We have a DNA schedule, people!
What is that, you ask? Is it a new world changing startup promising to disrupt genetics? Is it an 'on-demand' service, like an Uber for genes? Nope!
It's what Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is touting as irrefutable scientific proof that life begins at conception. I have a PhD in neuroscience and have never heard the term 'DNA schedule' before. This appears to be a concept that Huckabee — who has a degree in religion — has invented.
On his website, Huckabee says: "Life begins at conception. This isn’t just a Biblical view — it’s affirmed by modern science and every unique human DNA schedule, which is present at conception."
And at Thursday night's Republican debate, Huckabee said this 'DNA schedule' is the reason we need to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
What??!? I gasped and my face scrunched up when that garbage came tumbling out of Huckabee's mouth.
The Internet, at least in my neck of the digital woods, reacted with the collective ridicule you might hope for:
Thank you, Twitter. This made me feel better.
There are people who believe life begins at conception. I respect that. What I don't respect is non-scientists twisting science to fit dangerous agendas — which has real public health consequences. The anti-vaccination movement is probably the best-known example.
This was not the first time Huckabee made a reference to this pseudoscientific concept:
It's true that there is a schedule of events that happens when a sperm cell penetrates an egg, and that schedule is guided by genes. And yes, the way those two cells end up giving rise to the many types of tissues in your body follows a biological schedule. But there is NOT some magical DNA schedule that allows scientists to pinpoint the exact time personhood begins.
Just in case Twitter and I missed the 'DNA schedule' discovery, I decided to ask someone with some genetics chops. His reaction was perfect.
"I have no idea what he’s talking about," said Duke University geneticist Misha Angrist, in an email. "but 'DNA schedule' has real potential as a name for a band, an app or maybe an erectile dysfunction drug."
UPDATE 10:49 p.m. PT: More input from Angrist via Twitter:
Daniela Hernandez is a senior writer at Fusion. She likes science, robots, pugs, and coffee.