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Reblogged:A Climate Change Trope in the Abortion Debate

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Writing at Quillette, Steve Jacobs claims in his title, "I Asked Thousands of Biologists When Life Begins. The Answer Wasn't Popular." The closing of his article is more important than his data:

A group of men, just waiting to be interviewed so someone can twist their words into something else entirely and attribute that to them. (Image by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez, via Unsplash, license.)
In my research, I was not advocating for such a [policy] compromise [on abortion]. However, advancing my own preferred outcome was not the point of my academic project. My goal was to use my training to establish common ground, learn whether a compromise was possible, and report on the most likely form such a compromise might take. An important takeaway is that both sides do agree on the arbiters of the question of when life begins.

While the justices in Roe could not answer the difficult question of when life begins, the U.S. Supreme Court might well revisit this question in the future. The Court can trust the uncensored viewpoints of biologists and acknowledge that scientific experts affirm the view that a human's life begins at fertilization -- even if some would prefer that this fact be hidden from view. [link omitted, bold added]
Before we go on, here go the data: "... 96% of the 5,577 biologists who responded to me affirmed the view that a human life begins at fertilization."

The scientific consensus -- with a high percentage attached! -- being hijacked to affect a political debate reminds me of a title from the climate debate: "'97% of Climate Scientists Agree' Is 100% Wrong." The fact that Jacobs's claim reminds me of that title is no coincidence. After asking (1) "What exactly do the ... scientists agree on?" and (2) "How do we know the 97% agree?" Epstein states:
The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public -- and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested...


Think about how many times you hear that 97 percent or some similar figure thrown around. It's based on crude manipulation propagated by people whose ideological agenda it serves. It is a license to intimidate.

It's time to revoke that license. [bold added, link omitted]
Within the Quilette piece, Jacobs quotes some rather crude protests by some of the biologists he surveyed once they caught on to why he was querying them. His personal position is not clear in the article, but his framing of this issue as a scientific debate and his apparent willingness to consider the presence of a full set of chromosomes in a cell as sufficient for someone to be human (and in full possession of rights) make me suspect that the scientists are guessing correctly. (He asked them if a fertilized egg was "biologically human." See: "What were they agreeing on?")

And it is true that their words can and will be used to argue against abortion rights.

But, as Ben Bayer of the Ayn Rand Institute notes, "Science Without Philosophy Can't Resolve [the] Abortion Debate:"
There is a new push by prominent opponents of abortion to cloak their position in the mantle of science, and claim that anyone who defends abortion rights is a "science denier." 1 This push has been the impetus for an onslaught of legislation aimed at restricting abortions on both the state and federal level.

In response to this push, most abortion defenders have reacted by claiming that the anti-abortion partisans are the real "science deniers."

This whole debate is a mistake. The science invoked by abortion opponents appears to support their case only through the lens of very particular philosophical assumptions. Since abortion defenders do not challenge their opponents' philosophical assumptions or argue for alternatives, it is little surprise that their battle looks like a rearguard action in a war that has already been lost. [bold added]
Bayer goes on, after citing several examples, such as the presence of pain receptors in the fetus, of science being misused to claim rights for the fetus to say:
The fundamental philosophical question at the heart of the abortion debate is whether a being like the embryo or fetus has a right to life. A few ordinary observations should make clear why the specialized scientific findings considered so far will not help us answer this question.
I recommend reading the full article to anyone truly interested in the abortion debate.

Steve Jacobs may have a PhD, and he will probably get journal articles out of his survey. But his results are just the latest in a new line of meretricious attacks against abortion rights that ape the equally fraudulent use of "science" by the Luddites of the left.

-- CAV

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