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Bill Nye brings science to bear on the abortion debate

Technically Incorrect: In an impassioned, science-based video presentation, the Science Guy insists that society should stop telling women what to do with their bodies.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Bill Nye, impassioned guy about abortion. The Big Think/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Abortion is an emotive topic, partly because it's impossible to divorce emotions from the decision.

However, it's a subject that has been constantly part of political and religious agendas. These make it seem as if supposedly higher powers should tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

Is it possible to make the debate scientific? Bill Nye decided to try. In a video posted to the Big Think, the man best known for his children's show "Bill Nye the Science Guy," tried to limit the topic to scientific issues.

Nye explained that many eggs get fertilized, but don't become human beings. "Sperm get accepted by ova a lot. But that's not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb," he said.

Therefore, he argued, the mere fertilization of an egg cannot be the standard for defining a human life. So many eggs are fertilized and then pass through a woman's body. Do those all have the same rights as an individual?

"When it comes to women's rights with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women," he said.

How can anyone, he said, tell a woman to have a child when she doesn't want anything to do with the genes of the man who fathered it?

He's not fond of "men of European descent" having their own interpretation of "a book written 5,000 years ago" and then deciding that abortion should be illegal. Their arguments, he said, are based on "bad science."

Nye tried to confine himself to facts. Abstinence, he said, "has been completely ineffective."

Nye understands that some people are critical of the mere idea that an issue should be argued on the basis of facts. He tends to prefer facts.

He insisted that "nobody likes abortion." But for him, the science of the moment of conception is something very specific and factual. He says there's no scientific basis for the way some interpret ancient scripture's version of conception.

Will many people be persuaded by Nye's arguments? Perhaps not. It's an issue about which most have entrenched views.

Some, though, might see a sadness that the Land of the Free would want to curtail freedoms that those of a patriarchal bent don't happen to like.

Can science be the referee here? The Science Guy wishes.