Bill Nye’s Unscientific Tirade on Abortion

By James Agresti Published on September 28, 2015

In a new viral video starring Bill Nye, the famed “Science Guy” declares that laws protecting “unborn people” are “based on ignorance” and reflect “a deep scientific lack of understanding.” He also says that if you support such laws, you “literally or apparently literally don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Nye’s video was released during an ongoing battle in Congress over sending taxpayers’ money to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Several large media outlets have glowingly covered the video, including the Washington Post, Newsweek, and the Huffington Post.

Nye’s central argument is that human embryos should not be protected by law, because many of them perish from natural causes before they implant in the womb. Based on this, he claims that if you think life begins at fertilization and is worthy of protection:

Then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human? Have all these people failed you?

That statement is irrelevant to the issue of abortion, just as the statement that “all people eventually die” is irrelevant to the issue of murder. Both of these issues are about people actively ending the lives of others, not nature taking its course.

Moreover, Nye’s logic and his use of the phrase “didn’t become a human” assume that life does not begin at fertilization, a notion that is contrary to science. The science of biology has revealed that there are four empirical attributes of life (growth, reproduction, metabolism, and response to stimuli), and the science of embryology has shown that all of these are present at fertilization.

Furthermore, the sciences of genetics and embryology have proven that the genetic composition of humans is formed during fertilization, and as the textbook Molecular Biology explains, this genetic material is “the very basis of life itself.”

In accord with these facts, the medical textbook Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects states: “The zygote and early embryo are living human organisms.” And an organism, in the words of Webster’s College Dictionary, is “any individual life form considered as an entity.”

Nye also states that opposition to abortion is based on an “interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago” that makes people “think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby.”

That statement is manifestly false. The Bible says no such thing, and everyone who has ever had repeated sex without birth control knows that a baby does not always result. Furthermore, miscarriages (technically called “spontaneous abortions”) are often visibly obvious to those who have suffered them. These are not modern revelations of science but realities that have been obvious since the dawn of mankind.

Contrary to Nye’s straw man, Biblically-based opposition to abortion is not rooted in unscientific fallacies but in principles about the value and uniqueness of each individual from the moment of conception. Incidentally, these principles are consistent with science. Beyond the scientific facts that show life begins at fertilization, modern science has also revealed that each human embryo is biologically unique and irreplaceable.

Genetically speaking, with the exception of identical twins, once a woman conceives an embryo, the odds against her conceiving the same one again are greater than 10600 to one. For a point of comparison, there are roughly 1080 atoms in the known universe.

Even among identical twins (who have the same DNA), the burgeoning science of epigenetics has shown they still have biological differences that make each of them incredibly distinctive.

In sum, Bill Nye, a supposed champion of modern science, is patently wrong about this issue. In striking contrast, the Bible, a book that Nye scoffs at based on its age, is perfectly consistent with the scientific facts of this matter (and many others).


James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a nonprofit institute dedicated to researching publishing verifiable facts about public policy.

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  • MarcoPolo

    Even given the uniqueness of each zygote, or human embryo. How does that factor into whether an abortion is wrong?
    A woman makes that kind of difficult decision based on different reasons, none of which is ANYBODY’S business but her’s!
    So why is the uniqueness even relevant?
    We couldn’t lament the loss of some of our greatest minds, like Einstein if his mother had aborted him, because we would have never known what her embryo’s potential, possessed. Is THAT the argument you’re promulgating?

    • Hypothetically, your wife decides that she no longer wants a daughter, so she terminates your daughter’s life. Is that only your wife’s business?

      • MarcoPolo

        If the “daughter” is still a developing fetus in my wife’s womb, it it still HER body to do with, whatever she wishes.
        If you’re talking about killing an offspring that is already born…then that’s the business of the State, as she would be committing murder. This should be easy to understand. Personhood = Having been BORN.

        And on the other end of the spectrum, such as ‘End of Life’ issues… I hope I don’t encounter anyone trying to prevent me from ending MY life when I choose that to happen. Autonomy MEANS something!
        Remember when Governor Jeb Bush interceded into the life of Terri Schaivo ? That was the State overstepping their bounds!

        • Ray

          Psalm 139:13
          For thou has possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
          Q. What is the “me” the psalmist is speaking of in the above verse?
          A. It was David.
          Q. What was David?
          A. He was a person.
          Person = Having God’s covering while in a mother’s womb. or
          Person = being a developing human being in a mother’s womb.

          • MarcoPolo

            I’m not sure that Biblical passages will dictate the same thing to every person on Earth. Just as the Quaran may not dictate to you, how to live.

          • Ray

            Let’s remember that God is the judge of all the earth and that he is not a respecter of persons. He has revealed his commandments and will by the scriptures. Such knowledge is good, honest, and just, and has gone throughout the entire earth. Nations that keep his commandments are blessed, and it’s people prosper by his grace.

          • Ray

            Let’s also remember that America isn’t a Muslim nation, and that it’s constitution wasn’t founded on Islamic principle.

          • MarcoPolo

            Let’s just extrapolate a bit.
            If you were born into the Islamic faith as a Naturalized American citizen, would you have the same convictions toward that religion?

            Would it bother you if fellow citizens who were Christian might try to convert you to their faith?

            My quandary is: Why does it make any difference what religion one follows, if they (almost) all teach divine reverence for Life and Human kinship? (By the way, to answer that question honestly, you have to suspend your belief that Islam has nothing to offer the world and it’s parishioners).

            Thanks in advance for your honest consideration of this subject.

          • MarcoPolo

            So are you saying that God (who purportedly created Man) does not respect his own creation?
            I have no problem understanding that people find comfort in Scriptural guidance. As you stated, knowledge is good! But whose Scripture is the “right” one? There are many written, (and some only oral) Scriptures, from many different cultures that teach it’s adherents the best way through this life.

            I was raised by Christians, and I appreciate their viewpoint. But I know that there are numerous (and very similar) approaches for worshiping the Deities. It’s just the territorial possessiveness of the major, organized Religions (Big ‘R’), that irritate me. I think the Native Americans had a more Holistic approach to understanding the world around them, and they probably didn’t launch crusades to convert other tribes to their “religion”.

        • Ray

          The most honorable way is the cross. Dying in dignity doesn’t come cheap. The easy way out is often the cheap way which isn’t worth anything.
          Where is the virtue in it?

          • Jolanda Tiellemans

            So you’re saying that someone who is terminal ill and knows she/he will die and wants to end her/his life is taking the easy way out?

          • MarcoPolo

            I respect your wishes to promote your religious beliefs as a way through this life. I just don’t find that as MY way through it. Each person’s life is THEIRS to live as they see fit.

            Suffice to say, if I believe Euthanasia is a viable option for ending MY existence, why should it matter to anyone else but ME? I’m not being selfish, I’m being autonomous, and managerially prudent!

  • Ray

    Suppose instead of a developing human life in the womb, we were talking about a lap top computer that was owned equally by a man and a woman. Can she legally do with it whatsoever she wants to, even destroy it, simply because it’s in her car and not his?
    And where was equal protection under the law, in the Roe v. Wade decision?
    Was the Supreme court telling us that a developing human life in the womb is less valuable than a lap top computer? Where is the value of human life these days? I think it’s time to upgrade.

    • MarcoPolo

      If the woman was gestating the computer in HER WOMB, and it was completely dependent upon HER for it’s (eventual) existence, then sure, SHE should be entitled to do anything she wishes without any interference from the man.

      However, if you wish to compare inanimate objects to the animate, maybe you should be shopping for your offspring at Best Buy!

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