British evolutionary biologist and famed atheist Richard Dawkins sparked outrage on Twitter after he wrote that putting ideology and morality aside, eugenics or the selective breeding of humans would “of course” work in practice.
“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds,” Mr. Dawkins tweeted to his 2.8 millions followers. “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.”
The tweet sparked a wave of criticism from both sides of the political aisle, with many people pointing out the racist history of the eugenics movement and how Adolf Hitler used it to justify the forced sterilization and mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews and others who were determined sick or defective.
Mr. Dawkins attempted to further explain his argument, insisting that he “deplores” eugenics but nonetheless thinks it would “work” on humans just as it does on animals.
“For those determined to miss the point, I deplore the idea of a eugenic policy,” he wrote. “I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Just as we breed cows to yield more milk, we could breed humans to run faster or jump higher. But heaven forbid that we should do it.
“A eugenic policy would be bad. I’m combating the illogical step from ‘X would be bad’ to ‘So X is impossible,'” he added. “It would work in the same sense as it works for cows. Let’s fight it on moral grounds. Deny obvious scientific facts & we lose – or at best derail – the argument.”
Mr. Dawkins’ explanation didn’t go over well with users, either. Defiant, he later called out the “hunger for likes” and “Twitter nastiness” against what he described as a rational argument.
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
While Richard Dawkins is a noted biologist, his science on eugenics is bad. We turned magnificent wolves into pure breed dogs with severe genetic defects causing joint and heart problems and cancer. In fact, many Cavalier spaniels develop mitral valve and neurological disorders.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) February 16, 2020
This eugenics crap is so dangerous. In the US it lead to forced sterilizations of women in the South — sometimes against their wills, often without their knowledge — that became so common that they came to be referred to as “Mississippi appendectomies.” https://t.co/TKFQGFc0dL — Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) February 16, 2020
I have literally never seen an argument against eugenics that hinges on the idea of whether or not it “would work.” The issue is what would it mean to say that eugenics “works,” which you conveniently have not defined. Care to elaborate on what a “working” model of eugenics is? — Rani “Laura Palmer Eldritch” Baker (@destroyed4com4t) February 16, 2020
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