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NCSE’s Program Director Josh Rosenau: Human Dependency Obviates the Right to Life

Michael Egnor

National Center for Selling Evolution Science Education’ s Program and Policy Director Josh Rosenau has made disturbing arguments in favor of abortion. On his personal blog Thoughts from Kansas, Rosenau, who has been a doctoral candidate in evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, asserted that children in the womb were nearly indistinguishable from… cancer.
Later in his post, Rosenau defends abortion by asserting:

Is an embryo a discrete human being? I think not. An embryo is dependent on its living host…

An old-fashioned term for the “living host” of an embryo is… mother. Rosneau frames the mother-child relationship charmingly: he compares the relationship between a mother and her unborn child to the relationship between a host and a parasite.

An embryo is dependent on… a woman whose nutrients it relies upon, whose immune system protects it, whose lungs provide it with oxygen, and whose body carries out every other essential function. If the woman dies, an embryo cannot survive (medical intervention alters this case somewhat, but a reliance on medical life support hardly vitiates questions about the embryo’s discreteness).

Actually, we have entire institutions devoted to children who rely on others to provide support for their vital functions. They’re called hospitals. I work in several of them. Many of the children for whom I provide care (I’m a pediatric neurosurgeon) need artificial feeding, antibiotics to augment their immune systems and protect them from infection, and need respirators to help them breathe. I assure Mr. Rosenau: hospitalized children are quite discrete human beings, tubes and machines notwithstanding. I do not consider their condition of dependence on vital support a basis for denying them the right to life. In fact, their condition of dependence is in my view justification for protecting their lives with increased vigor.


By the standard Egnor offered, a human being does not acquire the moral status Egnor is describing above [a discrete human being with a right to life] until well into the pregnancy, and acquires it only gradually, with different organ systems becoming capable of independence at different points, and with full independence from parental support not coming until several years after birth.

No. A human being is discrete from the moment of conception; a child in the womb is an individual member of the species Homo sapiens from conception onward. That is a rudimentary fact of biology. Dependency does not render a human being indiscrete; newborn babies are highly dependent on their mothers, yet they are discrete individual people, with a right to life. Patients in intensive care units are highly dependent on care from doctors and nurses, yet they are discrete people, with a right to life. Passengers in an airplane are highly dependent on the airplane and on the skill of the pilot, yet they are quite discrete, and have a right to life. The fact that a human being needs help from another does not in any way obviate the right to life. In fact in my view, and in the view of billions of people who adhere to Judeo-Christian morality (i.e. simple human decency), human beings who are in need of help should be given more care and attention than human beings who are healthy and independent. I spend much more of my time at work helping sick children than I spend helping healthy children.
Rosenau again:

In other words, even Egnor’s seemingly simple criterion that a human being must be “discrete” generates not a bright line, but a continuum. That his definition of “personhood” ignores the cognitive traits that make humanity distinctive among known living things is relevant, but secondary.

The rudiments of personhood — being a human being with a right to life — are independent of cognitive traits. An unborn child, an infant, a person with severe brain damage or developmental handicap, a person with Alzheimer’s disease and a Program DIrector for the NCSE all have exactly the same right to life. Accidents of dependency and irrationality, as well as conditions of intellectual and moral error, do not in anyway diminish the personhood of a human being, and do not deny that human being the right to life. The right to life is dependent only on being human.
That a senior official of the National Center for Science Education should compare unborn childen to cancer and assert that dependency obviates the right to life is appalling, but no surprise. Darwinists have always been at the vanguard of the eugenics movement. “Every Child a Wanted Child” — the modern eugenicists’ creed — is a denial of the humanity of unwanted children. It’s an assertion of raw power.
Here’s the Pro-Life creed: “Every child has the right to life.” It’s an assertion of obligation, not an assertion of power. Each of us has the obligation to protect human life. No qualifiers. No exceptions for dependency or ‘wantedness’. Every child has a right to life simply because he or she is human. This affirmation of the right to life of all human beings is an anathema to the atheist-Darwinist-pro-abortion movement. If you’re mortified by Rosenau’s assertions, keep this in mind: Rosenau’s arguments are mainstream pro-abortion arguments, without the euphemisms. Rosenau is merely uncommonly candid.
The Program DIrector of National Center for Science Education crudely provides this vital bit of education: Darwinism is a deeply anti-human ideology, and it has consequences. Acceptance of the worldview that human beings are animals evolved by a struggle of the fittest naturally tends to the denial of full humanity for the weak, and ultimately to the dissolution of the bonds of love and of family and of simple decency. The most dangerous place in America, without rival, is in a mother’s womb.