Didn’t you know that? It is a moral obligation. That is what this embryology professor is reported to have said in this news article here. Here is a quote:
“In my opinion, the moral thing for older mothers to do is to have amniocentesis, as soon during pregnancy as is safe for the fetus, test whether placental cells have a third chromosome #21, and abort the fetus if it does. The brain is the last organ to become functional.”
The article continues with some pretty interesting points. The professor objects that he is just trying to start discussion. One student points out that biology ought to be about facts, and the assertion that a Downs Syndrome baby should be aborted out of moral obligation is not the kind of fact that biology is concerned with. Another student argues that you can’t divorce biology from ethics. Interestingly, the professor is reported as saying that he himself would not have done the moral thing if he was in the situation.
I personally am disgusted by the assertion that it is a moral obligation but I do agree that it is something that needs to be talked about and discussed. Here is what I think are some important observations to pull out of this:
- Even trained professors and scientists can say and believe stupid things.
- A professor trained in biology is not necessarily competent to speak to ethics and morality (or religion *cough* Dawkins).
- Even a professor who believes such a thing can hardly bring himself to actually do it.
Now here are some conclusions I’d like to propose from these observations:
- Even the things that professors and scientists say should be considered skeptically.
- Morality and ethics is too important to turn over to ‘experts.’
- Most important matters are best not turned over to ‘experts.’
The flip side of these conclusions is that each of us has to arm ourselves with as much information as we can get and approach it thoughtfully to make up our own minds. That’s a lot of work, I admit. However it needs to happen or else other people are going to get hurt.
Here is another example. In Florida they wanted to absolutely mandate the explicit teaching of evolutionary theory without any compromise or hint of challenge at all. Consider this link. Isn’t it interesting that for something so integral to the understanding of biology as evolution it was apparently possible to do so without necessarily broaching evolution at all? What does it say when a scientific theory requires state backing in order to be promoted? Let’s put on our skepticism hats for a moment rather than our conspiratorial ones and wonder if perhaps the evidence is not as straight forward as we are assured it is and that perhaps it isn’t as integral as some would have us believe. Maybe.
Why do I make this segue? You may be wondering what connects the two halves of this post. Well, would anyone care to bet where a state university embryologist throws in his hat? 10 to 1, he’s a flaming evolutionist. Are we to believe that his evolutionary positions have no connection to his assertion that Downs Syndrome babies should be aborted? Can the professor who wished to start discussion explain the basis for his own views?
For some of us the connection is pretty obvious, but as illustrated in this example even the professor himself was uncomfortable with carrying out what he rationally believed to be the case.
Many people don’t know about evolutionary theory’s inglorious history. If you go back to the Scopes Monkey trial one gets the idea that the Creationists were just anti-intellectual morons. I wonder if anyone has bothered to look at the science book in question. It is pretty interesting. Here is a link to the Wiki article that gives a good overview and here is the full text (though I’m not sure if this is the actual version at stake. Earlier editions were available that were not sanitized).
Do a search for terms like ‘eugenics’ and ‘race’ but here are some quotes:
Eugenics. When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, syphilis, that dread disease which cripples and kills hundreds of thousands of innocent children, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.
See, there you go. Eugenics is a science. A scientist said so. He also said that it was criminal to allow such travesties to continue. How kind and noble this man is!
And before we go, how about a quote on race:
Parasitism and its Cost to Society. Hundreds of families such as those described above exist to-day, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.
The Remedy. If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried success fully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country.
This is the sort of reasoning that evolutionists were running around with at the turn of the century and which that blammed fundamentalist Tennessee wished to keep out of the science classrooms, those anti-intellectuals! Can you blame them? Sort of puts a new look to the Snopes trial, doesn’t it?
Now, here is where I am going with all of this. You can hardly find an evolutionist today that would be caught dead saying the things that are in that science book. After seeing just what a ‘success’ in Europe meant- the Nazi holocaust, etc, such views fell out of favor pretty rapidly, although eugenics laws remained in the books in the US in many places even through the 70s and there were even forced sterilizations for awhile, too.
But is it really the case that such rationalizations don’t follow from evolutionary theory even if modern evolutionists are disgusted by such statements as much as the rest of us? Perhaps the case is that forced sterilizations of ‘degenerate races’ and eugenics in general really does follow at the policy level if evolution is true but people can’t bring themselves anymore to admit it? It is something to think about not dismiss without a thought. It certainly is something to keep in mind when well-meaning ‘experts’ try to insist that evolutionary theory be taught as fact without any challenge and stoop to forcing their views on others.
Just because these men don’t think there is a logical connection doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. After all, sometimes the experts get it wrong. Maybe there is more at stake then just scientific achievement. Perhaps what is at stake is the fate of humanity itself and each individual’s rights and dignity within it. Something that big demands that all of us get to contribute to the discussion with equal authority. If Kansas or Ohio or Florida wants to teach Creationism, or Intelligent Design, or even Evolution… have the debate, have the vote, and let them.
Most things come in full circle. One can only imagine what conclusions will be made by a generation saturated in the view that evolutionary theory is indisputably correct and recognized as such by any sane, reasonable person. Perhaps they won’t be quite as uncomfortable in carrying out the principles like our professor was who began this post.