Dawkins Supports Genocide?

There’s a little kerfuffle in the blogosphere recently about Dawkins. No, not the Haggard video. As the LifeSite story reports, and several fringe abortion blogs have picked up and elaborated, Dawkins “advocates eugenics” and “says Nazi regime’s genocidal project ‘may not be bad’”. The article goes on to quote other geneticists in a negative fashion in order to weave a science-fiction horror story of a future ruled by sterilization, eugenics, and genetic engineering.

Of course if you read the letter to the editor that Dawkins wrote to Scotland’s Sunday Herald you won’t find any trace of support for genocide or Nazi-style eugenics. Instead Dawkins muses over whether it’s time to talk about whether parents ought to be able to choose DNA manipulation in order to select for favorable traits such as musical talent.

On their About Us page LifeSite’s first principle of journalism is stated: “Accuracy in content is given high priority. News and information tips from readers are encouraged. Valid corrections are always welcome.” If you want to submit a valid correction send an e-mail to lsn@lifesite.net.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17794504106098996479 Riskable

    I read both the article and the letter from Dawkins… Pretty sad, really. There are numerous far-right publications like this out there and I don’t think they realize just how bad a name they’re making for themselves. Instead of appearing to be “merely extreme” their reporting is looking more and more like, “Ratboy claims to be a scion of Jesus!”

    I guess if you’re used to believing what you read no matter how ridiculous the claim, then you’ll probably find articles such as this much more refreshing than the bland reporting of events in the typical news media.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05754012798961096099 Frank Walton

    How can people deny that Dawkins is FOR eugenics when he wrote it in his letter! Here’s my perspective (I also have Dawkins full letter and the Sunday Herald article). Say what you like but Dawkins tried to weasel his way from being linked to Hitler by saying it’s nothing more than a “guilt by association” fallacy if you bring up the Nazi Holocaust. Dawkins is as much of a wacko as Peter Singer as far as I can tell.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Jim — great post. I agree with your post in its entirety. In addition to what you write, there are several additional errors in the ridiculous LifeSite article.

    Even as a fan of Richard Dawkins’ book The Blind Watchmaker, I feel compelled to remind LifeSite that Richard Dawkins is not the atheist equivalent of a pope. He no more speaks on behalf of all atheists on all issues than does Paul Kurtz, Keith Parsons, or any other atheist. So even if Dawkins held all of the views attributed to him, it wouldn’t follow (or even be probable) that his views are a logical consequence of his atheism or that his views are representative of what the majority of atheists believe.

    Despite that obvious point, however, LifeSite tries to link what they consider to be Richard Dawkins’ views to atheism itself. After attributing full-scale acceptance of Eugenics to Dawkins, the LifeSite article then tries to associate atheism with Eugenics. According to LifeSite, the ethical theory of utilitarianism is an “atheistic philosophy” that “led in the 1930′s to the Nazi eugenics program.

    Given how the general public uses the word “atheism,” this is highly misleading. Utilitarianism is not atheistic in the sense that it denies God’s existence. Indeed, utilitarianism is logically compatible with theistic belief. Granted, utilitarianism doesn’t require theistic belief in the way that a Divine Command Theory would, but that’s not the same thing as being an “atheistic philosophy.”

    Another glaring error in the LifeSite article is its portrayal of Dawkins’ position as full-scale acceptance of Eugenics. While they are happy to quote Dawkins as saying that Eugenics “may not be bad,” they don’t seem to get around to quoting the end of Dawkins’ letter, where he wrote: “I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me [that Eugenics is bad]. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?”

    So much for integrity at LifeSite.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    OF COURSE,this is the slippery slope of atheism! Let’s none of us kid ourselves here. Dawkins is just being transparent and honest. If there is no God and no Bible and no supernumerary rules governing the family,marriage,procreation, the spiritual sanctity of every human life regardless of “value”,etc then of course! Why not use selective breeding,race,gender,trait selection, selective abortion, eugenics, euthanasia, etc? Why not use selective breeding with financial incentives to young, attractive, physically fit, High IQ, biologically screened “volunteers” to create a master…oops(name already taken!) …superior race? Natural selection, survival of the fittest, “may the best genes win, and winner take all!”, weed out beta males and beta females and produce alphas…. all of thdse terms are the nomenclature of atheism, and atheists puhleez dont try your coy game of hiding behind the mantra that “atheism is just a meta term for not believing in God”..if there is no God and humans are just biological accidents that came from the ooze then the inevitable “end game” will be as Dawkins obliquely suggests, and for atheists this is “aspirational” not accidental. Be careful what you wish for atheists!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Todd: If I thought atheism risked the sort of slippery slope scenario you describe, I’d be afraid of the consequences of atheism also. I believe the facts, however, don’t support your conclusions. The non-existence of God doesn’t entail that humans emerged from “ooze”; that Social Darwinism is a correct ethical theory; or that there are no moral values or obligations. All of these objections have been examined and found wanting. Please check out the relevant material at the Secular Web and if you have a specific objection to what is written there, let us know so that we can discuss it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I just discovered this blog that also discusses the LifeSite article. It points out that although the phrase “may not be bad” is attributed to Dawkins, Dawkins never actually used those words to describe his own views on Eugenics.

