Down’s syndrome and the sum of human happiness

This article was first published on Christian Today 

If you do nothing else this week pass on this article and the video within it.

With the negative side of humanity being so evident on the internet, sometimes it does us good to see the good that can come from the right use of this marvellous tool of communication. The video produced for World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 is a great example of that.

Down's
YouTubeA powerful video for World Down Syndrome Day has gone viral.

Entitled 50 Mums, 50 Kids, 1 Extra Chromosome, it’s gone viral – and little wonder. I consider himself to be as cynical as the next person, but I wept after watching this ‘carpool karaoke’. If someone could watch it and remain unmoved then perhaps they are more ‘handicapped’ than these children are supposed to be.  If you do nothing else this week pass on this video and indeed this article.

A couple from my own city, Dundee, have twins with Down’s syndrome who star in the video. Elaine Scougal says that her purpose was to try and challenge some of the stereotypes around Down’s. ‘A lot of people feel sorry for us – “Oh well, at least they’ll be musical and happy” and that type of thing….none of the children in the video are defined by having Down’s. They are all children first and foremost and that’s what the video gets across.’

What strikes me about it is the difference between the Christian worldview, which can see the great potential in the love that can overcome disease and illness, and the utilitarian view of our so called ‘progressive’ societies.

In the UK 90 per cent of babies in the womb who are diagnosed with Down’s are aborted. In Iceland it is 100 per cent and Denmark is getting close to that as well. These countries boast that they will have got rid of Down’s – what they mean is that they will have got rid of any human beings who have Down’s.

The Definition of Happiness

Iceland and Denmark were recently listed as two of the top 10 happiest countries in the world. But it does depend on how you define happiness. The criteria used were ‘income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity’. Perhaps other criteria could also be used? I would put a parent’s as pretty well near the top of the list. Watching this video there may not be some of the other ‘happiness’ factors, but the love is clearly there. Maybe our experts need to rethink how they define happiness?

The effects of Down’s syndrome are varied and complex. It is not easy to live with. But the idea that we should eradicate everything and everyone not easy to live with would leave us with an emptier and poorer world.

Sometimes our attitude towards people with physical handicaps can be both patronising and harmful. Who are we to determine that someone’s life is not worth living?

Many years ago I learned an important lesson. I was asked to volunteer with what was then known as the Scottish Spastics Council. I went down to its centre for the severely mentally and physically handicapped with the attitude that I was going to help.

One young man in particular made a big impression on me. He was in his twenties but was so severely physically handicapped that he was shriveled up into a space that was less than three feet – he could not walk and most normal physical functions were beyond him, including speech. We communicated through signs and symbols on a ‘bliss board’. It was utterly humiliating – for me! He was witty, insightful and seemed to have a spiritual appreciation that I clearly lacked. I came home shattered – at my own arrogance, folly and judgmentalism.

Judgementalism

And it’s the judgmentalism in a society that is supposed to prize non-judgmentalism, that really gets me. How dare we judge that people cannot live a full and satisfied life because we consider them to be ‘handicapped’? I guess in the ideal world of the progressives we would have aborted Stephen Hawking if we had known about his degenerative disease?

Nowhere is this cold arrogance seen more clearly than in Richard Dawkins’ infamous tweet that it would be immoral not to abort a Downs baby. In an attempt to justify himself he kept digging a deeper hole by writing: ‘If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.’

Dawkins

If you want to consider the ‘sum of happiness’ then again have a look at this video – and I challenge you to say that the sum of human happiness would be improved if all these children had been ‘eradicated’.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus would think of a society which is so determined to get rid of what it perceives as the weak, the disabled and those who don’t quite fit the ‘perfect’ mould. But then I don’t need to wonder. Jesus wept – and he still does.

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9 thoughts on “Down’s syndrome and the sum of human happiness

  1. I was sent the 50 Mums , 50 kids 1 Extra Chromosome clip a couple of days ago by my son who has the privilege of teaching such youngsters to swim . This has been his lot for some fifteen or so years now and he confesses , ” Dad , there has never been a morning when I wake up and don’t think . I love what I do.” I have listened to his passionate council , and how he has learned so much about life with those we categorize as ” lacking “.
    Every school day ( including today ) I watch a young mother lift her heart troubled and quadriplegic son from her car into his chair so that he can enjoy class . If you could see the love in their eyes between them , it tells me that I must rethink and retrain my mind .
    Broken his body may be by earthly understanding , but when she looks at him , everything in my being says , made in the image of God.
    Thanks David , for the timely posting . Gimmicky or no gimmicky . I had my socks looked out before the video ended and should any other wish to join this seventy year old tomorrow I have a similar pair going a begging .

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  2. I’m not sure if you have used such a blatant appeal to emotion before when posting on a subject.

    The issue really comes down to abortion and the right of couples to make an informed decision on whether or not they wish to become parents/life time carers to a child with Down’s syndrome. It is the private concern of those individuals.

    You have made it patently clear elsewhere on this blog that there are lives which don’t fit in to your version of the ‘perfect mould’ and which you would prefer not to see lived or have you forgotten about the lives of those children born to surrogate mothers with same-sex marriage which you lamented over because they don’t fit in to your ‘mould’?

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    1. That is an ignorant and libellous comment. There is no no live which I don’t think should be lived. I would never recommend killing anyone. Do you think it is ‘the private concern’ of parents who wish to kill their children and nobody else;s business? Your morality is as twisted as your logic!

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      1. “Two men cannot have a baby. What is happening is that the two men are using a woman to provide a baby for them – whether it’s a friend or they have hired someone is not really the question. Why does anyone think that it’s a good thing to deliberately bring a child into the world without a mother? ”

        David, I didn’t claim that you did recommend killing anyone.

        The quote above is what you wrote when commenting on “The Tom Daley Baby”. I expect that if you don’t think it is a good idea to bring about the birth of a child that is going to be brought up within a male same-sex married it follows logically that you are suggesting it is bad and that you think that such a circumstance shouldn’t take place.

        There is no suggestion on my part that you believe that such a baby – once conceived – should be aborted, but that the legality of these particular sorts of surrogate births should be curtailed in the first place so that the children are not being born only to be placed in to the care of same-sex couples devoid of a mother.

        It follows, then, that there are lives you think should not be lived.

        “Do you think it is ‘the private concern’ of parents who wish to kill their children and nobody else;s business? ”

        Parents who kill their children would be prosecuted for murder David.

        Parents who choose to terminate a pregnancy of a foetus which has been determined to have Down syndrome are obtaining a legal medical procedure and it is their private concern.

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      2. Thats a little better – if not much! Yes I think its a really bad idea to bring a child into the world without good parents – or to hire out women as slave wombs. That is bad = but it doesn’t mean I ‘m going to kill them in anticipation – which is your position as regards Downs.

        Your point re murder is exactly the point. But you had said its just the parents business…unless its illegal…which is of course arguing in circles because we are talking about what should and should not be illegal. The baby in the womb is a human being who has as much a right to life as the baby outwith the womb. Killing babies because they are handicapped is grotesque – but I guess it fits with the utilitarian atheist philosophy…

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  3. Thank you, Dave, for the video and the comments. My wife and I (we live in the States) are the ones responsible for arranging the care of her 53-year old sister who has Down Syndrome. We are truly blessed by God to have this responsibility and privilege. The percentages of aborted babies in Europe (I’m sure my country isn’t any better) with Down’s tore apart my heart. Hitler may not have succeeded in invading Europe, but his values have. Ooops, did I just equate progressives with morally degenerate Nazis? Yes, I did.

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