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.
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