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Marco Rubio is already Gish-Galloping

Marco Rubio is still staggering over charges that he’s a science denialist on climate change. He has discovered a familiar way to deal with it: distraction. Ask him about climate change, and he babbles about abortion.

Here’s what I always get a kick out of, and it shows you the hypocrisy. All these people always wag their finger at me about science and settled science. Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life beings at conception. So I hope the next time someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.

This is only settled science if you get all your science information from the preacher on scienticianology at your local fundagelical Church of the One True American Jesus. Let’s take that phrase “human life begins at conception” apart.

What do you mean by “life begins”? Was there some step between your parents and you where there was a dead cell? Life is continuous — there hasn’t been a transition from non-life to life for about 4 billion years. So, yes, I’d agree that the zygote is a living cell, but so were the sperm and egg that fused to generate it, and so were the blast cells that were precursors to it, and so were the zygotes that developed into your parents. We can trace that life all the way back to early progenotes with limited autonomy drifting in Archean seas, to self-perpetuating chemical reactions occurring in porous rocks in the deep ocean rifts. It’s all been alive, so this is a distinction without meaning.

What about “human”? It’s a human zygote, we’d all agree; but it’s also human sperm and human ovum. You can pluck a hair from my head and determine with a few tests that it’s a human hair; you can take a blood sample from me and check a few antigens and determine that it is human blood; you can similarly swab a bit of saliva or earwax or tears from me, and analyze its biochemistry and find that it is specifically human spit or earwax or tears. That we can tag something with the adjective “human” does not in any way imply that my earwax deserves all the protections and privileges of a full human being. “Human zygote” imposes as much ethical obligation on me as “human spit”.

And don’t even try to pull that BS about a unique, novel genetic individual being created at conception. One of the key properties of meiosis is a genetic reshuffling of alleles by random assortment of the parental chromosomes and recombination by crossing over — every sperm and egg is genetically unique as well, and we spew those profligately with no remorse. Conception just adds another level of semi-random rearrangement of a random assortment of genes that were made during oogenesis and spermatogenesis.

So what are we left with? An obvious attempt at distortion or incomprehension in which the common modifier “human” is used as an absolute signifier for sociological and historical and psychological of an entity as being a complete member of a higher level community. It’s a lie cloaked in ambiguous language.

And of course, at the end of that dissection, we’re still left with the fact that Rubio is dead wrong on climate change and threw out this whole line of argument to distract us from the point that Marco Rubio is an idiot.

It didn’t work.

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    Since at least 1/2 of all fertilized eggs fail to implant, if an unimplanted zygote is a fully human being and god is in charge, then that makes god the world’s greatest abortionist.

  2. Gregory Greenwood says

    Rubio’s argument boils down to a version of ‘pay no attention to the man behind the curtain’ – anything to distract from the fact that even he realises that his climate change denialism doesn’t have a shred of supporting evidence. Unfortunately for him he chose to try to distract attention away from his evidence free, ideologically driven ignorant blather with… yet more evidence free, ideologically driven ignorant blather.

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Even without the breakdown, the only proper response is, “So what?” There’s a large difference between “human” and “person”. This is so even in the minds of someone predisposed to agreeing with his ultimate message, even if it is a warped version, given that they seem to have no problem regarding the pregnant woman as human but rarely acknowledge her as a person.

  4. steve84 says

    Also remember that he is a creationists who thinks the age of the Earth is up for debate.

  5. twas brillig (stevem) says

    … and those tumors some people have removed from their bodies is ALSO human life. Why do doctors not see the hypocrisy of Killing Human Life when also oathers to Preserve Human Life? No controversy, nor Debate about that well consensed fact. Answer that, Mr. Rubio, you “Honorable Man”.

  6. Sven says

    I swear to FSM, this talking-point that “science says life begins at conception” is so insufferably ignorant I barely know where to start.

  7. inquisitiveraven says

    But is it a Gish Gallop when it’s not even remotely related to the actual topic at hand? Duane Gish usually at least pretended to be staying on topic.

  8. Holms says

    Even without the breakdown, the only proper response is, “So what?” There’s a large difference between “human” and “person”.

