Analysis

Amanda Marcotte helpfully reminds us she doesn’t get embryology. At all.

Amanda Marcotte
Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

Pro-aborts really don’t like to be reminded that their claim to have science on their side is a massive lie. So it’s to be expected that Marco Rubio’s efforts to rectify Chris Cuomo’s utter illiteracy on basic human biology would draw a bunch of deniers out of the woodwork, such as leading know-nothing Amanda Marcotte.

Utterly unfazed by past embarrassments over not understanding what sperm cells are and aren’t or the very concept of an organism, Marcotte took to Slate to ignorantly sneer that Rubio’s “latest dork-out” is “pretty hard to take”:

When Rubio appeared on CNN after Thursday night’s Republican debate, he kept insisting that this vague entity called “science” has declared that human life begins at conception.

Normally I’d dismiss the scare quotes and “vague entity” talk as sarcastic insinuations that what pro-lifers believe isn’t actually science, but Marcotte’s been so proudly, astoundingly unscientific about all this for so long that I think we have to wonder if she literally does not grasp the concept of science. Maybe she really doesn’t consider it the empirical acquisition of objective facts about the material world. Maybe she doesn’t accept the premise that there are objective facts that exist outside of her prejudices. How else do we explain the following?

Actual biologists, for what it’s worth, argue that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg is no more or less alive than a sperm or an unfertilized egg.

PZ Myers (via wordbasket.blogspot.com)

PZ Myers (via wordbasket.blogspot.com)

Marcotte’s link does not go to “actual biologists,” i.e., an overview of the professional assessments of multiple biologists or biological papers or books, but the rantings of one man who happens to be a biologist: PZ Myers (pictured right; a fanatical atheist considered to be a liar by many of his fellow atheists). It took me about five seconds to find this list of “actual biologists” (and scientists in other fields) who reject Darwinian evolution. Marcotte would (rightly) deem that insufficient to conclude that Darwin was wrong—even though it’s the exact same “scientists say so!” logic she just used here.

If Marcotte had ever spent a day in her life searching for politically neutral information on the subject, she would read Meyers’s post and wonder why it didn’t match what biology textbooks say. She’d also instantly recognize the numerous dodges he uses to misrepresent the science.

Meyers prattles on about how life can’t begin at conception because it really began four billion years ago and how zygotes may be human but so are hair cells, but both talking points are non-sequiturs that deliberately ignore that we’re talking not about some broad sense of when all life began, but about when the life of a particular human organism begins. Individual human cells are parts of those organisms, not the organisms themselves. If he and Marcotte need it dumbed down even more: alive + human + organism = human being.

Clearly, PZ Myers being “a biologist” doesn’t automatically mean he’s a good biologist. (For more on just how badly Myers mangles the subject, read Clinton Wilcox.) Marcotte continues:

Rubio, grinning with pleasure at the sick burn he’s about to administer, replied, “Well, if they can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then? Could it become a cat?”

Rubio is so in love with his joke that his campaign is making a thing of it: creating a petition—decorated with a cute picture of a cat—declaring that a fertilized egg has the potential to develop into a person and not a cat. Which no one disputes.

Now, I am the proud owner of two cats. Despite what Marco Rubio may think, I am aware I got them from the pound, not from my uterus.

Well, Amanda, considering how little is your awareness of the subject, you can’t really blame us for wondering.

Because Marcotte has nothing thoughtful to offer the discussion on her end, she projects that all parties are as shallow. Personally, I’m not a fan of the “do you think it’ll turn into a ____?” argument because it leads to sideshows like this and because the more salient point is that the embryo already is a living human being, not that it’s on the road to becoming one.

But it’s obvious Rubio doesn’t really believe that people think zygotes develop into something else. The absurdity of the question is his point, to highlight that pro-choicers already instinctively know more about what they’re destroying than they let on. Marcotte again, with her usual crassness:

Human sperm cells, much like fertilized eggs, have human DNA. If a sperm cell is allowed to complete its development process instead of dying sadly with a million of his brothers inside a dirty gym sock, it will also, coupled with an egg, develop into a human being.

Clearly, the only solution is to ban masturbation. Because it’s not feline DNA you’re killing off, guys. They may be microscopic, but your fellas are trying to turn into people, not cats. Because science.

And so we end on the classic Marcotte maneuver of papering over utter nonsense with smug sarcasm, which works because neither she nor her readership actually cares whether they are right, but merely desire the illusion of intellectual superiority that comes with pretending they are.

For what feels like the millionth time: “having human DNA” makes something human (adjective), but it does not make it a human (noun). Embryos are humans (noun) because they are organisms—“individual[s] constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent”—whose DNA classifies them as members of our species. (If you’re still struggling with that, Amanda, please brush up on necessary vs. sufficient conditions.)

So just in case, let’s repeat that one more time, with feeling: alive + human + organism = human being. You need all three values to get the sum. Oh, and pro-lifers didn’t make up any of these concepts. They didn’t come from the Bible. These are the basics of modern biology. They all have very clear, well-settled meanings and criteria.

I first called Marcotte out for this particular lie three years ago. Many other pro-lifers have taken pains to explain this to her and other deniers many, many times over the years. Yet still she says it, and still her audience and colleagues are fine with it.

Say what you want about the pro-life movement, but if I were to say something so scientifically nonsensical—like, say, if I went around claiming that fetuses start doing math in their heads two months into pregnancy—I can’t think of a single pro-life website that would publish it. Because unlike pro-aborts, our side has standards.

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