Egnor Rants About Abortion

The topic of abortion is one we almost never write about. First, because it’s so divisive that it generates wildly emotional comments, which we find distasteful; and second, because your Curmudgeon’s views on abortion are his own, which we have no desire to impose on anyone else. We hate it when national politics are polluted by abortion, or any of the other “social issues.”

Nevertheless, the Discovery Institute, like so many creationist outfits, imagines themselves to be on a divine mission to deal with the subject, which they usually blame on Darwin and his theory of evolution. But if abortions weren’t common before Darwin, why did the Hippocratic Oath, attributed to Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC), originally say that a doctor would not help a women have an abortion? We doubt that the oath would mention a non-existent phenomenon.

Anyway, we’re dealing with the subject today because of a new post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog, Science Deniers Notwithstanding, Human Life Begins at Conception, written by Michael Egnor — that’s his writeup at the Encyclopedia of American Loons. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.

In the scientific debates of our day, it’s important to distinguish debates about scientific facts from debates about the ethical or metaphysical consequences of scientific facts.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s from the Discoveroids, who routinely declare that Darwin’s theory caused World War I, Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China, school shootings, and an ark-load of other evils. We’ll have to overlook Egnor’s total lack of self-awareness, which is typical of creationists, in order to learn what he’s raving about today. He says:

That human life begins at conception is a scientific fact, and has been recognized as such since the early 19th century when fertilization of the ovum by the sperm was first observed in the laboratory. That life begins at conception is as much a scientific fact as heliocentrism, and the fact that the earth is round, and that water is H2O.

Here’s where we’ll disclose your Curmudgeon’s opinion. There’s no doubt that a fertilized ovum is alive. But is it a human being from the moment of conception? We are all familiar with the unfortunate phenomenon of brain death. When the brain ceases to function, almost everyone agrees that it’s appropriate to remove life-support equipment and let the patient expire. Why? Because without a functioning brain, although the body may continue to live for a while in a vegetative state, there’s no longer a person in that body.

The end of human life isn’t particularly controversial. Well, there are notorious cases like Karen Ann Quinlan, where some are emotionally or ethically unable to let go and may continue to hope for a miraculous revival, but aside from that, almost everyone agrees that when the brain ceases to function, that’s the end of human life.

Your Curmudgeon’s personal belief is that a symmetrical rule should be applied to determine the beginning of human life. That’s when the brain is sufficiently developed that it begins to function — which can be determined by Electroencephalography, and which occurs somewhere during the middle of a pregnancy. [Addendum: Before then, a fetus without a functioning brain is little different from a full-term baby born without a brain — see Anencephaly.] But when the brain begins to function, the fetus has become a human being and abortion is wrong — in our humble opinion. Okay, please forgive the personal intrusion. Let’s get back to Egnor:

A new human being comes into existence at the fusion of the egg and the sperm. The new human being develops through stages, and at each stage of human development — zygote, embryo, fetus, neonate, infant, child, adolescent, adult — the individual is a human being. There is no scientific debate about this.

Well, opinions vary. Egnor continues:

There is, regrettably, a lot of denial of this scientific fact, most of it from those who find it necessary to deny the humanity of the human being whose life is ended by abortion.

Then he quotes and rips into a post by P.Z. Myers, about which he says:

[H]uman blood, or human saliva, or human semen, or human menstrual blood are not human beings. Human zygotes and human embryos and human fetuses and human neonates and human infants and human children and human adolescents and human adults are human beings. They are not the same as saliva or semen or menstrual blood.

We disagree with his casual claim that human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are human beings. Why? As we’ve already said, we don’t think they’re human until they have functioning brains.

Egnor goes on for several more paragraphs, but we’ve pretty much covered the topic. He ends with this:

Misrepresentation of biology to excuse abortion is the moral equivalent of scientific racism of a century ago.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The Discoveroids misrepresent biology all the time, in order to make room for their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — to do the miraculous things they claim biology can’t do. But we wouldn’t say that makes Discoveroids the moral equivalent of racists. Rather, they’re just being creationists.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Egnor Rants About Abortion

  1. Egnor suffers from a severe religious delusion. I’d be surprised if he could tie his own shoes. He probably wears loafers.

