of course I agree. I chose not to add counter arguments to Dawkins in this post. Would have been too confusing.

      If I had, I would have argued that there seems to be a contradiction between Dawkins’ statement and his previous statements about morality not really existing. Again, not for this post.

      • Benjamin O’Donnell

        What “previous statements about morality not really existing”? He expressed some scepticism about “objective” morality in The God Delusion (though he later appeared to have been quite impressed by the moral realism expressed by his friend Sam Harris in The Moral Landscape) but I don’t think it’s fair to characterise that position as being “morality not really existing” in the sense that one cannot logically make moral judgments.

        The fact that our moral bedrock might be some brute choices rather than a universally compelling principle does not necessarily prevent one from making moral judgments based on that choice. Indeed, now I think about it, his comment that “if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering” suggests he was doing just that…

        • I definitely don’t think I understand Dawkins’ view about morality enough to make a strong claim. I know the famous quote from The God Delusion, but I also agree that he seems to have a similar view to Sam Harris, who’s attempt to ground objective morality outside of God is the best I’ve seen so far.

          • Benjamin O’Donnell

            I don’t think Dawkins would claim to be a moral philosopher….

      • Benjamin O’Donnell

        Your point about the empirical evidence that DS kids do not suffer is a very good one. And you’ll note that Dawkins was slightly tentative on the moral issue – “that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn” – presumably because evidence on this issue might arise.

    • Graeme

      So you would, if you could choose, have a child with the condition of Down’s syndrome? Or indeed a family consisting of such children?

      • Tullia_Ciceronis

        Yep…my dream is to adopt disabled children. I am disabled myself and a carrier for some more serious conditions that my siblings live with. I am totally open to having my own bio kids as well, because being disabled has never stopped me or my siblings from living life to the fullest.

        • Graeme

          I am not asking if you would adopt disabled children. I am asking if you would positively breed children with the condition of Down’s syndrome if that were possible. According to the research you cite, these children are such a positive effect on our well-being that we should rather have disabled/disadvantaged children to enrich our lives.

          • Tullia_Ciceronis

            I told you that I am definitely open to having my own bio children even though as a disabled woman and as a carrier for more serious disabilities, there is an almost certainity that my bio children will be disabled. Like I said, disability has never stopped me or my sisters from living life to the fullest.

            • Graeme

              This isn’t really what I am asking. The research you cite and your subsequent post suggests such a positive effect on our lives that we should “positively” aim to conceive Down’s syndrome children. By “positive” I mean doing your utter best to ensure that the children you might bear would be Down’s syndrome. Clearly you are likely to bear children with a disability and that is not going to stop you, nor should it, in having children if that is your wish. But the question is, were it possible for you, in conceiving children, to choose whether they were disabled or not, what choice would you make because the post you made seems to be attempting to imply that having such children is such a positive thing.

              • Tullia_Ciceronis

                I don’t think that engineering our offspring to fit a certain characteristic is a good thing. It would led to negative social consequences such as an increase in the privilege gap between rich and poor, and a rejection of children who are born not fitting the parents’ exact expectations. I think that all people who decide to have children should accept the possibility of anything and love their children regardless of traits like sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The data indicatives that people with DS generally have a good quality of life, so aborting to spare from suffering is just ridiculous.

                • Graeme

                  My wife, as most women do here, when we began to plan our family, took folic acid tablets for a month to ensure we reduced the risk of an exposed spine in our children. She avoided alcohol, ate sensibly, exercised and maximized the chances of the health of our children.

                  However you care to see it, this is engineering. This is eugenics.

                  If you desire to call a foetus a person, then you cannot claim otherwise.

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  • Marauder

    “Dawkins thought his tweets would only be visible by the person he was responding to, so he wasn’t trying as hard to be politically correct because she is a regular on his website.”

    To me, this translates into, “Dawkins thought he was only talking to one person and was therefore uncensored about his thoughts, believing the general public wouldn’t see them.” It all goes back to who we are when we think no one is looking, and when Richard Dawkins thought only one of his fans were looking, he said what he thought: not aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome is an immoral thing to do. Then when he realized the rest of the world knew what he’d said, he scaled back the “immoral” part and tried to rephrase with language about what he’d personally do and what most women do. I appreciate that he took the time to expand on his views and explain them, but nothing in his subsequent explanation convinces me that he doesn’t really believe that it’s not immoral to let a fetus with Down Syndrome live. And if you believe that knowingly letting a fetus with Down Syndrome live is immoral, there’s no getting around the conclusion that you believe that the biological parents of a child with Down Syndrome, if they were aware of the child’s condition before birth and decided against abortion, did something immoral when they made that decision. I think his view is exactly as offensive as his first tweet. (I should probably note that when I read his first tweet, I didn’t draw any conclusion that his views were based on eugenics, so his explanation that his opinion wasn’t based on eugenics doesn’t change anything for me.)

    I’m also not impressed with Dawkins’s whole “don’t direct your anger at me, direct it at parents who abort fetuses with Down Syndrome” thing. Parents who have just found out their unborn child has Down Syndrome are suddenly thrust into the position of having to make a decision they never wanted to be faced with, and it’s an emotional time where they feel pressure from their own consciences, family members, and society to do the “right thing,” although consciences, family members, and society may not agree on what the “right thing” is. I’m more angry at people like Richard Dawkins, who had the luxury of considering all of this from an emotionally removed, non-personal perspective and helped to create and maintain a societal atmosphere that goes beyond even standard pro-choice rhetoric and says that aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome is the only moral choice, than I am at parents who abort children with Down Syndrome because they were at a vulnerable point in their lives and were convinced they were doing the right thing. (A lot of them are being pressured by doctors to make a decision quickly so the abortion, if they choose one, can be scheduled for as soon as possible.)

    Dawkins sounds almost as though he thinks the question of whether to abort a fetus with Down Syndrome is some kind of mathematical formula, in which “child with Down Syndrome = suffering” and therefore should be subtracted from the equation of life as soon as possible. I’m not seeing any consideration of the possibility that “child with Down Syndrome = challenges + joys,” or “aborting fetus with Down Syndrome = X% chance of suffering from regret.” I think there’s merit in understanding why he believes what he does, and I don’t think he’s Snidely Whiplash, but I don’t think his view is any better than I originally thought it was.

  • m17l6s85

    “His view is not eugenic, because DS has almost zero heritability. (In other words, eugenics is about improving the human race and killing DS people wouldn’t help accomplish that because DS is rarely passed through the genes. If a DS person reproduces, it is unlikely their child will also have DS.)”

    I thought this point of his was especially weak. Most people who talk about eugenics don’t mean the strict definition of “can we improve the overall genetics of the human species” but mean a broader definition of an insidious mentality of weeding out the vulnerable, weak, or undesirable to “perfect” the human race. He only addressed the stricter definition, totally sidestepping the main concern (I believe) of most people who levied the eugenics accusation.

    • m17l6s85

      Indeed, in a later tweet someone asks Dawkins what he thinks about people on the autistic spectrum, and Dawkins replies that people on the autistic spectrum have plenty to contribute and may even have enhanced abilities in some way. He contrasts this with Down Syndrome, which he says is not enhanced. (Source: https://twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/502109047869702144)

      To me, that furthers the “eugenic” tone of his position. This isn’t just about minimizing the suffering of parents who raise children with special needs, or the mentality would apply to autism as much as Downs. This is about what the people with these conditions can or can’t contribute to society, and therefore how worthy they are to live.

      I understand that for Dawkins and probably most pro-choicers, first trimester abortion is not a moral issue because they don’t view the fetus at that stage as a valuable human being. But I don’t think that’s all there is to Dawkins and Downs.

      • Yeah, I’m tracking with you. My personal read on it is that Dawkins is explaining that because autistic people tend to have enhanced abilities to contribute, that leads to them finding joy in ways that DS people may not.

        I’m open to being wrong too. I’m not trying to give Dawkins more credit than he deserves. As you can tell, there is only so much we can learn from one tweet. :)

        • m17l6s85

          Why do you think his criteria is ability to find joy? If that’s the case (and I’m skeptical) he must know very little about either autism or Downs. People with Downs syndrome have a reputation for specifically being happier than most, and people with autism have a reputation for being less emotionally connected. So you’d think if what he cared about was the ability to find joy, his positions on which of the two should be aborted would be reversed.

          • I think that’s connected to his desire to reduce suffering. I think his view is to avoid both the suffering of the DS child and the parent. His premise about DS children suffering may indeed be wrong, which would refute his argument that it’s *more* moral to abort a DS baby than most other babies. Remember, he still doesn’t think first-trimester fetuses are persons, so at that point it’s just going to be whatever the parent wishes for Dawkins.

