Atheist professor Richard Dawkins has stirred up a firestorm on his Twitter account by suggesting that the only moral question behind abortion is whether a fetus can feel pain or not, by which logic he reasoned that they are "less human" than adult pigs.
"With respect to those meanings of 'human' that are relevant to the morality of abortion, any fetus is less human than an adult pig," Dawkins, who is an evolutionary biologist, posted on March 13.
In response to Tweets questioning his reasoning, the author of The God Delusion tried to explain that he wasn't arguing that pigs have human DNA, but that this point concerned solely the morality of abortion: "Of course potential to be human is among fetus' qualities. But my pig comparison was careful to specify 'relevant to morality of abortion.'"
The atheist professor continued by writing that "human features relevant to the morality of abortion include ability to feel pain, fear etc & to be mourned by others."
As to parents who mourn for their unborn children, Dawkins said that "anything can be mourned," and said that those who would feel sad about losing an unborn baby are free not to have an abortion.
"Of course potential to be human is among fetus' qualities. But my pig comparison was careful to specify 'relevant to morality of abortion,'" Dawkins insisted.
Dawkins then took a position that he admitted not all pro-choice people agree with, by suggesting that late-term fetuses feel pain, which should take precedence over a woman's right to decide what to do with her body.
"The most important moral question in abortion debate is 'Can it feel pain?' Late abortuses may, but you don't have to be human to feel pain," he wrote. "Unlike many pro-choice friends, I think fetal pain could outweigh woman's right to control her own body. But pig pain matters too."
Dawkins' posts attracted a lot of responses, many questioning the professor's logic. When one user tweeted "Sometimes I really can't understand your logic" the professor shot back – "Try harder."
Wesley J. Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism immediately tore into Dawkins' posts that claimed fetuses are less human than adult pigs. The lawyer wrote that the argument is "utter nonsense" even from a biological perspective, which is the atheist's field.
"Indeed, he'd fail high school biology," Smith said on LifeNews.
"The ability to 'feel pain' has nothing to do with 'being human,' biologically or morally. All mammals feel pain. And, of course, fetuses can be – and are – mourned by others, which again isn't an exclusively human trait," the lawyer continued, insisting that regardless of their stage of development, fetuses are "fully human" and should not be classified differently on a morality scale.