Grab Bag

I haven’t written in a while, which isn’t because there isn’t much going on, but is mostly because I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to contribute here, and because I’ve had bits to say here and there, but not really complete thoughts on much. Just to keep the juices flowing, and be sure this exercise of mine doesn’t dry up, I figured I’d get some of these partial thoughts written out in this grab bag of topics.

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A fun coincidence

In a somewhat hastily written post yesterday, I noted that some of the issues we grapple with about abortion could be solved by a way to remove the fetus from an unwilling mother, and allow it to gestate without needing the mother.

But what if the choice is this: carry the pregnancy to term, or terminate the pregnancy while others do what they can to save the embryo/fetus? Aside from the gigantic technical hurdle, there are plenty of other issues that need to be resolved (who pays for it? what is the impact on the population? who raises the child after gestation?), but it changes the discussion completely. We could even use this technology to take away what I see as sex discrimination entering into the debate (anti-abortion laws mandating the only instance of violating body autonomy, and it only applying to women). There are folks who think that the biological father should have a say in whether or not the woman terminates the pregnancy…now he can have that say, as long as he’s willing to carry the pregnancy to term (and consents to the implantation of the artificial womb and surgical removal of it and the baby when ready). These are things that could become technically feasible in the future. Again, I somewhat doubt they will, because I don’t see much real motivation for it, but my crystal ball hasn’t worked very well for years (or ever).

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Abortion, abortion, abortion…

[Somewhat rushed piece…overwhelmed with work, but trying to stay in the habit of writing, and it’s been a long time. I’m sure it’s full of typos and other problems, but at this point, it will have to do]

I’ve spent a bit of time talking about abortion and abortion rights since Hitting Bregma started (notably here and here). I’m fascinated by it as a topic because it’s so meaningful to so many people, that I honestly see it as the number one guiding issue in our politics today. I don’t have any scientific evidence for this at all, and I would enjoy being shown that it’s not true, but I think the abortion question actually drives many people in one direction or another, and then the other partisan issues take hold. It’s easy for me to imagine somebody being appalled by abortion, leaning toward a particular political identity because of that, and then slowing assimilating with all the other beliefs of that political party. It seems like a key reason, for instance, why a deeply religious Christian would so predictably care about small government, about maintaining strong borders, about a super powerful national defense, about implementing the death penalty, about low taxes (especially for the wealthy). On the flip side, it’s puzzling to me that advocacy of abortion rights does such a good job at predicting where somebody stands on raising taxes on the wealthy, on being against the death penalty, about working hard for minority rights and environmentalism, and about government services for the poor. Of course, there are plenty of folks out there who don’t fall into those more predictable positions. I know plenty who are deeply religious, and guided by this to be sickened by abortion, but put this aside to otherwise favor liberal politicians who are anti-death penalty, pro-helping the poor, pro-helping immigrants, and willing to tax people to make that possible. It would be a silly straw man fallacy to say that I’m implying that this applies to everybody equally, but I find it interesting to see how many people seem to find their political identity by following the pro-choice or anti-abortion trail to the rest of the stuff.

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When does life begin?

The abortion issue is immensely complicated, and our position about it largely depends on how we answer several questions. One of those questions is, “when does life begin?” This sounds so simple to answer, but it couldn’t be more complicated. I’m a scientist, that’s what I do for a living. I have advanced training in these things, and I have no idea how to answer that question factually, and believe me I’ve tried. I’ve looked for evidence that I can use to help form my opinion about this part of the issue, and it’s one of the few areas where I honestly feel there is no scientific answer to the question. It’s simply not an empirical question.

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