            • m17l6s85

              Well two points:

              (1) If it’s about reducing suffering for the DS person, it’s pretty hard for him to argue that there’s a major difference between saying a DS fetus should be aborted and saying a DS person should have been aborted years ago. I mean, he’s saying it’s better for a DS person to have never been born at all than to live the apparent horrid existence they have, no?

              (2) It sounds like you’re saying Dawkins believes DS people suffer too much for it to be worth bringing them into the world, yet people with autism have enhanced ability to find joy and so should be brought into the world. The only way that makes sense is if he really is remarkably ignorant about both Downs and autism.

              I suppose it’s possible that’s true, and that he was just speaking out about a topic he actually knows incredibly little about. We all do it sometimes. But I find it hard to believe, really.

              Do you think the more generous interpretation is to assume he just doesn’t know anything about Downs or autism, or to assume he actually does know a bit about both and his criteria for worthwhile life is more utilitarian than altruistic? He seems to be utilitarian in other regards, which is why I’m inclined to believe the latter.

              • #1: Yes, I believe that’s correct. He’s saying it’s better for them to never experience suffering.

                #2: I can’t tell which category better describes where Dawkins is coming from. I think both are possible.

            • Benjamin O’Donnell

              I suspect that, were he to see the evidence, Dawkins would concede that DS children don’t suffer overly, though I suspect he’d argue their families do. Nevertheless, you’re right that that concession would probably move him from aborting DS children being “morally obligatory” to being “morally optional”.

              • Graeme

                I don’t think Dawkins would advocate “aborting DS children”. I am quite confident he would argue in favour of aborting DS foetuses not sufficiently developed to be inconvenienced by termination because on balance this, he would argue, would be the net best option.

                I am confident that Dawkins would rather have children that did not have the condition of Down’s Syndrome. Is there anyone here who would rather have a Down’s syndrome child than a child without the condition?

                • Pitchguest

                  Exactly. If you had the choice between a perfectly healthy child and a child with disabilities that would cause them grief later in life and might even shorten their lifespan, would choosing the perfectly healthy child be immoral? And would saying that deliberately giving birth to the latter ‘immoral’ really be such a dreadful thing to propose?

                  • Tullia_Ciceronis

                    But you are assuming that abortion is moral because fetuses are not persons. So far I have not been able to find a consistent reason for denying personhood to the unborn that could not also be used to deny personhood to certain classes of born people…temporary coma patients in deep comas lack the ability to consciously sense, which is the dictionary definition of sentience, conjoined twins who cannot be separated rely on each others bodies for survival (non-viable), etc.

                    • Pitchguest

                      The difference between a fetus and a patient temporarily in coma: the patient temporarily in coma is already born. A fetus is not a person, no matter how much you want it to be. A fetus is the beginning of a collection of cells that later gestates into a body that *becomes* a child. But while it’s still a fetus? No.

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      So at what point do you think that we become persons? Is an adult more of a person than an infant because an adult is more developed and has more abilities than the infant, who isn’t even aware than it exists as an individual yet?
                      Also, you seem to view prenatal development as a construction process, much like car manufacturing. At what point does a car become a car..when the doors are put in, the engine is functional, etc? Likewise when does a person become a person? When the heart starts beating, viability, sentience? But embryos aren’t constructed by an outside force, they develop. So a better analogy is Polaroid photography. The chemical reaction that creates the photo occurs when the shutter is snapped, but the picture itself just looks like a grey smear when it first exits the camera. It takes a few minutes for it to look like a picture. Prenatal development is somewhat similar. Fertilization is the biological event that creates the human being, but it takes several months for it to be able to survive outside the womb. However, I remember that undeveloped Polaroids were referred to as actual photographs, not potential photographs, because the chemical reaction that created them had already occurred. This holds for prenatal development as well.

                  • Tullia_Ciceronis

                    Researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston surveyed families where a member had Down Syndrome and found that Down Syndrome is a positive. From MSNBC.com:

                    The Reillys represent some of the experiences reported in three surveys conducted by doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston that suggest the reality of Down syndrome is positive for a vast majority of parents, siblings and people with Down syndrome themselves.

                    Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome….

                    Skotko also found that among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome. A third study evaluating how adults with Down syndrome felt about themselves reports 99 percent responded they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are, and 96 percent liked how they looked. [my emphasis

                    So Dawkins is flat out wrong about DS causing suffering. It seems that folks with DS are actually happier than the average person! As a scientist, Dawkins has the responsibility to correct his scientifically inaccurate views about the quality of life of individuals with DS.

                    • Pitchguest

                      Dawkins did not argue that DS CAUSING suffering, he was arguing that persons WITH DS suffer and not necessarily because they affect the people around them. He was also arguing abortion while the fetus was still a fetus. Once it is born, it’s born. Then it’s a person just like any of us and should be treated as such.

                      But the argument of immorality still stands in my opinion, because you wouldn’t knowingly give birth to a child you know (due to complications in the gestation) would be born without limbs, so the question is why is asking the same for those with Down so dreadful if their conditions for living might be lessened? Some people with Down don’t even have conscious impulses. They’re just a living, breathing shell.

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      Excuse me? Read some medical literature on Down’s Syndrome. DS does not cause an individual to become a living breathing shell without conscious impulses…
                      I would never have an abortion, as a disabled woman your argument is very offensive to me. I know people without limbs who live fine lives so I would have no problem giving birth to such a child….

                    • Pitchguest

                      Excuse me? Excuse you. Down syndrome can cause you to become wheelchair driven or worse, bedridden, for the rest of your life. The thinking, conscious part of their brain might be intact, but their motor functions are lessened to such a degree they’re obsolete. Now read it very carefully: it *can* cause you to become like that. There is no guarantee. However, as with your sister, most are afflicted with heart problems, respiratory problems and many die before they reach the tender age of 40.

                      As for the other, you would *knowingly* give birth to a child without limbs? We’re not talking giving birth only to then *discover* the child has no limbs, but knowing *in advance* that the child in question would have no limbs. You wouldn’t even consider the feelings of the child? How he or she would feel being born with no limbs to speak of? I should reiterate that I feel the choice is up to the mother always, but I also feel that sort of thing when faced with a situation like that should be given more thought than a simple, “I would never have an abortion.”

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      Excuse me…I am disabled…I am close friends with people who are disabled…most of my family is disabled..some quite significantly. I know what it is like to be disabled. You don’t. It is ableist to assume that disability is The Worst Thing in The World and that it is better not to be born, not to exist than to be disabled. That is why you need to check your able-bodied privilege, so that you can understand that many of us disabled folks find your pity sickening and your assessment of our quality of life inaccurate. I am glad to be born, so is my sister, and so are most of the significantly disabled people that I know of.

                    • Pitchguest

                      We’re not talking about general disability, we’re talking about disability *upon birth* and *knowing in advance* that the child would be disabled. In what way is it ableist to wish a better life for the yet unborn child? I don’t have anything against the disabled. None. But if I should, as you say, ‘check my able-bodied privilege’ (you never asked if I was disabled), if you sometimes find your disability to be a burden, at times a burden so severe it becomes almost unbearable, is it really so terrible to say you wouldn’t wish that on another?

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      I find life with my disability to be better than non-existence. It has taught me empathy and persistence. Abortion doesn’t give the fetus a better life…it eliminates the existence of the fetus and any future that it might have had. This choice is most often made by able-bodied parents who have no idea what it is actually like to live with a disability. Most disabled people that I have interacted with feel the same way that I do about these things, so my opinions are not at all unusual, especially in the disability rights community.
                      Ableism can be benign, just like sexism, but it is still ableism. You are motivated by pity, but it is inaccurate ableist pity based on the false belief that disability is worse than non-existence.

            • Graeme

              “… he still doesn’t think first-trimester fetuses [sic] are persons” – nor is he ever likely to, either. Josh Brahm continually equates children and babies with foetuses. Sorry, but attributing the word “person” to a foetus is never going to be convincing. If you want to understand where Dawkins comes from, you might want to read about his views of the tyranny of the discontinuous mind.

              A seven day old blastocyst is not in the slightest bit inconvenienced by its termination. Not in the slightest. It cares not one jot about your concerns for it nor your needs to impose human rights upon it which might be detrimental to the carrier.

              • Tullia_Ciceronis

                A temporarily comatose infant would not even be slightly inconvienced by being euthanized, and such a move might be beneficial to the parents.

                • Graeme

                  Indeed it wouldn’t but blastocyst isn’t a child is it? It’s one hundred cells of human DNA.

                  • Clinton

                    How many cells must be present before something can be a person?

                    • Graeme

                      Many, many more than 100.

                      The question is of course from the black and white mind; read about the tyranny of the discontinuous mind.

                      This fixation with the word “person” so that there is a reason to equate clumps of cells with humans I find quite transparent. Bananas share 50% of human DNA – when is a banana not half a person?

