The story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” comes to mind. Each time I hear the cry, “Wolf!” I have come running to this slide/picture and found nothing there.
Is a baby a parasite? Well, no. But, should we worry about the upper biology class photo about comparing fetuses with cancers? Not at all. In fact, reacting to this image is doing a disservice to the Pro-life movement. Here is why.
It fails to take into consideration the context. This is a biology class!
We have little to no background information. We don’t have the professor’s lecture. Christians, of all people (and pro-lifers too), complain of being misunderstood. We should not do the same disservice to others.
We confuse science with morality. On the picture of the slide in question there are no value or moral pronouncements being made. The professor is just teaching. Let’s use a parallel example. Humans are animals. Rational animals to be sure. The comparison is regular in philosophy, science, and even historical theology. Yet, the comparison does not tell us the value of human beings. It says nothing about how we should treat humans. The comparison is fine.
We are buying into a reduction that is not necessarily present. In this example, some are thinking that the slide is saying that fetuses are just/only parasites However, the slide is in no way saying this. Strangely enough, pro-lifers who are jumping on this like it is some sort of “cancer” are betraying a weakness of thought.
It is hypocritical – The Pro-life movement, and Christianity too, has sometimes tried to get science to speak for itself and not wade into ethical judgments. By making an ethical judgement about an observational comparison (in a class we were not in) means that we are the ones crossing the line. It is not up to the scientists to make the ethical judgements from the standpoint of their own discipline. Science is by nature a descriptive discipline. Ethics is by nature a prescriptive discipline. Each discipline needs to talk with the other, but each side should recognize when it is encroaching on the other.
We betray a misunderstanding of science – There is a great article from Scientific American on the the studies between cancer and pregnancy and how the body reacts similarly and differently in each case. Moreover, there seems to be much fruitiful research to be done in this area which may help treat cancer. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-pregnancy-help-scientists-better-understand-cancer/?fbclid=IwAR3aTLcjI39oyn0ts0FQoTjUPhvNKENa5OANbmXTaPgRKgbvPI0v0CoEOtw
I think that Pro-lifers who react to this sort of picture not only miss the point but can be doing the Pro-life movement a disservice. We lose credibility to make moral judgments if we cannot take the time to understand the landscape first. There is no wolf. Let’s hope next time a cry is made the whole town doesn’t stay home.
Pastor Isaac Fleming