The Two Real stories in this piece about Biologists and life

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.

Richard Feynman

At Quillette Steve Jacobs has a post about a survey he did of thousands of biologists when doing a paper on balancing fetal and abortion rights. To the press this was the most newsworthy result from that paper

members of the media were mostly interested in my finding that 96% of the 5,577 biologists who responded to me affirmed the view that a human life begins at fertilization.

It was the reporting of this view—that human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are biological humans—that created such a strong backlash. 

You can argue that this is a pretty good headline but I think the bigger headline is the following cross reference:

As the usable responses began to come in, I found that 5,337 biologists (96%) affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization, with 240 (4%) rejecting that view. The majority of the sample identified as liberal (89%), pro-choice (85%) and non-religious (63%). In the case of Americans who expressed party preference, the majority identified as Democrats (92%).

Now frankly the idea that Human, zygotes, embryos and fetues or as I would call them “unborn children” are well HUMAN is so obvious that the concept that 4% of trained biologists, even from a group that is 92% democrat, 89% liberal and 85% pro-abortion and 63% non religious wouldn’t say they are speaks volumes about that 4% but the bigger story is the responses he got from those who objected to the question. They sounded like this:

“Is this a studied fund by Trump and ku klux klan?”
“Sure hope YOU aren’t a f^%$#ing christian!!”
“This is some stupid right to life thing…YUCK I believe in RIGHT TO CHOICE!!!!!!!”
“The actual purpose of this ‘survey’ became very clear. I will do my best to disseminate this info to make sure that none of my naïve colleagues fall into this trap.”
“Sorry this looks like its more a religious survey to be used to misinterpret by radicals to advertise about the beginning of life and not a survey about what faculty know about biology. Your advisor can contact me.”

“I did respond to and fill in the survey, but am concerned about the tenor of the questions. It seemed like a thinly-disguised effort to make biologists take a stand on issues that could be used to advocate for or against abortion.”
“The relevant biological issues are obvious and have nothing to do with when life begins. That is a nonsense position created by the antiabortion fanatics. You have accepted the premise of a fanatic group of lunatics. The relevant issues are the health cost carrying an embryo to term can impose on a woman’s body, the cost they impose on having future children, and the cost that raising a child imposes on a woman’s financial status.”

Remember the people he surveyed were trained scientists, biologists, who are supposedly taught to go where the data takes them rather than where their political opinions do, and he’s getting responses like this?

This leads of some obvious and disturbing questions:

  • Would you hire such people to do any work on any scientific item that requires objective fact or actual data that might contradict with this personal opinions?
  • Would you trust any study which is supposed to present objective fact or data to make decisions on?
  • Would you want your city, county state or federal government to fund any research by such people or made any decision based on the input of such folks?

I wouldn’t.

Now you might say that this is only a small percentage of the number of people who are in this position but remember this isn’t a sample of the general population, this is a sample of biologists, people who have been highly educated and supposedly trained in the scientific method. These are people to whom facts and data are supposed to be sacrosanct.

Or to put it another way, imagine if you knew that same percentage of a football team’s offensive was willing to blow the play for political or personal gain. Would you still bet on that team?

That’s the real news out of this study and if you are getting such results on abortion there is no reason to believe that you wouldn’t get such results on any other subject that such people’s politics are dear to them.