20 Aug, 14 | by Iain Brassington
Look, I know that Twitter really isn’t the place for nuanced debate. But, by that token, everyone else should realise that as well – especially intellectual superstars. So how, then, to explain Richard Dawkins’ spectacular foot-in-mouth moment earlier today? It started off reasonably enough, with him tweeting about Catholicism’s stance on abortion and providing a link to this piece by Jerry Coyne in the New Republic; lots of people are going to agree with both Coyne and Dawkins, and lots to disagree, but we should expect that. The tweet got a couple of replies. I can’t be bothered transcribing them, but here’s a screenshot; you should be able to click to enbiggen it.
So far so good. Dawkins’ reply is about as good a version of the sentience argument that you could cram into 140 characters; and InYourFaceNewYorker’s point articulates a problem faced by any number of women who are carrying a child with a disability of some kind. (Well, by any number of parents, I suppose, except that it’s women who hold the moral trump here simply by dint of being the one carrying it. Fathers could agonise about the best thing to do, too; it’s just that they don’t get to make the final decision. Oh, you know what I mean.) Where you stand on abortion doesn’t preclude recognising that it’s a genuine moral dilemma for many people, and a that there are respectable arguments and proponents of those arguments on both sides – by which I mean that people on either side should be able to recognise that their opponents are at the very least worth the effort of an argument. InYourFaceNewYorker goes on to articulate some of the aspects of the debate that make it so emotive and so intellectually rich:
That doesn’t reflect Dawkins’ response to the dilemma, though. Brace yourselves. more…