A University of Chicago Ph.D. student recently defended a dissertation in which he asked thousands of biologists when life begins. A large majority of the biologists he surveyed, even those who are committed to the pro-choice position, said human life begins at conception.
Steven Jacobs undertook his research for his dissertation in the Department of Comparative Human Development. The research took him five grueling years and roused the ire of many academics, who, according to the college fix, accused him of academic dishonesty, claimed he politicized science, and compared him to the Ku Klux Klan.
Jacobs wanted to bring fact-based research into the debate over abortion in an effort to move the debate past the question of when life begins and into other questions by showing that there is already a scholarly consensus on when life begins. He told the Daily Wire that he wanted to “produce research that can become a contribution to a contentious debate that is harming our body politic” and to “help people become informed so that the competition of ideas can take place on a level playing field.”
Jacobs began his work by asking 2,899 American adults which group who be “most qualified to answer the question of when a human’s life begins.” 81% of those he surveyed said biologists would be most qualified to answer the question.
When Jacobs started surveying biologists, he asked them three questions. The first asked them if the development of a mammal began at the moment of fertilization. Over 90 percent agreed. When he asked if “fertilization marks the beginning of a human’s life,” over 75 percent said “yes.” The final question asked when life begins. 90 percent of respondents who described themselves as “very pro-life” said at the moment of fertilization, as did almost 75 percent of those who called themselves “pro-choice” and around 60 percent of those who identified themselves as “very pro-choice.”
Jacobs told The College Fix that the research means he probably will not be able to get a job in academia. He said, “I have gotten the sense that this has been talked about a lot. I’ve been regularly told that I can’t get a job in academia. I’ve been told don’t try. I’ve been told that maybe a Christian school would hire me.”
Jacobs hopes to see the abortion debate move beyond discussions of when life begins and move to the question of “When is it okay to kill unborn humans?” He said, “A human’s life begins at fertilization. An abortion is the intentional killing of a human, and thus should be recognized as a homicide.” He concluded that the “central question” in the abortion debate is: “When is that homicide justifiable?” He said, “Let’s stop debating whether a fetus is a human and start debating whether all humans have rights and, if so, how to balance one human’s right to abort and another human’s right to life.”
Jacobs successfully defended his dissertation and received his Ph.D.
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”
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