    Even that distinction doesn’t make a difference. Regardless of debates over the semantics of whether human life begins at fertilisation (the answer to which is ‘yes’ actually), regardless of whether a second old zygote is considered a ‘full person’ or whatever, there is still the unavoidable fact that even grown, productive adults can’t impose themselves on the body of another, rendering the human / person debates moot.

  9. Holms says

    But is it a Gish Gallop when it’s not even remotely related to the actual topic at hand? Duane Gish usually at least pretended to be staying on topic.

    Agreed; this is just your plain old non sequitur distraction.

  10. duce7999 says

    If I were to ask you, “how long have you been alive?” what date would be the basis of your answer? Would the fact that most of us would use our date of birth be a tacit admission that we don’t actually think we started living until we were born?

  11. David Marjanović says

    But is it a Gish Gallop when it’s not even remotely related to the actual topic at hand? Duane Gish usually at least pretended to be staying on topic.

    Actually, it reminds me of the Chewbacca Defense…

    If I were to ask you, “how long have you been alive?” what date would be the basis of your answer?

    I’m told that in Korea they actually count that from conception.

    Regardless of debates over the semantics of whether human life begins at fertilisation (the answer to which is ‘yes’ actually)

    Not so fast. A zygote that doesn’t spontaneously die can develop into any number of embryos, not necessarily one. Placental mammals aren’t insects…

  12. says

    Well said PZ. Of course the GOP is the anti-child Party of Death anyway, with their exuberant slashing of programs that feed, protect, and house children. I worked in Child Protective Service while many GOP led budget cuts were wrecking that system, putting children more and more at risk of abuse and murder.

  13. Larry Kearney says

    Beyond the idiocy of trying to misdirect criticism of his ridiculous, head-in-the-sand AGW views, taking cover behind abortion only serves to highlight Rubio’s credentials in the GOP “love the fetus, hate the child” choir. The only thing dumber would have been to shout Bengahzi in response to any questions.

  14. mikeyb says

    Marco Rubio is a total turd. I honestly don’t know who’s dumber – Rubio or Sarah Palin. Almost every time he opens his mouth he spews pure idiocy almost without exception. I honestly don’t know how this shit for brains guy ever became a senator, but that’s the Koch bros sponsored tea bagger GOP for yah, these days. You betcha!

  15. mikeyb says

    Marco Rubio must have got his education at Jesus Camp. Sheer inanity and insanity.

  16. Al Dente says

    The proper response to Rubio’s non sequitur should be: The topic being discussed is your climate change denialism. Let’s finish that discussion before we go to another subject.

  17. wcorvi says

    “…there hasn’t been a transition from non-life to life for about 4 billion years.”
    .
    Surely a typo – you meant 6000 years.
    .
    “One of the key properties of meiosis is a genetic reshuffling of alleles by random assortment of the parental chromosomes and recombination by crossing over ….”
    .
    There you go with all those big sciency words again, that don’t really mean anything – I already TOLD you what scientists think – unanimously agree upon – so why are you trying to science me on this one?

  18. smrnda says

    The problem here is that we have someone who knows nothing about science who can’t just shut up and say ‘science is not something I know much about’ and leave it at that. He has to express his opinion, which is basically that his ignorance is just as valid as someone else’s knowledge.

    It’s good to know what you don’t know, and be honest. I don’t debate evolution since I am not a biologist, and the last time I took a life sciences class I was 12.

  19. dianne says

    The scientific consensus is that life (on Earth) began in the precambrian and all life has come from other life since that time.

  20. David Marjanović says

    @David #12

    Do they use conception or a calendar year? Citation?

    Unfortunately, “I’m told” is the citation. I’m specifically told by my brother, who knows 2 or 3 people from Korea.

    Surely someone here knows better and can tell me if my brother misinterpreted something?

  21. twas brillig (stevem) says

    The problem here is that we have someone who knows nothing about science who can’t just shut up and say ‘science is not something I know much about’ and leave it at that.

    Of course he can’t admit to being ignorant of science, he is on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Which means he is an expert at Gish Gallop, to maintain his position.

