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Inconsistancy in the “life begins at conception” argument

Wednesday, 25 June, 2008

The view that human life begins at conception is a favoured view of most of the pro-life camp. By it, they do not mean that the sperm and ova were not alive and only became so at conception, but rather that ‘human life’ – in the special sense of a person who deserves protection under the law – begins at conception. Unfortunately for them, this view is logically inconsistent with that pesky thing called reality. There is absolutely no sense in which life, whatever is meant by the term, could be said to commence during the process of conception.

Conception is a process, not a distinct point in time

The process of conception, also known as fertilisation, involves many chemical reactions and processes. It is not an instantaneous occurrence. Look at the diagram I made:

So somewhere along that set of chemical reactions, which finally result in two cells with a unique human genetic combination (the zygote immediately after the fusion of sperm has two pronuclei – one from the sperm and one from the ovum), are we to say that a single human life has started? If so, at what point does that happen?

The fact of the matter is that conception is no less of an arbitrary ‘line in the sand’ than any other point that one picks, such as the development of the brain, birth or development of self-awareness. But there is nothing wrong per se with something being arbitrary (after all, the time when people are old enough to vote is arbitrary), so we should now look at whether there is a good reason for not using conception as the start of a human being’s life.

Twins, chimeras and clones

The idea that a “human life begins at conception” also has problems with the existence of identical twins and tetrazygotic chimeras and the possibility human clones. Again, I have diagrams to explain these.

Consider the case of monozygotic twins, as explained by the above diagram. Here we have one fertilisation event, but two individuals result. Do those twins have to share the ‘human life’ they had from conception? Surely not, for we treat twins as separate persons. So, when did both lives start, if not at conception? During the twinning process? Or sometime after? And if lives start during the process of twinning, perhaps it is morally wrong not to twin an embryo, as it prevents the cells from realising their potential as multiple human beings.

Also consider the above diagram of the formation of a tetragametic (four gametes, two sperm + two eggs) chimera. Such an individual results when fraternal twins, derived from separate conceptions, merge very early in development to form a single individual with some cells with one genome and some cells with another (if the two zygotes were different, such as one female and one male or one dark-skinned and the other pale-skinned, this can be noticeable on the person). So, do chimeric people get twice as much human life, seeing as they resulted from two conceptions? Or was a life destroyed when the two embryos merged, despite not a single cell being destroyed? If the intentional formation of chimera is morally wrong, why isn’t the failure to twin an embryo?

Consider finally the case of a human clone (see diagram above), which hasn’t yet occurred but is surely possible. In this case, there is no conception event to be found (unless you go back to the one that created the somatic cell), but yet an individual results. Do clones not have any human life? Surely not, for they would be persons like you or I. So if life begins at conception, how can there be life without conception? Does life begin at conception OR nuclear transfer?

As can be seen, the idea of human life beginning at conception has some serious issues with the processes that can, and sometimes do, occur in human reproduction.

Potentiality

It is often claimed that conception should be the marker for a human life because it marks the formation of something that can grow into a thinking, feeling, reasoning human being. Apart from the fact that conception is not a distinct point, but a process, this potentiality argument has two key problems.

First, if a zygote should be protected because it can from a human being, why not also protect the sperm and eggs, for they can form a zygote which in turn can form a human being. And seeing as males can form billions of sperm but females only form thousands of ova, it follows that males are a million times more worthy of protection than females. But seeing as this conclusion is ludicrous, there must be something wrong with the potentiality argument.

The second, a major flaw, is that being potentially something isn’t the same as being something already. To see this, consider extrapolating the potential argument in the other direction: all human beings will die. And, seeing as a zygote will form a human being who will later form a corpse, it follows that we should treat both people and zygotes as if they were corpses. If we can give the right to life for an unborn baby, maybe we should give the right to a decent burial for a pre-dead corpse (i.e. a live baby). Not to mention that skin cells can replace sperm in forming a human being (see the cloning diagram above), so it follows that each skin cell destroyed is akin to destroying a human being. Unless, of course, having the potential to do something or be something isn’t equal to actually doing or being it.

Member of the human species

Perhaps it could be argued that an embryo should be protected because it is human. We don’t morally protect our own skin cells, despite the fact they are living human skin cells. So, what does the embryo have that skin cells don’t? If the answer is potential to develop into a human being, then this is just the potentiality argument again (and by cloning, perhaps a skin cell does have the potential to develop into a human being).

However, if the answer is that an embryo is a human being (and we accept that as truth, even though it is arguably false) then we need to then ask whether being a human being is enough to give the moral weight – the intrinsic value – conveyed by the term ‘human life’. Perhaps being a human being is only special because it usually correlates with having some other property, such as consciousness or self-awareness, that is special. In that case, then we should be using that other property to value the embryo instead of whether or not the embryo is a human being.

