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Giles Fraser: Are humans any safer in the hands of humanists?

Giles Fraser: Are humans any safer in the hands of humanists?

The Rev. Giles Fraser takes on humanist Richard Dawkins, a proponent of eugenics in certain situations. Dawkins has written: “If you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability?” Fraser contends that no human is inherently better than another, and that religious believers of the world have a better track record than humanists of valuing the vulnerable among us. He writes in The Guardian:

Last week, Professor Dawkins was at it again, this time on Twitter. Responding to a woman who said that she would face a real ethical dilemma if she became pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome, his advice was thus: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” In the heat of huge public outrage, Dawkins issued one of those non-apology apologies. But the damage was done.

To be absolutely clear: Down’s syndrome is not hereditary. So it cannot be bred out. So the belief that it is immoral to keep a Down’s syndrome child is not strictly a eugenic position. But the moral revulsion that we have at eugenics has little to do with genetics and everything to do with the way it treats the most vulnerable. For the problem with eugenics, like Dawkins’s belief that it is immoral to keep a baby with Down’s syndrome, is that it contains an implicit idea of what a better sort of human being might look like. It may seem obvious to Professor Dawkins that a tall athletic child with straight As at school is to be preferred to, let’s say, a child who has slanted eyes and a flat nasal bridge and is academically less adept, but it is not obvious to me. Morally, the category of the human ought to be entirely indivisible: all being of equal worth, irrespective of wealth, colour, class, ability. Some people are better at sport or sums, but nobody is better at being human, neither are there better sorts of human beings.

Read Fraser’s column here.


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Dr. Dawkin’s comments simply confirm my belief that people of faith cannot abandon the public square to the scientists and the businesspeople: the former will experiment-on-us to death, and the latter will stand on the sidelines trying to see how they can profitably sell the leftovers.

Kevin McGrane

tobias haller

Dickens was a humanist. Dawkins, not so much. His comments remind me more of Mr Scrooge, and even he repented of his words (‘decrease the surplus population’) when they were thrown back in his face.

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

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