  22. chigau (違う) says

    Surely

    you are using a computer connected to the internet.
    Got search engine?

  23. pamsmigh says

    I think they usually phrase it as “a NEW UNIQUE human life is formed at conception…..” Given that identical twins can separate as late as 14 days after conception, what happened to that one new unique life? Does each twin get half of it?

  24. throwaway says

    So, a charge of hypocrisy is basically acknowledging that there is merit to a near unanimity in science and this codswallop is merely a concession that climate change is real. Good to know, Mr. Rubio. Oh but he’d object, of course. I’m sorry, but if he wants his premise to remain true while still being as self-serving as possible, then he shouldn’t have invited the comparison. Now he needs to go waste whatever potential he had alone in a cave away from civilized society.

  25. Holms says

    If I were to ask you, “how long have you been alive?” what date would be the basis of your answer?

    If you had used the more usual wording ‘how old are you’ or ‘what is your age’ then yes, I would use my birth date. This is not however a ‘tacit admission’ of anything beyond the fact that those phrasings are understood to mean post birth age.

    But you didn’t ask that. Your particular phrasing I would asnwer with my age plus nine months.

    you are using a computer connected to the internet.
    Got search engine?

    I would direct that to #14, who asked for the citation without checking in the first place.

  26. Ichthyic says

    If I were to ask you, “how long have you been alive?” what date would be the basis of your answer?

    define “you”.

  27. cactuswren says

    “Person” has a three-pronged definition. To be considered a person, an entity must meet three criteria: it must be 1. human, 2. born, and 3. alive. To omit or alter any one of these will entail including under the category of “persons” things any sensible being, or even Marco Rubio, will agree are NOT persons, such as corpses, armadillos, or molar pregnancies.

    But leaving that aside, Holms (@9) is right. To say that a fetus has the right to batten on an unwilling body is to give it rights no born person has.

  28. says

    I don’t know if they do it in Korea or not, but the elves in JRR Tolkien’s stories histories use “date of conception” to calculate how old they are so it must be a quite reasonable, scientific way to do it. They know exactly when that is because they are elves and from Eru’s god’s ‘unfallen creation’. So there!

  29. says

    Darn it, borked the html. Let’s try that again.

    I don’t know if they do it in Korea or not, but the elves in JRR Tolkien’s stories histories use “date of conception” to calculate how old they are so it must be a quite reasonable, scientific way to do it. They know exactly when that is because they are elves and from Eru’s god’s ‘unfallen creation’. So there!

  30. geoffr says

    When people say “Life begins at conception” what they actually mean is “God implants a soul at conception”. Given how many of these ensouled zygotes don’t even implant, heaven must by now have piles of single-celled humans. Do they each get a set of wings and a harp?

  31. inquiringlaurence says

    To take it one step further, although this is not Rubio’s point of view, I have seen televangelists personally say that life begin BEFORE conception. It seems to make sense in Christian theology, with the notion of souls/spirits given by God.

    A simple rebuttal: The last time I masturbated was a few days ago. I have now killed 300,000,000, more than the history of human civilization through genocide and authoritarian regimes.

    Maybe that’s the secret reason why whacking meat is considered a moral sin in Catholocism. If one masturbates at least 30-40 times in their lifetime (or, in some cases, within a week), than that person has likely murdered more people than have existed in the past 200,000 years.

  32. cactuswren says

    geoffr @ 34: No, I’ve been told in all seriousness that each of them is consigned to an eternity of conscious screaming torment, for the sin of not having acceptedthelordjesuschristastheirpersonalsavior.

    This, I’m told, is called “God’s perfect justice”.

  33. cactuswren says

    pamsmigh @ 26: The Dionnes were identical, from a single zygote. And originally there were six of them.

  34. craigrheinheimer says

    Rubio is not an idiot. He knows exactly who his target audience is and they eat this up.

    He is a dishonest snake, but not an idiot.

  35. duce7999 says

    @28 Holms

    I didn’t make the claim now did I?

