“Love, No Matter What” – A Rebuttal of Andrew Solomon’s TED talk

In this post I’d like to discuss the TED talk given by Andrew Solomon called Love, No Matter What. (See the link for the YouTube video). I enjoy TED talks very much because they offer a perspective on topics that you often haven’t thought about or if it is a topic you think about it could offer a different perspective. This talk titled “Love, No Matter What” seemed to have potential. I was hoping he’d talk about the good that can come from love. What I found was not exactly that. There were some good points, which I will let you listen to the talk to find, but one small point near the middle (11:56 minutes in the transcript) which caused me to seek the transcript, listen multiple times and finally rebuke Andrew’s comments with this post.

Here’s the YouTube description of the talk.

“What is it like to raise a child who’s different from you in some fundamental way (like a prodigy, or a differently abled kid, or a criminal)? In this quietly moving talk, writer Andrew Solomon shares what he learned from talking to dozens of parents — asking them: What’s the line between unconditional love and unconditional acceptance? – Youtube description TED talk “Love, No Matter What”

This talk was good in that it talks about how it can be hard for a parent to understand a child who is different from the parent. The examples Andrew uses are a child who is deaf, has dwarfism, is gay or has Down Syndrome. This group presents an interesting, and seemingly completely arbitrary smattering of different things that people can be identified as, which brings up an interesting thought on identity, that I have made a note to think of at a later date. But I digress,

Here is the point that confused me at starting at 11:56.

“We live at a point when social acceptance for these and many other conditions is on the up and up. And yet we also live at the moment when our ability to eliminate those conditions has reached a height we never imagined before. Most deaf infants born in the United States now will receive Cochlear implants, which are put into the brain and connected to a receiver, and which allow them to acquire a facsimile of hearing and to use oral speech. A compound that has been tested in mice, BMN-111, is useful in preventing the action of the achondroplasia gene. Achondroplasia is the most common form of dwarfism, and mice who have been given that substance and who have the achondroplasia gene, grow to full size. Testing in humans is around the corner. There are blood tests which are making progress that would pick up Down syndrome more clearly and earlier in pregnancies than ever before, making it easier and easier for people to eliminate those pregnancies, or to terminate them.” – Transcript.

Read the last line again or better yet watch the video.

“There are blood tests which are making progress that would pick up downs syndrome more clearly and earlier in pregnancies than ever before making it easier and easier for people to eliminate those pregnancies or to terminate them. So we have both social progress and medical progress.” – Andrew Solomon

This prompted my thought to change the title of the talk to “Love Your Child No Matter What, (Unless They Have Down Syndrome, Or Any Other Disease Or Deformity That I think Can’t Be Cured At This Time)”

Here are my thoughts and questions on this.

Later in the talk Andrew says

13:35 – “We have to think about how we feel about cures altogether. And a lot of the time the question of parenthood is, what do we validate in our children, and what do we cure in them?” – Andrew Solomon

Why is the only thing he mentioned that he’d validate in your child was homosexuality, although he didn’t actually say that, it was more implied. In fact, he didn’t mention homosexuality at all in the talk (at 11:56) about how he’d “fix” the issues that could be detected in a child.

He mentions BMN-111 treat dwarfs to make them “normal”.

He mentions hearing implants for deaf children to make the child “normal”.
And then his solution is to murder (abortion) a child who MAY have down syndrome. We can share numerous stories of people who were supposed to have been aborted, Tim Tebow for one, whose parents were brave enough to tell the doctor’s “Abortion is not an option.”

Andrew mentions a total of 0 “cures” for homosexuality. I’m not promoting that he should be or shouldn’t be promoting a “cure” for it, but when he goes through all the other situations he presented but doesn’t mention homosexuality that’s raises questions in my head of what his motives are for the talk. It seems his thoughts are 2 fold.

  1. Normalize homosexuality. I really think this is the underlying point of the whole talk, and if Andrew wanted to disagree with me on that point that’s ok.  (I am not trying to be biased for or against that, I have complex views on homosexuality and haven’t researched enough to form a complete arguing opinion. Look for future articles. This in not what I want to address in this post.)
  2. Promote abortion of children who could have developmental disorders. I honestly think this was not high in his mind at all while writing this talk. I think Andrew could have left this point out completely and he would have been just as happy. I think that he so nonchalantly mentions it, and then that people applaud him, show the state our society is in. I have researched a great deal on abortion and I am adamantly against abortion.

It seems Andrew is biased. I wonder what the Robart’s (the people he interviewed for his book who’s son has Down Syndrome) thought about that statement. Here’s what Tom Robart had to say.

“I think if we lost everyone with downs syndrome it would be a catastrophic loss.” – Tom Robart

So why then, is Andrew’s solution for children (who are people definitely by the time the fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus wall, and really in my mind likely at conception, but I’ll save that for a future post after more research), to abort them at the chance of an issue, when even the father of one of those children said that it would be a “catastrophic loss”? I have enjoyed many TED talks, but this one has caused concern for me. If you want more thoughts on abortion, please read and share my post related to the subject.

Thank you to Amy Entwistle at Flickr Creative Commons for the cover photo.

5 thoughts on ““Love, No Matter What” – A Rebuttal of Andrew Solomon’s TED talk

  1. Thank you for writing this and pointing out Andrew Solomon’s hypocritical statement about Down syndrome that goes completely against the topic of his talk. How sad that people applauded him. If only those people knew what they were missing.

    • Thank you for reading and for making the choice of life for your son. I hope he brings you and those around him joy. I definitely learned some just from reading his birth story and definitely gained some compassion and love for him just from that short read. I have not been exposed to many people with DS in my life. Thank you for sharing your story and love.

  2. Having read Andrew’s book, Far From the Tree, I have a very different take on what he said. In the book it is very clear that he is exploring the dark side of these medical advances, including the loss of the richness that diversity brings. I never once understood him to be advocating in the way that you heard it.

    • Thank you for providing your comment.
      I hope you are right, but from reading the transcript and watching the video multiple times that sure doesn’t seem to be what he’s saying. I will consider reading the book sometime in the future. I sure hope you are right, as I inherently value life. If you don’t (not saying you don’t) the the discussion has no value. If that is indeed Andrew’s point, he should be more clear as to what he’s saying, because having watched the full talk multiple times and reading the transcript it sure seems like he’s advocating for terminating pregnancies that would result in “difficult to take care of people” and who’s to say who’s difficult to take care of? We are all difficult in our own way.

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