                    • Clinton

                      You didn’t answer the question. In order to know what a person is *not*, you must know a person *is*. How many cells must be present, and why is number of cells necessary for something to be considered a person?

                    • M.C.S. ’81

                      The difference between a speck of 100 cells (embryo or otherwise) a baby, or you or I, is complexity of the organism, which makes all the difference when it comes to abortion, or how any living thing is treated.

          • Suzanne Menninga

            Sorry, but that people with autism are less emotionally connected does not mean that they are not able to find joy in live. If you think that then you do not know much about autism. I have many autistic friends and they enjoy live very much and although the social aspect is different they are real good friends and you can have a lot of fun with despite their autism!

            • m17l6s85

              My step-brother has autism and he is a sweet kid. My point was not that they can’t have joy in life. I’ve seen him get very happy over plenty of things. My point was that I don’t think Dawkins’ reactions to Downs versus autism makes sense if we try to explain it terms of measuring people’s worth based on the emotional heights they can reach. And I don’t think we should measure people’s worth on that basis anyway.

          • John Maguire

            A common misunderstanding with autism is that people who are autistic do not feel emotions the way we do, or can’t feel emotions. This is untrue. They do however express them and understand / perceive them differently than we do.

          • Pitchguest

            People with Down syndrome also have a history of a short life due to heart failure, or respiratory problems, or problems with learning or movement. Some spend their entire lives incapacitated, stuck in a wheelchair or a bed, with no other motor functions to speak of than their voice. That’s not a life. That’s a prison. Some with Down have a relatively normal life. Many do not.

            If you knew that the fetus that will one day become a child would be born with organs or limbs missing, or diabetes or the prospect of them having to be plugged into a dialysis machine since birth, would you knowingly give birth to this child or would you abort – out of kindness and not because it would darken the gene pool?

            • Tullia_Ciceronis

              My little sister has many of those problems…but she’s glad to be here, glad to be born. So no, I would not. It’s incredibly ableist to assume that because someone’s life will be a lot hard that it would be better for them not to be born. Check your able-bodied privilege.

              • Pitchguest

                Check my ‘able-bodied privilege’? Grow up.

            • m17l6s85

              Just to clarify, are you including diabetes in the list of health problems that you think might be worth aborting over?

              • Pitchguest

                To the extent of those with Down or other congenital disorders? No.

                But it’s really up to the parent again and if they think knowingly giving birth to a child with diabetes (a condition for which there is no cure) is cruel, then that would be their choice to abort. As always. But if you ask me, as a question of, is it comparable to a disorder like Down, I don’t think so. We’re talking about a condition at birth that will, in many cases, shorten their lifespan or otherwise provide their life with unnecessary suffering. For example, I gave another where the child would be born without limbs, arms or legs. Their life would be thoroughly contained from day one. On those cases I would consider abortion a mercy. (Remember, we are still talking about a zygote here.)

                • m17l6s85

                  We aren’t talking about zygotes if we are talking about abortions after a Down’s diagnosis. That diagnosis doesn’t typically happen until near the end of the first trimester at the earliest. At least that’s my understanding. In those cases we’re talking about abortion when the fetus already has a brain, liver, kidneys, spinal cord, etc. I’m not aware of prenatal diagnostic tests for the other disorders you mentioned.

                  But I guess more to the point: if I understand you correctly, you and I think of abortion in general very differently, which means we will naturally think of abortion in cases of disabilities differently too. If I saw abortion as roughly equivalent to choosing which of my unfertilized eggs to discard, I’d probably hold a view very similar to your own. For example, I wouldn’t think much of it if we could test which of my eggs would create a kid with a serious congenital problem and then discard those eggs.

                  But I see abortion as destroying already-existing human beings – and in the case of Down’s they are fairly developed, if that’s a spectrum we care about. I think that puts a really different moral spin to it.

                • life is “a condition for which there is no cure.” We all die.

            • Diabetes does not belong in this list. It is quite treatable (type II) / manageable (both types).

        • DianaG2

          Yes, you are giving him more credit than he deserves.

          He’s simply elitist.

          • Griffonn

            I don’t think he’s so much elitist as he is defensive and broken. All he has is his pride in his own intellect.

            Pride isn’t much to live on.

            • DianaG2

              That is a VERY good point.

    • Benjamin O’Donnell

      To be fair, the word “gene” is right there in the word “eugenics” and Dawkins is a genetic scientist – you can hardly fault him for being meticulous in the use of the language of his own discipline.

      • m17l6s85

        I fault him for answering the letter of the accusation and not the spirit. I very much doubt he doesn’t realize the distinction. He’s quite intelligent.

    • DianaG2

      Yes, of course.

  • CharlesOConnell

    Dear Josh, nice to have met you in Sacramento. True, everyone who banalizes evil behavior has to rationalize it, but such a process is in some way a matter of auto brainwashing oneself against the truth, overcoming strongly wired inhibitions against wrong. This idea is central to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’ s “Killology”:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_9Ozno7HMGE

  • CharlesOConnell

    §15. Threats which are no less serious [than those against the unborn] hang over the incurably ill and the dying. In a social and cultural context which makes it more difficult to face and accept suffering, the temptation becomes all the greater to resolve the problem of suffering by eliminating it at the root, by hastening death so that it occurs at the moment considered most suitable.

    Various considerations usually contribute to such a decision, all of which converge in the same terrible outcome. In the sick person the sense of anguish, of severe discomfort, and even of desperation brought on by intense and prolonged suffering can be a decisive factor. Such a situation can threaten the already fragile equilibrium of an individual’s personal and family life, with the result that, on the one hand, the sick person, despite the help of increasingly effective medical and social assistance, risks feeling overwhelmed by his or her own frailty; and on the other hand, those close to the sick person can be moved by an understandable even if misplaced compassion. All this is aggravated by a cultural climate which fails to perceive any meaning or value in suffering, but rather considers suffering the epitome of evil, to be eliminated at all costs. This is especially the case in the absence of a religious outlook which could help to provide a positive understanding of the mystery of suffering.

    On a more general level, there exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope. We see a tragic expression of all this in the spread of euthanasia-disguised and surreptitious, or practised openly and even legally. As well as for reasons of a misguided pity at the sight of the patient’s suffering, euthanasia is sometimes justified by the utilitarian motive of avoiding costs which bring no return and which weigh heavily on society. Thus it is proposed to eliminate malformed babies, the severely handicapped, the disabled, the elderly, especially when they are not self-sufficient, and the terminally ill. Nor can we remain silent in the face of other more furtive, but no less serious and real, forms of euthanasia. These could occur for example when, in order to increase the availability of organs for transplants, organs are removed without respecting objective and adequate criteria which verify the death of the donor.
    — Pope St. John-Paul II, Evangelium Vitae

  • SimonNorwich

    An interesting article, and I believe you’re right to conclude that those on both sides of the “pro-choice/pro-life” debate share a common motive of trying to do the humane thing, even if they have radically different views on what is humane in this situation.

    I disagree with your brother, though. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that there are a few psychopathic Snidely Whiplashes in this world, who have no empathy for their fellow human beings. But the vast majority on both sides of the abortion debate are not like that.

    As it happens I side with Dawkins on this issue. Nobody cries over the trillions of people who are never even conceived because most sperms never meet an egg; nor do they cry over the large percentage of fertilised eggs that are naturally aborted at a very early stage without the mother even being aware she was pregnant. In my view, an early foetus with no developed nervous system to feel anything is no more a person than an unfertilised egg. There is no personality, no consciousness. But I understand that it’s natural for many people to develop an emotional attachment to the potential person that may develop, which is why we must be careful how we regard each other’s view.

    • I don’t see how the number of people who cry when a human being dies is relevant. By that logic someone could go around snuffing out the homeless.

    • Graeme

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      • Tullia_Ciceronis

        “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
        [O’Rahilly, Ronan and M�ller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]
        So you can argue that unborn human organisms are not persons, but I have yet to see an intellectually consistent argument for that. After all, temporary coma patients in deep comas lack the ability to consciously sense which is the dictionary definition of sentience, conjoined twins who cannot be separated depend on each other’s bodies to survive (non-viable) yet few people deny that those human organisms are persons. Most would even accept that an infant born into a temporarily comatose state is a person, despite not being sentient and never having been sentient.

        • Graeme

          This is an example of what Dawkins refers to as the tyranny of the discontinuous mind. Suddenly, as part of a biological process, a whole person appears.

          With this kind of argumentation, we can state that children are middle aged.

          You’re not going to convince many moral philosophers and lawmakers with the approach of quoting a biological textbook. There still has to be reasoned discussion as to what this zygote really is and it ain’t a person.

