A couple of weeks ago, “Bill Nye the Science Guy”, whose claim on being a scientist is as equally tenuous as his claim to being a “guy,” did a video for the National Abortion Rights Action League. His objective is to show that pro-lifers are a non-scientific, superstitious lot who are using their superstition to harm women. In the process, Bill Nye shows he is very unclear on how sex works. But, given his personal life, this is not a news flash.
Predictably, the media, who reliably are unable to distinguish butterscotch from baby poo, ate it up.
His primary argument is that life does not begin at conception. There are actually two arguments wrapped up in his introduction but let’s take them one at a time.
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 therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue, whom are you going to imprison, every woman who has had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy whose sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human, have all these people failed you?
This statement, alone, shows that Nye should stick to something he sorta understands, like screwing in lightbulbs, and not discuss serious issues. At National Review they point out how this assertion by Nye flies in the face of standard embryology texts:
Here are three of many, many examples:
- “Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” (Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.)
- “Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” (Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, CELL TISSUE RES. 349(3):765, March 20, 2012.)
- “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (Emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000, p. 8).
Of course life begins at conception. The answer can either be arrived at scientifically or philosophically. Literally nothing else has to happen to the fertilized egg for it to begin the process of cell division can eventually result in a baby. To accept Nye’s position we are back in the pre-Pasteur days when scientists believed in spontaneous generation, Something can’t come from nothing. That is science.
The second part of Nye’s statement is a non sequitur. He takes the rather bizarre position that because all fertilized eggs do not implant that, if you believe life begins at conception, you would have to arrest or sue every woman. This is simply nonsense and demonstrates how monumentally un-serious Nye is. Implantation is a natural process. Science would say that it is driven by evolutionary design. The most powerful sperm gets to the egg first and thereby gets right of first refusal in the implantation process. By the same token, pro-lifers don’t treat a miscarriage as an offense. To tell the truth I was sort of surprised when this tired old trope didn’t make its way into the video.
So, no: accepting natural processes does not make you stupid. We don’t charge doctors with murder when patients die (or at least we don’t most of the time) because natural death, at any point in life is just part of what scientists call a “life cycle.”
From there Nye goes on to claim that opposition to abortion is based not just on the Bible but in the way a lot of “men of European descent” are misinterpreting the Bible. Again, Nye, in the absence of a real argument wraps an ad hominem with a straw man. There are strong pro-life cases made by atheists. For instance, Nat Hentoff and Christopher Hitchens were both strongly pro-life. In fact, there is no scientific argument at all about when life begins or what exists in a woman’s womb. The argument is a philosophical one over the value that particular life has. The fact that Nye can’t even comprehend the argument demonstrates his own lack of intelligence.
From there he goes on to show that even though he is a grown man he really doesn’t understand heterosexual sex and reproductive biology.
Sorry, you guys. 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 woman have sexual intercourse, they always have a baby. That’s wrong, and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature. I mean, it’s hard not to get frustrated with this, everybody.”
Raise your hand if you believe that men and women always have a baby when they have sex (how would that even work? would you finish up and look down under the covers and see a baby? hasn’t Nye ever heard of pregnancy?). Do you think the Bible says people always have a baby as a result of sex? Hell, I’m Catholic and even we know that isn’t the case. In fact, we developed Natural Family Planning as way to allow sex without having a child. So the question arises: just what are Nye’s qualifications to talk about heterosexual sex? His only academic degree is a bachelor’s in engineering — not a breed noted for sexual prowess — and he is unmarried and childless.
The more we listen and watch this nonsense it appears that Nye’s familiarity with sex consists entirely of having it described to him once by someone who wasn’t very clear on the concept.
I have been pretty active on the pro-life side for a decade and more and I really don’t know what kind of a law Nye is talking about that is “inconsistent with nature”. I suspect he doesn’t either.
He ends up by telling us the only reason we know what happens is because science allowed us to video an egg and a sperm joining.
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…
This is silly. First off, the video is actually an engineering not a scientific accomplishment. Secondly, people have known since forever that sexual intercourse can result in children. And there is no argument about the process. If there is one thing that the Bible is really clear on it is the relationship between heterosexual sex and babies. In fact, the underlying Mystery of Christianity is the Virgin Birth. Seriously, you can look it up.
So no, Science Guy, we don’t need science to tell us how children are made and science has nothing to tell us about when life should be protected. In fact, the people who are least capable of weighing in on that subject are scientists. The last time anyone let them vote on the subject we ended up with human experiments and forced euthanasia.
They did, however, all have cool uniforms.