Pharyngula

She’s gone and done it now

The daughter has put up a post with her thoughts on abortion—I swear I have not given her any instruction or even talked about the subject with her, but somehow she has developed roughly the same opinion on it that I have…which means, of course, that the kooks will whine at her. I can’t even imagine what her former peers at high school will say, but it might be explosively fun. There’s a little bit of Mell in that girl.

(Speaking of Mell, you all know that this is the last day of one of my favorite webcomics, Narbonicon, right?)

Comments

  1. #1 rrt
    December 31, 2006

    Narbonic is ending?

    Yes, sorry, been in a cave/only recently started reading it (starting with the archives, naturally). And now I’m hesitant to dig in and find the answer to this for threat of spoiling the 4 years’ worth of story I’ve yet to consume. So if it’s not too much trouble to ask…could anyone clarify that point for me in a spoiler-free fashion?

    …and sorry for the distraction. Go “Mell” Myers!

  2. #2 Chris
    December 31, 2006

    A good read, but reminded me of something I wanted to share:

    > We have too many people on this planet already. It’s a problem.

    This isn’t really true anymore. Even Mexico is down to 2.1 children per woman (“replacement rate”) — I occasionally ask people what they think the number of children per woman in Mexico is, and usually get answers around “6”. (Which it was, around 1975.)

    Anyway, the link I wanted to share is:

    http://tools.google.com/gapminder/

    Very interesting to see that birth rate drops strongly with education and money, which suggests that as soon as women realise that they can stop having children, and that they won’t be better off by having more, they stop. Also, it’s sad to see how many African countries had an excellent life expectancy and economic outlook before 1985..

  3. #3 Caledonian
    December 31, 2006

    Irregular Webcomic! is also ending.

  4. #4 writerdddd
    December 31, 2006

    Great to see a young person with the guts to speak out on such an important topic!

  5. #5 Russell
    December 31, 2006

    Skatje:

    We have too many people on this planet already. It’s a problem.

    Christ:

    This isn’t really true anymore.

    Indeed, in Japan and much of Europe, the problem is quite the other way around. And it may be a more difficult problem. The solution to a population growing too rapidly is to stop having so many children. The solution to a population that is declining is to start having more children. Except that by the time it is noticed, the would-be parents who need to do that are already past childbearing. And their children aren’t there to do so. Quite a few nations are now locked into large population declines. Demographics has a way of averaging out. But the consequences of this shift may be more interesting than most suspect.

  6. #6 Crosius
    December 31, 2006

    It’s not that we have too few people, it’s that we have to few people to fill the present infrastructure.

    But just because the infrastructure isn’t filled doesn’t mean we should expand our population to fill it.

    That’s like overeating because all the clothes in the closet are XXL and won’t fit anyone who doesn’t stay obese. The correct solution is to re-make the clothes, not eat to fill the clothes.

    We’ve been living an over-consumption lifestyle, and our cities have grown fat to accomodate our overconsumption. Rather than maintaining our corpulence, we should be looking at healthy ways to pare down.

  7. #7 Alon Levy
    December 31, 2006

    I advise everyone to stare at the graph of Romania’s maternal mortality rate, plotted against its abortion policy. Remember that next time you rant about the right to life.

  8. #8 Ian H Spedding FCD
    December 31, 2006

    Do we have too many people on this planet? I would lean towards to this view as well but are there any objective measures of the carrying capacity of the planet as far as the human population is concerned.? Aren’t many of our problems as much a result of poor organization and administration as they are a result of our outstripping available resources.

  9. #9 speedwell
    December 31, 2006

    I suppose we need to step back one step and ask, “too many people for what?” What is the problem, really? Sure, lots of people lack access to basic needs of life, and so forth. But does it necessarily follow that no occupation exists for people that would help them get access to what they need? I’m not suggesting that people are not in trouble and need help. I’m just suggesting that we think of human beings as valuable and think of ways to maximize their value to themselves and to society.

  10. #10 Carlie
    December 31, 2006

    Ian,
    A good place to start getting a handle on it is Stuart Pimm’s book “The world according to Pimm: A scientist audits the earth”. It goes chapter by chapter estimating the current use of each major resource, and is easy to read and understand.

