Euthanasia for disabled babies?

Another fruit of evolutionary thinking


Published: August 22, 2017

Professor Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, a prominent critic of creationists and author of Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible.1 In his blog (which goes under the name ‘Why Evolution is True’) he recently argued for the euthanising of severely disabled new-born babies.2

Evolutionary biologist, Professor Jerry Coyne.

Coyne asks, “If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?” I have to admit that I find his logic perfectly sound; and this demonstrates so clearly why abortion is wrong. Once we accept the destruction of the baby in the womb, then the sanctity of all human life is brought into question.

One might ask how the taking of any human life might be justified. In the same article, Coyne provides the answer: “After all, we euthanize our dogs and cats when to prolong their lives would be torture, so why not extend that to humans?” Consistent with his evolutionary view, he regards humans as no different to animals. (The young Charles Darwin would have agreed. He wrote, “People often talk of the wonderful event of intellectual man appearing—the appearance of insects with other senses is more wonderful”.)3 Again, I cannot disagree with Coyne’s logic; and this demonstrates so clearly the dangers of evolutionary beliefs. Once we accept that we are no more than animals, then taking human life would, indeed, seem perfectly reasonable.

In contrast, the Bible makes clear that we are much more than animals. Having been made in God’s image, we have a spiritual as well as a physical nature (Genesis 2:7). Hence Coyne is, again, on shaky ground when he seeks to argue that, since newborns do not have the mental capacity to understand death, they cannot fear it. Babies are spiritually aware even before birth (Luke 1:41). How then can anyone know that, when death approaches, they are not afraid?

Where will it end?

Coyne rejects the concern that euthanising babies will put us on the ‘slippery slope’ and will lead to Nazi-like eugenics. He wrote, “this hasn’t come to pass in places where assisted suicide or euthanasia of adults is legal.” As pointed out by neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor, however, “Killing handicapped children because their lives are unworthy of life won’t lead to Nazi medical practice. It is Nazi medical practice”4 (emphases added).

History has shown that advocates of euthanasia are never satisfied. Belgium legalised assisted suicide in 2002, “under strict conditions” and only for those in “constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain”.5 Yet people have also been euthanized due to having autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic-fatigue syndrome, partial paralysis, blindness coupled with deafness, and manic depression.6 One in fifty Belgians now dies by euthanasia and this ‘right’ has even been extended to children. In the Netherlands, ministers of health and justice have proposed that assisted suicide be afforded to those who simply “feel their life is completed” and now wish to die.7


Coyne argues, “When religion vanishes … so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.” Yet again, I have to agree with him; and it is surely significant that this call for killing babies should appear on a website devoted to ‘proving’ evolution. Having rejected the God who made him, Coyne has lost all sense of reality. He now doesn’t and can’t understand human nature, and can no longer think rightly about these issues.

Rather than offering ‘dignity in dying’ (a favourite slogan of the pro-euthanasia lobby), legalising killing devalues people and robs them of their status as God’s image bearers. Only by holding to the biblical account of creation can we assert the true nature of man and prevent society sinking further and further into this kind of confusion and error. Only by viewing people as God does can we make right laws and care for others as we should.

References and notes

  1. Woodmorappe, J., Atheist fantasies vs fact, Review of ‘Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible’ by Jerry Coyne, J. Creation 30(2):40–45, 2016. Return to text.
  2. Coyne, J.A., Should one be allowed to euthanize severely deformed or doomed newborns?, 13 July 2017; Return to text.
  3. Darwin, C., Notebook B, p. 207, 1837–1838; Return to text.
  4. Egnor, M., Darwinian biologist endorses killing handicapped babies who “suffer”, 17 July 2017; Return to text.
  5. Belgium legalises euthanasia, BBC News, 16 May 2002; Return to text.
  6. Aviv, R., The death treatment, The New Yorker, 22 June 2015; Return to text.
  7. Philippe, J., Dutch government proposes assisted suicide for those who feel “life is completed”, Evangelical Focus, 11 November 2016; Return to text.
Woodmorappe, J.,
Coyne, J.A., Should one be allowed to euthanize severely deformed or doomed newborns?, 13 July 2017;
Darwin, C., Notebook B, p. 207, 1837–1838;
Egnor, M., Darwinian biologist endorses killing handicapped babies who “suffer”, 17 July 2017;
Belgium legalises euthanasia, BBC News, 16 May 2002;
Aviv, R., The death treatment, The New Yorker, 22 June 2015;
Philippe, J., Dutch government proposes assisted suicide for those who feel “life is completed”, Evangelical Focus, 11 November 2016;

