For such a bright guy, Richard Dawkins—famed evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist—sure makes a lot of controversial statements on Twitter. He’s recently done it again, causing a firestorm because of a series of tweets on eugenics:
It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) February 16, 2020
For those determined to miss the point, I deplore the idea of a eugenic policy. I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Just as we breed cows to yield more milk, we could breed humans to run faster or jump higher. But heaven forbid that we should do it.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) February 16, 2020
A eugenic policy would be bad. I’m combating the illogical step from “X would be bad” to “So X is impossible”. It would work in the same sense as it works for cows. Let’s fight it on moral grounds. Deny obvious scientific facts & we lose – or at best derail – the argument.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) February 16, 2020
In case you never learned about eugenics in school, here’s dictionary.com’s definition:
“the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)”
There are many ways of “discouraging reproduction,” such as forced sterilization or simply exterminating anyone with “undesirable traits.” And what are these undesirable traits? Whatever those in power say they are. You’ve heard of Nazi Germany before, right? Eugenics + power + a whole lot of hatred = the death of thousands of “undesirables.” (Educate yourself here.) So when someone advocates something done by Nazis, you know you’re in for trouble.
Thankfully, Dawkins does try to distance himself from the eugenic process. However, there are some glaring inconsistencies with his moral indignation as a vocal anti-theist. Here are three:
Inconsistency #1: Atheistic naturalism has no “moral grounds.”
Dawkins makes a lot of moral claims in his Tweets, saying eugenics should be deplored on “moral grounds” and that such a policy would be “bad.” But this is the same man who has made the infamous statement:
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other good. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference” (River Out of Eden, 132-3—emphasis mine).
According to Dawkins’ worldview, good and evil don’t exist. Then why is eugenics “bad”? What are “moral grounds”? Atheistic naturalism has no objective basis to make moral claims, so eugenics isn’t really bad, just unfortunate for those with “undesirable traits.”
Inconsistency #2: Dawkins has advocated eugenics before.
Dawkins has famously advocated for eugenics on Twitter previously—in the form of abortion—when a user asked what to do if she were pregnant with a child with Down Syndrome:
@InYourFaceNYer Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) August 20, 2014
He did backpedal and apologize, but not for advocating abortion—for appearing to boss a woman around. (And note how he thinks it is “immoral” to bring a child with Down Syndrome into the world—yet another baseless moral claim.)
Let’s be perfectly clear: abortion is eugenics. Eugenics is a means of “discouraging reproduction” to improve humanity. Abortion kills an innocent unborn human. Its advocates state that abortion improves humanity by reducing poverty and crime and such. It controls the population. Dawkins himself wishes to reduce “inheritable undesirable traits,” such as Down Syndrome. Abortion is clearly eugenics. Period.
Thus, for Dawkins—and any other abortion advocate—to criticize eugenics is utterly hypocritical and inconsistent.
Inconsistency #3: Why are humans special?
On Dawkins’ atheistic worldview, humans are nothing more than evolved primates. So what truly makes us different from animals? If we can “breed cows to yield more milk,” then why can’t we “breed humans to run faster or jump higher”? What is the moral distinction? We’re both mammals, and ultimately just molecules in motion. Dawkins says in The Selfish Gene, “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes” (2006, p. xxi). Eugenics would definitely help humans survive better by promoting “desirable traits” and eliminating “undesirable traits.” So why not do it?
I understand that Twitter is not the medium to have substantive, thoughtful discussions by virtue of its character limits. But in case you think I am misrepresenting Dawkins or being overly simplistic, read his writings for yourself. I’ve given a few quotes representative of his naturalistic worldview above, and there are plenty more. That is naturalism: no objective meaning, purpose, or morality. Humans are not special in the slightest; we are merely “survival machines.”
If you find Dawkins’ comments on eugenics reprehensible (which you should!), ask yourself why. If you think that humans do have intrinsic value and ought not to be treated like mere animals, there is no room for that idea in naturalism. You need a worldview that accommodates objective moral values and duties, that promotes the uniqueness and great value of humanity.
More specifically, the Christian worldview.
According to Christianity, humans are the crown of creation because we are made in the image of our Creator. We are infinitely greater in value than “cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses.” The image of God gives every human equal intrinsic worth—even those with traits deemed “undesirable” by Richard Dawkins, Hitler, Planned Parenthood, or anyone else.