The Unsurprised Handmaidens

“We are confident that embryology, biology, and a philosophically consistent view of human rights lie on the pro-life side, and look forward to making that case both on the streets and in the debate.” – Stephanie Gray

Gray’s second “scientific fact” is a puzzle.

Human beings can only give birth to human beings.

In one sense, this is trivially false. Chimpanzees and humans share a common ancestor; if it were true that this ape could only give birth to an ape of the same species, then human beings would never have evolved! Non-biologists think the term “species” is a formal definition, with strong links to one or more bits of biology. In reality, that term is yet another informal definition, which only works at all because of a few quirks specific to biological evolution.

We can rescue Gray, however, if we assert that human beings are not evolving, and never will in future, and thus we will always give birth to another human being. Unfortunately, there is evidence that human beings are evolving, such as our recent ability to drink milk after childhood. In order to qualify as a “scientific fact theory with consensus support from experts,” we also need to find a consensus among biologists that human beings are not evolving; that does not exist. Finally, this assertion can only be justified if we know how the future will turn out until humanity goes extinct. No-one, short of a god, could pull that off.

Gray still has one more save, though. All of the above problems have come from an insistence on a rigid, unchanging definition of “human being.” What if we let it change over time? This time, I can’t think of any objections. So we’ve done it: it’s true that human beings can only give birth to human beings, if we define “human being” to be whatever human beings have evolved to at the present time… or, in other words, we define it to be anything born of a human being.

Huh. So Gray’s assertion is either a tautology that’s perpetually true, or trivially false. So why on Earth would she need it in the first place?

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