that I have ever heard is a women’s rights activist state that her basic knowledge of science trumps years of legitimate scientific research on a topic. I came across her blog and saw her demanding that people provide double-blinded, peer-reviewed studies to prove their claims, so when I saw her state a fact about the fetus’ ability to feel pain at different stages of pregnancy, I thought, hey, I’ll give her some empirical research. (Oh, and if you’re thinking I’m talking about a pro-life activist… think again…)
(If you don’t want to read all the science-related stuff then skip down to (***))
The reason why I thought this is one of my professors is actually really involved in research involving fetal nociception (ability of the fetus to feel pain), not in regards to abortions, but rather, relating to when anaesthesia should be given to a fetus when the mother has to get an essential surgery. The research into the feels is based on the fact they need to find out when the benefits of pain relief outweigh the risks of anaesthesia, because if a fetus can’t feel pain at a certain stage, then there’s no point in anaesthetising them.
So recalling these studies, I went to my university library and searched for peer-reviewed, empirical studies from scholarly publications in the last 4 years to see what the current scientific position on the matter is. Basically, it’s that due to our limited knowledge on the exact mechanisms of pain, it is conceivable that although a fetus may not be able to consciously process noxious stimuli, it can still feel it on some level. This is due to stress responses that are the same as pain stress responses in born humans occurring in the fetus. The research isn’t at all conclusive, but there’s a call for future studies to investigate the matter and most suggested that anaesthesia be admitted at 20 weeks. The statistic of 29 weeks came from the basic knowledge of the brain development of the fetus, not from experimental evidence. Obviously that’s because we can’t ask the fetus if it’s in pain, and we have to measure pain in different ways. Though it is known that the sensory cortex (fully developed at ~29 weeks) isn’t the only part of the brain that is involved in nociception.
(***) Okay, so here’s the funny part. I make a submission to her blog, citing all of the scientific journals that support the recent developments in the field of fetal nociception, with a bit of an explanation to where future research is headed. Her response was that because she googled the journals and found them on some pro-life website they were clearly biased and not peer-reviewed (???), stated that stress responses were found in all cells so the research was incorrect, and lastly said I should ‘try again’.
So my response was explaining to her why claiming a scientific journal was biased involved a lot more than googling it and seeing that a biased group cited it (you really have to go a lot deeper than that and check who funded it, whether the variables were fair, the conclusions reached matched the experimental evidence and weren’t generalised further than what would be appropriate etc. etc.). I then asked her where she got her peer-reviewed emperical evidence from, how she determined it was peer-reviewed and who by, and where she got her knowledge on the topic from.
You know what I got in response? Nothing. That’s because a lot of these tumblr activists only care about the point they are making and ignore any evidence pointing to the contrary. She didn’t state her methods of finding legitimate evidence because her sources are just medical websites she googled, not journal articles, and I actually highly doubt she really knows what a journal article being peer-reviewed actually means. Also that double-blinded experiments aren’t always possible, and depend solely on the experimental method. An experiment that isn’t double blinded can still have accurate results as long as the methods are legitimate and do not allow for the results to be confounded.
Her response was stating basic biological facts about cells and she assumed that the PhD scientists who have been researching the mechanisms of pain for decades don’t already know these basic facts. Well thank god you came along, because you’ve saved the scientific world so much time, none of us knew that cells could respond to noxious stimuli without being able to feel pain! That makes so much more sense now.
Love it when activists ignore legitimate scientific evidence that is contrary to their opinion and say the reason they’ve disregarded it is because it’s obviously biased when they have no evidence to prove that, and most of the facts they use themselves aren’t journal articles and are just basic medical diagnosis, pregnancy, or pro-choice websites.
But hey, as long as you pretend that the only legitimate scientific evidence that exists supports your cause, and all other evidence that kind of proves you wrong must be biased, then of course you’re always going to win your arguments. That’s because you won’t accept anyone else’s opinions, and that’s not how arguments work. You may as well be sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling bullshit to the rest of the world.