  • Anonymous

    DR.Lowder, respectfully, I have read everything relevant on the “secular web” and have found it “wanting” and you still have good reason to be afraid of the atheist paradigm, every example I can find of atheists in power seems to show genocide,eugenics, and the very slippery slope that now Dawkins and his supporters are desperately tring to backtrack from. Stalin tried selective breeding to create superior “spetznatz” commandos, the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot used genocide to get rid of racially impure tribal groups and mixed breed individuals. The Vietnamese Communists used genocide to destroy the Hmongs and Montagnards and racially impure mixed breeds. Mao and his progeny used genocide to destroy racially impure mongol and semitic groups,and even today the Chinese Communists used forced abortion, sex selection , and eugenics based methods to socially engineer their race. The Eastern Bloc Communists used euthanasia much as the Nazis did. I suppose you will say that all these atheists and their atheist regimes were not “true Scotsmen” and that today’s more enlightened atheists will solve the world’s problems if we “just give atheist regimes ‘one more chance’!”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08666505412183287264 SHS

    Frank, I have posted this comment to your blog, I hope you approve it:

    Whoa, everyone, hang on.

    Dawkins is talking about the ethics of letting people choose genetic modifications for their children. I wouldn’t call this eugenics, perhaps I should, but I don’t see much point arguing about the name something is given.

    Nazi eugenics was wrong because the participants didn’t have a choice. That is why it was wrong. Furthermore, it was based on factual misunderstandings regarding superiority because of Nazi racism.

    Neither of these problems apply to voluntary choices to improve one’s own children before they are conceived.

    So, Dawkins is asking, are there still ethical issues to consider, and what are they?

    It is not that difficult a question to understand, so why has nobody in this thread tried to answer it? Instead all I hear is “hooray, Dawkins is a Nazi, hooray, Dawkins has shown that he has no morals, that proves what we’ve always thought about his sort”. Frankly, if you can’t attack him honestly I can only conclude you have no serious arguments against him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09584034445340497926 bpabbott

    (1) Atheism is not a philosophical paradigm. I see no reason to be fearful of it. Atheism is a lacking in supernatural belief, it is not a philosophical cause. Respecting supernatural belief, some have made claims that belief in a universal higher authority is useful in keeping men under moral restraint. However, in that case *who* is to be sanctioned with channeling this power’s laws onto us? Who among us is beyond corruption of such a responsibility?
    (2) Regarding Hilter, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc … it is plausible that these men may not have committed crimes of such magnitude if they embraced a supernatural faith (with the exception of Hitler who made it clear he believed “Gott mit uns”
    Meanwhile, one could also claim that the 911 terrorists would never have become terrorists were it not for their religious convictions.
    However, to claim that religious belief instills violence, on a broad scale, is equally spacious as claiming non-belief does.
    What belief (supernatural or otherwise) can do is present tyrants with an opportunity to unite the masses behind a philosophical cause they the tyrant uses to achieve influence, power, wealth, or combinations of such coveted measures of success. This is true of the 911 terrorists and of the likes of Hilter, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.
    (3) Regarding Dawkins, he did not voice support for genocide, which is the taking of life from others. Rather he raised the question as to whether or not the time to begin a discussion of genetic manipulation. He did not advocate crimes against others, but an open discussion of the appropriateness or inappropriateness of choices regarding genetic manipulation … Personally, I do not believe we are yet prepared for this, and may never be … but to be clear Dawkins asked if we are ready to begin discussing the topic, not ready to implement such. Thus, any comparison to Hitler is wholly inappropriate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14558495391350708810 James Still

    Todd, you left out dozens of other examples of genocide in history most of which were implemented by God-fearing peoples. The Americans nearly wiped out the native inhabitants in the 19th century. But let’s not forget the biggie: God himself ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:2-3). Saul disobeys God and so God “fires” Saul and turns the job over to David. David accomplishes the mission and wipes them out. (1 Sam 28).

    What do you say about that Todd?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08026334505132729732 Steven Carr

    How different things are in China now that Mao has gone.

    Why, Christians in the Three Grade Servant Church and Christians in the Eastern Lightning Church are having to murder each other, with no Mao to do it for them.

    Chinese Christianity

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Todd — You say that you have read the SW articles I linked to, and found them wanting. What, specifically, did you find wanting? You don’t mention which articles you read and what specifically was wanting in them.

    Regarding your latest set of objections to atheism, I agree with the responses already provided by bpabbott and James Still. The only additional point I would make is to respond to your final comment. Contrary to what you expect, I don’t deny that the majority of the people you list were atheists. (The only area where you and I probably disagree is over whether Hitler was an atheist.) Atheism is not a solution to the world’s problems, but neither is theism. More important, neither atheism nor theism are intended to be solutions. They are explanatory hypotheses, not solutions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09584034445340497926 bpabbott

    Coincidently, I noticed an article on another blog that is related to the merit, or the lack thereof, in comparing Dawkins with Hitler.

    From Atheist Ethicist: Responsibility and Belief


  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Frank: “How can people deny that Dawkins is FOR eugenics when he wrote it in his letter! Here’s my perspective (I also have Dawkins full letter and the Sunday Herald article).”

    I’ve read your blog entry. I see nothing in your blog that we have not already addressed in the feedback section here. In particular, your blog post seems to commit the same error as the LifeSite article, namely, attributing the words “may not be bad” to Dawkins, when in fact they are not his.

    Frank: “Say what you like but Dawkins tried to weasel his way from being linked to Hitler by saying it’s nothing more than a “guilt by association” fallacy if you bring up the Nazi Holocaust.”

    This was refuted by “shs.”