Richard Dawkins on Abortion

I’m quite glad that Richard Dawkins is refreshingly honest in issues of abortion, pedophilia, and rape. I find this sort of honestly admirable for one simple reason: it doesn’t cloak itself in nobility. Instead, it is cold, calculated logic for him to simply express one extremely common reason why women abort (among many others). While I disagree completely with that logic, I appreciate it simply because it displays the logical outcome of a man who views morality in a completely twisted manner.

In reading replies to his initial Tweets, you see only three different outcomes:

  1. His logic is sound. Aborting Down syndrome fetuses is kind, charitable, and morally correct. The person with Down syndrome simply suffers, having little quality of life, and will be a burden to those whom have to continuously cater to a perpetual child.
  2. Richard Dawkins is correct in his logic, however, he should have used a more neutral term than “immoral” in regard to those whom decide to raise a child with Down syndrome. The reason being, it is inherently their choice to raise a child – yet it would also be perfectly acceptable to terminate the pregnancy based on the fetus’ poor mental and physical health.
  3. Richard Dawkins is completely incorrect in his logic and is trying to play God. A fetus is life, life is precious, and thus, whatever quality of life one is given is not contingent upon the value of that life.

When looking at these things, we must understand the framework Dawkins operates under. I am not specifically speaking of the framework of his atheism, though that is inseparable from how he formulates his worldview. I am speaking of identifying his terminology and his definitions of those terms.

  • Fetus/it: Dawkins will use the term fetus over and again. It will not be referred to “life,” though it is living. The more impersonal you can make it (even abandoning impersonal pronouns, such as he/she – and using “it” instead) the better.
  • Non-essentialist: A non-essentialist believes that the substance (the properties that make something what it is, without which, it would not be that thing) does not imply virtue. Thus, it is then easy to say, biologically, a fetus is not human because humanity goes beyond a simple bundle of cells that will one day develop into the substance of a human being (i.e. logic, emotion, etc.).
  • Suffer: In the terms of an adult, low quality of life (specifically, what qualitatively substantiates a normal life style that is not inhibited by intellectual malady). In the terms of an unborn infant, will they be capable of reasoning in the womb that they are being destroyed? Though the infant may feel such pain, it is not cognitively responding to that pain except on the basis of bodily reaction. There is no emotional response, mental recognition, nor is there fear (beyond naturalistic primal fear).
  • Moral/immoral: subjective to the person’s desires (i.e. – not necessarily pertaining to social norms, but inherently built in societal structure and benefit of said society and individual).
  • Logic: devoid of emotional reasoning in any sense. What this specifically means is that it represents factual basis without an appeal to rational emotion. This is used in his integration of the sciences within what he would deem a philosophical question, such as abortion rights.

This is obviously not a treatment on the fullness of Dawkins’ vocabulary and his presupposed definitions – but it is helpful to understand nonetheless. On the basis of using these terms, he neatly defines his parameters and contains the argument where he desires it would go. Thus, any person in disagreement is disqualified as a rational thinker, as they substantiate their claims with emotive responses rather than based off of what is factually represented and naturally observed or tested.

He further claims that only in “intellectual dishonesty” can one substantiate claims against him. The sciences and philosophy of applied sciences will undoubtedly back him up. Essentially, what proponents of this worldview are saying is that you are stupid for believing otherwise due to an appeal to sources, which cannot be empirically tested or validated. This causes problematic reasoning in that we cannot ascertain what is morally acceptable beyond what develops consensus in subjection to each individual. Thus, each man does what is right in his own eyes – but as a collective sect.

Though there are societal constraints in defining moral evil (we see this in respect to laws governing the states) – we cannot possibly define moral evil in the basis where there is no law. Thus, it is problematic for a man like Dawkins to say that cannibalism in a third world tribe is truly evil, though it would be considered morally evil within his own society. This can be qualified by saying, “if you think that this is an endorsement of cannibalism, go away and learn how to think.”

This appeals to autonomous, societal rule, yet simultaneously, self-rule for the individual; freedom to make whatever choices they desire, be it through sexual expression, the governed right to abort, euthanasia, tribal practices, etc. All of these imply a personal, subjective value so long as they do not become matters of legality – yet the issue at hand is in regard to disagreeing with Dawkins. Though he “would never dream of imposing his views on anyone,” it is illogical and immoral to make the choice of keeping an unborn child who was screened positively for Downs. His apology is not one of sincerity in offending a position, but of one where he is seen as totalitarian.

So why do I find anything to appreciate out of all of this? I find Dawkins to be much more candid than most others who hold the same conviction. I find these convictions to be horribly atrocious – but he doesn’t cloak it with feigned dignity. He is ignoble, a downright fool, contradicts his own rules of logic, and a hater of God and His people – yet he is completely open in expression, even if he has to qualify his statements.