  2. Yep, fundiies can’t kill a fetus, or eggs or sperm for that matter, but wait eighteen years and they have no problem shipping it off to the war du jour. Gotta love their craven little minds!

  3. I’m so sick of hearing “life begins at conception” and “it’s a scientific fact!”. Life is a continuum every part of the life cycle is alive including sperm and egg (not people). What begins at conception is the 2N phase of the life cycle. As a thought experiment, if a person’s existence began at conception identical twins would in fact be the same person, and they aren’t.

  4. I always thought Democracy is based on social issues. I’m at a loss trying to imagine an act of any form of government or rule that doesn’t bring some social impact along with it. Taller foreheads may have greater clarity on this view than I do.

    While the abortion debate rages on with most rhetoric carefully avoiding the Human Rights issues involved many inconsistencies seem to go un-noticed as E.J.Bertel notes above.

    Creationists seem to consistently hate abortion, assisted suicide and any human rights discussion that demonstrates the complete absence of ethics in the anti-abortion camp (they opt for the more politically flexible term “Morals”). At the same time the idea of an expectant Mother being able to arbitrarily sacrifice her life in a gamble to help her child be delivered safely is almost universally hailed as a heroic act and doesn’t seem to ever enter into the domain of assisted suicide discussions.

    Is it optics or limited public awareness that drives such exceptions? Or is it the fact that the anti-abortion lobby has been an effective way to unify, retain and direct a significant block of voters?

  5. michaelfugate

    Why one wonders do they accept that evidence from the 19th century – which changed centuries of understanding on how mammals reproduce and not accept the evidence supporting evolution?

    Am I wrong to have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with women’s rights? When women were property – abortion was not considered immoral.

  6. Doctor Stochastic

    Perhaps the phrase “at conception” should be replaced with “during conception” as the process is rather lengthy. I suppose Engor considers the morula to be fully human. I guess he considers the 30-50% non-surviving morulae to be God’s little jokes.

  7. Isn’t it touching how many GOP creationists care about unborn babies and how little about born ones? Social security for the latter is totally out of the question!

  8. Yes, it’s touching that many GOP creationists are so big on the constitution and law and order, unless it’s a law like the Roe v Wade decision which made abortion by choice legal in the USA. Legal. That means it’s OK to do it, for those creationists who are legally challenged.

    Yes, it’s touching that many GOP creationists are so big on the unborn, but not the born. Yes, it’s touching that many GOP creationists are morally bankrupt as to deny children food, clothing, housing and an education, but, in time, gleefully send them off to war, jail or the lethal injection table. Don’t you just love traditional family values?

  9. The reason creationists care so much about the abortion issue is that, on their “worldview,” everything (well, at least everything intersecting humans) is intentional. God intentionally created everything. God intentionally created humans. God intentionally granted conception to make a baby. Think about it a second and it falls flat on its face: Did God use the sin of fornication to do His will?

    This also neatly explains the inconsistency with why most “Biblical literalists” don’t bat an eye with heliocentrism but roll around screaming like toddlers about evolution. Heliocentrism doesn’t really remove the possible intentionality from “creation.” However, if humans were created by natural processes and not an intentional agent, the creation of humanity very much loses all intentionality.

  10. Mary L. Mand

    Wonder what he thinks about spontaneous abortions (aka miscarriages)? They out-number the ones he’s ranting about.

  11. michaelfugate

    If babies are innocent and life is the right choice, why the flood? why the passover?

  12. @Reflectory
    Once again, I mention the fallacies of composition and division.
    And suggest that we take care to distinguish between individuals and the group.
    In particular, that there is no complaint about the scientfic explanations of reproduction, the origins of an individual, even though standard Christian belief is that each individual is a creature of God, and it is thought important that one stands in a special relationship with one’s Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.
    Creationists don’t worry about that. They worry about the abstract collective, the species (or “kind”).

