Sep 29 2009
Scientific illiteracy is really hurting America right now. I know math and science are hard, and I know it is ‘cew’ to diss them and slack off. But to do so handicaps people in a profound and serious way.
Take the creationists (or whatever label they wish to run under) and their attacks on evolution. It is one of reality’s (and therefore God’s) little ironies that the one science that explores the hand of God in creation (read DNA and genetics) is the one science the pro-life movement attacks with fear and loathing. The one science that proves beyond a doubt life begins at conception is always under attack by people who have the right idea, but no way to communicate it scientifically and legally make the case for life.
Biology is pretty clear on its definitions, which have been around for centuries. Life is broken out into forms of life (a.k.a. species). This taxonomy is how we distinguish different living organisms from each other. Humans are one such organism, of the species homo sapien. In pre-modern times species were identified and distinguished by their anatomy – the build of their bodies and their organs and systems. In modern times the distinctions could be measured absolutely in the DNA, which could detect differences between closely related species. DNA is the penultimate discovery of the science of evolution, which stretches back to its beginnings in the Church – of all places.
Yes folks, the science of evolution began in the church yard with a monk and his garden.
Anyway, DNA testing has become the defacto measurement of not just taxonomy and the study of species, it is also the legal standard by which to distinguish individual human beings. DNA is so sensitive it can tell who was or was not at a crime scene. More importantly, it is methodology now embraced in our courts. Its results are indisputable if performed correctly.
At the nexus of evolution and our legal system is an interesting question – when is a human being a human being? Thus we get to the title of this post. Too many people think an ‘embryo’ is a form of life. It is not. The term refers to a stage of life shared by numerous animals (including those who lay eggs to give birth). It is not a form of life, like humans or fish or something else. It is a stage of life.
An ‘embryo’ is also not an appendage or component of an organism. We have those defined as well: arms, legs, torso, fingers, liver, lungs, skin, brain, etc. All of these are physical components of an organism. They cannot live on their own. They share the same DNA has the host organism. This is what distinguishes a sack of cells from an embryo. Scientifically, and through DNA testing, the two are completely different.
Why am I discussing this? Â Because anÂ interesting article out this week that sees a serious threat to abortion in this country:
It is one of the enduring questions of religion and science, and lately of American politics: When does a fertilized egg become a person?
Abortion foes, tired of a profusion of laws that limit but do not abolish abortion, are trying to answer the question in a way that they hope could put an end to legalized abortion.
Across the country, they have revived efforts to amend state constitutions to declare that personhood — and all rights accorded human beings — begins at conception.
Some personal background before I get into this. I am pro-life, but do not think this nation needs a ban on all abortions. There are heart wrenching times when aborting a young human is necessary. Having faced those decisions a few times myself I know this is not something I want the government in on, or the doctor to be able to over rule me on. One of our lovely and healthy twins was the subject of many discussions with some doctors who did not see much hope for her. It is the decision of the parents (hopefully both agree). So let me clear that up first. I am pro-life, but not to the point of banning all abortions.
With that said, the poor saps who wrote this article have no clue that the science is established and done. A “fertilized egg” is a human being. It is the point where conception creates new life. Â Prior to that we had two components of organisms – egg and sperm. After the moment of fertilization, we have a new and unique human being. And this can be proved in a court of law without any doubt or question.
Unlike the global warming mythology and the disgusting harvesting of embryos for magical stem cells, the science of creation is not in doubt. It has just never been tested in court.
Creation of the unique human individual happens at conception, when the magic of two DNA sets combine to make a one-of -kind, never seen before or to be seen again, human being. DNA has so many combinations and instructions that even fraternal twins (non-identical) can show amazing distinctiveness. As will their DNA. Each child is a unique gift. Each one is different. Even with identical twins (who do share DNA) there are different life experiences to be had, which shape a unique individual.
And that is the point. If one does a DNA test on the fertilized egg, embryo, fetus, baby, toddler, child, teenager, adult or senior citizen you find two things. First, through all the stages of life the DNA pattern stays the same and is unique to that human individual. And second, the DNA will not even be close to the mother or father (siblings are close in DNA, not parents which provide half the DNA).
That means, using a court recognized test, it can be proven without any doubt (over and over and over again) that the human individual is created at conception. The science is clear and indisputable (if only global warming was on such firm footing), and the legal recognition of DNA testing is well established.
QED: The human individual, and the rights that go with that designation, exists at conception legally, scientifically and morally.
Once this fact is communicated the number of abortions for convenience should rapidly fall to near zero. There is no need to force people to behave morally, though we all know that is not even realistic. Give people the hard facts and they will make the right decisions, as best they can.
Let’s start there and see where this new enlightenment takes us. We don’t need to defend the killing of human beings at their earliest stages of life, and we do not need to intrude on the tough life and death decisions of families. We just need to understand the stakes and put our faith in the American people. Let the facts fall where they may (and do).