Tag Archives: Embryology

Feminist presents sophisticated arguments for abortion to elite scholars in rigorous academic debate

Abortion rights activist takes on pro-life doctors in formal academic debate
Abortion rights activist takes on pro-life doctors in formal academic debate

I love to watch formal academic debates, with timed speeches, where scholars with published work get to interact with one another. Even if my side loses, I learn something, because I learn what I can and cannot press in a discussion with the other side. Debates between scholars helps me to tolerate listening quietly to people I disagree with. All good things.

But not everyone agrees with me about this. Some people just prefer to present their views to those who are easily manipulated and uncritical, so that they will change their minds because of stories and feelings, instead of reason and evidence.

Here’s a story about it from Life News:

Have you seen the video going around about kids meeting someone who is post-abortive? The video does not talk about the psychological consequences of having an abortion, or talk about how to help women and families who are post-abortive heal from their abortion. No, it normalizes abortion so that 10 and 11-year-olds grow up to think taking an innocent human life is okay–and that no one ever regrets their abortion.

And the actual video:

I noticed that Nathan Apodaca wrote a reasonable response to the content of the video, over at Human Defense initiative.

He writes:

The most common theme in the entire video is the host’s avoidance of the real issue: Can we kill the preborn? What is the preborn?

[…]The problem with the video is the spokeswoman for “Shout Your Abortion,” along with several of the teenagers in the piece, constantly do what philosopher Francis Beckwith aptly calls “Begging the question”; that is, they assume what they should be trying to prove.

Consider the first few conversations. We (the audience) are told indirectly that sometimes mistakes happen, that people can’t afford a child, and other issues influence the decision to get an abortion.

Poverty is obviously a problem, along with people who think they will not be able to afford a child, but a question never gets asked: why stop with abortion to alleviate these problems? Why not allow parents to kill their newborns and toddlers as well to alleviate any problems that may arise? The answer is most assuredly a firm “No, that’s different.”

Ah, but that is the question! Why are the preborn so different we may kill them if we so please? This never seems to occur to anyone in the video, but it does raise a further question which deserves an answer: if the preborn are also human, just like babies and toddlers, should we really be killing them, or should we protect them, just like toddlers and newborns?

OK, this is important.

In the debate over atheism, I always advise you to disregard everything that anyone says until we get the atheist to come to terms with the evidence for the origin of the universe and the fine-tuning – mainstream science. The same thing is the case with the abortion debate. I don’t want to hear any sob-stories about poor people, and so on, until I get a scientific answer to the question “what is the unborn?” Let’s decide what’s true based on what mainstream science tells us.

And guess what? Just like the atheism debate, mainstream science is completely on our side. The same rigorous experimental science that establishes the beginning of the universe, and the fine-tuning of the universe for life, also establishes that a new living human being is created at the moment of conception, with a different DNA signature than either the mother or the father. It’s a new human being! And this is the scientific view – the same view you see in textbooks on human development. (Lots of citations in that PDF, you should download it and share it – it came from the lady that Trump just appointed to the National Science Board)

But it’s not just science textbooks that agree that abortion takes the life of an unborn child, even pro-abortion scholars concede that, as Nathan explains:

Something else Amelia and her interviewees miss is the many times supporters of abortion have called abortion for what it is: the intentional killing of an innocent human being.

There are three separate links to citations by abortion defenders in that citation.

Another important point is that abortion defenders always point to something that unborn children can’t do, and use that as the basis for excluding them. But the truth is that their criteria excludes a lot of other people:

[…][O]ne of the teenagers makes the off-the-cuff remark that “Like your arm is incapable of complex thought, a baby in the womb isn’t, either.”

No one bothers to defend this view though, and it is just asserted as if it settles the debate. The problem is, so what? Why does complex thought grant us a protection against being intentionally killed, instead of being protected because we are human in the first place? He never expands on this concept.

And how much complex thought is necessary in order to be protected from being killed? We never get an explanation. Some people, like the sleeping, the mentally ill, and someone in a medically induced coma may happen to not be capable at a given point in time to exercise complex thought; but it seems ludicrous to think they can be justifiably excluded from the community of human beings with a right to not be killed.

I have a whole post about the different criteria that pro-abortion people use to exclude the unborn from the right to life, and in every case, they end up excluding other people who even they would admit have the right to life.

The argument that seems to be the most convincing to the children is the “pro-lifers are stinky poopyheads” argument, also known as the ad hominem fallacy in formal logic.

Nathan responds:

This claim is a flat out lie, and is painfully obvious to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. Pro-lifers regularly step up to help those in need. In north San Diego county alone, there are more pro-life resource centers for women (and men) in need than abortion clinics. In my own hometown, Escondido, two pro-life pregnancy resource centers provide healthcare to those who need it. There are even pro-lifers opening up housing and adoption referrals for women who choose to keep their babies, but are homeless and in need of a place to stay. “Shout Your Abortion”, the organization the host represents, does none of this, and doesn’t help women who decide not to have an abortion find support.

[…]This isn’t all. Consider the following: groups and affiliates like the Obria Group, CareNet, LifeLine, Heartbeat International, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) connect people in need to thousands of care centers; many of whom operate with no tax dollars or government subsidies whatsoever.

Slave owners used similar “arguments” against abolitionists who didn’t like them owning slaves: calling them names, to make other people not want to oppose slavery. Well, I guess if your audience is a bunch of children, then this might be persuasive to them.

Does a new, distinct human being begin at conception?

Scott Klusendorf posted a public reply to a critic of his debate on the Unbelievable show, which I blogged about yesterday.

The full reply is here, but I wanted to highlight’s Scott’s scientific defense that the embryo is a human being.