  13. Mike Elzinga

    I think that if there is one overarching rule that applies to ID/creationists, it would be that whenever an ID/creationist purports to tell you anything about science, what he tells you will be dead wrong. They work at getting science wrong.

  14. The point was made by Planned Parenthood that if abortion is made illegal again, it will not stop abortions. It will only stop safe abortions for those who cannot afford to travel to countries where abortions are still legal. So, instead of just stopping the fetus from developing, the would-be mother’s life will also be ended in many cases. I guess the fundies figure she deserves it for having sex in the first place.

    I wonder how many anti-abortion politicians are in favor of capital punishment?

  15. Christine Janis

    Thanks retiredsciguy — an excellent point. Some of us are old enough to remember that carnage.

  16. @Mary Mead: indeed. I’ve read somewhere that some 50% to 70% of zygotes never make it to birth and indeed many never make it to implantation. That sort of makes the great sky fairy the Discoveroids like so much the greatest abortionist of all time.

    @retiredsciguy: Like Christine Janis I’m old enough to remember the days before Roe v Wade. I’m pretty sure the women related to all the guys who were ranting about abortion at the recent candidate’s debate are, like several I knew about before R v W, wealthy enough to go to Europe “for a short vacation” and get their abortions done there. It is the poor women who will die from botched abortions in the US.

  17. robert van bakel

    This is why enjoy your posts Sensuous; usually we are in 100% agreement. I believe my position rather than the ‘functioning brain’ argument, would be the ‘self aware’ argument; largely the same. If i’m in a vegetative state, please, please, if you love me, pull the plug, for humanities sake, as well as mine.
    And, as others have noted, these people seem remarkably blaze about the fate of the mother; her life, her rights, her claims to a hopeful future, unmarred by a brief, rather mild, totally understandable desire. A mistake BTW, the religious men, who, to paraphrase Hithens, ‘view the vagina as a one way street’, never have to remedy.

  18. Just finished up anatomy and physiology today. This is how the textbook defines life: Capable of maintaining boundaries, movement, responsiveness,digestion, metabolism, excretion, reproduction and growth.
    By this definition a fetus isn’t alive until the third trimester.

  19. Charles Deetz ;)

    @CS I like your opinion of life, @van bakel, yours too. I really hadn’t thought of it that way. @Reflectory I like your post about intention, it is helpful too.

    No one chimed in on the similarity of developing of life to the developing of species, and that creationists struggle with the grey area. Can’t be transitional forms, so species cannot change … just like there can’t be living cells without its full potential of being human being included.

    I like to think highly of myself because I can think about the grey area and accept it as such. They think highly of themselves for being able to separate the grey into black and white.

  20. Dave Luckett

    It’s a weird thing living in a democracy, apparently founded on the same principles as the USA, with such a different take on law. I understand that your current laws on termination of pregnancy descend from a Supreme Court decision on the meaning of the Constitution – specifically the fourteenth amendment – and its extension of the right to privacy.

    This reads very oddly to an Australian. We also have a Constitution, but it is exclusively concerned with the powers of our Federal Government and the structures of the Federal Parliament, the relation between its Houses, and the offices of State. It does include some specific rights, such as the right to vote, the right to trial by jury, the right to “just compensation” for resumption of property, and a general prohibition of discrimination against a resident of another Australian state, but our High Court has always held that these rights may not be extended in novel directions. A right to privacy is not Constitutionally specified, although it is enshrined in various legislation that empowers a government to gather specific information.

    Our Parliament is alone sovereign. The purpose of the Court, if litigation ensues, is to discover the Parliament’s intention, and to rule in accordance with that, unless, and only unless, that intention were clearly in breach of a specific Constitutional prohibition. (Such litigation can happen. It would certainly follow if the Government enacted a proposal it floated, which was to remove, by Ministerial order, Australian citizenship from dual nationals who were considered to have engaged in terrorist acts overseas. That would appear to abrogate the right to vote and the right to jury trial.)

