Human Exceptionalism

Derbyshire Refuses to Grapple With the Actual Issues About Eugenics

John Derbyshire’s style of arguing is often to breezily skip past concrete issues rather than actually grappling with them intellectually. He does it again in the ongoing discussion at The Corner over eugenics, where he dismisses worries that eugenics thinking could result in the eradication of those who were once denigrated by eugenicists as “the unfit.” He does this by shifting the ground from what is actually being argued for and done–eugenic infanticide–to the potential killing of three-year-olds. “As to the notion…that the killing-off of unsatisfactory 3-year-olds could be sold to the American public if cleverly packaged… Well, I think better of the American public than that.”

So do I. But people aren’t worrying about killing three-year-olds. They are warning against eugenic infanticide (and abortion). Indeed, right now, most Down babies are not allowed to be born. Some of the world’s foremost bioethicists argue on behalf of infanticide, as have articles in prestigious medical journals and mainstream media outlets. The Netherlands currently engages in eugenic infanticide and will soon legalize the practice.

I would have more respect for Derbyshire if he would grapple with the realities of people’s concerns rather than breeze past them by shifting the premise being proposed and then dismissing his own straw man. Anyone can do that.