          • Tullia_Ciceronis

            So at what point do you think that we become persons? Is an adult more of a person than an infant because an adult is more developed and has more abilities than the infant, who isn’t even aware than it exists as an individual yet?
            Also, you seem to view prenatal development as a construction process, much like car manufacturing. At what point does a car become a car..when the doors are put in, the engine is functional, etc? Likewise when does a person become a person? When the heart starts beating, viability, sentience? But embryos aren’t constructed by an outside force, they develop. So a better analogy is Polaroid photography. The chemical reaction that creates the photo occurs when the shutter is snapped, but the picture itself just looks like a grey smear when it first exits the camera. It takes a few minutes for it to look like a picture. Prenatal development is somewhat similar. Fertilization is the biological event that creates the human being, but it takes several months for it to be able to survive outside the womb. However, I remember that undeveloped Polaroids were referred to as actual photographs, not potential photographs, because the chemical reaction that created them had already occurred. This holds for prenatal development as well.

            • Graeme

              I think that the fixation of the word “person” as a means of deciding human rights is doomed to failure because we can see a country mile difference between 100 cells of human DNA and a baby in vitro just prior to its birth. You can call these things persons if you wish, but you are not going to convince large swathes of people that an acorn is an oak tree. Someone is always going to ask “what are the qualities and attributes of this “person” who is a blastocyst” and you are not going to change anything about what 100 cells are in the minds of many a rational person I am afraid. By your argumentation, a banana which contains 50% similarities in human DNA is half a person.

              For sure, there is a period when the lines become fuzzy and we need to side with caution but words are our servants not our masters. You seem to need to have black and white descriptors in your life and life just ain’t like that – there are shades of grey. And a blastocyst just ain’t a person any more than a fully developed banana.

              For sure, if a woman desires to take the blastocyst to full term, we, a society, should be protecting it and helping her as much as we can. See how the “value” of the blastocyst can change? Shades of grey. But if it is not desired by mother and other directly interested parties, I can see no reason to demand human rights for it any more I could for a banana.

              • Tullia_Ciceronis

                In the first place, while the banana is an organism, unlike skin cells, sperm cells, or egg cells, which are not organisms but rather functional parts of organisms, it does not and never will have the potential to develop rationality like ours. So, I see more similarity between a blastocystand an infant born into a temporary coma…both are human organisms with the potential to develop rationality and sentience. You again seem to equate level of development with basic fundamental rights deserved, which would lead to some interesting conclusions if taken consistently. For instance, an infant would have less of the right to life than an adult, because the infant is less developed than the adult. Yes, there are huge differences between a blastocyst and a baby, but also between than baby and an adult. There’s even more of a difference between a comatose infant and a fully functioning adult, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are both persons with a right to life. Again, your obsession with level of development turning one into a person is interesting, because it suggests an unconscious comparision between the manufacturing process which adds a bunch of raw materials together and turns them into something and prenatal development. As I stated before, I believe that the Polaroid camera analogy is much more accurate, because embryos aren’t constructed, they develop. There is a big difference between the grey smear than is the undeveloped Polaroid and the fully developed picture in the frame, but both are actual photos, because the chemical reaction that created them has already occurred, all that the former needs is time to develop in order to be all that it can be.

                • Graeme

                  I find these arguments to be nothing other than special pleading. That’s all the “personhood” argument seems to be, to me. As soon as you present the absurd logical extensions to this argument, they too are “special-pleaded” away. “Oh no, it’s skin cells!”, “they’re functional parts!”.

                  I do not equate “level of development” with anything. I look at what something actually is, what it means to have it and lose it and I don’t allow myself to be hoodwinked by specious arguments that equate clumps of cells with fully fledged humans. Your reasoning allows us to see children as being middle-aged.

                  The rational conclusion is that there is no reason to have concerns for 100 cells of human DNA even if has the potential to become Albert Einsten or Adolf Hitler. The argument from potential, which you again use, has been long thrashed to a withering stump. It’s the Beethoven Fallacy once again. The extension of this argument is that all women, who are not actively engaged in being pregnant, are destroying the potential lives that they could be bringing into being. Women not busy being pregnant are murderers. But no, special-plead away! Plead that all of a sudden, a fully fledged person exists when a certain biological process occurs!

                  It’s transparent and it’s unconvincing and deeply unsatisfying. I doubt you will get far with this argument with lawmakers (unless, I suspect, they are religious).

                  The attempt to portray me as a mindless automaton who can only think along the lines of a manufacturing system is duly noted.

    • I agree there are a few sociopathic Snidely Whiplash’s. Maybe I should have qualified the statement a little.

    • Tullia_Ciceronis

      Also, ignoring this

      “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
      [O’Rahilly, Ronan and M�ller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]
      So you can argue that unborn human organisms are not persons, but I have yet to see an intellectually consistent argument for that. After all, temporary coma patients in deep comas lack the ability to consciously sense which is the dictionary definition of sentience, conjoined twins who cannot be separated depend on each other’s bodies to survive (non-viable) yet few people deny that those human organisms are persons. Most would even accept that an infant born into a temporarily comatose state is a person, despite not being sentient and never having been sentient.

  • darkcat

    He said is “immoral” to conceive and give birth to a DS baby. That’s passing judgement and an ignorant comment. Don’t try to sugar coat it. If someone decides to have a DS baby and care and love the child more power to them, is not immoral. Period.

  • The thing is that his views are couched in ignorance. If he thinks people with DS are suffering, or that their parents are suffering as a result of having a child with DS, then he’s grossly misinformed but isn’t making any attempt to ascertain for himself if DS truly does entail suffering (which he could do by, say, interviewing parents of kids with DS, or volunteering at the Special Olympics, or whatnot). For someone who claims to be a man of science, and who claims to be grounded in facts and logic, it’s pathetic.

    • Benjamin O’Donnell

      I think “pathetic” is a bit strong for an off-the cuff tweet base on what is arguable the false premise of DS suffering…

      • You misunderstand. I was referring to his propensity to base his viewpoints off of his feelings alone, as opposed to basing them off of facts, reason, and logic, as befits any proper scientist.

        • Benjamin O’Donnell

          Well, I think that’s certainly unfair.

          • How is it unfair to hold him to the same standards he claims to profess?

            • Benjamin O’Donnell

              Because I think, for the most part, he upholds those standards – though moreso in his books than in his tweets.

    • Graeme

      If you could choose by some non-intrusive manner, whether you had a child with (a) autism, (b) Down’s syndrome or (c) neither, which would you choose? I would choose (c).

      • I’d choose (d), where we live in a perfect world where there is no death, disability, defects, or disease at all. It’s just as realistic as your other choices.

        • Graeme

          (d) is totally unrealistic.

          (c) there are massive numbers of children being born in this category – it is totally realistic

          (b) it is possible – in actual practice – to scan for this condition and choose, as is done by the majority of women offered the choice, to abort the foetus and try again.

          (d) I do not know for sure what options there are for this eventuality in practise. but that is not important.

          You are not obliged to answer my question, you certainly seem to be avoiding doing so, so why bother responding at all? It is clearly NOT the case that your example, (d) is as realistic as the other options.

          I appreciate that it might be difficult to flat-out admit that one would rather have a child unencumbered by additional challenges, but this is the big elephant in the room that no-one seems to want to admit to see. And it seems that it is much harder to admit when one is raising disadvantaged children or one is disadvantaged oneself.

      • Tullia_Ciceronis

        As a person with autism, I can honestly say that your comment is really offensive. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad that I was born. I love my life.

        • Graeme

          I surmise that your offence arises from the fallacy in equating your having come into being with events that would have prevented you from doing so. It’s the big old Beethoven Fallacy written red and large.

          It’s the argument from hindsight which attempts to equate the saying “oh, (s)he turned out like that, oh, in that case, let’s turn back the clock and hope for something else” with the position of wondering what is best, at the moment of conception, for the future. It’s a fallacy.

          • Tullia_Ciceronis

            It doesn’t change the fact that it offends me to imply that the world would be a better place if I didn’t exist and was never born.

            • Graeme

              I’ve just explained to you that you may not draw this conclusion, haven’t I? The implication that you state IS NOT BEING MADE!

              You are being offended by your own inability to follow simple logic that has been made time and again.

              The world is teeming with the ghosts of those who never came into being because someone missed a bus, tripped up, and so on. They are not in the slightest bit offended by their not existing.

              • Tullia_Ciceronis

                It doesn’t change the fact that it is fundamentally offensive to say to someone that they would be better off not existing if they are disabled. How would you like it if someone else went up to you and claim that the world would be a better place if you didn’t exist. I do exist, and I like existing. To say that I should not have been born because of my disability is offensive to me.