    But it would certainly not occur to an Australian court that the right to terminate a pregnancy was a Constitutional matter. It is a matter for State law, unless the Federal Parliament legislates – one of our Constitutional provisions is that Federal legislation overrides any State legislation.

    The result, however, has been a pretty complete consistency. Termination of pregnancy is always lawful to protect the life or welfare of the woman. This includes her mental and emotional health. The result is that first-trimester abortions are readily available on request, and are subject to Medibank health funding. This is now completely uncontroversial, outside of the occasional loon writing to the papers.

    Late abortion is as always a more fraught subject. Still, the consensus of the laws actually operating is that while a termination of a non-dangerous pregnancy after the 20th week would be extraordinary, and could still attract legal attention, no prosecution against any medical practitioner for performing an abortion has been brought in decades.

    We have a similar situation with same-sex marriage. Again, the US Supreme Court has ruled that it is to be allowed, on Constitutional grounds, striking down legislation to the contrary. That can’t happen in Australia, and the Australian Marriage Act of 1926, as amended, is law. That act defines marriage as the union of one man to one woman. The present Prime Minister has refused his own party a free vote in the Parliament on the proposed repeal of that provision, and has insisted that government members vote as a block against it. He’ll probably be obeyed, party discipline being far stronger here than appears to be the case in the US. But Tony Abbot is not going to be able to control his own back-bench, once enough of them read the polls, and realise that they’re bleeding votes to the Prime Minister’s personal opinions. I’d give it a year before the party room tells him that they are going to allow a conscience vote, and if he doesn’t like it, he can resign.

    I suppose it comes down to the same outcome, in the end. We’re not the same. Nobody this side of reality would expect otherwise.

  21. Amazing how his name actually says what to do about what he says!!!
    But until he shows that he has a uterus & vagina, his opinions on abortion are pure BS to be Egnored!!!

  22. A new human being comes into existence at the fusion of the egg and the sperm. The new human being develops through stages, and at each stage of human development — zygote, embryo, fetus, neonate, infant, child, adolescent, adult — the individual is a human being. There is no scientific debate about this.

    Well, identical twins are born when, sometime after “the fusion of the egg and the sperm,” when the developing embryo splits–and this can happen more than once, producing identical triplets, quadruplets, etc., though it’s rare. And there are cases where fraternal twins, who began life as separate fertilized ova, fuse into a single individual; they are identified when medical tests show that they are “mosaics,” some of whose cells show a different genetic makeup than others. So much for zygote individuality. Or don’t identical twins and genetic mosaics count as human to creationists?

  23. I have taught embryology at a secular university and a church-affiliated university, and nearly all of the students seem to be able to differentiate between a new human genetic entity and a new human being. A new genetic entity is created at the first mitotic division after fertilization, and has been pointed out above, many of these entities would never form a human being and are spontaneously terminated. Even in the early embryo, many of the cells become the extra-embryonic tissues that no one would call a human being, and nearly all of the cells of the inner cell mass are eliminated, with usually only one of the ICM cells becoming the embryo. The real point of debate is how to define a ‘being’ that accordingly has the rights, privileges and protections of a human being. Around weeks 4-5 after conception, embryogenesis is complete and fetal development begins, ie. most of the major organ systems are well developed and functioning and the remaining months of pregnancy are primarily about growth. Thus typical abortions are not about terminating embryos but rather terminating fetuses. IUD’s and things like the day after pill could be considered as methods for terminating embryos. Even if a typical abortion is considered a form of homicide, the law of this country says that there are circumstances where homicide is legal, both after birth and before birth.

    Changing gears, my experience is that the most ardent anti-abortionists are also pro-capital punishment, pro US military dominance, and favor sending the young folks off to kill the enemies. Re the latter, one of the most astounding things I ever read published in Christianity Today was a Christian trying to justify that sometimes ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ requires that you kill them, since there is a difference between murder killing and slaying killing, which is what soldiers do in wars. Only shows that Christian apologetics can justify most anything.