The Corner

Slow Learner

Yesterday I posted two informative emails on miscarriage rates. Andrew Sullivan links and writes: “I think all we can say with absolute certainty is that a majority of zygotes never make it to become grown-ups.” Well no, we can’t say that with absolute certainty. Those two emails explained why we can’t (especially if we’re still talking about natural death rates). If Sullivan has any reasons for thinking that those emails were off-base on the science, he has not shared them with us.

Sullivan then quotes Robert P. George: “A human being is conceived when a human sperm containing twenty-three chromosomes fuses with a human egg also containing twenty-three chromosomes (albeit of a different kind) producing a single cell human zygote containing, in the normal case, forty-six chromosomes that are mixed differently from the forty-six chromosomes as found in the mother or father.” Well, sure. George believes that in natural reproduction, 1) no human being is conceived without the production of a zygote and 2) no zygote is produced without there having been a conception. He isn’t using the phrase “human being” in that sentence in any special philosophical sense; he is merely using it as a stand-in for “living human organism.” He’s also not denying the possibility that sperm and egg cells can meet to create a biological entity that isn’t an organism, isn’t a human being, and cannot properly be included in calculations of the natural death rate of humans in the earliest stages of life.

George’s statement is, in short, incontrovertible; nobody has denied that he holds the view expressed therein; and it does nothing to rescue Sullivan’s position or to make it any more credible that Sullivan is merely “taking the arguments of the theocons and following their logic.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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