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Author of college biology textbook says ’emotions’ determine when human life begins

“Science” is often deployed as a weapon against viewpoints that are perceived as conservative, but what happens when science proves inconvenient for a foundational viewpoint of sexual-liberation liberalism?

Secular Pro-Life, a nonreligious anti-abortion group that speaks frequently on college campuses, pointed out last week that the author of a college biology textbook actually tried to neutralize science when it comes to the politically charged topic of abortion.

Ricki Lewis calls herself the “founding author” of the intro-to-biology textbook Life, but in a post on the Public Library of Science blog on DNA and genetics, she said there is no scientific answer to a purely biological question: When does human life begin?

Secular Pro-Life says:

I want to begin by pointing out that this question absolutely has a scientific answer. Embryology textbooks state that a new human organism exists upon formation of a zygote. This organism has a continuous life cycle which will eventually end at death. You, as a human organism, were once a zygote. In a biological sense, that’s when your life began. …

[Lewis] touts her scientific credentials (“I’m the author of an intro college biology textbook called ‘Life,’ my having nabbed that title before Keith Richards did.”), and immediately after claims that the question of when human life begins is “a question not only of biology, but of philosophy, politics, psychology, religion, technology, and emotions.” Yes, emotions. Apparently when human life begins is partly based on how we feel.

RELATED: Secular Pro-Life Movement Gains Support At College Campuses, Under-30 Crowd

The Secular Pro-Life author notes that “in any other area of the hard sciences,” it would be “laughable” to reach for non-scientific fields to answer basic science questions:

If we want to find out if a woman is pregnant, we don’t need to conduct a vote; we need enzyme immunoassays. If we want to find out which alleles a child carries from his parents, we don’t need prayers; we need PCR and gel electrophoresis. If we want to find out the percent composition of erythrocytes in blood, we don’t need to reconcile our emotions; we need centrifugation. But apparently when the question is “When does a human life begin?” things are different.

Pro-choice embryologists are apparently eager to equivocate on the basic findings of their field in this election season, Secular Pro-Life notes from another March post.

One such professor at Swarthmore, Scott Gilbert, wrote in The Huffington Post last fall:

As an embryologist and the author of embryological textbooks, I can say with absolute assurance: There is no consensus among embryologists as to when an individual human life begins.

RELATED: UGA Students’ Prolife Posters Repeatedly Stolen, Trashed All Week

Yet Gilbert immediately launches into religious and philosophical territory by bringing up “souls” and the value of life at different stages, not its biological start, Secular Pro-Life notes:

Good luck finding embryologists who, when pressed, will say that for the first 24-28 weeks the fetus is either not human or not alive (a scientific matter). Rather, Gilbert is clearly alluding to what makes a living human being morally relevant—that is, what makes someone a “person.” This is very different than asking whether that entity is a living human.

Read the Secular Pro-Life posts.

RELATED: Pagans join increasingly diverse pro-life youth movement led by atheists and feminists

RELATED: Yale University Debuts Inaugural Pro-Life Conference

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

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