Consider whether it would be acceptable to kill a member of a non-human species that was capable of thinking human-like thoughts, was conscious and felt their lives were valuable, such as the intelligent aliens (think E.T. or Jar Jar Binks) or robots of science-fiction. If such a species (biological or not) is also worthy of protection, due to the fact they have certain psychological characteristics, then isn’t it safe to say that is those characteristics that are truly being valued here?

In addition, applying rights based on what group you belong to, rather than what you are able to do, seems a lot like bigotry or prejudice. History shows us many applications of rights based on being of a certain economic class, race, gender or religious group. Why should doing the same for being part of a species be any different?

Unique genetic combination

It is often said that because the zygote is a new human being because it has a unique human genome. This is a relatively weak argument, because a unique genome is not required to form a human being (e.g. identical twins, or clones, or human parthenotes) and unique genomes often do not form human beings (e.g. mutated genomes of cancers or the modified genome of induced pluripotent stem cells). Unless we are willing to admit that melanomas are actually human beings because they have a different genome, and that a woman who is pregnant with her clone (or identical twin) is not actually pregnant with a human being, then this argument should be abandoned.

Failure of an embryo to implant

The fact that only a fraction of zygotes go on to form a human being also hits hard the “life begins at conception” dogma. Firstly, the results of most conceptions are not viable embryos, and these abnormal embryos are usually passed out during a menstrual cycle. If such embryos are human beings, should we hold a funeral? Should we feel bad for not even realising they existed in the first place? Also, assisted reproductive technologies are much like natural reproduction in that far more embryos are conceived than result in pregnancy, and therefore shouldn’t IVF and sex be just as much of a problem as abortion? Or is the death of dozens of lives justified if it creates a life in the process (if that is the case, shouldn’t doctors and nurses be making babies instead of saving lives)?

Further, the oral contraceptive pill is known to make the uterine environment more hostile to any embryos that would implant there. The hormone progesterone released during breastfeeding acts in the same was as the oral contraceptive pill (in fact, progesterone analogues are the key ingredient of the pill), which is why breast-feeding is a ‘natural contraceptive’. Therefore, shouldn’t both the contraceptive pill and sex while breast-feeding be complained about just as much as abortion and embryonic stem cell research?

Conclusion

It is evident that the idea that life begins at conception is at odds with reality. Many human beings can result from a single conception, many conceptions can result in just one human being and theoretically human beings could develop without any conception event occurring at all. The idea that conception is a key point in the process of development is unfounded, as the potential to develop into a human being is not only possessed by sperm and eggs, but is completely logically fallacious in the first place. In addition, it doesn’t even appear that being a human being qualifies as having the intrinsic value required to convey moral status, as it is possible that non-human beings should have same intrinsic value attributed to ‘human life’. Neither can genetics rescue this argument, for a unique genetic composition is possessed by some non-human beings, and some human beings don’t have a unique genetic composition. Finally, the way most people act normally, and the way nature is, is very wasteful of zygotes, making the conclusions of this argument very difficult in practice.

It is not a scientific fact that human life begins at conception. The truth is that human life, in the sense of a person like you or I, emerges slowly from the genetic information and molecules that made up the sperm and eggs in your parents body, from the processes of controlled growth of the resulting embryo and foetus, using nutrients that nourished you in the womb. Science informs us that it is a continuous process. Those looking for a nice distinct point in time that can be used as the starting point of each person’s existence will be sorely disappointed if they look at the science. Philosophically, I’d argue that no intrinsic value of human beings exists, except for the value applied by a being to itself. Although this may be criticised for being overly restrictive (not attributing any intrinsic value to neonates), this criticism only works if we have a another significant reason to think neonates should have such value – I do not believe such a reason exists (see also the latter part of this post).

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124 comments

  1. [...] Amendment 48 in Colorado was rejected , which sought to define human life to begin at conception (which doesn’t make sense) [...]


    • I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the “if abortion is murder, is a miscarriage manslaughter” argument. It’s a much stronger argument than almost any of those you picked.


      • Non argument at all. Induced abortion is murder because it is pre-meditated and intended. Miscarriage is an accidental death of the embryo/fetus.


  2. your statement that life is a process is undeniably true. and like any processes it has a beginning. and likewise that process may take different paths, also undeniable. however i disagree that conception as the beginning of life is arbitray. at the moment when sperm and ovum are joined a unique life is created, needing only time and nurturance to develop, the same as any newborn, toddler or young child. granted changes may occur, either in dividing into twins, or even 2 zygotes combining into 1, but these actions are only events within the process. life in utero is fragile and subject to natural forces. a key to this understanding is that the process is natural, not forced in any way, hence the “potential” of skin cells is irrelevant.


