Cervantes: Dawkins vs. Down’s


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There is always a select group of topics that, when brought up, will more than likely cause a debate.

The topic of abortion has always been one of the most heated of subjects, with finely drawn lines that dictate the proponents of these arguments as pro-choice or pro-life. As of late though, something has happened that has both sides rallying together in outrage.

Richard Dawkins, an advocate of atheism and evolution, recently tweeted that it is not immoral to abort a fetus with Down syndrome. He then apologized for his “logical” answer and said that it was not his statement that was wrong, but the public’s “wanton eagerness to misunderstand.” He later went on to remark that most doctors recommend abortion of Down syndrome fetuses but offered no statistic to back that up.

Dawkins has really hit a chord with people here. It’s not like he is just saying that abortion is a logical choice for some women. Many public figures have done so, and all they get is an update on their Wikipedia page. What Dawkins has done is single out a specific group of people and label them as inferior to any other person in the world.  Why? Because they have one more chromosome than the majority of the population.

For those who don’t know, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder. Common signs include delayed growth, distinctive facial features, and intellectual disability. Despite this, many individuals with Down’s have successful lives, and some have gone on to careers in the media. Those who live normal lives find bonds forged through the tender care of family and friends and become productive members of society.

So why then does Dawkins go out of his way to make this statement?

I’m guessing that his “logical” answer comes from the reported health problems children with Down syndrome face, such as respiratory infections and increased risks of cancer and heart problems. Dawkins, being the evolution advocate that he is, probably sees this as a weakness to the human populace and abortion just another tool for natural selection. He clearly makes the assumption that they are weak.

I had an aunt, Jennifer Cervantes, who had Down syndrome. She had over four open-heart surgeries before she reached the age of 10. Doctors said she would live for only a little over two years and never walk. Not only did she walk, but she lived a life full of happiness and love despite the adversity against her. She died at age 11, fighting until the end and refusing to give up. She was most certainly not weak.

So what do we do now with Dawkins? The answer: learn.

He may be a man of science, but he has shown through his comments and half-hearted apologies that he knows little to nothing about people.  To simply understand the ailments of others is a leap in the right direction, but it’s one that Dawkins hasn’t made.

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