The Call of Eugenic Tribalism, Courtesy of Richard Dawkins

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021


The debate over human rights has been pushed, yet again, into deeply inhumane territory. The most prominent indicator of this push is the way the pro-abortion movement’s most extreme advocates have turned their guns on the most vulnerable of the unborn. As if merely being unborn is not vulnerable enough, babies with developmental challenges have found themselves increasingly under attack by a faction within the pro-abortion movement that has decided parental convenience or fulfillment of similarly arbitrary metrics trump the human right to exist. 

Opinion pieces are routinely run in The Atlantic to the Washington Post advocating for the abortion of children with Down syndrome. The push to snuff out the lives of children with developmental challenges, however, is not coming merely from op-ed writers, but from mainstream figures in academia and culture. 

On May 9, famed atheist author Richard Dawkins proved this. In an interview with columnist and media personality Brendan O’Connor,  Dawkins addressed comments he had made in 2014, in which the British zoologist called giving birth to babies with Down syndrome “immoral”. O’Connor, himself the father of a child with Down syndrome, pushed Dawkins on whether he still held to his former stance. While Dawkins walked back his comment as “a bit too strong”, his next words didn’t particularly alleviate any concerns as to his functioning humanity:

The amount of suffering in the world probably does not go down, but probably does go up compared to another child who does not have Down syndrome…  You probably would increase the amount of happiness in the world more by having another child instead.

Dawkins hedged his statement by admitting “I don’t know for certain.” While his deeply abhorrent and ableist rhetoric may not fit into the Western model, he might have found ideological kinship in places like Kenya, where a mother with an epileptic child was told she was “cursed” because of her son’s disability—a beyond obvious similarity to Dawkins’ “logic.” When modern Western thinkers are finding themselves in line with anachronistic, anti-science, and barbaric tribal superstitions, something has gone terribly wrong. When mainstream scientific figures like Richard Dawkins are using “happiness” as a metric for human viability, we have absolutely lost the plot.

Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker hit on the difficulty of accepting Dawkins’ premise in a 1997 NYT article: “we approach a slippery slope that ends in the disposal of inconvenient people or in grotesque deliberations on the value of individual lives.” Figures like Dawkins have begun those grotesque deliberations in truly sickening fashion; and, true to form, have started with the most vulnerable of us—innocent children incapable of defending themselves against the wiles of rabid intellectual ableists. The value of human life cannot be predicated on the “amount of happiness” that life provides. Such a qualification leads us to dismiss the rights of those who “fail” to meet that arbitrary, subjective standard of happiness.

This dismissal is a callback to the darkest moments of our species and the tribalism that plagues our million-year history. Our modern public discourse has been infected by barbaric ideas that should have disappeared long ago; we are dangerously close to accepting a utilitarian standard of the value of life, thereby discarding any principles that may have fueled our desire to create a freer society. We ought to be angry that the principle foundational to civilization is being traded for the brutal discrimination of utilitarianism. We cannot build a great society atop the bodies of the “inconvenient.” They are our fellow humans, deserving of every right pertaining thereto. Allowing the humanity of cognitively challenged infants to be discarded is not only an irredeemable evil, but a harbinger of far worse setbacks in the quest for human flourishing; if we even know what “human” means anymore.

Isaac Willour is an Executive Scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, as well as an associate editor for the Grove City Journal of Law & Public Policy. He has 5 years of coaching students and has served in both national and global leadership roles in training people to refine and communicate ideas clearly. He has a passion for debating ideas and engaging in nuanced, thoughtful discussion as well as cultural analysis from a conservative perspective.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Isaac Willour

Isaac Willour is an Executive Scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, as well as an associate editor for the Grove City Journal of Law & Public Policy. He has 5 years of coaching students and has served in both national and global leadership roles in training people to refine and communicate ideas clearly. He has a passion for debating ideas and engaging in nuanced, thoughtful discussion as well as cultural analysis from a conservative perspective.

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