Related Articles

Further Reading

Readers’ comments
Luke M., Australia, 21 August 2017
Considering that a good number of prominent anti-theists/evolutionists already consider Christians, indeed anyone with a belief in any God, 'feeble minded', how long would it be before their 'mercy killings' of the 'less fortunate' are stretched to include the 'poor, deluded (insert belief name here)' too? Some shadows stretch further and deeper than others.
Patrick P., Australia, 21 August 2017
At the present time Australia is experiencing an almost epidemic of suicide and it would appear that most are understandably very concerned about it. At the same time we have the State of Victoria framing legislation to make euthanasia legal. How do supporters of euthanasia embrace these two contradictory views? If we are all equal then untimely death is as much a tragedy for one person as it is for another.
Bernard G., Australia, 22 August 2017
Have you ever noticed that whenever evil is perpetrated, it is almost always preceded by the effort to first alter the definition of commonly understood words? Words like "choice", "gender", "marriage", "dignity" or "race" (e.g. Untermensch), etc.
H. G., Australia, 22 August 2017
Following the same evolution logic, we cannot say that murder is wrong. After all, some animals kill other animals.
Lassi P., Finland, 22 August 2017
I wonder if Jerry Coyne will realise that, one day, someone might consider Grandpa Jerry's life as an atheist not worth living because an atheist can't truly value his own life and hence must be very miserable. These guys just don't seem to think they might become victims of their own murderous ideologies. Thoughtful article on an important topic.
Bill P., United States, 22 August 2017
Just think of it. We are seeing a restrained version of evil today. I can't and don't really want to imagine what will take place when the Restrainer is taken out of the way, and the one who is the father of all lies and murders will, for a short season, take as many as he can down into the pit w/him. I saw in Coyne's photo he had a cat on his lap. I wonder how he would react if someone tried to do his cat any harm? For all of us who trust the Word of the Lord, use this time we have left to draw closer to our Savior, grow in grace reading His Word, hold on tight to your faith in Him. Time is short and evil is waxing strong, but only a little while longer. The day will come where these evil things will no longer exist, or come to mind. Thanks be to the Lord God.
Neil O., Ireland, 22 August 2017
'PROFESSOR' Coyne may well be right in saying that "Science and Religion are incompatible". After all, 'Religion' seems quite able to accept evolution and to compromise on Biblical Truth. And evolution itself is a BELIEF System, requiring BLIND Faith! Creationist Science, on the other hand, is VERY comfortable with Genesis 1 to 11 as REAL HISTORY; and repeatedly exposes the fatal flaws in the 'Evolutionist' SUPPOSITIONS. So, Dr Coyne has only to look at the depravity that his Blind Faith has led him into, to realise that evolutionists "Professing to be wise, ...became fools" were written about some 2,000 years ago in the Book of Romans Chapter 1.
Ken C., Canada, 22 August 2017
Professor Jerry Coyne's reasoning is the perfect example of how, in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s words, the “truth” can “elude us if we do not concentrate our attention totally on its pursuit.” (From his 1978 Harvard address “A World Split Apart”.) Indeed, and on another occasion, when prompted by the question: “Do you feel that many of the problems in the modern world are due to an inadequate grasp of spiritual and philosophical truth by the population as a whole?”, Solzhenitsyn replied: “This is certainly true. Man has set for himself the goal of conquering the world but in the processes loses his soul. That which is called humanism, but what would be more correctly called irreligious anthropocentrism, cannot yield answers to the most essential questions of our life. We have arrived at an intellectual chaos.”
Rene B., Canada, 23 August 2017
Based on his own evolution thinking, what gives him (an accumulation of genetic errors) the right to decide that another accumulation of genetic errors should not live? "Disabled" babies should be considered as part of evolution. Maybe his thoughts are just the result of atoms hitting each other randomly in is head!
Steve H., Australia, 26 August 2017
Professor José Pereira published a paper titled, ‘Legalizing euthanasia or assisted suicide: the illusion of safeguards and controls’. He wrote, “The paper provides evidence that these laws and safeguards are regularly ignored and transgressed in all the jurisdictions and that transgressions are not prosecuted. For example, about 900 people annually are administered lethal substances without having given explicit consent, and in one jurisdiction, almost 50% of cases of euthanasia are not reported.” (Current Oncology 18(2):e38–e45, April 2011.) The final summary of this paper is a sobering read. I hope CMI can use these data - maybe even do an article on it.
Chuck R., United States, 1 September 2017
Princeton's Peter Singer (a devoted atheist) has for a long time advocated killing children, even up to several years old. As Bill P. below asks, what will it be like after the Restrainer is removed? (2 Thessalonians 2:3-9) In Noah's day the earth was "filled with violence" (Genesis 6:13).