The relevance of science to the debate on abortion

VJ Torley has linked to a National Review article criticising a You-tube video by Bill Nye. I don’t think Nye is right but he raises a good point which the article evades. Nye argues that “many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans” – the biggest failure rate is right at the beginning, a high percentage fail to be embedded in the uterine wall – so if you accord fertilized eggs the same rights as humans, then who should be sued/sent  to jail for this failure?

The NR review article is quite right to point out that there is a moral difference between an intentional intervention like abortion and natural unavoidable wastage. But it is  nevertheless relevant that many more fertilised eggs fail to embed than succeed.If you really think that a fertilised egg is morally equivalent to a human being then this process represents a loss of life far larger than abortion, malaria, war or pretty much anything else you can mention. It means many more “individuals” die from this process than are ever born. A truly staggering disaster. Sure It is no one’s fault, but why does no one seem to care very much?  Where are the appeals for research into avoiding this tragedy? Where is the mourning for all these dead individuals? Surely we should be diverting research from relatively minor natural killers like malaria to this worst of all natural tragedies?

This doesn’t happen because only crackpots really believe that a fertilised egg has the moral rights of a new born baby. But it only becomes obvious when the consequences are made clear. The abortion debate turns on whether a fertilised egg is morally equivalent to a new born baby. If someone believes they are morally equivalent then I can’t prove them wrong (I am a subjectivist after all) but they have to face up to the consequences of their belief and the science tells them they should be appalled by the tragedy of failure to embed in the uterus.

There is another twist to this.  Like many articles, the NR article argues that the fertilised egg is morally equivalent to a baby on the grounds that is a genetically distinct individual. This is a materialist argument. There is no mention of the soul. Surely most Christians think that the individual is not a bunch of chemicals, however special the bunch, but something spiritual? There are many theories about when the soul gets attached to the body but there doesn’t seem to be any reason to suppose it is attached when the process of creating the body gets started, especially as that process can lead to more than one body at that stage – each of which would presumably have its own soul.

Justifications for believing a historical narrative

A major bone of contention between us (TSZ) and our friends at Uncommon Descent is origins, how things came to be.
It is pretty clear from their recent writings that despite earlier protestations to the contrary, UD is a Christian apologetics website looking to boost and support the Christian story of origins.

Barry has claimed: “The documents constituting the New Testament are vouchsafed with the blood of the martyrs. Nothing else comes remotely close.”

Islam and the Heaven’s Gate cult also have had people willing to die for them. So, they come close. Also, not all of them can be true given their contradictory truth claims. We can therefore rule out wanting to die for something being a guarantee of truth.
KirosFocus looks to bolster the argument with “with 500 core witnesses, not one of whom could be turned by the threats or inducements of state agents determined to uproot what they saw as a potential source of uprisings”, but as far as I can tell this is poor thinking, he is citing the bible to support the biblical account (1 Cor 15:1) – So the number is irrelevant, we are still left with only the primary source.

KF also tells us, “we have four eyewitness lifespan biographies, one of which is volume 1 of the earliest history of the Christian movement, credibly initially complete c 62 AD. a two-volume work that has been abundantly vindicated as to habitual, detailed accuracy and capturing nuances of setting in ways not plausible for people projecting back from later times. This consciously historical work uses a second biography as a major source, reinforcing the conclusion”

This is closer to the truth; there are four accounts that were written at the earliest decades after the purported events all of which are part of the bible, not independent support for it. I image that people at that time would understand the nuances of biblical times far better than we do, so I’m not sure there’s any argument about ‘good context’ to be made.
See also (

So my question is, outside of the bible, what historical evidence do we have for the story of Jesus? Having been told by Barry “The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most reliably documented events in all of human history.” ( I’d like to see those documents, the non-biblical ones.

The scientific aim is obviously to have a consilient picture of events, multiple independent and reinforcing narratives, like this:

Was denial of the Laws of Thought a myth?

Discussion of A = A seems to have died down some here. As much as people find the topic a fun exercise in logic and philosophy, it might be worth reminding everyone how all this got started here, on a site largely devoted to critiquing creationist and ID arguments.

It started when the owner of the site Uncommon Descent declared that some basic Laws of Thought were being regularly violated by anti-ID commenters on that site.

In a post on February 16, 2012 Barry Arrington wrote, in justification of his policy,

The issue, then, is not whether persons who disagree with us on the facts and logic will be allowed to debate on this site. Anyone who disagrees about the facts and logic is free to come here at any time. But if you come on here and say, essentially, that facts and logic do not matter, then we have no use for you.

The formal announcement of Barry’s policy was four days earlier, in this UD post where Barry invoked the Law of Non-Contradiction and declared that

Arguing with a person who denies the basis for argument is self-defeating and can lead only to confusion. Only a fool or a charlatan denies the LNC, and this site will not be a platform from which fools and charlatans will be allowed to spew their noxious inanities.

For that reason, I am today announcing a new moderation policy at UD. At any time the moderator reserves the right to ask the following question to any person who would comment or continue to comment on this site: “Can the moon exist and not exist at the same time and in the same formal relation?” The answer to this question is either “yes” or “no.” If the person gives any answer other than the single word “no,” he or she will immediately be deemed not worth arguing with and therefore banned from this site.

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Evolution Is A Force For Good

Not really, of course, that’s just click-bait – it is merely science. But at least one person has been turned from a dodgy path by, in part, considering the dissonance between his faith and scientific evidence. Non-UK residents won’t be able to hear this, but the essence is contained here.

It’s an issue that cross-references many familiar themes – religion, morality, homosexuality, science – so I thought I’d toss it into the arena.

Dictionary halting problem makes A=A fallible

It would seem superficially this is correct

A=A, necessarily and infallibly true

but it is false for non-trivial A and where the EQUAL SIGN means equal in essence, not just equal in description. This is a consequence of the dictionary and halting problem that has been well demonstrated by first rate mathematical logicians and computer scientists (like Alonzo Church who was a devout Christian) who actually work with formal languages vs. people clinging to antiquated and non-rigorous theological notions.
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Reality and realism

Let’s have a new topic, preferably one that is not Christian apologetics.

This is mostly intended as a response to a comment by KN, but I think it deserves its own thread.

There’s a recent blog post elsewhere that is related:

Personally, I think of myself as a realist. But I agree with some of Dan Kaufman’s criticisms of traditional views of reality.

Now my response to KN. The quotes will all be from KN’s comment (linked above). Continue reading


and always = A and only a  TSZ “nihilist” .would deny it, says Barry Arrington.

A=A is infallibly, necessarily true

What does this claim even mean?  That something denoted by A is identical to something else also denoted by A?  Clearly not.

That if we devise a system of logic in which we declare that A always equals A , A must always equal A?  Well, duh.

That the only possible logic system is one in which A is always equal to A?  Well, no – fuzzy logic is a very useful logic system, and A is sometimes only approximately equal to A, or may equal A if it passes some threshold of probability of being A.

So what does he even mean?  Is his claim even coherent?