He is willing to go where his argument takes him. Most others simply will not because they either don’t have the fortitude or the foresight to see where it fully leads. For these likes, they simply bow down to the intellectual giants of their field and feign nobility, walking around in blissful ignorance to the true conclusion of their belief system.

Everyone is a worshiper; the difference simply comes in what they worship.


The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw


While this book brought great clarity to the logical arguments atheists may make against the concept and legitimacy of the existence of God, the treatment offered by Geisler and McCoy was by no means exhaustive. As I saw this book to be an introductory primer on the subject, this is not detrimental to the content and delivery.

I found the content of the book relatively engaging – especially in light of the vast amount of philosophical reasoning opposed to Christendom in the current age. Essentially, the authors seek to show that all the Christian must do is allow the atheist to expose their own arguments via direct contradiction.

The general premise of the atheist hangs upon the presupposition that God does not exist. However, even if God were to exist, His character and means by which He operates are inadequate at best. The atheist would argue that God is unjust for not intervening, yet also the methods by which the scriptures declare that God does intervene, are unjust, as they remove genuine autonomy.

For example: in the realm of Moral Evil, God is unjust for not intervening to stop high level immorality (murder, rape, etc.) – yet also unjust if He does intervene because He infringes upon autonomy. In regard to guilt and rules, He is immoral by assigning guilt upon man for breaking rules, yet they would argue that it is entirely beneficial for guilt to be assigned on the premise of breaking certain societal, moral rules. The main problem, again, is that these things infringe upon true autonomy. They would argue that the man acting within the scripture’s realm of morality is simply being coerced to do so, thus, it is not only disingenuous, but immoral and infantile.

Geisler and McCoy break down the book into ten chapters, seven of which deal with the framework by which atheists have made logical fallacies; the remaining three treat their content in light of the logical inconsistency. Here is where I would make an interjection, in feeling that the content could be better organized by including these inconsistencies at the end of each chapter for clarity and consistency.

The authors pull quite a few quotes from many leading atheistic thinkers, both from our current times and the Age of Enlightenment. However, I saw this as both a great strength for the book as much as a weakness. Nearly 60-70% of the first seven chapters consisted of direct quotations. Some of these were incredibly adept in representing the driving point of the chapter, yet to mine through them all was exhausting. Had they chosen roughly half – and selected the most powerful, such quotations could have served to greater influence the desired impact.

The content of the book had me puzzled a few times, not at the depth of the topic, but at the inclusion of some statements made from the authors. I will simply include a couple found and noted, one being a statement devoid of full research, the other being a dangerous theological proposal if carried to its logical end.

“What is most surprising to atheists, and even to Christians, about hell, is who came up with the idea. It was Jesus” (pg. 99).

While Jesus spoke extensively on the nature of Hell and of it being a literal place of torment, the Old Testament is not void of reference to eternal punishment for the wicked (Dan. 12:2; Isa. 66:24). It would seem simply to be an honest mistake of the authors in either being misinformed, or simply not giving due research behind the statement. Regardless, it is now published as a verified statement, though it is not.

The second, and more troublesome statement comes just three pages later, picturing God as a panting, frenzied, desperate wreck in regard to sending people to Hell. We know it to be true from scripture that He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone – but desires that they would repent and live (Ezekiel 18:32; 1 Tim. 2:4). However, it cannot be stated that He is in such emotional disarray as to be “panting, frenzied, and desperate” as He executes wrath.

We must ask the genuine question: does God take pleasure in executing justice? Though He desires that all would be saved, this desire is not effectual. If it were, all would be saved and the heresy of Universalism would be dogma. The logical, and perfectly biblical deduction, is though God takes no pleasure in those who do perish, He does take pleasure in executing His justice. To be sure, we ought to clarify the meaning of “pleasure” as something altogether different than sadomasochistic joy; it would seem more prudent to show the progression that in punishing the wicked, He is brought glory, thus, manifesting pleasure in Himself – as He is utterly worthy of all glory.

Directly after this statement, the authors write, “What we know is that the Christian God was so intensely against sending the atheist to hell that he went to hell himself, like a fireman to the rescue.” While the context speaks of the sacrifice made on the cross, this statement might allude to a popular, yet unsubstantiated notion that Christ descended into Hell after His death upon the cross.

If they were not alluding to Christ literally going to hell, one might allegorically say that Christ endured hell upon the cross – yet even this is unsubstantiated. Christ bore the fullness of God’s wrath against those whom would be saved– not hell. Hell is the place of torment in which the fullness of God’s wrath is poured out upon the unregenerate.

The one massive problem I had with this book though is not in some of the poor theology that I came across. The authors never make a grand appeal to the gospel. I will argue, time and again, that it is the foolishness of the gospel that saves. Not Apologetics; not rhetoric; not exposing contradictions. The gospel. While we may win an argument, employing such means does little to cut to the heart to expose the idol that the atheist has built up in place of God: himself. I am convinced that nothing save the gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified will do this.


Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255