Friday, June 14, 2019

Trust the Mother

One of the most divisive political issues is abortion rights. I am a scientist, and I can tell you that there is no single point in embryonic or fetal development in which the unborn child “becomes human.” It depends on the indicator that you use: heartbeat, brain activity, etc. all begin at different times. There are even three events that occur during “the moment of conception.” As a result, I have no scientific opinion about “when life begins.” Nor will I speculate about morality or politics. But I do have some scientific insights that you might find useful.

Love evolved. Love is, from the evolutionary point of view, the instinct for helping and protecting other animals in your species. Natural selection has favored animals that protect their offspring. In this way, they maximize their reproductive success. If you want to know more, search for information about inclusive fitness. The most famous examples are from insects such as bees, ants, and termites, and among mammals such as ourselves.

The strongest love in the natural world is the love between a mother and her offspring. It is a force of nature. If you get between a mother bear and her cubs, it might be the last thing you do. This is because the cubs are the mother bear’s entire genetic future. Human mothers are no less motivated to protect their young, including those not yet born, than any other species of mammal.

In the animal world, a mother’s love is, on the average, stronger than a father’s love. The reason for this is because the mother always knows which offspring are hers, but the father cannot be certain. Every ounce of effort that a mother puts into nurturing and defending her young is well spent, but for the father, there is the lingering subconscious question about whether the offspring are his. (“Mommy’s baby, Daddy’s maybe.”) Genetic tests, in humans and birds, show that some of the offspring in the nest or the home, which the father supposes to be his, are not. The offspring may not be the father’s entire genetic future. Most of us fathers love our children, but on the average, mothers love their children more.

And a mother loves her offspring, including those not yet born, more than politicians do.

Given that a mother’s love is the strongest love in the natural world, I believe we should trust the instincts of an individual mother. The idea that pregnant women are eager to kill their unborn children unless white men pass laws and tell them not to is ridiculous. Maybe we should trust the mother to make the right decision regarding her unborn offspring.

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