  11. #11 Jake
    December 31, 2006

    Human population is definitely a problem. It has nothing to do with whether you can feed and house all people. It has to do with humans taking up so much space, using up so much of the environment, and producing so much waste. We have been an invasive species and are becoming more and more detrimental to the health of the biosphere. Whenever I hear of population declines I feel relieved and whenever I hear of yet another country crossing the 1 billion mark, or like the US crossing the 300 million mark, I get worried.

    Here’s a nice little thingie:

    What do you get when you feed starving people?
    More people.

    I’m not saying to get all Eric Pianka, but lets try to stop people from pumping out so many kids.

  12. #12 Alon Levy
    December 31, 2006

    Jake, why do you think fertility rates are so high in the third world?

  13. #13 Karley
    December 31, 2006

    Overpopulation worries are probably my most prevailing neuroses. Mostly because I’m a misanthrope, though.

    My line of thinking- if everyone is unique, and humanity is on its way to 7 billion people, what’s so special about being unique? Does more people cheapen the worth of the individual?

    More importantly though, will there come a time when I can never enjoy a meal in a restaurant without enduring the ear-splitting screams of someone’s else’s spawn? 😉

  14. #14 Dlanod
    December 31, 2006

    What the spawnless seem to forget is that it will be other people’s spawn that will be looking after them in their declining years. Educate and treat them well now or look out later! :-0

  15. #15 poke
    December 31, 2006

    If you value wilderness we’re already vastly overpopulated. In my opinion, while the answer to the question “is our ecological footprint the smallest it possibly could be without sacrificing scientific and cultural progress?” remains “no”: we’re overpopulated. I think we could probably do just fine with 90% fewer people than we have now.

  16. #16 N
    December 31, 2006

    Poke: you seriously think that 90% of the people alive add no real value for the rest of us? I’m not accusing you of wanting to kill them off, just questioning whether we would “do just fine.” I think that, sustainability and quality of life being equal, more people is better because it naturally results in more diversity and more creation.

  17. #17 Kevin T. Keith
    December 31, 2006

    She sounds like a great kid. Very impressive.

    But I couldn’t help noticing she posted “That . . . is the most serious thing you’ll hear out of me for a while. It’s vacation, come on.” on 12/29, then followed it up with a long post on her pro-choice arguments a day later, and “why there is no god” one day after that. Those are what she considers non-serious topics?!

  18. #18 poke
    December 31, 2006

    I didn’t really give it enough thought to say I seriously think it. But given the number of people in destitute poverty, etc, I’d guess the number of people providing any real value at all (to be unfortunately blunt) is around 2-3 billion. If you tried to pare the figure down, in the way I was talking about above, I think it could get close to half a billion.

    World population didn’t reach a billion until the 19th century and took over a century to reach 2 billion. As late as the 60s it was still under 3 billion. I don’t think we’ve seen much “diversity and creation” in that time as the result of population growth. The last 4 billion we’ve added seems to have resulted more in extreme poverty and shanty towns. (I don’t want to appear to be saying the third world has nothing to contribute; I just don’t think population growth has helped these cultures flourish.)

    Actually, I think there’s an argument that population growth has had negative effects on cultural diversity: population growth necessitates economic development and separating economic development from the intrusion of Western cultural norms is difficult. Slower population growth and slower economic development would probably allow a society to follow a more unique path of cultural development.

  19. #19 Tim McCormack
    January 1, 2007

    Yeah, she seems to be a heck of a kid. If I ever spawn (unlikely), that’s that kind I want!

  20. #20 Diana
    January 1, 2007

    So abortion has lowered the crime rate?
    And that is because the majority of abortions on on minority babies!
    The Klan would love you.

    So would David Duke.

  21. #21 Mister Nice Guy
    January 1, 2007

    “Diana”, just a guess here, but I really don’t think the Klan likes PZ or Skatje very much at all.

    In fact, I don’t think you even think so — you’re just trying to muddy the issue with some emotional gibberish.

  22. #22 hoody
    January 1, 2007

    swr hv nt gvn hr ny nstrctn r vn tlkd bt th sbjct wth hr, bt smhw sh hs dvlpd rghly th sm pnn n t tht hv…

    WHT.

