Culture & Ethics
But Why Not Go For It with Human Eugenics?
As I noted here yesterday, Darwinian biologist Richard Dawkins drew outrage with his seemingly unmotivated tweets touting the possibility of human eugenics, even as he deplored it on moral grounds. Geneticist David Curtis explained to Dawkins why trying to use selective breeding on human beings is not only “evil” but “simply would not work.” But I left out the most basic response to someone like Dawkins: If selectively breeding humans is possible, why not go for it?
“Let’s fight it on moral grounds,” says Dawkins. What moral grounds would those be? Atheists can rattle off sentences like that, but they’re empty phrases. And despite Dave Curtis’s arguments, we know that some forms of human eugenics do indeed “work.” China, that thoroughly charming country, was at least acting true to its government’s materialist principles in enacting the eugenic One Child plan. That “worked.” As John Zmirak writes at The Stream, the policy
forc[ed] rural women (but not those in party elites) to have countless millions of abortions. Sometimes, as the heroic pro-lifer Steven Mosher who exposed the One Child Policy eyewitnessed, they did it in the ninth month of pregnancy. The real number of unborn babies killed, and women violently robbed of their children? We may never know.
In a terrific article, “Why Would Materialist Richard Dawkins Wrinkle His Nose at Eugenics?”, Zmirak wants to know why Dawkins would object to horrific policies like China’s if they were found to be somehow expedient. “It’s my opinion” is not a strong ground on which to take a moral stand. Of course, in China’s case expediency had a downside, in the form of a vast population of lone males:
[The] Chinese for millennia have counted on sons to support them in their old age. So millions of Chinese whose first-and-only legal child was a daughter … abandoned or killed it.
In the wake of this “gendercide,” China ended up with a vast imbalance of men to women. There are now 40 million more young Chinese men than women.
But if you’re willing to slaughter tens or even hundreds of millions of the unborn, with a focus on females, what exactly is the possible objection from our atheist moralist? Zmirak writes:
I regard human beings as the fruit of intelligent design on the part of a loving Creator Who made us in His image. What’s Dawkins’ hang-up? He thinks that we (like all life) are the fruit of near-infinitely improbable cosmic accidents. Letters in a vast bowl of alphabet soup, blindly spelling out Shakespeare plays….
So everything happens by accident, and is viciously winnowed by a desperate struggle to survive and reproduce. Why should we treat human beings — the accidental by-product of such meaningless, amoral forces — as somehow sacred?
There is no coherent atheist response to that question. And no honest one either if Dawkins is not going to admit the truth, which is that his ethical stance is only a gleaning from the Judeo-Christian religious tradition that he otherwise spurns.
Bonus: Here is John Zmirak discussing Dawkins and eugenics with the great Eric Metaxas:
Photo at the top: Richard Dawkins, by Fronteiras do Pensamento [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.