                • ohdear

                  Well, then it’s fortunate he didn’t say that and neither did Richard Dawkins :)

                  • Tullia_Ciceronis

                    He did. Richard Dawkins claims that individuals with DS are better off not being born. Graeme has stated repeatedly that disabled individuals are better off not being born. Both claim that it is immoral for parents not to abort a fetus with DS or some other type of major disability.

                    • ohdear

                      He did not. Repeatedly sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting lalala will still not make it true.

                      Read his actual words. Not your spin on them.

                      Dawkins stated it was immoral to bring a disabled, suffering child into the. He made no statement At. All. About them being or feeling better off either way.

                      He made absolutely no comment. At any time. No. Comment. At. All. Saying that those who are already born with disabilities should not have been. He did not imply it. He did not say it.

                      Everything you have said is moot.

                      Foetuses are not people. Nobody is talking about people. Nobody is saying anything. At all. About thinking sentient people.

                      Foetuses, as recognised by law are not sentient, not human beings and have no rights.

                      He has repeatedly stated that if he had a disabled child himself he would love it and look after it and that society should do the same.

                      Let it go. You’re wrong. This is now getting embarrassing.

                      Or keep waffling and literally just making things up. Whatever floats your boat.

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      If you think that it is immoral to bring a child with DS into the world, then you are making a value judgment about the quality of life of individuals living with DS. You are saying that their lives are so not worth living that it would be better to abort a fetus who could have a life like theirs if allowed to be born. You are saying that we should prevent future people with their characteristics from existing, because those people’s lives would not be worth living. Also, if sentience is what matters, should it be legal to just go around unplugging temporary coma patients, because they aren’t sentient?

                    • ohdear

                      Or, to translate, you cannot win the debate, so you keep moving the goalposts. He said what he said, not what you are claiming he said, all your bizarre waffling aside.

                      But thank you for being dishonest and refusing to stick to the facts. Because it neatly proves what I said above:

                      This Tullia person is a troll. They are anti choice, anti women and have latched on to this non existent statement that Dawkins never made to try to bolster their opinion that women should be subjected to forced birthing.

                      And despite your fervent desire to forced birth women, which is the equivalent of rape, women very definitely ARE keeping their rights.

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      Fascinating, I am a woman myself, so I guess according to you I hate myself. Also, is mandatory vaccination equivalent to rape? What about denying a conjoined twin the right to force their dependent sibling to undergo separation surgery? What do you believe that Dawkins said? Because he said that it would be immoral to give birth to a child with DS because they will suffer. He said those things, and they are a matter of public record. You appear to be a troll here.

                    • ohdear

                      Look up internalised sexism. There are plenty of anti choice cheerleaders waving their pom poms at the notion of controlling women.

                      And again, you are waffling and attempting to shift the goal posts. I know what he said. I’ve read it. So have you.

                      Despite what you believe, you are doing a great service to thinking, rational pro choicers. It is exactly this duck and weave irrelevant and illogical non science and nonsense that makes thinking people realise how dangerous anti choicers are.

                      Foetuses have no rights. Women are keeping their rights – despite your fervent wish that this were not so.

                      I’ve just had a quick glance at your comments. You spend a great deal of time cutting and pasting the same irrelevancies over and over.

                      My part of our conversation is now over. I’ve made my point irrefutably.

                      You are free to keep trolling.

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      Explain to me exactly what he said and how exactly it differs from what I said that he said. Also, sounds like a great way to keep the women in line–just tell them, be pro-choice or else you have internalized sexism.

                    • DianaG2

                      Thank heavens for THAT!

                      This “ohdear” character sounds like some of the folks from RH, etc. Maybe just a new name.

                    • DianaG2

                      An abortion just kills the baby BEFORE birth. The mom has to give birth anyway — to a dead baby.

                    • DianaG2

                      Of course fetuses are people:

                      In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth. (Reference dot com: Fetus in medicine.)

                      The unborn offspring of a mammal at the later stages of its development, especially a human from eight weeks after fertilization to its birth. In a fetus, all major body organs are present. (Reference dot com: Fetus in Science.)

                • Graeme

                  It’s as though this person has no reading comprehension. It has been explained enough times why this offence is fallacious and self-inflicted. It’s as though this person can’t understand simple logic.

                  • Tullia_Ciceronis

                    Let me put it this way-do you believe that disabled fetuses should not be born? Then you are saying that fetuses that could grow up to be like me should not be born. You are saying that parents should not give birth to disabled children that could grow up to be like me. That is what I find offensive. Claiming that I don’t understand your argument is just a way to avoid taking responsibility for your own ableist comments.

              • ohdear

                This Tulia person is a troll. They are anti choice, anti women and have latched on to this non existent statement that Dawkins never made to try to bolster their opinion that women should be subjected to forced birthing.

                Not even sure they actually have autism, most persons with autism I have met are able to understand and apply logic.

      • Clinton

        I would choose C. But it doesn’t follow from that that it’s morally permissible to kill a child in the womb with autism or Down’s syndrome.

        • anon

          Fortunately, in the womb it’s a foetus. Not a child. No rights, no sentience, not a human being. As recognise by law.

          • Clinton

            Are you saying that whatever the law declares is right? Should we have never given blacks any rights because our law declared they didn’t have any?

        • Graeme

          I agree it does not follow that it is thus morally *permissible*. But it is an important recognition that it is normal for us to want to bear children unencumbered by certain disadvantages such as Down’s syndrome.

          Many of those against what Dawkins was tweeting could, I suspect, never come as far as admitting that they would choose (c). One poster here has been avoiding admitting such.

          Once you have admitted (c), you can then have the discussion as to what would make it permissible or impermissible. I am still waiting for good arguments that make it impermissible. I am still waiting for the rationale that allows us to call a foetus a child with a shred of satisfaction.

          • Clinton

            For one thing, the dictionary refers to the fetus as a child. If you look up both “child” and “baby” in the dictionary, one definition is “a human fetus.” It is only pro-choice people who want to deny that a fetus is a child because it makes abortion more palatable, but the reality is a child is just a young human being, which is precisely what a human fetus is.

            I would choose C because Down’s syndrome is a disorder which will make life more difficult for them. That’s not to say children with Down’s syndrome aren’t valuable, or are less valuable, just that I wouldn’t want my child to have to deal with intellectual disabilities. But again, it doesn’t follow that we can then justify killing children with Down’s syndrome. I also wouldn’t want my child to get cancer, or any other detrimental ailment.

            • Graeme

              “The dictionary”? Really? Which dictionary are you referring to?

              In Webster’s the definition of fetus is “The young or embryo of a vertebrate animal in the womb, or in the egg; often restricted to the later stages in the development of viviparous and oviparous animals. showing the main recognizable features of the mature animal, embryo being applied to the earlier stages.”

              Does the dictionary you refer to define old aged people as being teenagers or something?

              Pro-choice people look at what a foetus actually IS and not what silly dictionaries tell them. Words and dictionaries are servants not masters. And a foetus is not a child unless you are prepared to say that a cup is a spoon.

  • Tactical_Fail

    There was NOTHING wrong with his original tweet and I despise the fact that I live in a society where pathetic over-sensitivities like yours exist – so you can imagine how i feel towards those others you were addressing who don’t even try to understand his take.

    • Tullia_Ciceronis

      Researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston surveyed families where a member had Down Syndrome and found that Down Syndrome is a positive. From MSNBC.com:

      The Reillys represent some of the experiences reported in three surveys conducted by doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston that suggest the reality of Down syndrome is positive for a vast majority of parents, siblings and people with Down syndrome themselves.

      Among 2,044 parents or guardians surveyed, 79 percent reported their outlook on life was more positive because of their child with Down syndrome….

      Skotko also found that among siblings ages 12 and older, 97 percent expressed feelings of pride about their brother or sister with Down syndrome and 88 percent were convinced they were better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome. A third study evaluating how adults with Down syndrome felt about themselves reports 99 percent responded they were happy with their lives, 97 percent liked who they are, and 96 percent liked how they looked. [my emphasis

      So Dawkins is flat out wrong about DS causing suffering. It seems that folks with DS are actually happier than the average person! As a scientist, Dawkins has the responsibility to correct his scientifically inaccurate views about the quality of life of individuals with DS.

      • Tactical_Fail

        I’m not disputing the literal data of any particular study, but careful about how you’re interpreting it. Surely, you can’t even believe that horse-crap yourself. Do you really think DS is a healthy and productive condition? We should abort non-DS babies, right and try to genetically engineer for DS?

        Moron. You’re a willing, deliberate, moron. You know you’re wrong but you argue it anyway because you think it’s ‘morally right’ to do this.

        • Tullia_Ciceronis

          There is a difference between selective engineering for something and accepting something that naturally occurs. I don’t support eugenics or selective engineering of any kind. You are creating a strawman…

          • Graeme

            Not drinking alcohol when pregnant. Taking folic acid prior to conception. Many women are advised this and follow this advice.

