In an occasional feature we look back at issues from the early days of NZ Skeptic.

Twins, souls and abortion

I wonder if scepticism toward pseudoscience has any contribution to make to the abortion debate? The thought arises because the theory of L Ron Hubbard … that foeti can hear and understand voices outside the mother and react to them, is clearly pseudoscientific. What about the theory of the anti-choice brigade that “the human being” comes into existence at the “moment” (now known to last hours) of conception? There is a reductio ad adsurdum of this view: while most conceptions go on to produce one individual, identical twins arise after at least one division of the zygote (fertilized ovum,), more hours after conception. Therefore, in the anti-choice view, twins and other multiple births comprise only one “human being”. If that were the case, the Auckland doctors recently faced with the decision whether to separate conjoined twins should have had no hesitation in sacrificing one of the twins: only one “human being” had come into existence at conception, and they would have merely been restoring the status quo. … What most anti-choice people really believe, but never say in the abortion debate, is that a supernatural entity called “the soul” is infused into the foetus at the “moment” of conception, and it is this that makes it human… H Young, NZ Skeptic 14, August 1989.

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