[As is not infrequently the case, what began as a late night Facebook response grew into a a blog length post. I hope this is of use to someone.]
Bill Nye has decided to step out of his area of expertise and opine on the issue of abortion. Those of us who care about the right to life of unborn human beings welcome his participation in this discussion and the opportunity to use his comments on abortion as a springboard for conversation.
Here is my response to selected portions of the short video he did arguing against the pro-life position:
1. "Many...more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans."
At this point in 2015, with all the great technological and scientific advantages of our day to help us better understand human life and development, it is hardly worth noting that life begins at conception/fertilization because anyone who bothers to read anything of relevance on the issue either knows this fact or is lying about not knowing it. See for example the following:
“Fertilization – the fusion of gametes to produce a new organism – is the culmination of a multitude of intricately regulated cellular processes.” [Marcello et al., Fertilization, ADV. EXP. BIOL. 757:321 (2013)]
Declarations like these are common place in academic papers and textbooks on the relevant issues related to human life and development.
The unborn is human because it is the product of human sexual reproduction (which results in new human beings) and it is a life as it exhibits irritability (reaction to stimuli), metabolism (converting food to energy), and cellular reproduction (growth), among other things:
"Living things consist of protoplasm and exhibit the following features: metabolism, growth, reproduction, feeding, excretion, irritability and movement. " (A Textbook of Science for Health Professionals, Hinwood, 1997, 250)
So when Nye talks about fertilized eggs becoming humans he is either (1.) ignorant of this basic fact of biology that eggs at conception/fertilization are complete humans and no longer eggs, not becoming human at a later point, or (2.) is being willfully deceitful. Neither option bodes well for him.
2. "...but that's not all you need, you have to attach to the uterine wall."
Nye is not clear on what he means by "all you need." All you need for what? To become human? Nope. We already saw fertilization has accomplished that process.
The process he is talking about is implantation, which is considered by many scientists and health professionals as the beginning of pregnancy, not human life. (To see more on this discussion: Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics, Devettere, 2009, 232)
3. "...if you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized, it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?"
What is absolutely stunning about this argument isn't simply its complete lack of intellectual capital, but that it is presented with the air of being some great, knock-down argument against human rights for all humans.
In the law, we make distinctions all the time between the intentional, unlawful killing of human beings and natural deaths outside our control.
For example, before Roe v Wade and in no country today where abortion is illegal is a woman penalized for having a miscarriage.
So, why would any mildly intelligent person ever think that recognizing the human rights of a human being would mean we'd have to criminalize spontaneous abortions that take place at any time in a woman's pregnancy or any other manner of natural, unavoidable death that might overtake a new human being in its earliest stages of development?
We are not given the answer. Instead, we are assured those who think human rights begin with human life are ignorant of science. Well, the facts speak for themselves.
As for ascribing human rights to the unborn (a philosophical, not scientific judgement), philosopher Dr. Gary Gutting notes the following:
"The basic problem is that, once we give up the claim that a fertilized egg is a human person (has full moral standing), there is no plausible basis for claiming that all further stages of development are human persons. The DNA criterion seems to be the only criterion of being human that applies at every stage from conception to birth."
In other words, if human rights are not the property of living human beings by that fact alone, no consistent basis exists for protecting the child in the womb even seconds before birth or for laws that criminalize fetal death (such as in the case of the physical abuse of a pregnant woman).
But don't worry about all that stuff! Just keep beating the "you're anti-science" drum!
The rest of the video isn't worth my time or yours.
With the characteristic neuroticism of the militant secularism Nye represents, he takes a random side-swipe attack on the Bible.
What the Bible has to do with recognizing the immorality of abortion, I'm not sure and Nye does not care to explain. For someone who talks a lot about science and facts, Nye seems to be at a loss for both.
Maybe he should check out our friends at Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Humanists. Or, heck, listen to the countless secular arguments against abortion put forth by *gasp* religious people!
Beyond that, if Nye means to suggest my belief in Scripture leads me to believe children should be loved and cared for, not wantonly chopped to pieces or starved or poisoned (as happens in abortion procedures), consider me guilty as charged.
Finally, let me note, I have many pro-choice friends, whom I respect.
This post is not an attack on you. It's not even an attack on Bill Nye.
It is an attempt to illustrate that even someone who calls himself a "the science guy" and gives off the most repugnant aura of intellectual superiority utterly fails at defending the indefensible, which is the killing of unborn children.
He doesn't even get close.
What does that tell us?