            This is … SELECTIVE ENGINEERING!

            Unless, of course, you special plead it into being … NATURAL.

            • Tullia_Ciceronis

              Well, you are assuming that killing a fetus is morally okay because it’s not a person yet. That’s what your entire argument rests upon, because I assume that you don’t support killing disabled infants. It’s not really genetic engineering that we’re talking about, it’s the personhood of the fetus.

              • ohdear

                Luckily there is no debate on that at all, except among a few religionists. Foetuses, as accepted by law, are not sentient, not human beings and have no rights.

                Women are having abortions even as I am typing this. They always did. They always will. All the hysteria religionists manufacture makes not a bit of difference. You are either pro legal abortion or pro illegal. Those are your choices.

                Women are keeping their rights. You will just have to learn to live with that.

                • Tullia_Ciceronis

                  Fascinating, here in the US abortion rights are slowly and steadily being taken away. More abortion clinics are closing than are opening, and since 2010 a record-breaking amount of anti-abortion legislation is being passed in different US states. Abortion has declined from 1.2 million a year in 2008 to 1.06 million a year in 2011. It’s possible that abortion will be illegal again one day here in the US, thanks to these new developments.

                  • getlost

                    And there you have it folks. This is what they really want. Control over women. Good to see it admitted flat out.

                    • Tullia_Ciceronis

                      Fascinating..According to Gallup women are actually more likely then men to support these new abortion restrictions, and just as likely to identify as anti-abortion….

    • Tullia_Ciceronis

      My little sister has significant cognitive and physical disabilities. Yet she is glad to be born and to be alive. Dawkins tweet was patronizing…it assumed that life with a disability is not worth living. He insults those who choose to have family members with disabilities. He and those like him should consider checking their able-bodied privilege.

      • Tactical_Fail

        Knowing that you’re bringing a baby into the world with significant cognitive and physical disabilities is repugnant to me. But that wasn’t known at the time so that’s completely irrelevant now and I’m sure now you have a wonderful little sister. Of course now you feel love and you’re very glad that ‘person’ was born but pre-birth (or 23 weeks, whatever you want) there was no ‘person’ and it is at THAT point that it’s better to prevent suffering.

        That applies to me as well as your little sister. If it was found that I was likely to suffer from really bad difficulties, I’d hope my parents would abort ‘me’.

        • Tullia_Ciceronis

          Well, that is your view. I would not want to be aborted, no matter what. My little sister is happy to be alive and has talked to me numerous times about how happy she is to be born and how sad it is that parents chose abortion for cases like hers. It seems that you believe that the fetus prior to viability is not a person. Why is that? Are conjoined twins who cannot be separated not persons because they depend on another person’s body for survival?
          Also, you seem to view disability as The Worst Thing in the World. It’s very ableist of you.

          • anon

            If you were aborted, you wouldn’t know.

            A foetus is not a person, has no rights, has no sentience and is not a human being. it is human as skin cells are human. As recognised by law.

            • Tullia_Ciceronis

              If I were killed in my sleep, I wouldn’t know and it wouldn’t make any difference, but that would still be wrong. Skin cells are functional parts of organisms, while zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are organisms.

              A temporary coma patient in a deep coma lacks the ability to consciously sense, which is the dictionary definition of sentience, yet they are still considered to be legal persons. Even an infant born in a deep temporary coma is considered a person, despite never having gained sentience before.
              “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
              [O’Rahilly, Ronan and M�ller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]
              “The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”
              [Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

              • ohdear

                What a lot of waffling nonsense.

                Science and the law have accepted foetuses aren’t people and have no rights. Believe what you want, your beliefs are irrelevant.

                Get used to it. Or don’t, whatever. Women are having abortions even as I write this and they’re going to keep doing so. Women are keeping their rights.

                • Tullia_Ciceronis

                  Not all nations accept that. Also, personhood is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. Why are non-sentient infants born into temporary comas considered persons, and not fetuses? Can you explain this discrepiency to me?

  • Benjamin O’Donnell

    It pains me a little to have to admit that the most charitable, most fair-minded, most accurate, most logical and least emotional analysis of the whole Richard-Dawkins-on-Downs-Syndrome-and-abortion furore has come from a pro-choice religious activist. Thankyou.

    • Thanks, Benjamin. :)

    • Graeme

      Is it not the most normal of things that we should expect from people? To be fair-minded, logical, analytical? Must we praise those who meet this criteria?

      • Benjamin O’Donnell

        Given how rare those qualities are, yes we should praise them.

        Given how rare those qualities are when people analyse opposing views on the issues of abortion, hell ye we should praise them.

        Given how often Richard Dawkins is smeared and distorted and downright lied about in the media, any religious person who makes the effort to actually understand what he says – especially on an emotive issue like abortion, and especially when he’s just tweeted something that even many of his supporters would agree was rather inelegant and unwise in its expression – is the sort of refreshing mensch who should be encouraged as much as humanly possible.

        • Graeme

          Well, I think you make a fair point.

  • Zuleykha

    1) You are justifying RD with: “He tries to reduce suffering”. ISIS terrorists try it too. Your justification is not reasonable.
    2) On his own site from which you did quote above his longer justification, there are so many ppl reasonably criticizing his argumentation and not only his tweet and most of them are no pro life supporters. But he did respond with a generalized blah blah blah instead of concrete answers to the critics.
    3) He says, his morality is based on adding happiness and reducing suffering (and you seem to agree with him). If this is true what is bad about ISIS terrorists? Their morality is based on this too. Their morality is based on what makes them happy: abusing power, killing people who they don’t like, marrying several wives and enslaving others. Their morality is surely not based on religions.
    They use Islam as an excuse. If Islam was the cause of their violence, every Muslim would act like them or follow them.
    4) RD says: “There’s a profound moral difference between ‘This fetus should now be aborted’ and ‘This person should have been aborted long ago’.”
    Yes, but this is the same as to say someone who has SD, you should have been aborted long time ago.
    5) In his latest reply on his site, he says: “I agree it seems paradoxical, but paradoxes sometimes have to be faced.”
    How does it come that when you lose yourself in paradoxes, than one has to face them, but reject paradoxes when you find them in religions?

    It seems the more he tries to defend his position, the worst it becomes.

    • Pitchguest

      You just compared Richard Dawkins’s opinion on Down to ISIS terrorists view on humanity as a whole. Well done.

      • Zuleykha

        I didn’t compare his opinion on Down to ISIS view. I said with his approach, how he understands morality, one can defend ISIS too.
        As I did posted on his foundation webpage:
        “From a logical point of view, happiness
        is based on morality and not morality on happiness. And morality is
        based on humanity and not humanity on morality.

        It is also absolutely wrong to assume that a child with DS means an increase in
        unhappiness and the abortion means a minor decrease in unhappiness.
        Even a simple look at it, makes Dawkins mistake clear: Suffering is
        caused by not accepting when something doesn’t go the way we did expect
        it.
        Happiness is caused by growing (especially mentally and morally) on the
        situations which did end up in a way, we didn’t expect it. Anyway sooner or later everything ends up in a way we didn’t expect it. Although
        there are or might be some extreme situations where we cannot do
        anything about it, but a child with DS surely doesn’t fall under those
        categories.

        From a child’s with DS point of view, one might just ask a child with DS, if it
        would rather want “to be or not to be”. The point is, being alive is
        intrinsically such a beautiful feeling (I guess, this did never came to
        Dawkins mind), that even in most extreme situations, ppl still prefer to
        be alive than death. The only exceptions are those who commit suicide
        and those who commit suicide they are usually handicapped with
        depression in the first place and not with DS.

        One of the most important things which produce happiness, is the feeling
        that people care for you (humanity). Meaning that children with DS who have parents who
        care for them (act morally), who did grow on this situation mentally and morally,
        might be/are way more happy (leading to happiness) than most children who don’t have really the
        feeling their parents do care for them appropriately.”

        • Pitchguest

          Frankly, even making a small comparison between Dawkins and ISIS just because Dawkins said not aborting a fetus with Down is ‘immoral’ raises a red flag. A big one. It means I question your thought process. ISIS kill people because they think their religion demands it. ISIS kill people because they think by doing so they are purifying the land of infidels.

          Dawkins made a cursory comment that he thinks it’s immoral not to abort a fetus diagnosed with Down because of the pain the child with Down might suffer. He didn’t *tell* the woman who asked him this what she *should* do, but what was his personal opinion. He further clarified in his tweets that it would be THEIR choice. ISIS kill people REGARDLESS of what they think. REGARDLESS of their choice. ISIS have kidnapped, raped, and murdered people simply because they are of the wrong religion. Either because they refused to convert or to punish those that refused to convert. They have decapitated children and left their heads on spikes. I don’t think it is at all comparable to say what Dawkins said about fetuses with Down is the same as the reasoning from ISIS. Not even close.

