In response to a recent blog entry about Richard Dawkins, blogger Frank Walton alerted me to an interesting story about the aforementioned Mr. Dawkins entitled Anti-Religion Extremist Dawkins Advocates Eugenics. Ordinarily, I ignore these type of over-the-top articles, but then a couple of thoughts occurred to me:
1. Dawkins doesn't have any trouble being very over-the-top in what he says about Christians or God, and so I feel less restrained by the bounds of common decency to speak about this type of thing in his case.
2. Reading through the article, it appears that Dawkins did, in fact, make the statements that led to the headline in the LifeSite article.
3. CT Direct just ran an article by Chuck Colson and Anne Morse entitled War on the Weak: Eugenics has made a lethal comeback warning about a return of eugenics as an acceptable practice in the eyes of many in the secular world.
4. In light of what I have just completed writing about Dawkins and his non-credible beliefs about Christianity being a "mind virus" coupled with his apparent elevation of knowledge obtained by scientirfic investigation as not only superior to other types of knowledge but as the only knowledge upon which rationality can legitimately be based, raised a very chilling thought that I wanted to bounce around.
Here is what Dawkins said, according to the LifeSite article:
In a letter to the editor of Scotland’s Sunday Herald, Dawkins argues that the time has come to lay this spectre to rest. Dawkins writes that though no one wants to be seen to be in agreement with Hitler on any particular, "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?"
* * *
"I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them," Dawkins wrote Sunday.
(See footnote.) Now, let's make no mistake about it -- the question of genetic engineering is one which apparently is making a comeback among some in the scientific community. According to the CT Direct article:
Seventy years later, eugenic ideas are surfacing again, masquerading as humanitarian progress—as in research labs where scientists destroy "leftover" human embryos to find cures for diseases, or in sperm banks where women select their baby's father from hundreds of donors on the basis of intelligence or gifts, or in doctors' offices where parents feel subtle pressure to abort imperfect fetuses, or in hospitals when futile-care policies allow doctors to decide who lives and who dies. Today, some ethicists, like Princeton's Peter Singer, brazenly argue that it's permissible to kill disabled children after they're born—children like my autistic grandson, Max—all in the seductive guise of maximizing human happiness.
This utilitarian logic is being applied not only to taking life but also to creating it in the image of man. English scientists are attempting to create "designer babies" by transplanting the nucleus from the cell of a woman with defective mitochondria into the healthy egg of another woman. The resulting child would have three genetic parents. It's the first step toward genetic engineering of human beings.
The argument in favor of eugenics is pretty much as simple as Dawkins puts it. Human beings are not special creations of God but are merely another type of animal. We have already genetically engineered many different creatures to make them better. Plants have been engineered through selective breeding to be more drought resistant and more productive. Horses have been genetically engineered through the process of selective breeding to be stronger and faster. Few argue that there's anything wrong with such efforts, and if they do, then they stand in the way of that most holy of grails, "scientific progress." Since human beings are no more than another type of animal, what's wrong with engineering them? Consider the following quote from James Watson, the Nobel Prize winning discoverer of DNA and the first director of the Human Genome Project, in the LifeSite article:
Watson, though not as outspokenly anti-religious as Dawkins, has ridiculed the notion of an overarching value to human beings. Speaking at a conference at UCLA in 1998, he said, "I think it's complete nonsense ... saying we're sacred and should not be changed…to say we've got a perfect genome and there's some sanctity? I'd like to know where that idea comes from because it's utter silliness"
"If we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn't we do it? What's wrong with it? Who is telling us not to [do] it?"
So, at least one geneticist and one scientism-ist believe that it is appropriate to selectively breed human beings. Never mind that such a practice was universally and rightfully decried a mere 60 years ago. Never mind that the Chinese have engaged in a similar program under a law named the "Maternal and Infant Health Law" which allows them to genetically screen human beings wanting to get married to determine whether they are genetically fit enough to have children; if not they are sterilized. This type of action by the government is rightfully seen as a violation of human rights -- the rights that have been inalienably endowed by us by our Creator. And who is it who will decide which traits will be secured to future generations and which will end? The article doesn't reveal Dawkins' and Watson's views on that question.
Yet, taking what Dawkins has written, I think I have a suspicion what he would breed out of humanity. To connect the dots, consider what history teaches about the eugenics movement as described in the CT Direct article:
The opening shot in this war was fired when the modern eugenics movement came into fashion some 80 years ago. The first targets were the "feebleminded" and people of the "wrong" race. Leading scientists in the early decades of the 20th century, enamored with Darwin's theories, became eugenics advocates. Historian Richard Weikart, in From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, writes that while Darwin wasn't the first to argue that the strong and healthy have higher value than the weak and sick, or that some races are inferior, he provided a scientific foundation for those beliefs.
Some scientists actually compared the mentally ill to apes. Textbooks reported allegedly scientific findings that Africans, Native Americans, and Australian aborigines were subhuman. The eugenics movement brought about the sterilization of thousands of supposedly "inferior" people.
Now, consider what Dawkins says about religious people (among whom Christians are the primary focus of his bile) in Memes, the New Replicators:
Faith cannot move mountains (though generations of children are solemnly told the contrary and believe it). But it is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.
You see, using his own words it's apparent that in Dawkins' eyes religious people are mentally ill. The history of the eugenics movement is to seek to eliminate those whom society has labeled as mentally ill. In Nazi Germany, it was the Jews and the Gypsies. Today, is it the Christians? Is that what Dawkins would like?
I don't know what Dawkins really thinks. I certainly don't think he is suggesting rounding up Christians for the gas chambers, but his arguments seem to lead to the idea that it would be better if we bred that annoying little thing called religious belief (which is a form of mental deficiency) out of the human genome. Yet, I can only read his words and draw inferences from them. I hope he doesn't think the way that I am suggesting. However, even if he didn't intend to suggest that religious people should be eliminated through the application of eugenics, there is no question that such a position falls within the possible interpretation of his words when his various positions are read together with only rationality divorced from all valuation of human beings as having some unique worth.
If you think I'm blowing smoke, I welcome you to tell me why. But if you do so, remember that you cannot appeal to any higher value for human beings as the result of their nature to argue that he wouldn't favor selecting religious belief out of the human genetic code (which he seems to argue is possible). You also can't argue that he doesn't think religious people are really mentally ill -- his position on that point is clear and has been repeated when he says he won't debate Christians ("I won't debate mentally ill people," he's reported to have said). If religious people really are mentally ill as he proposes and they are dragging down the advance of the non-special human species that can be genetically altered in the same way that we genetically alter corn or rice, what rational basis can you give me to not selectively remove religious belief by removing religious people from the gene pool?
Please, I'd be interested.
footnote -- I have attempted to track down a copy of the original letter by Mr. Dawkins from Scotland's Sunday Herald, but have not been able to do so. It is, of course, possible that the quotes are fabricated or taken out of context, but given what else Mr. Dawkins has written I tend to seriously doubt it.
Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi.