By Jonathon Van Maren
It’s a sad reflection on the scientific knowledge of our culture that the abortion crowd is falling all over themselves to promote a new video by Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” a former engineer, TV host, actor, and comedian, on abortion. He makes his first scientific mistake in the title of the video: Can We Stop Telling Women What To Do With Their Bodies? Apparently, the science guy is unaware that the human being developing in the womb has a completely separate body, but that doesn’t stop him from spending the next four minutes delivering a diatribe dripping with condescension. His contempt is only matched by his blatant ignorance of embryology and the science surrounding early human development.
Let’s break it down:
1.“Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans.”
Right out of the gate, Mr. Nye is getting things wrong by using language that deliberately hides scientific truth. At fertilization, a new human being begins his or her existence. As Dr. Maureen Condic, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, writes:
From the moment of sperm-egg fusion [the beginning of fertilization], a human zygote acts as a complete whole with all the parts of the zygote interacting in an orchestrated fashion to generate the structures and relationships required for the zygote to continue developing towards its mature state… The zygote acts immediately and decisively to initiate a program of development that will, if uninterrupted by accident, disease, or external intervention, proceed seamlessly through formation of the definitive body, birth, childhood adolescence, maturity, and aging, ending with death. This coordinated behavior is the very hallmark of an organism.
This is not some little-known fact, this is accepted science. For example, Dr. Keith Moore and Dr. T. Persaud’s embryology textbook Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects, used in medical schools everywhere, states definitively that:
“Although human development is usually divided into prenatal (before birth) and postnatal (after birth) periods, development is a continuum that begins at fertilization (conception). Birth is a dramatic event during development, resulting in a change in environment. Development does not stop at birth; important developmental changes occur after birth—development of teeth and female breasts, for example [all emphases in original].”
So this Nye guy is definitely very out of step with what science tells us.
2.“But if you’re going to hold that as a standard, that is to say if you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it’s therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human? Have all these people failed you?”
This is tiresomely stupid, and I suspect intentionally so. Mr. Nye here is just defending his rather feeble ideology rather than any scientific position. The pro-life position is one that is very simple: Human beings have human rights. Human rights should begin when the human being begins. Science, as Mr. Nye may not be aware but the authentic scientific field certainly is, tells us when the life begins. So the pro-life position is simply that we should not be allowed to directly and intentionally kill that human being. Rather than try to address that position, Nye babbles on about us wanting to arrest women who have a miscarriage, a scenario that only exists in his fevered imagination. Besides the fact that no one is advocating for that, I would point out that there is an enormous difference between a human being dying of natural causes and direct action taken by humans to kill other humans. This should be obvious. Mr. Nye’s analogy is the equivalent of us asking if we would sue parents who lose a child to sudden infant death syndrome. This “argument” is like one of those sentences used in my university philosophy course to “spot that fallacy.”
3.“It’s just a reflection of a deep scientific lack of understanding and you literally or apparently literally don’t know what you’re talking about.”
I literally am not sure that he literally knows what he’s talking about at this point. His science is shaky, and his English isn’t the best, either. But I think it’s important to point out here that Mr. Nye has not actually made any coherent scientific point, and certainly not one that relates to abortion in any way. As illustrated above, the fields of embryology and biology, populated by many “science guys” who are not television hosts, comedians, or engineers, and yet still know an enormous amount about human beings in the womb, all state definitively that we know when a new, unique human being’s life begins.
4.“And so when it comes to women’s rights with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women.”
There’s a lot of Mr. Nye being wrong in one sentence. First of all, he’s insinuating that the whole abortion debate is about women controlling their own reproduction. As I’ve explained before, the abortion debate is actually about whether or not people have the right to kill an already existing human being. That is what is up for debate here—a fundamental question concerning the human rights of the youngest human beings, informed by the established science that Mr. Nye seems so unaware of. As such, this guy’s opinion on why he thinks you should have a specific set of genitals to comment on an issue of intrinsic importance to all humanity cannot be taken seriously by any thinking person.
5.“I’m not the first guy to observe this: You have a lot of men of European descent passing this extraordinary laws based on ignorance. Sorry you guys.”
Huh? Mr. Nye has obviously missed a whole number of things, from the makeup of the pro-life movement—from my first-hand experience, predominantly young women—to the diversity of the movement, to the fact that the laws that are being passed on abortion are based on fields of science that Mr. Nye is clearly completely unaware of. Considering the fact that it is impossible that Mr. Nye has made it thus far in his life of snootiness and condescension without having stumbled into a sonogram photo or ultrasound picture, I’m going to have to assume that he’s just flying by the seat of his pants on purpose. Even if Mr. Nye were right about the ethnic makeup of lawmakers passing pro-life bills, it wouldn’t say a single thing about human life or the ethics of violently ending a human life! This must be why he is referred to as the “science guy” rather than the “philosophy guy” or the “ethics guy.”
6.“I know it was written or your interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago, 50 centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a women have sexual intercourse they always have a baby. That’s wrong and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature.”
Sigh. So much to unpack here. Okay, so first of all, no one believes that every time people have sex that they make a baby. Literally no one. No one is trying to pass laws based on that, either. Mr. Nye just made that up on the spot. The Bible, which I assume he’s referencing, speaks of childlessness and the difficulty many people had trying to conceive children so much that he could not have possibly read the Bible, either. And while Mr. Nye is thrashing around on the ground with that enormous straw man, I would note that the embryology texts cited by pro-life advocates were written much more recently than 5,000 years ago. So, while I see that Mr. Nye is trying to sidestep having an honest scientific argument by attempting to falsely claim that our science comes from the Bible rather than from embryology, it’s a rather pathetic attempt at best.
7.“I mean it’s hard not to get frustrated with this everybody. And I know nobody likes abortion, okay. But you can’t tell somebody what to do. I mean she has rights over this, especially if she doesn’t like the guy that got her pregnant. She doesn’t want anything to do with your genes; get over it, especially if she were raped and all this. So it’s very frustrating on the outside, on the other side. We have so many more important things to be dealing with. We have so many more problems to squander resources on this argument based on bad science, on just lack of understanding.”
Talk about frustrating. I feel this guy’s pain. But a few things: One, a lot of people do like abortion. In fact, the abortion crowd both in Canada and the United States have been launching campaigns over the last five years trumpeting the idea that abortion is a good thing. Just this month, there was a “Shout Your Abortion” Campaign. So Mr. Nye might want to check what his comrades are up to before making unsubstantiated statements. And then there’s his argument about our “bad science” again, in spite of the fact that he still hasn’t put forward any of his own. One might even say that his view of the pro-life position is based on a “lack of understanding.”
8.“It’s very frustrating. You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes, if it weren’t for scientists, medical researchers looking diligently. You wouldn’t know the process. You wouldn’t have that shot, the famous shot or shots where the sperm are bumping up against the egg. You wouldn’t have that without science. So then to claim that you know the next step when you obviously don’t is trouble. Let me do that again. Let me just pull back. At some point we have to respect the facts.”
I’m not sure what he’s going on about here, but it appears that he’s very irritated by the fact that pro-life advocates have used science to highlight what we knew all along: Human beings developing in the womb are, in fact human beings. (And they have human parents—who would have thought?) So the irony here is that pro-lifers are pointing to the facts, and demanding that they be respected. Mr. Nye is babbling on about European lawmakers and what a frustrated person he is.
9.“Recommending or insisting on abstinence has been completely ineffective. Just being objective here. Closing abortion clinics. Closing, not giving women access to birth control has not been an effective way to lead to healthier societies. I mean I think we all know that.”
It seems Mr. Nye’s rabbit hole has a sharp twist! Now we’re talking about abstinence, or more accurately put, attempting some measure of sexual responsibility. Of course, Mr. Nye is of the view that we can pull together to change our climate, but asking people to pause temporarily in the dropping of their pants is a feat of human ingenuity too enormous to attempt. Closing abortion clinics has been effective in reducing the abortion rate, which is why pro-lifers try to close them in the first place. And of course, Mr. Nye’s entire exercise in begging the question is really all about what your definition of a “healthy” society is. Pro-lifers hold the quaint view that a society in which you can dismember your pre-born children and donate their limbs, organs, and brains for human research is not a “healthy” society by any stretch of the imagination.
10.“And I understand that you have deeply held beliefs and it really is ultimately out of respect for people, in this case your perception of unborn people. I understand that. But I really encourage you to look at the facts. And I know people are now critical of the expression fact-based but what’s wrong with that? So I just really encourage you to not tell women what to do and not pursue these laws that really are in nobody’s best interest. Just really be objective about this. We have other problems to solve everybody. Come on. Come on. Let’s work together.”
First off, Mr. Nye doesn’t understand, as evidenced by the rest of this topsy-turvy monologue. Second of all, as illustrated above, the science is firmly on the side of the pro-life position. This is further evidenced by the fact that Mr. Nye doesn’t even try to firm up his position with any science. And his conclusion is just another tiresome attempt to infuse his ideology into what was supposed to be a scientific discussion: Don’t tell people they can’t kill pre-born human beings, and those human beings apparently have no “interests.”
This is what passes for a “science guy” these days?
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.