Why Would Materialist Richard Dawkins Wrinkle His Nose at Eugenics?
Professional atheist and materialist Richard Dawkins has stirred up another hovercraft full of eels with his latest tweet:
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
Ideology? Is that what he thinks it’s about? Politics, even?
His comment sparked predictable moral outrage from fellow materialists on the left:
So unacceptable for Richard Dawkins to tweet about eugenics without clearly condemning it. Dawkins is *supposedly* one of our exemplars of humanism & science outreach. Yet today he’s given every manner of passive and active bigot an opening to “consider” persecution on steroids. https://t.co/jycoxZQJFP
— Greg Epstein (@gregmepstein) February 16, 2020
Playing God with Our Fellow Man
I’ve written here many times about the real evils produced by the fake science of eugenics. Read how Margaret Sanger used the siren song of “improving” the human “brood stock,” and weaponized racism, to sell America on birth control, in service of the Sexual Revolution. (That was her real goal all along — the racism was just a fig leaf.)
I don’t think I need to go on for Stream readers about why eugenics is morally wrong, and politically dangerous. The idea of the government stepping in to meddle with God’s plan for creating new human beings, in order to breed “better” humans the way we do cattle. … It’s not just evil but crazy, thinking we can put vast God-like power in the hands of elites who insist they know what’s good for us.
The Monstrous Chinese Experiment
The Chinese government enacted a crude form of eugenics in its One Child policy, forcing 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. One Chinese dissident, testifying before Congress, estimated … hold your breath … 400 million.
In true Marxist fashion, the elites who listened to Western population alarmists and crammed this policy of slaughter down a billion Chinese throats didn’t think through what would actually happen. Namely, that 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. That’s a recipe for a lot of angry, lonely young men. Historically, societies with huge surpluses of men (sometimes as the side effect of large-scale polygamy) tend to be war-like. Even if their young men aren’t literally raiding their neighbors to steal their women (as the early Romans did), many millions lack wives, children, and other reasons to reject aggressive war. It’s a good thing that China is arming faster than Hitler did in the 1930s, am I right?
Why Treat “Natural” Selection as Sacred?
Back to Dawkins. I have questions for the smug author of The Blind Watchmaker, who has called raising children as Christians a form of “child abuse” worse than “mild” sexual exploitation by pedophiles. First, assuming that real eugenic “improvements” in human biology were possible (which I question) why would you disapprove of them, as you claim to?
I mean, I know why I’d disapprove of them. 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. If it’s okay that a blind process assembles those letters, why object when humans try to correct the spelling?
Anything But Meaning
Like other Darwinian dogmatists, Dawkins might accept virtually any just-so story for how life first arose. And again, to explain, how useful proteins just happen (against almost infinite odds, in limited time) to keep popping up by random mutation. Over and over again, just in time to produce all the vast diversity of exquisitely functional body forms that popped up during the Cambrian Explosion, for instance, in but a few million years. The only thing he won’t let us consider? Any suggestion that God might play a role, that our life has a meaningful origin.
No, Dawkins insists that life’s progress from amoeba to astronaut was entirely driven by fluke mistakes in DNA replication. That alone explains the arrival of the fittest. And the hand that winnowed out which mutants would live and breed? Ruthless natural selection, of course.
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? Why privilege “natural” over artificial selection?
Deducing Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Hitler’s Premises
These of course are the questions all secularists must face, and almost universally instead avoid. They want the human rights, moral intuitions, and simple good manners that arise from theistic systems that posit meaning and purpose behind human life. But they want all these divine artifacts as the outcome of random sparks struck by the grinding of vast, impersonal forces, as soulless and implacable as the shift of tectonic plates. They want the equality sought by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., of all men as children of God. But they demand we produce it via the Darwinism that inspired Adolf Hitler. Indeed, he merely applied it to the survival of the “fittest” nations, instead of individuals.
Just one more question for Dawkins. Why on earth does he think eugenics will even be possible in the foreseeable future? Just 20 years ago, he and other scientists were writing off 97% of our DNA as “junk.” We have since discovered that this was dead wrong. Now geneticists are busily decoding the genuine functions of such DNA. They’re also studying how epigenetics, the influence of non-DNA information encoded in cells’ environments, determine how life unfolds.
Our Ignorance Knows Few Limits
In other words, we’re just beginning to unravel the almost infinitely complex world of genetics. We still have no idea how much we don’t yet know. Most interventions we’d try today would be crude, even counter-productive. We’d produce gorgeous models and actors, whose brains were so impaired they couldn’t even repeat “Woke” slogans at the Oscars, for instance. (Hey, wait a minute there. …)
These limits won’t rein in the hubris of scientists, of course. Francis Galton, Darwin’s nephew who came up with the “science” of eugenics, would confidently explain how to breed “better” humans decades before the DNA helix was even discovered.
Just so, Margaret Sanger, a total ignoramus on matters of science, blathered about the need to improve the “germ plasm” of mankind by sterilizing criminals, “imbeciles,” and “moral idiots.” Like the Nazis and most Progressives, she pretended that most social evils were the result of “inherited tendencies.” Eugenicists would search out such tendencies by measuring peoples’ skulls, subjecting them to grossly biased IQ tests, and sterilizing those who failed these “scientific” tests. Planned Parenthood pushed for laws mandating such “eugenic” sterilizations in a dozen American states. Some lasted into the 1970s.
We understand genetics only a little better than we do the “dark matter” floating in space. Organic chemistry is vastly more complex, nuanced, and subtle than inorganic. That’s because life is densely packed with information, whose origin in the universe no Darwinian can hope to explain. We have every reason to think that scientists’ meddling in the genetic code will turn out to be crude, useless, or even counter-productive most of the time, at least for our lifetimes. That’s a practical reason to leave “eugenics” alone. In case, you know, you’re a consistent materialist who (unlike Dawkins) admits that he has no right to lodge moral objections to anything whatsoever.