Doesn't science support a pro-life position?

Science is used by atheists to prove evolution, yet when a woman is pregnant and decides to end the life of a human being in her womb, the science that proves that every embryo or fetus is a human is suddenly and inexplicably irrelevant. Why?

I’d prefer none of you to mention the lives of fish, bugs, flowers or bacteria. I’m talking about humans. Thank you.

Posted: September 24th 2011

flagellant www

Firstly, you are wrong to suggest that ‘…science… proves that every embryo or fetus is a human…’ Embryos and foetuses are not viable until very late in a pregnancy and, if an embryo or foetus is ‘born’ early, it will not survive. Indeed, it will be ‘born’ dead; many pregnancies end with spontaneous, natural abortions. This is nature’s way of dealing with imperfect fertilized eggs. So, for you to equate embryos and foetuses with humans is not valid. A human is an independently viable being, not a bunch of cells.

Those opposing abortion often resort to equating a bunch of cells with a viable human being. In this, they are wrong: a fertilized egg is only a potential human. Much of this error is attributable to the religious notion that fertilized eggs have souls; they do not. It is the height of hypocrisy for preening pontificating prelates to propagate the notion of the soul when science clearly tells us that there is no such thing. (George W. Bush memorably consulted Pope John II about the moment of ensoulment. How farcical.)

I know many women who have had abortions and I support this right wholeheartedly. If some women – and men, come to that – for whatever reason, oppose abortion, then that is fine: no-one is forcing them to have abortions themselves. But it is wrong for them to affect the availability of pregnancy termination to others. And it sounds to me as though you are looking for some justification for your opposition to other people – not you yourself – having ready access to abortion.

The science is clear and it doesn’t support your argument; if anything, it undermines it. However, when it comes to policy, even more important is a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. It isn’t a matter for pontiffs and self-appointed moralists.

Posted: October 2nd 2011

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Blaise www

The other responses are valuable and factual, but I’d like to address the misconceptions betrayed by the question.

The first is the misconception that science “supports” anything at all. Science is a methodology that allows you to gain objective knowledge about the universe. It supports nothing, other than the pursuit of knowledge.

The second is the misconception that science has proven “that every embryo or fetus is a human”. If your definition of 'human’ is so broad that anything that carries homo sapiens DNA is one, then my toenail clippings are each individual humans if they carry off a few skin cells. If not, where do you draw the line? That question is a value judgement, not a scientific fact, so science has little to say about it, other than answering specific, factual questions which might be used in the decision making process. So no, science has 'proven’ nothing of the sort.

Posted: October 2nd 2011

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Science tells us that embryos have human genes – they have the potential to become humans.

But to equate something that has the potential to become a baby with an actual baby is not justified. That leads you down the road to thinking that contraception and masturbation are also not allowed, and while that is the catholic position, it’s really a very silly one.

Posted: October 2nd 2011

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Mike the Infidel www

Yes, it’s irrelevant that science says a fetus has human DNA. Facts only support specific moral positions when you begin with an underlying set of values. If you’re pro-life, you’ll say that any living thing with human DNA is a full human being and needs to be protected as such. If you’re pro-choice, you’ll say that a full-grown human being has no obligation to donate its body to another human, whether it means requiring a woman to carry a pregnancy to term or forcing a man to donate his kidneys to his children.

Science also says that gravity makes things fall down, but we’re under no obligation to promote the idea that trying to stop yourself from falling is immoral. Whether something is natural or scientifically true has no inherent relation to moral positions without first inserting presupposed values.

Posted: October 1st 2011

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SmartLX www

Of course a human foetus is human (what else would it be, bovine?) but that means less than you think. Hair is human, but we cut it off. Saliva is 100% human, but we project it at each other as a sign of derision or hatred. An arm is human, but if it contains a localised infection that threatens the person to which it is attached, doctors may reluctantly cut it off.

A foetus, by definition, was conceived at least two months ago. It has a brain and a heart, hands and feet, and by most people’s definitions is a functioning person who must be protected. That’s why mid- and late-term abortions are seen by so many as tragedies, often murder.

However, there’s a long road from conception to the foetal stage. Before then it’s a blastocyst, which is a membrane full of jumbled cells, and before then it’s a zygote, which is just a fertilised egg. At these early stages it has great potential, but it has none of the characteristics ascribed to the terms “human being“ or “person” or even “child”. It can’t think, it can’t feel pain, it has no body parts. (You may think it has a soul at these stages, but that’s not much use when you’re arguing with an atheist.)

There are reasons to abort, none of them happy. The conception might have been during a rape, or the pregnancy might kill the mother, or the baby might have no quality of life, or be a guaranteed miscarriage or stillbirth. In a specific case the relevant reasons may not be good enough reasons to abort, so the baby is carried to term for better or worse.

The point is that there is a choice to be made, and recognising this is what it means to be “pro-choice”. If abortion, awful as it is, is nevertheless the least of all possible evils, better that it happens as early as possible, preferably while the entity in question is effectively just “cell soup”. Afterwards, hopefully, a healthy baby can be raised in its place when all is ready.

Posted: October 1st 2011

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