Agape Love and Richard Dawkins’ Privileged Conflation of Reason with Justice


I confess: I love someone with Down Syndrome. None of my family members or close friends have this disability, but I often see such individuals on the street, at the Y, on the bus; any public place where human diversity can be readily noted. The love I’m talking about is agape: the love a person feels for others by virtue of their identity as individuals.

This kind of love also defines dignity in relation to justice: When Richard Dawkins and his ilk present their perspectives as if they were incontrovertible facts, they subjugate the experiences of different identity groups. I find it obvious that when such commentators use the pronoun “we,” they are referring to ablebodied, white, heterosexual male individuals: those with whom they share the most privileged position in society. Their perspective always affirms their identities as constituting a legitimate facet of the human experience, but explicitly subjugates the experiences of those who have experienced political oppression.

In discussing his latest of many ignorant assertions regarding the experiences of subjugated people groups (Muslims, sexual assault victims and most recently those with Down Syndrome), Dawkins has asserted that those who responded negatively to his assertions loved someone with Down Syndrome, and were too emotionally biased to appreciate the rationale behind his argument; thus imparting the bizarre implication that the emotion of love and the capacity for objective reasoning are mutually exclusive. Surely Dawkins realizes that emotions are essential in preventing the human race’s evolution into empathy-less robots; but his thinking process seems to be stymied by a privileged disassociation between disability and the benefit of preservation: because Dawkins assumes that his perspective on Down Syndrome is inherently benevolent, he contextualizes love as a hindrance to the latter’s eradication.

 What Dawkins doesn’t realize is that those of us who love individuals with Down Syndrome understand him very well: he and his colleagues have a serious ableism problem, but their privilege prevents them from acknowledging how this phenomenon impacts his perceptions of what is “rational;” a characteristic that Dawkins conflates with justice.