WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Bill Nye "the Science Guy" has a new YouTube video supposedly using science to support abortion rights – but his critics say it is Nye who is woefully wrong on the facts.
Posted Sept. 22, the now-viral video has been criticized not only for what pro-lifers see as unscientific arguments but also for his attack on religion and for his condescending assertions.
The pro-life position, Nye said, is "just a reflection of a deep scientific lack of understanding and you literally or apparently literally don't know what you're talking about."
"And so when it comes to women's right with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women," Nye added.
As of Oct. 1 it had been viewed more than 600,000 times. He based much of his argument on misscarriages, or what are medically known as spontaneous abortions.
"Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans," Nye said at the beginning of the video. "Eggs get fertilized and by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova a lot. But that's not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb, a woman's womb. 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's had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who's sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn't become a human?"
Nye was particularly critical of pro-life legislation and of the Bible.
"You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance," he said. "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."
Nye is well-known among young adults today for his former PBS show, "Bill Nye The Science Guy" that aired from 1993 to 1998. Those programs were largely uncontroversial, but Nye in recent years has made his viewpoints known on a host of hot-button issues.
His abortion comments led to a host of hard-hitting headlines from pro-life writers:
- "Back To Science Class For The Science Guy" (National Review).
- "Bill Nye Returns To Unscientifically Deceive America On Abortion" (LiveActionNews.org)
- "The Top 10 Ways Bill Nye Is Wrong About Abortion" (National Right To Life).
Robert P. George of Princeton University and Patrick Lee of Franciscan University (Steubenville, Ohio) co-wrote a NationalReview.com column where they said Nye "doesn't understand the science."
"He misrepresents the facts from top to bottom in an embarrassingly transparent effort to hijack science in the cause of pro-abortion ideology," they wrote. "Nye's video is so breathtakingly arrogant and incompetently argued that it is hard to know where to begin."
For starters, Nye wrongly argues that life does not begin at fertilization.
"All the texts used in contemporary human embryology and teratology, developmental biology, and anatomy concur in the judgment that it is at fertilization, not — as Nye ignorantly claims — at implantation, that the life of a new individual of the species Homo sapiens begins," George and Lee wrote.
They quote three textbooks, one of this says, "Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual" (Keith L. Moore, "The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology").
Author and speaker Jonathon Van Maren of the Canadian Centre For Bioethical Reform wrote that it's a "sad reflection on the scientific knowledge of our culture that the abortion crowd is falling all over themselves" over Nye's video. Van Maren's column was reprinted on National Right To Life News Today's website.
"Apparently, the science guy is unaware that the human being developing in the womb has a completely separate body, but that doesn't stop him from spending the next four minutes delivering a diatribe dripping with condescension," Van Maren wrote. "His contempt is only matched by his blatant ignorance of embryology and the science surrounding early human development."
Even Nye's very first sentence is scientifically wrong, Van Maren wrote. Nye began his argument by saying "many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become human."
"Right out of the gate, Mr. Nye is getting things wrong by using language that deliberately hides scientific truth," Nye said. "At fertilization, a new human being begins his or her existence. ... This is not some little-known fact, this is accepted science."
No pro-lifer, George and Lee write, is arguing that women who have spontaneous abortions should be arrested.
"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," they write. "Mr. Nye is here making himself look more foolish than the fundamentalist rubes he delights in ridiculing."
Van Maren wrote that Nye intentionally misrepresents the pro-life position.
"The pro-life position is simply that we should not be allowed to directly and intentionally kill that human being," Van Maren wrote. "Rather than try to address that position, Nye babbles on about us wanting to arrest women who have a miscarriage, a scenario that only exists in his fevered imagination. Besides the fact that no one is advocating for that, I would point out that there is an enormous difference between a human being dying of natural causes and direct action taken by humans to kill other humans. This should be obvious. Mr. Nye's analogy is the equivalent of us asking if we would sue parents who lose a child to sudden infant death syndrome. This 'argument' is like one of those sentences used in my university philosophy course to 'spot that fallacy.'"
Nye not only misrepresents pro-lifers but also misrepresents Scripture, Van Maren wrote.
"No one believes that every time people have sex that they make a baby. Literally no one," Van Maren wrote, referencing one of Nye's points. "No one is trying to pass laws based on that, either. Mr. Nye just made that up on the spot. The Bible, which I assume he's referencing, speaks of childlessness and the difficulty many people had trying to conceive children so much that he could not have possibly read the Bible, either. And while Mr. Nye is thrashing around on the ground with that enormous straw man, I would note that the embryology texts cited by pro-life advocates were written much more recently than 5,000 years ago. So, while I see that Mr. Nye is trying to sidestep having an honest scientific argument by attempting to falsely claim that our science comes from the Bible rather than from embryology, it's a rather pathetic attempt at best."