Note: See the first installment of this thread from last week regarding an article in the Birmingham Atheism Examiner.
The author begins the fifth paragraph as follows: “With very few exceptions, the pro-life argument is a theological one…” There is more after that regarding legislation and morality, (I’ll address it in my next entry). By “theological,” the author means that pro-lifers make their arguments based on religious grounds. In other words, the pro-life argument does “metaphysics,” which deals, in essence, with the ultimate grounding of things (beyond the physical).
A few paragraphs later, the author gives a detailed description of the unborn’s earliest development, from the zygote’s division into blastomeres to the blastocyst’s production of hormones that become detectable. The author walks the reader through the next weeks of development, until around the two-month marker.
Meanwhile, he inserts some noteworthy claims:
He suggests to those who consider a “fertilized egg” to be “sacred” that God is “the most prolific abortionist in the history of the universe,” because “a vast majority” of zygotes do not make it to the two-week marker.
He suggests that at two weeks, the embryo is “still an extremely small cluster of undifferentiated tissue.” At three weeks, the embryo “is about the size of a pen point and looks like a worm;” and at four weeks, “it looks like a tadpole, complete with gill-like structures which is normal given our evolutionary beginnings.” Finally, “By seven weeks, the embryo has lost its tail, which is another point of reference to our evolutionary beginnings.”
To wrap up the section of the article subtitled “A little scientific background…,” the author tells us a lot about the “nots” of the unborn: the brain has not developed higher function; there are not pathways to transfer pain signals; “the embryo does not appear to be fully human;” “not yet developed the capacity for consciousness;” “not yet sentient;” “not defined as a fetus until the tenth week.”
At thirteen weeks, the author shares, the fetus is only around three inches long and weighing in at about an ounce.
By eloquently describing the process that takes place in the early days and weeks of the unborn’s development, the author has done…just that — describe the early development of the unborn, “development” being the operative word. His mistake is confusing development with construction. As philosopher Richard Stith points out, the unborn is not constructed piece by piece like an automobile on an assembly line, it directs its own development from within. From the beginning, the unborn are whole, distinct and living human beings. For more information, read Stith’s article, “Does making babies make sense? Why so many people find it difficult to see humanity in a developing foetus.”
Secondly, the author uses the physical appearance of the unborn as grounds to assign the unborn value as human beings. Phrases like “cluster of cells,” “like a worm,” “like a tadpole,” “around an ounce,” and so forth tell us what the unborn looks like at certain stages of development. Aside from the fact that the author is doing some metaphysical acrobatics of his own to make his case, size and physical appearance are not sufficient grounds for killing anyone (the “S” in SLED).
When you throw in the author’s appeal to “evolutionary beginnings,” it becomes evident that the author misses the religious nature of his own claims. Even if he believes his appeal to be one to science, he cannot escape the metaphysical nature of Naturalism et al., as a worldview — the rules of science, as it were, are ultimately grounded somewhere. As Scott writes in Chapter Six of The Case for Life, “Everyone does metaphysics.”
When the author notes that many zygotes do not make it to the two-week mark for natural reasons, he misses a key difference between his example and abortion — intentionality. While nature may take its course, the sad occasion of the loss of life naturally is a different matter from intentionally taking that life, as abortion does.
Finally, in informing us on many things the unborn is “not,” or not able to do, the author begs the question of what the unborn is. Not only that, he makes the mistake of (once again) granting human beings value based on physical appearance and ability. Take that claim on a test drive and see where it leads — but you’d better hope the people calling the shots look a lot like you and can make use of your skills.
I’ll wrap up with a final entry shortly…