  3. at the moment when sperm and ovum are joined a unique life is created

    Sperm and ova are living, and have unique genetic material. You pick any pair of a sperm cell and ovum, and they will be both living and unique. I don’t see why that is any less significant than after conception, when those two cells merge into a single cell.

    needing only time and nurturance to develop

    True, but it still hasn’t developed. So it’s not at the stage we need to recognise it as human life…yet.

    As I said in this blog post, each of us only needs time before we become a corpse. That’s no reason to treat me as if I’m dead, until I actually am.

    a key to this understanding is that the process is natural, not forced in any way, hence the “potential” of skin cells is irrelevant.

    I don’t understand why the process being natural or unnatural is at all relevant.


    • I agree completely. I often find myself thinking the same things when people tell me “life begins at conception”.


    • A sperm is only a haploid germ cell with half the chromosomes set belonging to a man where it came from. An ova is also a haploid germ cell with half the chromosomes set belonging to the woman where it came from.

      During conception, when those two cells merged into a single cell, the combination of the half set of chromosomes from the man and the other half set from the woman restored the chromosome number to 46, which is what a human being is. And the newly formed human being has its own unique sets of genetic materials that belongs solely to itself and no one else in this world unless twinning or more occurred.


    • Another thing, regarding your notion that “it still hasn’t developed”, it is pointless. A baby also hasn’t “developed” at the stage it is in. It still takes times for it to develop to become a toddler, a school age child, a teenager, etc until adulthood. Unless you are intending for the killing, there is no reason for not allowing it to grow and develop as nature intended it to be.

      As regards your “corpse” analogy, it is spurious. The newly procreated individual with its own unique DNA profile is already a human being. How is it no reason to treat it as a human being?


  4. This argument is clearly floundering in its writer’s incompetency. It flies around to different minor points and scientific diagrams that make no conclusive argument…
    You say life begins as a long process of development. The beginning of this process (conception) = LIFE (unique and human). I don’t care if this life is multi-celled, dividing, possibly a set of twins, or dies in menstrual cycles – it is still a human life developing into the physical form we recognize.
    I could spend pages deconstructing every facet of this reality you have created for yourself. If your interested please email me at tmagic610@Yahoo.com. Also, to anyone interested in sending arguments or hate mail to that email address I say this: It will affect me in no way and will be childish and pointless, thank you.


    • Did you mean the writer’s incompetence that you were trying to attack? If your writing and thinking matures you may realise that the longer the word or the pages and pages that you could write do not amount to any great meaning.


      • Seems to me that the original article was a good one. It is essentially what I’ve been arguing for decades.


  5. I’ll take you up on that offer of an email correspondence. I’m sure there are key points in my argument that I failed to make clear above, so this will help me find those.


  6. To form a constructive criticism of just your first point: you say there can be no distinct point where conception begins. On the contrary, there IS a distinct point, and there MUST be a distinct point logically speaking. Falling asleep is a process. Yet there is a distinct point in time where one passes from a state that must be defined as NOT asleep to the state that must be defined as ASLEEP. There is a distinct point in time where one falls asleep. The same must be said for conception. Reason demands that there must be a point in time where one passes from the state of not having life to the state of having life. Even if this happens in levels, there CANNOT exist a state other than NOT having life or HAVING life. Thus at some point a transition must be made between these two states. This is the distinct point which you claim cannot exist. I agree conception is a process, but the distinct point does exist nonetheless. The pro-life movement claims that this point where life begins is in conception. Even if you claim that it is later in the pregnancy (and thus embryos can in fact be used), you cannot deny that it exists. I am arguing not in favor of pro-life ideas, but in favor of reason. Your first argument is illogical. I mean that with all due respect.


    • Sure, a distinct point exists, but where that point is has to be defined. For that to happen, a definition of what constitutes a human has to be made. Until that happens….the argument of when life begins is meaningless.


  7. Reason demands that there must be a point in time where one passes from the state of not having life to the state of having life.

    Well, technically I would argue that sperm and ova are alive, so there is no state of non-life involved in this. But I didn’t elaborate this argument here, so I can see the confusion.

    Thus at some point a transition must be made between these two states.

    Not necessarily. What is the transition point between having a beard and not having a beard? Between being bald and not being bald? Even between being alive and being dead (viruses exist in this fuzzy area between live and dead). There is no distinct point – some things exist continuum.

    Your first argument is illogical.

    Maybe. True, the fact that no sharp line between the moral status of sperm/ova and a human being like myself doesn’t necessarily imply that the two states are identical. It would indeed be fallacious for me to argue as such.

