Bill Nye Has An Interesting Point About When Life Begins

September 25th 2015

Laura Donovan

Bill Nye made a notable argument about when life really begins in a new video for Big Think. The scientist used the conception and fertilization process to explain why life does not necessarily begin when an egg is fertilized.

"Many, many, many, many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans," Nye explained. "Eggs get fertilized, and by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova a lot. But that’s not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb, a woman’s womb."

Nye added that it would be difficult to attribute rights to every single fertilized egg to ever pass through a woman.

"[I]f ... you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue?" he continued. "Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy who’s sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human? Have all these people failed you? ... so when it comes to women’s rights with respect to their reproduction, I think you should leave it to women."

The scientist went on to criticize politicians who base their reproductives policies off dogma, noting that it's incorrect to believe every instance of sexual intercourse results in pregnancy to begin with.

"You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance," he said. "I know it was written in your interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago, 50 centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby. That’s wrong and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature."

He is right that many fertilized eggs do not become fetuses and children after birth. Scientists say that more than half of fertilized eggs fail to develop, and up to 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some researchers estimate that miscarriage rates could be even higher at roughly 30 to 40 percent because women may miscarry before even realizing they're pregnant.

Nye wrapped up the clip by criticizing those who have shut down abortion clinics and pushed for abstinence only sex education, which has been shown to be ineffective in schools.


"Closing, not giving women access to birth control has not been an effective way to lead to healthier societies," he said. "I mean I think we all know that. And I understand that you have deeply held beliefs and it really is ultimately out of respect for people, in this case your perception of unborn people. I understand that. But I really encourage you to look at the facts."