          Dawkins said nothing about the happiness of people with Down already born. He said there’s a difference between ‘this fetus with Down ought to be aborted’ and ‘this person with Down *should* have been aborted.’ If they’re happy, they’re happy and that’s fine. But he also observed the complications that people with Down have. Dying sooner than most, organ failure at an early age and many are not even able to take care of themselves. With that in mind, I think his position on the morality of aborting a fetus with Down or not is acceptable. Obviously not the ONLY position to have, but acceptable nonetheless. Nothing to be worked up about.

  • Matthew

    As a pro-choice person, I’ve always believed the the pro-life crowd make their arguments with the best if intentions. I very much appreciate your attempt here to see the best in the person with whom you disagree. Would that we could all approach contentious issues in this manner. Bravo.

    • Thanks so much, Matthew. That means a lot. I believe if everybody on both sides tried to see the others argument in its best light, we would find more truth, and the process would be a lot more fun as well. (Albeit, it would also be intellectually harder, but I’m okay with that.)

      • DianaG2

        I don’t see how that would help babies to live, though.

        • More babies would live because more people would find truth, thus arguably there would be more pro-life people who won’t consider killing their children in the case of an unwanted pregnancy.

    • ohdear

      Unfortunately, this is simply untrue. We see over and over again enraged and hate filled anti choicers who wish only to control and harm women.

      There are a few who do it with the best of misguided intentions, but they are vastly in the minority.

      • DianaG2

        Tell me about these “enraged and hate-filled anti-choicers.”

        Where have you seen or heard them?

  • Stan

    Dawkins’ backpedaling is disingenuous. He says Twitter’s 140-character limit prevented him from being clear that he was saying what HE would do, not telling the questioner what to do. But his tweet was 110 characters long, leaving plenty of space to add “I would” in front of the first sentence and “I believe” in front of the second one. He didn’t do that, and now he wants us to believe that his second sentence was his personal belief? Bunk.

    I’ve been a fan of Dawkins, and while I doubt I would ever want to abort a child I would be the father of, I am generally pro-choice. But even in his longer explanation, he bases his conclusion on the premise that aborting a fetus with Ds reduces suffering, but he neither offers evidence to support this premise nor attempts to rebut the contradictory evidence.

    Let’s be clear: ALL parents who love their children experience suffering because of those children. Kids get hurt, they get sick, they get in trouble, they make bad choices that cause emotional and sometimes physical and financial pain for their parents, and they rarely live out the dreams their parents had for them at birth. Happily for the human race, most parents believe the happiness and rewards children bring outweigh the suffering. And that is just as true for parents of children with Ds as it is for parents of typical children. Dawkins’ assertion that aborting a fetus with Ds reduces suffering is simply wrong.

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  • Tactical_Fail

    Dawkins himself has many confusions when it comes to this kind of thing. He says that we are the ‘lucky ones’ because there are so many people who will never be born. Utter nonsense. There is no ‘we’ until we are born (in fact, there’s never a central ‘person’, that’s not how the mind works). There are no ‘people’ who were never born so there’s nobody to compare us to, and say we are the ‘lucky ones’.

    However, about DS, he is absolutely right and most of the people claiming to disagree, are willing over-emotional idiots. The others are just incidentally ignorant and need to think things through more and not let their ‘heart’ rule over their head so much.

    • Benjamin O’Donnell

      Um, poetry?

  • The idea that a Down Syndrome child increases suffering in the world may be misplaced. I can’t speak of behalf of parents or the children, themselves, but I can say that people who have been around Down Syndrome people (including myself) have gained greatly from the experience. They have a perspective on life that is refreshing and I believe their emotionally expressive behaviour is greatly needed in a world of emotionally repressed “normal” people.

    • Benjamin O’Donnell

      I can see that that may be true, though DS children do make greater demands on family and the economy that fully abled children. I see DS as a borderline case. If it’s caught early, I see no problem with terminating the pregnancy, and I do think that’s probably the more moral action, though I can see arguments the other way. Later in the pregnancy, though, I begin to have issues with abortion…

      • ohdear

        Luckily, you’ll never have to have one. And even more luckily for women, they don’t need your permission.

        Men need to learn to stop talking about this subject. No, you have no rights on it. At all. Your rights stop when you choose not to wear a condom. Don’t donate your sperm to any woman. If the condom breaks, too bad, that’s life.

        Her body. Her autonomy. And that’s that.

        Of course, you can keep giving your unwanted and unneeded opinion. But get used to it being ignored.

        • Griffonn

          If you’ve never been aborted, you have no right to talk about it.

    • Griffonn

      When I was a kid, I looked forward to visits from a person with Down’s who used to visit. We all thought it was a treat. We loved him to death – he had such great big smiles and such great big hugs and so much enthusiasm and was so much fun, and so full of joy.

      One of the formative experiences of my life was the day he was teased and bullied by a bunch of kids, and I realized – well, I’m not sure what I realized, but it changed my worldview, whatever it was that happened that day.

      How could anyone not love this guy?

  • anon

    So, the bottom line is this, a foetus is not a person. You can claim otherwise till the cows come home. It still is not a person. It has no sentience, no rights, it is not a human being. It is human only as skin cells are human. As recognised by law.

    And persons with DS have a host of pretty awful health problems, not just intellectual impairment. Which is why most people quietly abort the foetuses. In 50 years time we won’t even be having this debate.

    Sometimes Dawkins expresses himself bluntly. But he was talking about the very real problems and ongoing health and intellectual impairment issues that a person with DS will suffer if you allow a foetus to come to term. I don’t think it is immoral to keep a disabled foetus, it is every woman’s choice. His mistake was wording himself too bluntly. And expecting other people to be intelligent enough to understand him.

    What’s amusing is that some pro choicers are actually pillorying him because he stated categorically that if foetuses had sentience and were human beings – rather than blobs, and later on blobs with limbs which is what they are (science, bitch! – it’s a quote, deal with it) he would be anti abortion.

    But, fortunately, we know foetuses are just blobs with no sentience and no rights. Oh, and PS, forced birthing – which is when an anti-choicer would force a woman to give birth even though she wants to abort the foetus – is the equivalent of being a rapist. Women do have rights, sentience and are human beings.

    Dawkins was talking about foetuses. Not people. It’s just a woman’s choice. Would you choose to give your child DS? Of course not. Would Dawkins kill a human being or force a woman to have an abortion? Of course not.

    End of discussion.

    • Graeme

      In our courts of law and our higher institutions, these issues have long been ended and codified into law. The discussion, there, has indeed ended.

      These vacuous attempts to equate foetuses with persons are doomed to failure but it seems that there are many people, I suspect largely of a religious background, must try as they might to flog this dead horse.

      I cannot find anywhere on this website, the suggestion that there is a dialogue in place. A dialogue which could possibly lead to people being convinced to change their minds and accept that a foetus is not a person. Rather, the site talks about “tactics” to get their argument across. Imagine a philosophy professor wondering what “tactics” he is going to use to explain a part of philosophy to his students! Excuse me, but the “tactics” we use in bilateral discourse are arguments.

      Their position is utterly entrenched, their means of persuasion utterly and wilfully intransigent.

      • anon

        Agreed. And of course they are not pro life. They are anti choice for women. It is no surprise then that it is religious persons who wish to control women, their religions attempt to do the same thing.

        Unless a person has themselves personally adopted, or at the very least fostered and raised and cared for an unwanted baby they do not get to call themselves pro life.

        The only difference between this site and others like it is that some of the anti choicers here start off by being polite.

        On the plus side, simply stating the scientific fact that a foetus is not a person was met with much more hysteria twenty years ago. Simply stating that a woman has absolute autonomy over her own body was almost always met with utter hysteria. Although that is still the case in many forums, slowly but surely the repetition of the truth is having an effect. We must keep speaking up. We cannot leave the debate to those who would ignore the facts in favour of religious dogma.

        • Graeme

          I accept that there are many non-religious people who are against early termination and I am open and willing to be persuaded one way or the other. I just haven’t read any good argument that gives us concern for 100 cells of human DNA despite its “potential”. Never mind whether we should weigh up the rights of the carrier.

          Yes, the “tactics” that are being used to change hearts and minds are being forcefully and systematically made – but they have the disadvantage of being poor, vacuous and transparent.

          • Guest

            ,

          • anon

            Well, I certainly accept the premise that a person might be anti choice for women and not be religious. I have never yet met or spoken to one who is not religious though.

          • Griffonn

            Actually I was converted to pro life when someone argued (more eloquently than I can) that there are only two options: either human life is sacred, or might makes right.

