Assertion versus evidence

LETTER

Re: Will we stand with our unborn children? October 19 letter.

Chris O’Brien says my statement that Ken Orr opposes abortion on religious grounds “is shown to be incorrect by reference to the Right to Life NZ website”.

So what does the website say? Of the bulleted list of objectives, the first states:

“To uphold and protect the inalienable God given right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death.”

Enough said.

Mr O’Brien then states:

“Hanson goes on to indirectly attack those who hold religious beliefs, implying that people of faith hold those beliefs without evidence. This is an extraordinary argument. There are tomes of evidence written in support of belief in a creator.”

As if the number of people holding a view is evidence for its truth; it seems that Mr O’Brien doesn’t seem to be able to understand the difference between evidence and assertion.

And I don’t know where Mr O’Brien gets his “latest medical evidence that has pushed (the ability to feel pain) back to a proven 20 weeks”. Unless he quotes his source, he stands accused of parroting what others have said, or simply making it up.

So here is some actual medical evidence from the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 24/31, 2005, which carries an article headed “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence” by Susan J. Lee, JD; Henry J. Peter Ralston, MD; Eleanor A. Drey, MD, EdM, et al, in which the authors conclude that:

“Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester (beginning week 28). Little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Similarly, limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion. Anesthetic techniques currently used during fetal surgery are not directly applicable to abortion procedures.”

Martin Hanson, Nelson

Re: Will we stand with our unborn children? October 19 letter.

Chris O’Brien says my statement that Ken Orr opposes abortion on religious grounds “is shown to be incorrect by reference to the Right to Life NZ website”.

So what does the website say? Of the bulleted list of objectives, the first states:

“To uphold and protect the inalienable God given right to life of all human beings from conception to natural death.”

Enough said.

Mr O’Brien then states:

“Hanson goes on to indirectly attack those who hold religious beliefs, implying that people of faith hold those beliefs without evidence. This is an extraordinary argument. There are tomes of evidence written in support of belief in a creator.”

As if the number of people holding a view is evidence for its truth; it seems that Mr O’Brien doesn’t seem to be able to understand the difference between evidence and assertion.

And I don’t know where Mr O’Brien gets his “latest medical evidence that has pushed (the ability to feel pain) back to a proven 20 weeks”. Unless he quotes his source, he stands accused of parroting what others have said, or simply making it up.

So here is some actual medical evidence from the Journal of the American Medical Association, August 24/31, 2005, which carries an article headed “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence” by Susan J. Lee, JD; Henry J. Peter Ralston, MD; Eleanor A. Drey, MD, EdM, et al, in which the authors conclude that:

“Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester (beginning week 28). Little or no evidence addresses the effectiveness of direct fetal anesthetic or analgesic techniques. Similarly, limited or no data exist on the safety of such techniques for pregnant women in the context of abortion. Anesthetic techniques currently used during fetal surgery are not directly applicable to abortion procedures.”

Martin Hanson, Nelson

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John, USA - 20 days ago
All inalienable rights are God-given. One need only be logical, not religious, to recognize this.

And Lee, et al. (2005) supposed no pain before "around 29 to 30 weeks? gestational age, based on the limited data available", not 28 weeks as you alleged.

Their supposition is not scientific but axiomatic: they believe that consciousness requires a functional cerebral cortex. This is false in adult humans, however, and there is no obvious reason it must be true in fetal ones.

Indeed, the 20-week fetus does everything we would expect her to do if she were really in pain: vigorous withdrawal from noxious stimuli, increased heart and breathing rates, spikes in catecholamine release. What else would you expect her to do?

Tony Lee - 16 days ago
John, your first two sentences are so contradictory they must be purposely obtuse. You say rights are god given, for which no evidence exists, and then go on to say that logic dictates this to be true. What nonsense! If there is no evidence, logic dictates that it is more likely false.