I have to join with my colleague Revere in saying that I am pro-abortion. Furthermore, I find the willingness of the devout anti-choice mob to distort the evidence so appalling that I would not join with them in anything.
When I gave a talk at UW Stevens Point last week, there were a few protesters outside the building — friendly, non-violent people who I invited in to listen. It’s a shame, though, that I was giving a neuroscience talk, since I also have a talk that rips into the bogus developmental biology that ‘pro-lifers’ use — and the group picketing me were Catholic right-to-life weirdos. They also were handing out flyers complaining about my desecration of crackers.
Myers hammered his rusty nail while gleefully boasting that “nothing is sacred.” One has to wonder if he would likewise gleefully drive nails through the hands and feet of Christians he so publicly despises?! Obviously Christians themselves are not sacred to him.
There they go again, making my point for me. I do not think Christians or crackers are sacred, not because I devalue human life, but because “sacred” is an invalid rationale for doing so; the value comes from the individuals themselves, not from some imaginary decree from a nonexistent ghostly entity. It is also a great shame that Catholics so obliviously and so willingly equate themselves with crackers; they assume that because I would abuse a piece of bread, I would treat human beings in exactly the same way…apparently because they think that cracker is just as precious as a person.
That’s a rather gross and dangerous error. A cracker is a flat piece of ground up vegetable matter, baked and processed, mostly inert, sold with the intent of being further broken down in someone’s digestive system. Throwing it in the trash in no way implies that a complex and dynamic being can be similarly disposed of, or be casually destroyed and consumed. Sane people have an appropriate perspective on the relative importance of foodstuffs and human beings. Crazy people can’t tell the difference.
And speaking of crazy people…one kind of insanity destroys the ability of normal people to distinguish between embryos and people, and encourages them to lie to others about the status of the embryo, treating it as the moral equivalent of a child. It’s almost the same problem as revering a cracker over a person. A better question to ask is whether they would kill someone to defend a Jesus wafer? (And some, at least, have told me that they would.) Would they be willing to throw away their purported reverence for the sanctity of life to kill someone to defend a fetus? (We definitely know that some will.)
There are groups that are actively blurring the line between embryos and human beings, and I consider them just as wicked as the howling haters lined up outside women’s health clinics — they use mistruths to foment attacks on people to defend non-people. One of the biggest, noisiest, and most dishonest is Pro Life Across America, which puts up billboards all across the US; we have a similar outfit here in my state, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.
Their work is easily recognizable. They have one theme: fetuses and babies are exactly the same. All of their signs feature cute baby pictures coupled to factoids about development, and they thoroughly enrage me — I see them all along the roadsides on my drive in to Minneapolis. They are basically generating false associations about development.
Here’s a standard example:
Awww, cute plump smiling baby with eyes and ears and a tongue…and did you know he formed those in the first month of pregnancy? How can you support aborting adorable little children!
It’s even sort of weakly, tenuously true. The embryo does have non-functional primordia of those organs at 28 days, but it’s not exactly cute — it looks more like a worm — and it’s only about 4mm (or about 2/10 of an inch) long. It’s ‘face’ is a couple of branchial arches. If they wanted to be honest in their advertising, they ought to revise the billboard to look like this:
I suggest they add another line of copy, too: I also had a tail!
You get the idea. All of their billboards are like this, listing a known developmental landmark, the earlier the better, and showing a picture of a post-natal infant as if that has any relevance. It’s an attempt to make an emotional tie to developmental events. It works with a lot of people, too, the people who are ignorant of reality — and of course, these ads do nothing to educate them.
Here’s another of their ads that plays games with the concept of conception:
Yes, that baby did get his genes at conception. So? A collection of genes does not make a human being. There was no teeny-tiny infant spontaneously bursting into existence at the instant a sperm cell punched into an oocyte — it was something that looked like this:
This is a point absolutely and solidly established in biology. The embryo is not the adult. It does not contain the full information present in the newborn — that will be generated progressively, by interactions with the environment and by complex internal negotiations within an increasingly complex embryo. Pretending that 46 chromosomes in a cell is sufficient to define a person is the most absurd kind of extreme biological reductionism.
The fertilized oocyte is a human cell, but it is not a human being.
Way too many people think that is a sacrilegious idea — we have to cherish every single scrap of human tissue, especially the bits that have the potential to go on and develop into a child.
No, we don’t. We don’t have to revere every block of rough marble because another Michaelangelo could come along and sculpt it into something as wonderful as his David; we don’t have to treasure every scrap of canvas because the next Picasso is going to use it for a masterpiece. The value isn’t in the raw materials, but in the pattern, the skill, the art put into it. Similarly, those cells are simply the raw clay that the process and time will sculpt into something that is worth love and care.
Which is more important, the pigments or the painting? Even worse, do you think the pigments are the painting?
A couple of additional points: notice how clever I was in not saying precisely when the fetus becomes a human being? That’s because there is no sharp magical border, it’s grey and fuzzy all the way. That’s a social and personal decision. Don’t even ask me when — I’m a guy. I don’t have the same responsibilities as a pregnant woman, so I don’t get the same privileges.
Also, some people are ‘uneasy’ about the whole abortion thing. Fine; don’t get one. Your personal feelings of yuckiness shouldn’t be a factor in deciding what other people do. Churches make me queasy, but I’m not planning to criminalize attendance.