I thought it was the “wacky religious right” or the “lunatic fringe of the Republican party” that was supposed to be anti-science, but these champions of truth seem to want the anti-science crown more than anyone else. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in an anti-science contest against any of these folks!
I wanted to take a moment to highlight a great series at Dr. Gerard M. Nadal’s blog: Pro-Life Academy. In Dr. Nadal’s pro-life academy posts, he has been digging into embryology recently, going through the book EMBRYO: A Defense of Human Life.
Be sure to check out (and subscribe to!) the Pro-Life Academy posts from Dr. Nadal!
One of the most influence pro-life essays I’ve read was in grade 12 philosophy class, an essay titled Is every human being a person? by Patrick Lee (IIRC).
So, when I see Patrick Lee’s name as one of the authors of this article, I know it’s worth reading.
For people who advocate the killing of embryonic human beings in the cause of biomedical research, the Holy Grail is an argument that would definitively establish that the human embryo, at least early in its development, is not a living human organism and therefore not a human being at all. The problem for these advocates is that all the scientific evidence points in precisely the opposite direction. Modern human embryology and developmental biology have shown that fertilization produces a new and distinct organism: a living individual of the human species in the embryonic stage of his or her development.
Some proponents of embryo-destructive research are willing to face up to these biological facts. They concede that human embryos are living individuals of the human species, but deny that this gives them the moral status of being persons… There is much to be said against this position, but its defects are philosophical, not scientific. Its proponents recognize that there is no Holy Grail out there to find, and they are willing to defend the killing of human embryos while facing up to the biological facts.
But then there are the Grail searchers. These people are determined to prove that what modern human embryology has been telling us is wrong, and to this end they scavenge the fields of molecular biology and human genetics.
Matthew Warner has a great post over at FallibleBlogma.com outlining the scientific basis of the origin of life. Quite frankly, it’s disappointing that it needs repeating, but some people just don’t want to believe it.
“It’s just a clump of cells.” Mmm… yes, as we all are. But, that there’s a unique human life, a new organism, from the moment of conception is not a matter of debate for any man or woman of science.
“That is, in human reproduction, when sperm joins ovum, these two individual cells cease to be, and their union generates a new and distinct organism. This organism is a whole, though in the beginning developmentally immature, member of the human species. Readers need not take our word for this: They can consult any of the standard human-embryology texts, such as Moore and Persaud’s The Developing Human, Larsen’s Human Embryology, Carlson’s Human Embryology & Developmental Biology, and O’Rahilly and Mueller’s Human Embryology & Teratology.” – Dr. Robert George
Then, this is where the twist usually comes.
At this point in the debate, some try and introduce a separate distinction and question of “personhood.” Aside from this usually being a convoluted way to try and create classes of human beings and that it doesn’t hold up to any consistently logical scrutiny, it’s also not at all a scientific argument. It’s a philosophical one. So it is totally irrelevant to the scientific question of when human life begins.
How often do pro-choicers change the topic mid-debate? It’s important to separate the science from the philosophy. Scientifically speaking, there is no distinction between a human being and a human person.
It’s sad that this needs repeating, but Matthew does a great job of repeating it.