A Response to Bill Nye’s Smug Defense of Abortion

In a video released on YouTube last week, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” talks about abortion. The four-minute video is brimming with bluster, but Nye really only makes two logical arguments for abortion. And when I say logical, I don’t mean correct. I mean his attempted arguments use formal reasoning. Both of his arguments fail spectacularly upon examination.

Nye first notes that for a fertilized egg to develop and “become human,” it must first attach to the uterine wall:

“Many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans. But that’s not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall.”

This is partially true. Many fertilized eggs do fail to attach to the uterine wall naturally. Nye suggests that because not every fertilized embryo succeeds in the development process, we cannot call a fertilized egg—an embryo—life. But this argument is fallacious.

Upon fertilization, an embryo, regardless of its ability to attach to the uterine wall, and thus further its development, has a unique set of DNA. A fertilized egg is a unique life-form in that it has within it the blueprints that will carry it through its development in the womb all the way to the end of its natural life cycle as a human adult.

The Endowment for Human Development writes:

“The zygote or single-cell embryo completes the first cell division approximately 24 to 30 hours after fertilization.”

Uterine implantation doesn’t begin until roughly six days after sexual intercourse. Approximately six days pass during which time this unique DNA begins to direct the development of a human being unlike any other human being on the planet.

Failure to implant doesn’t indicate a lack of humanness, it simply indicates a functional mistake. To argue that a deliberate termination is the same as a functional mistake of the body is disingenuous. One is natural, and one is directed by intelligence.

Someone dying naturally due to heart disease isn’t the same as someone dying because they were stabbed to death. The end result is exactly the same, but the method couldn’t be more different.

Nye’s argument suggests that natural termination at a particular stage of development allows for intelligently directed termination at that same stage. If this were the case, any time at which life can be taken naturally, it is also acceptable for people to take life unnaturally. If disease can take the life of a three-year-old, it must not be life. And if it’s not life, it’s terminable.

Nye’s second argument is that size equals value:

“You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes. You wouldn’t know the process!”

Nye argues that because a fertilized egg—a human embryo—is too small to see with the naked eye, it shouldn’t be considered life. Nye’s second thesis, like his first, is based on development.

Following Nye’s line of reasoning, something in a later stage of development is of more value than something in an earlier stage of development. An egg, which is too small to see, has little to no intrinsic value because it’s invisible to the naked eye. A baby, however, can be seen, therefore, it has value.

If we continue to follow the logic of “size/development equals value,” we can justify almost any termination. A toddler is smaller than a teenager, so it is terminable. A man with Down syndrome is less mentally developed than an average man, so he is terminable.

Just because we can’t see a fertilized egg with our eyes doesn’t mean it’s not alive. As Dr. Seuss wrote: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Nye repeatedly asserts that we have so many more import things to be dealing with. I would say that nothing is more important than protecting human life.

To quote Bill Nye, it’s hard not to get frustrated with this, but I encourage you to look at the facts.