On the heels of Dr. Michael Egnor’s excellent article yesterday, “Science Deniers Notwithstanding, Human Life Begins at Conception,” take just a few minutes to watch this eloquent TED Talk by mathematician Alexander Tsiaras. Click on the image above to get there.
Dr. Tsiaras was formerly Chief of Scientific Visualization in Yale’s Department of Medicine. As you’ll see, he is overwhelmed by the fantastic complexity and beauty of human development in the womb, revealed in MRI images. He more than once uses the word “divinity,” but the theme of the short film he presents in the course of the talk is not about religion but about science: intelligent design, evidently, though that phrase is not used. It is this way with science: the more we know about life, the more powerful the impression of design.
Casey already noted this video a while back and transcribed some of it. Tsiaras says, among other things:
[A]s you can see, when you start working on this data, it’s pretty spectacular. And as we kept on scanning more and more, working on this project, looking at these two simple cells that have this kind of unbelievable machinery that will become the magic of you … building this incredible trilinear fetus, that becomes within 44 days something that you can recognize, and then at 9 weeks, is really like a little human being. The marvel of this information, how do we actually have this biological mechanism inside the our body, to actually see this information?
Now if you don’t mind some vulgar language, you can go watch blogger Rebecca Watson (of Skepchick) deliver an infuriated rant defending Planned Parenthood. Be warned: Even the URL includes an obscenity. I’ve received a bunch of emails about her video in the past couple of days. She observes that even if the embattled organization were indeed selling “baby parts,” which the young lady assures us they are [expletive deleted] not, that would still be no big deal because we are talking about an entity, the fetus, that “in the first trimester [is] about the size of a kidney bean.”
A severed arm complete with a little hand that you see casually displayed by lab techs in one of those Planned Parenthood videos is a lot larger than a kidney bean. But is mere size really the point here? If you disregard the foul language from Miss Watson, toggle back and forth in your mind between her tantrum and Dr. Tsiaras’s awed discussion of the scientific data his images convey.
Religious arguments for a pro-life position obviously aren’t going to impress anyone who isn’t committed to the particular religion being invoked. But as Michael Egnor points out, “scientific fact” is what establishes when human life begins. What happens in the course of a fetus’s growth is also a matter of scientific fact.
If you watch Tsiaras’s audience as they’re watching his film, you see a mix of amazement and, I think, discomfort. The discomfort likely arises from the realization that while he makes no mention of intelligent design and certainly says nothing about abortion, what he does say and what he shows testify to the exquisite craft, the purpose and intention, that goes into that “kidney bean.” Even these words — craft, purpose, intention — fall wildly short of the reality.
Disrupting the process by which a human grows, tearing apart the product, selling off the parts…these are things you cannot look on the same way once you’ve confronted the evidence, the scientific not religious evidence, for the design of the human being.