    Separately, as has been beautifully demonstrated by Matt Dillahunty’s debates, personhood doesn’t matter when it comes to abortion. It doesn’t really matter when life begins. A woman’s right to her body doesn’t end at conception.

  36. says

    I never really thought about it before, but it occurs to me how much the anti-abortion argument* is, at root, a creationist one. Instead of taking 40 weeks for a woman’s body and unthinking chemical processes to build up a human being–if the process happens to be successful, the forced birthers think that people are created de novo in a magical instant.

    *As opposed to position, which derives from the assumption that women are chattel purposed by God or Nature (doesn’t really matter which) for the reproductive and sexual needs of men

  37. says

    The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life beings at conception.

    If that’s the case, then we have another clear example of the Bible being wrong about something. Leviticus clearly states that “the life of the creature is in the blood.” Since the fetus is not infused with blood until about 18 days after conception, this statement is clearly incorrect.
    I’m sure a new edition of the Bible, with necessary corrections, will be issued any day now. Maybe they’ll even get the bit about bats right this time.

  38. says

    According to this site, it looks like the Koreans calculate age the same as the Japanese: age starts at 1 on birth, then increments each year on the lunar new yeart. Maybe that’s to take gestation into account, or maybe it just makes a different kind of sense to start counting at 1, I dunno. Though I’d imagine that the fact that human pregnancy lasts nine months must have been pretty well-established before either country existed.

    In Korea, everyone is 1 from the time they are born. And everyone gets a year older on New Year’s day. So your Korean age is always either one or two years older than your Western age. And yes, a baby born on New Year’s Eve can be two years old the next day, although in practice people wait awhile before they start talking about somebody’s Korean age.

    (Sudden thought, is this why Japanese have longer life-expectancy? Because they’re adding an average year-and-a-half to their numerical ages?)

  39. Ichthyic says

    Given how many of these ensouled zygotes don’t even implant, heaven must by now have piles of single-celled humans. Do they each get a set of wings and a harp?

    nope…

    They get a flagellum.

  40. mykroft says

    I remember the lectures by the Jebbies on this subject. It was all about potential; a fertilized egg had the potential to become a human being.

    Perhaps this is why they think cloning is so immoral. If cloning worked, any cell would theoretically have the potential of becoming a new human being.

    Cut myself shaving this morning. Oh, the humanity! So many potential Mykrofts lost for all time!

  41. Ichthyic says

    It was all about potential; a fertilized egg had the potential to become a human being.

    so does the carbon I am exhaling as I type this sentence.

  42. cactuswren says

    NelC @ 42: It might be clearer to say that in Japan and Korea ages are counted in ordinal numbers: a newborn’s age is “1″, meaning that it is in the first year — year 1 — of its life. (A Westerner in Japan or Korea might conversely have to explain that in the West, a baby is bizarrely considered “age zero” until a full year has passed after its birth.)

  43. chigau (違う) says

    It’s not how much time has past since your birth, it’s how many calendar years you have lived in.

  44. David Marjanović says

    you are using a computer connected to the internet.
    Got search engine?

    At 4:00 in the morning (exact to the minute as it happens), I much preferred going to bed over burrowing through a guesstimated umpteen ghits. What search term would I even use? “Age in Korea”?

    (Thank you, NelC! Starting at 1 and at the new year makes sense.)

    If I were to ask you, “how long have you been alive?” what date would be the basis of your answer?

    define “you”.

    I like that.

    He is a dishonest snake, but not an idiot.

    That’s not mutually exclusive.

    They get a flagellum.

    Thread won.

  45. kevone says

    “Was there some step between your parents and you where there was a dead cell? Life is continuous — there hasn’t been a transition from non-life to life for about 4 billion years. ”

    I never thought of it that way, what great concept.

    Thanks.

  46. damiki says

    @kevone

    That was exactly my reaction.

    My new response to “Life begins at conception.” is: “No, life continues constantly.”

  47. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    craigrheinheimer@38,
    Actually Rubio is both disingenuous and an idiot. He has handled every controversial issue that has come his way badly–be it immigration, evolution or climate change. He is quite transparently the sort of politician who will say absolutely anything to get elected. For Rubio, truth is determined by polling.