    VR!!!!

    Y nclct yr pnns n yr kds, PZ.

    t’s clld prntng. Stp mrvlng t t.

  23. #23 Skatje
    January 1, 2007

    Kevin, I really did try to relax on this vacation. High school kids using poor arguments on why abortion is murder and god is awesome provoked me into doing this. Now I’m out of topics to post on, so it’s nap time.

    Speaking of high school, I haven’t heard “WHAT. EVER!!!!” used in a while.

  24. #24 PZ Myers
    January 1, 2007

    Noooooooo! Not nap time! It’s time to CLEAN YOUR ROOM!

    You were also going to make muffins today.

  25. #25 David Harmon
    January 1, 2007

    ZZT: Narbonic wrapped up the day of NYE. I will say that despite Shaenon’s teasing, we do get a happy ending, including a wonderful wrap via Little Nemo….

  26. #26 David Harmon
    January 1, 2007

    Indeed, a well-written and -argued post, you can be proud of her. About the only thing I’d add is that there is in fact a “traditional” alternative to late-term abortion, which is “post-term abortion” — infanticide. If the woman can’t raise it and her community won’t… well, something has to give, and the more choices get ruled out, the fewer are left.

  27. #27 Amanda Marcotte
    January 1, 2007

    w00t! I like to see a youthful patriarchy blamer working those blaming muscles. Very awesome stuff.

  28. #28 Roman Werpachowski
    January 1, 2007

    Skatje:

    Dad, could you help me get more traffic to my blog?

    PZ Myers:

    No problem, kid!

    Just kidding 😉

  29. #29 Rokesmith
    March 14, 2009

    Dr. Meyers,

    I’m in possession of correspondence between yourself and a University of Texas at Austin student by the name of Mark. Mark handed me a copy of his email addressed to you, and your email response addressed to him dated February 25, 2009, as citing evidence that would require me to eat the page upon which your response was printed.

    Mark presented me your remarks as said evidence to be eaten because during the Justice For ALL Exhibit (www.jfaweb.org) presentation at UT-Austin several weeks ago I was heard to offer to eat the page of the biology textbook in use on the UT-Austin campus that asserts that “someone having human parents can be something other than biologically fully human, at any point in their existence.”

    I proffered my eating-the-page challenge that day in response to numerous students’ claim that the offspring of two human parents was not biologically human until birth (in their defense most of them were not science majors).

    I did not eat the page that Mark handed me that day because it did not contain the evidence I requested. Which is why I now write to you. You claim to have knowledge of such documentation.

    In fact you make the bold assertion in your correspondence with Mark that “[Human] life does not begin at conception” followed by “…There is never a ‘dead’ phase — life is continuous. Sperm are alive, eggs are alive; you could even make the argument that since two cells (gametes) enter, but only one cell (a zygote) leaves, fertilization ends a life. Not that I would make that particular claim myself… .”

    I’m encouraged that you don’t make the claim that human fertilization ends a human life; however in postulating the argument you seem to grant nebulous scientific credibility to those who might make such a claim? For what purpose? Surely not to discredit my position.

    Unless you believe in the possibility of an extra-physical or metaphysical existence, I seriously doubt that you believe your own assertion that “…There is never a ‘dead’ phase — life is continuous.”

    On what evidence do you base your assertion that “life is continuous?” Do you believe in life after death in some physical or metaphysical sense? If you mean by this that at least one human self-directing organism must contribute living genetic material in order for a new member of the human species to come into existence, I quite agree.

    But you have labeled my assertion “simplistic” and “nonsensical” that sexually reproduced human life — I’ll go further than that — all new mammalian species members, have a beginning, and that that beginning is the conception of the species member.

    So professor, you’re on the record; from a biology or human embryology textbook in use on an accredited university campus (your own University of Minnesota-Morris campus would be fine), please cite chapter and page that unequivocally states that “human life does not begin at conception.”

    I look forward to your reply. Respectfully,

    R.

  30. #30 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 14, 2009

    Mr. Rokesmith, please read your bible. Human life begins one month after birth. Your bible doesn’t lie, does it?

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