Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Star Tribune, our increasingly unuseful local newspaper, is doing a series on fertility medicine. The first article used the word miracle.

Ex utero fertilization is not a miracle. The loaves and fishes is a miracle. This is medical technology, and if you call it a miracle, then safe modern abortions are also miracles.

I would love to see the mass media call birth control and safe abortions miracles. In a sense, they are -- certainly as much as the increasingly complex and bizarre ways that medicine is finding to get people pregnant. Safe abortions mean that many women live, who otherwise would die. Birth control means women don't have to have abortions or children they don't want.

P.Z. Myers, the very popular science blogger from Morris, Minnesota, linked to a cartoon recently. The cartoon argued that forbidding abortion is a way of controling women. This led to a very long discussion in P.Z.'s comments about "when human life begins." Since he is an out atheist, who is frank about how strange and unconvincing religion seems to him, I don't think he gets many conservative religious readers. I assume his readers are mostly science fans or atheists.

The anti-abortion people have really managed to make us all obsess about this question.

In part, our obsession is due to our recognition that modern medicine is changing the rules of life and death and making us wonder what a human is.

But a lot of it has been due to a very successful campaign of (it seems to me) confusion and disinformation.

There is something fraudulent about all the anti-choice billboards in Minnesota that show fat, happy, white, six-month-old babies with never a mother in sight. In what sense are these kids threatened? What exactly is this message? The white race is at risk? Parenthood and family life are at risk (though we never see the parents, just the happy, healthy kids)?

Maybe the message is, we are no longer able to raise fat, happy, healthy, white kids. Something in the country has changed, and our children are not as full of possibility as these kids seem to be.

If the issue is human life or the safety of children, why don't we obsess about war? Or the miserable lives of many children in the US? Of course, many people are concerned about these issues. But there are not billboards all over Minnesota showing dead and injured Iraqi kids.

Anyway, I found it interesting that a bunch of science fans of a blog by an evolutionary developmental biologist, a guy who studies how fertilized cells become living organisms and who knows how complex this process is, end in the same old discussion about the ethics of abortion.

Maybe this could be called a miracle of modern communication. In some sense, the billboards work.


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