Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A common misconception

Dean Barnett writes a Boston Globe op-ed this morning on why he, a non-religious Jew, is pro-life. I appreciate anyone who can lay down a secular argument for life, because the accusation that pro-lifers are shoving their faith down our throats is frequently -- and erroneously -- tossed into the discussion in the hopes of squelching debate. As Barnett says in the final paragraph:
In making my case, I didn't refer to God, the Bible, the Koran, or any other holy tract once. Please adjust your stereotypes accordingly.
But in the process, Barnett uses a misconception that is frequently used by the pro-abortion crowd and is easily refuted. Not with faith. With science. Barnett writes:
The only people who can say with absolute certainty and total conviction when life begins do so as a matter of faith or belief, not as the inevitable result of a logical process. This is every bit as true for the pro-choice absolutists who feel that life begins only at birth as it is for people who believe that life begins at conception.
This ignores the scientific facts available to pro-lifers if they'd bother to use them. I wrote extensively about this issue back in 2005, but here's the relevant part:
  • At the moment of conception, your parents contribute 300,000 genes to determine your unique physical characteristics, intelligence and personality. You have your own set of DNA from the first minute, a DNA that tells any scientist that you are a human being. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Within three weeks, your heart has begun pushing your blood — often a different blood type from your mother — around your body. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Within four weeks, your eyes, ears, arms and respiratory system have begun to form. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Between day 31 and 33, the brain becomes 25 percent larger. Brain waves, as measured on an EEG, are present 40 days (less than six weeks) after conception. Your fingers start forming at six weeks. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Out of the 1.37 million annual abortions in the United States, 300,000 are done by this point in the pregnancy.
  • Before seven weeks, your jaw has formed and includes 20 "pre-teeth." Your tiny mouth has lips and the beginnings of a tongue. Tear ducts are forming in your eyes. Your completed skeleton begins to harden with its many complex links and joints. Your reflexes are present. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Another 240,000 annual abortions are done by this point in the pregnancy. That's more than half a million total.
  • By eight weeks, all your bodily organs are present and functioning. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Another 250,000 annual abortions are done by this point in the pregnancy, bringing the total to almost 800,000.
  • Before 10 weeks, if the sole of your foot was touched, you would curl your toes and bend your hips and knees to move away from the object. You squint, swallow, move your tongue and make a fist. Your fingerprints and footprints are evident. Do you believe it's a human being yet? At what point are you finally convinced? How do you establish an arbitrary cutoff where it's OK to abort before the date, but not after?
With another 275,000 annual abortions by this point in the pregnancy, the total pushes past 1 million children.

That's the end of my old post, but it's crucial to re-read that last question: how do you establish an arbitrary cutoff? With that question, Barnett tries to reconcile his position:
Because we don't know where life begins, the only logical thing to do is to err on the side of caution -- the side of life. In other words, because an abortion might take an innocent life, it should be avoided. It should also be illegal in most cases.
But Barnett is wrong. It's not a matter of faith. It's a matter of science. We do know when life begins. The child may not be able to live outside the womb for another 150 days or so, but that doesn't change the fact that the child's life starts at conception.



  • At 5/21/2007 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your claptrap about "brain waves" in EEGs showing up at 31-35 days is pure fiction. Please let us know the source of your fabricated EEG claims.

    An EEG involves measuring varying electrical potential across a dipole, or separated charges. To get scalp or surface potentials from the cortex requires three things: neurons, dendrites, and axons, with synapses between them. Since these requirements are not present in the human cortex before 20-24 weeks of gestation, it is not possible to record "brain waves" prior to 20-24 weeks. Period. End of story.

    Nice try peddling your lies though.

  • At 5/22/2007 8:54 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    Dear Anon,

    I am not a scientist, and don't claim to have all the answers. In this question, I will defer to you and assume the fetal brainwaves aren't present until at least 20 weeks.

    Does that somehow negate the fact that a human life is created at conception? No. Whether the child has measurable brainwaves at 40 days or 140 days is irrelevant to whether it's a human life.


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