            There is no way to have it in between. If they can vote on what makes a living human creature a “real person”, they can do it to you as easily as they can do it to a black person or a Jew or a baby.

            The argument for abortion is identical to the arguments that used to justify domestic violence: “it’s a parasite, never mind how it got here – it’s in my space; I have rights – it’s not my equal”

            • ohdear

              Nope. You were always anti choice and pro control of women and are now simply fabricating nonsense. (Cue hysteria). Nice try though :)

              Oh, and I posted the science above for the anti choicers who can’t use the internet. Try not to let the facts scare you or stop you ranting.

              Right this minute, a woman had an abortion. And nothing happened because of it. And it’s going to keep happening. Get used to it.

              Here come the trolls :)

              • Griffonn

                So basically if you don’t like reality, you just make up fantasies.

                • ohdear

                  Says the person who just made up a fantasy.

                  Brilliant. You can’t make this stuff up :D

                  • Griffonn

                    I don’t think distraction is working all that well for you guys.

                    Most people are perfectly aware that what is being killed is a child. Laughing doesn’t make your movement look any better.

    • Griffonn

      A fetus is not a person the same way we once declared women weren’t people and blacks weren’t people.

      And yet it is a crime to treat a hamster the way we treat unborn babies.

      • ohdear

        Genuinely funny :) Cheers. A foetus isn’t a person in the way a blob of cells or some hair isn’t a person. Since you’re busy pretending not to know the scientific facts I’ve posted them above.

        Don’t you just hate it when pesky science screws with your ranting?

        Keep on trolling :)

        • Griffonn

          By the time you know you’re pregnant, you’re way beyond a blob of cells.

          • ohdear

            You can know within days of conception that you are pregnant. Yes, you can.

            As already stated above, quoting directly from scientific articles (links provided above, but a ten second search will find you hundreds more)

            >A blob with legs is still a blob with legs. A clay ornament of a pig looks like a pig too. But it’s not one.

            Here’s actual science on the subject:

            “however, during these early days the neural pathways responsible for converting senses to conscious experiences have yet to develop. This means what we are seeing are just reflexes, controlled entirely by the developing brainstem and spinal cord.

            In fact, we know that the brain structures necessary for conscious experience of pain DO NOT DEVELOP until 29-30 weeks, while the conscious processing of sounds is only made possible after the 26th week. Even when the fetal brain possesses all its adult structures, scientists are cautious to assume it possesses what we refer to as ‘consciousness’. This is mainly because the low oxygen levels and a constant barrage of sleep-inducing chemicals from the placenta ensure that, until birth, the foetus remains heavily sedated.

            It seems that, in the womb, a fetus is unlikely to ever experience traditional consciousness. However, we do know that from the time neural pathways are in place (the last weeks before birth) the fetus can form rudimentary memories.”

            And this

            “But when does…consciousness begin? Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, BEGINS to be put in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration…

            As Hugo Lagercrantz, a pediatrician at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, discovered two decades ago, a massive surge of norepinephrine—more powerful than during any skydive or exposed climb the fetus may undertake in its adult life—as well as the release from anesthesia and sedation that occurs when the fetus disconnects from the maternal placenta, arouses the baby so that it can deal with its new circumstances. It draws its first breath, wakes up and begins to experience life”.

            Summation – foetuses are probably never conscious before the moment of birth although very late term foetuses have the ability to form rudimentary memories. All foetuses definitely DO NOT HAVE the brain structure in place for consciousness before approximately 29 weeks and do not integrate their neural structures until many weeks later.

            Or, to put it more simply, it’s some cells. Then a blob. Then a blob with limbs. And finally in the LAST FEW WEEKS is possibly more than just a blob as it may have the ability to be conscious, although it is almost certainly not conscious until birth.

            Do you know how many abortions in the USA were late term abortions during the year 2009? Approximately 1,032. According to the Guttmacher institute.

            As I said to your fellow anti choicer, if you would like to focus on the approximately one thousand and thirty two late term abortions carried out yearly in the USA, you might even be able to use science to back up your opposition.

            But all the other blobs aborted were just that. Blobs.

            If you dismiss this actual science in favour of falling back on anti choice rhetoric it will become clear that this is and has always been about controlling women for you. Just as it is for the great majority of anti choicers.

            Anyway, I’ve proven my point using scientific facts. And I really cannot be bothered responding to the same nonsense over and over. So I won’t check the thread again. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

            • Griffonn

              If by “choice” you mean – as most “pro choice” means – that a woman ought to be allowed to “choose” whether her child is recognized as a human being with rights, then I am proud to be called “anti choice”.

              Whether one person has rights is never another person’s “choice”.

    • DianaG2

      “So, the bottom line is this, a foetus is not a person.”
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      One problem here:

      The dictionary says otherwise.

      This is from The Free Dictionary:

      In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth, as distinguished from the earlier embryo.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      1. (Biology) the embryo of a mammal in the later stages of development, when it shows all the main recognizable features of the mature animal, esp a human embryo from the end of the second month of pregnancy until birth.

      • ohdear

        You do know that nothing you quote supports any of your claims, right? Are anti choicers actually unaware of the science or do they choose to pretend disbelief in it, I wonder.

        A blob with legs is still a blob with legs. A clay ornament of a pig looks like a pig too. And it’s not one. Sorry to rain on your parade.

        Here’s actual science (though I suppose you will avert your eyes from the evils of the truth).
        http://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/12/04/what-can-science-add-to-the-abortion-debate/

        “however, during these early days the neural pathways responsible for converting senses to conscious experiences have yet to develop. This means what we are seeing are just reflexes, controlled entirely by the developing brainstem and spinal cord.

        In fact, we know that the brain structures necessary for conscious experience of pain DO NOT DEVELOP until 29-30 weeks, while the conscious processing of sounds is only made possible after the 26th week. Even when the fetal brain possesses all its adult structures, scientists are cautious to assume it possesses what we refer to as ‘consciousness’. This is mainly because the low oxygen levels and a constant barrage of sleep-inducing chemicals from the placenta ensure that, until birth, the foetus remains heavily sedated.

        It seems that, in the womb, a fetus is unlikely to ever experience traditional consciousness. However, we do know that from the time neural pathways are in place (the last weeks before birth) the fetus can form rudimentary memories.”

        And this (and any other scientific article):
        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-does-consciousness-arise/?page=1

        “But when does…consciousness begin? Consciousness requires a sophisticated network of highly interconnected components, nerve cells. Its physical substrate, the thalamo-cortical complex that provides consciousness with its highly elaborate content, BEGINS to be put in place between the 24th and 28th week of gestation. Roughly two months later synchrony of the electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythm across both cortical hemispheres signals the onset of global neuronal integration…

        As Hugo Lagercrantz, a pediatrician at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, discovered two decades ago, a massive surge of norepinephrine—more powerful than during any skydive or exposed climb the fetus may undertake in its adult life—as well as the release from anesthesia and sedation that occurs when the fetus disconnects from the maternal placenta, arouses the baby so that it can deal with its new circumstances. It draws its first breath, wakes up and begins to experience life”.

        Summation – foetuses are probably never conscious before the moment of birth although very late term foetuses have the ability to form rudimentary memories. All foetuses definitely DO NOT HAVE the brain structure in place for consciousness before approximately 29 weeks and do not integrate their neural structures until many weeks later.

        Or, to put it more simply, it’s a blob. Then a blob with limbs. And finally in the LAST FEW WEEKS is possibly more than just a blob as it may have the ability to be conscious, although it is almost certainly not conscious until birth.

        Do you know how many abortions in the USA were late term abortions during the year 2009? Approximately 1,032. According to the Guttmacher institute.

        If you would like to focus on the approximately one thousand and thirty two late term abortions carried out yearly in the USA, you might even be able to use science to back up your opposition.

        But all the other blobs aborted were just that. Blobs.

        And of course you will dismiss this. Because this is and always has been about controlling women.

        Don’t you just hate those pesky scientific facts?

  • Chandler Klebs

    “His view is offensive and I strongly disagree with it, but it’s not as bad as some people thought.”

    Actually, I think that I am more upset with Dawkins than most people would think. I know what his reasoning can lead to and I am not sure if I able able to find common ground with him.

    I also feel a great responsibility to say that my views on morality do not match that of Richard Dawkins. I hope that I get a chance to explain why.

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  • M.C.S. ’81

    With Dawkins being a rational scientist, I’m surprised people think he would not have said what he did. Down Syndrome is a debilitating condition that places an inherent (severe) disability on the individual, and I can speak from personal experience the media does not show the public a balanced version of the disorder. They are not all healthy, charming, and loving, but can suffer from severe depression as adults because they can’t keep up with their peers, so yes, in some ways Dawkins is right that they can suffer.