Bill Nye is supposed to be “the science guy.” Recently he published a video on YouTube purporting to inform viewers of what science tells us about abortion. Nye claims that laws against abortion reflect “a deep scientific lack of understanding.” But it turns out that it is Nye himself who doesn’t understand the science. “I really encourage you to look at the facts,” he says. But then he misrepresents the facts from top to bottom in an embarrassingly transparent effort to hijack science in the cause of pro-abortion ideology.
Nye’s video is so breathtakingly arrogant and incompetently argued that it is hard to know where to begin. He opens by saying: “Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans. Eggs get fertilized, and by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova — a lot.” The fact he is pointing to here — the high rate of pre-implantation spontaneous abortions (estimates range from 45 percent to as high as 70 percent) — is the only bit of science Nye ever mentions in the video. But he thinks one can infer from it that a human being does not come to be until the embryo implants on the uterine wall: “[The sperm’s joining the ovum] is not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb, a woman’s womb.”
But that is easily exposed as a non sequitur — a logical fallacy, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. The fact that many human embryos die at an early stage of development (pre-implantation) provides no evidence whatsoever for the proposition that they are not embryonic human beings — no more than comparable high rates of infant mortality in most places before the 20th century showed that infants were not human beings.
Oblivious to this glaring error of logic, however, the “science guy” pushes on:
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?
Readers will have no difficulty perceiving the new fallacies Nye piles on the original non sequitur. His basic argument is this: If human beings came to be at fertilization (the union of the spermatozoon and oocyte), then our laws against induced abortion would apply to all parents whose children died, from whatever cause, before implantation. Of course, this is utter nonsense: The fact that early embryos frequently die from causes other than induced abortion or parental negligence does not imply — nor does anyone claim — that parents should for that reason be imprisoned or sued. Mr. Nye is here making himself look more foolish than the fundamentalist rubes he delights in ridiculing.
Nye wants his viewers to believe that moral and legal disagreements about abortion stem from a clash between science and religion, and that those in favor of abortion are on the side of science, while pro-lifers have nothing more than “deeply held beliefs,” based on some sacred text. That false — and, let’s be blunt, silly — pre-conceived narrative is behind the following remarkable plea:
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.”
What is actually frustrating, however, is encountering such condescension from a self-proclaimed “science guy” as he reveals himself to be an ignoramus.
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