He writes:

First, your claim that because biological life is continuous (an “unbroken tree” as you put it), we can’t say when the embryo’s life begins, is demonstrably false. Just because life is continuous between generations does not mean we can’t tell when an individual human begins to exist. The science of embryology points to a clear, non-arbitrary divide between sperm/egg on one hand, and a newly conceived embryo on the other. That is to say, from the earliest stages of development, embryos are distinct human beings. True, they have yet to grow and mature, but they are human nonetheless. Leading embryology textbooks affirm this.

For example, in “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology” (Saunders/Elsevier, 2008), Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud write: “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm…unites with a female gamete or oocyte…to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

T.W. Sadler’s “Langman’s Embryology” (Saunders, 1993) states: “The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”

Embryologists Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller write, “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed” (Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996).

And then he quotes some pro-choice scholars, including Peter Singer and David Boonin, to make the point:

Contemporary defenders of abortion also reject your claim that we can’t tell when individual life begins. For example, in his book “Practical Ethics” (Cambridge, 1993) Peter Singer—a bioethicist at Princeton University and supporter of both abortion and infanticide —denies your claim the beginning of human life is can’t be known. He writes: “Whether a being is a member of given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense, there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.”

Philosopher David Boonin, author of “A Defense of Abortion” (Cambridge, 2002), writes: “A human fetus, after all, is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.”

I tried to space it out a bit to make it more readable. I think what his sources are saying is that when an egg and sperm meet, they create something with a completely different DNA signature than either the sperm or the egg. I think if you have an organism that has human DNA, distinct from the mother and father, and it is developing in a self-directed way (unlike your finger nails, or hair, say), then you have a distinct human life. And I don’t think “because I’m bigger than she is” is an adequate reason to kill that other human being.

I have a rule in my life. Don’t do anything that is likely to get an innocent person killed. Why can’t everyone have this rule? Is recreational pre-marital sex REALLY that important? I don’t think any of the reasons that people give for having sex (self-esteem, pleasure, etc.) are more important than not killing an innocent human being. When little lives are at stake, we grown-ups should all try to control ourselves, so that we don’t harm people who are smaller and weaker than we are. It just isn’t right.

You can read the whole dialog between CoD and Scott on the Unbelievable page.

Paul Nelson and Jonathan Wells present their research at a biology conference

From Evolution News. (Written by Paul Nelson)


Jonathan Wells and I presented our posters at the 2011 annual meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology this past weekend, and had a great time. For those who don’t know what a poster session is, the idea is simple: you summarize your data, experiment, hypothesis, whatever, in the space of a 6′ x 4′ panel, and then at a scheduled time (“poster session”), stand by your board and field questions from whoever stops by to talk. Jonathan presented his material on Saturday afternoon; you can download an abbreviated version of his poster as a pdf here. (The pdf is shorter than the poster itself because Jonathan omitted any copyrighted visuals.) I presented yesterday afternoon, and my full poster can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Neither of us faced any hostility, which (for Jonathan) was a refreshing change of atmosphere from the angry reception he received during his poster presentation at the 2005 annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology. In fact, we met with friendly, open-ended questions, curiosity, and meaningful exchanges. One biologist at Jonathan’s session carefully read the main panels, then said to Jonathan, “Are you serious?” He and Jonathan then spent a long time going over the arguments and data in the poster — the opening question was an invitation for a detailed explanation.

This is good news. Maybe there is a gap between the Darwinian activists and the regular rank-and-file biologists, who are just interested in what’s true. It helps that Wells and Nelson are experts in this area of biology, so they can defend their views with authority.

How PBS uses your tax dollars to distort the evidence for evolution

Evolutionists believe that the embryos of different mammals look similar in the earliest stages of development because the mammals share a common ancestor. And they believe that as the embryos develop, they begin to look less similar. This theory was invented by Ernst Haeckel, who believed that”ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”.

With that mind, consider this post by embryologist Jonathan Wells at Evolution News, in which he describes PBS’s latest effort to use taxpayer dollars to push evolution on children, without any presentation of opposing views.


On the website for its December 29 special, PBS offers an interactive “Guess the Embryo” exercise featuring four different vertebrate embryos: an 8 day-old mouse, a 5 day-old quail, a 17 day-old turtle, and a 40 day-old bat. The purpose of the exercise is to convince viewers that “embryos of different species can appear startlingly similar to one another.” A discerning viewer, however, will notice that the turtle embryo already has a rudimentary shell on its back—thus distinguishing it clearly from the others. A discerning viewer might also notice that the bat embryo bears little resemblance to the mouse embryo, even though both are mammals. What viewers may not know—and PBS does not tell them—is that the interactive exercise shows embryos midway through development. The earliest stages are systematically omitted. Perhaps this is because in their earliest stages vertebrate embryos are striking different from each other. They follow a pattern that embryologists call the “developmental hourglass”—wide at the top, narrow in the middle, and wide at the bottom. In other words, vertebrate embryos start out very different from each other, become superficially similar midway through development, then diverge again as they mature. Like Darwin’s German disciple Ernst Haeckel, PBS distorts vertebrate development to make it seem to provide evidence for Darwin’s theory.

As Wells notes, the embryological evidence actually shows that mammal embryos are different in the earliest stages, and similar in the middle stages of development. So embryological development Darwinian fundamentalist Ernst Haeckel’s embryo drawings were discredited as a fraud in the 19th century. The drawings also showed intermediate stages of embryo development – not the earliest stages.

Wells’ Ph.D in Biology is from the University of California at Berkeley. His area of specialization is embryology, in which he has conducted post-doctoral research.