Friday, August 22, 2014

Richard Dawkins on the Morality of Abortion

Recently, prominent atheist Richard Dawkins offered his opinion on whether or not one should abort a baby with Down Syndrome:

There is no need to recount the entire thing since the story is widely available (here is one source). So I will only focus on the content of his tweet.

First of all, you cannot abort someone who has not already been brought into this world. Conception produces a new, genetically distinct human individual who has a body of his very own. When one commits abortion, it is this individual who is killed. This individual already exists. Birth is only one event in the life on an individual, and biologically speaking, that event is less significant to one's body than adolescence.

Second, as an atheist, Dawkins has no basis upon which to suggest that any action is "immoral." Sure, he can say that something is good or bad, but morality requires an objective moral law and a source for that moral law, and Dawkins believes that no such thing actually exists.

Dawkins has also stated long ago that killing babies after they are born is acceptable, too. At least that's consistent with his religious worldview. It's insane, but consistent. Here's a good response by scientist Jonathan Sarfati.


  1. Actually, Dawkins really can't say anything is "good" or "bad," because that alone requires a moral standard.

    1. That is true only if by "good" and "bad," you mean "moral" and "immoral," and nothing else. Since good and bad do not necessarily have anything to do with morality, an objective 'moral' standard is not necessarily required to distinguish the two. For instance, the quality of ones car tires (whether good or bad) does not require an objective moral standard. So in many cases, one can determine good or bad without reference to any moral standard. That is what I meant in the article. I clearly distinguished between moral/immoral cases and good/bad cases.

      Like anyone else, Dawkins can address good and bad (for those cases not related to morality), but like I pointed out in the article, he has no foundation upon which to say something is immoral. Like most atheists, he tries to redefine morality because he wants to keep using the term for political reasons (it is a widely accepted concept), but he does not want to use the standard definition (because he does not want to accept the possibility of an objective moral standard).

  2. But buy what standard can you judge something good or bad without a moral standard? Every time you make a judgement about something being good or bad, it is based on some sort of standard. Whose standard?

    1. Did you read my comment above? With that comment in mind, do you think that determining whether or not car tires are good or bad requires a moral standard? I think not.

      Basically, distinguishing moral and immoral requires a moral standard. Distinguishing right and wrong requires a standard of right and wrong. Distinguishing good and bad requires a standard of good and bad. You are conflating things which are not exactly the same.

  3. Yes, I read that, but while determining good or bad tires takes no moral standard, the majority of times when people are determining between good and bad, especially when in discussions with atheists (which I have all the time with my ministry in Iowa City), they need a moral standard.

    I guess I was just trying to make more of a clarification that one can't make a blanket statement about whether or not good or bad do not need moral standards.

    1. In your first comment, you made the blanket statement that one cannot say anything is "good" or "bad," without reference to a moral standard. Now, you seem to agree that is not exactly true. However, I did not make the blanket statement that ALL good/bad decisions can be made without such a standard. I only alluded to the fact that some good/bad decisions can be made without that standard. And now, you seem to agree that is indeed true.


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