Richard Dawkins’ Dangerous Tweet Re: Eugenics
UGENICS is the science of improving the human species. That might not sound too ominous. Who doesn’t like improvement? But this sort of thinking led to some of the most horrific human actions in history. Yet, that didn’t keep famed atheist Richard Dawkins from commending it on Twitter.
Dawkins is a famous author, an accomplished scientist, and an outspoken critic of religion. His anti-God book The God Delusion quickly become an instant success upon its release in 2006 and remained on Amazon’s best-seller list for almost an entire year. I’ve met many who trace their journey away from faith back to their reading of his work.
On Sunday Dawkins posted this comment on Twitter that has since received a great deal of attention:
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
The concept of eugenics goes back to a man named Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin. The painting at the top of this post is of Galton who coined the term eugenics. While his cousin provided a framework for thinking about natural selection, Galton offered a system to selectively apply certain aspects to the human race with the hope of bettering the gene pool. How could that go wrong?
There’s an article I return to often, if for no other reason than the mere title “The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics.” The world was ripe for a theory that privileged one group over a less desirable group. Eugenics was practiced in America, often through the institutionalization of those who were seen as imcompetent and labeled imbeceles, and through mass sterilization. Just read the transcript from this U.S. Supreme Court case in which it was ruled that a particular woman was unfit for having children and was thus involuntarily sterilized.
Eugenics in America offered Adolf Hitler examples of how the new science could be administered. History shows Hitler was even more aggressive in its application. In 1920 two German authors, attorney Karl Binding and psychiatrist Alfred Hoche, published Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life. Again, the title alone tells the whole story . . . “life unworthy of life.”
Why is Dawkins tweet dangerous? Because any attempt to improve humanity is going to boil down to a fundamental question about what is improvement? Who gets to decide? History demonstrates this doesn’t work out well.
That’s because God alone defines the value of human life. We will all ask, at some time or other, like the biblical poet, “what is man?” (Psalm 8). This question is bookended in the Old Testament with the repetition of the statement, “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth.” If we want to know what a human is, what life is worthy of life, we have to begin with God. When we look to God, we see that he places so much value on human life, so much love and care, that he sent His own Son to redeem us out of our despair.
We can only pray that one day, Richard Dawkins will have eyes to see this beautiful reality.