    I didn’t mean to argue that at no point in development does moral significance appear, but I merely aimed to cast doubt on the idea that conception is that clear defining point (because it clearly isn’t).


  8. I also should have been more specific, because I agree that the sperm and ova are alive. However, the sperm and ova, either being taken ALONE, cannot result in human life. Consequently I do not consider either of them, taken alone, to be human life in any way. This might be at odds with an argument you made later. So i hold to the position that there must necessarily be a distinct point between a state of NON-HUMAN life and HUMAN life. Together, the sperm and ova can make a human life. Consequently I contend that at some point (where that point is is another debate) there must be a distinct point between non-human life (sperm or ova alone) and human life (baby).

    I continue to disagree with your statement. The processes you mention (going bald or growing a beard) can be described as processes, BUT at some point you pass from being DEFINED as not bald to being defined as bald. if you are speaking LITERALLY, you cannot describe someone as being neither bald nor not bald. the process of balding is what we call the process of our hair reaching its ultimate stage of baldness, whatever that may be. But again, there is a distinct point where it BEGINS that you may be defined as bald.

    You close by saying the following: I didn’t mean to argue that at no point in development does moral significance appear, but I merely aimed to cast doubt on the idea that conception is that clear defining point (because it clearly isn’t).

    This is a completely different subject, although one I am interested in discussing. My only point i wished to establish is that there is a distinct point where life begins. maybe it would be best that we agree to disagree on this point rather than endlessly argue without really accomplishing anything on either side


    • What you are really trying to say, then, is that life doesn’t begin at conception. It begins at the point when a sperm has fertilized an egg, or when the embreyo can reproduce, more accurately.

      I personally think life begins even before conception. My problem with this whole thing is at what stage can the baby be defined as human? I don’t think at all that a reproducing egg can be defined as human; certainly, it can be defined as alive. But, as numerous scientific studies have shown on fish, DNA can be injected into that whole mess and make it un-human by the time it is born.


      • My problem with this whole thing is at what stage can the baby be defined as human?

        It depends what you mean by human. Certainly a human cell, such as an ovum, is human. My thumb is also a human thumb. And I don’t think injecting the small amount of DNA that can currently be inserted with today’s technology would be enough to make a cell any less human.

        Not that I think it matters, because as I’ve argued, just being human doesn’t confer any special value.


    • Until the DNA of the genotype expresses the correct phenotype one cannot prove that the product of conception is human or alive. That simply means that the DNA of the product of conception cannot be “proved” to form a functional human life until the life is capable of birth and is in fact born. The DNA could still be flawed, and the life could die at a later stage or be incapable of reproduction. But birth is a reasonable point to claim life is human and it does exist.
      Prior to birth one cannot know if the essential phenotype for life has been successfully copied and produced. The product of conception cannot therefore be confirmed to be alive and human until it is born. http://www.scientificabortionlaws.com


      • Mr Crawford, Please explain to me the difference between the natural process of a developing embryo and the process of, say for instance, adolescence. Both, I would contend, are one continual course of the aging process. Life is the process of existence. The physical presence of being. To interrupt that process would be, in the case of human beings, and in our terminology, murder/killing. And I would also ask you Sir, if there is any question at all regarding such a profound and clearly legitimate concern, why would we not err on the side of humanity? You also assert that since (using your words) “the life could die at a later stage or be incapable of reproduction” that mere possibility negates the embryos humanity. I would contend, using that logic, that every person on the face of this earth should lose their humanity for we are all going to die, also as we age we lose the ability to reproduce many of the cells which also make us human, for instance hair follicles, and yes this is the “splitting hairs” argument we have been reduced to because of the ignorance propagated by political ideology. Isn’t it science that is the strongest proponent of natural selection, we shouldn’t intrude on natures laws? Well that being the case, miscarriage should assuage all your fears of whether or not someone that is not viable will enter into your world of the privileged “born”.


      • Kathy, the difference is obvious. The adolescent is born and alive and is human. What you think is an embryo may not in fact be an embryo and cannot be proved to be alive, human or to be capable of birth.
        You are right, we should err on the side of humanity. There are 1.8 born babies, children and adults dying each second. We should not assume that the zygote, embryo or fetus is a human life, we should instead save what we know are human lives, those that are already born. The pro life movement kills born life to save fetuses, we should stop that practice.

        http://www.scientificabortionlaws.com


      • “Life is the process of existence.”
        With that logic, rocks are living since they exist. Maybe we should stop killing them.

        Just because you say something is true doesn’t mean it magically is true.


  9. However, the sperm and ova, either being taken ALONE, cannot result in human life.

    In some animals, ova can develop into a full organism without needing fertilisation. Parthenogenesis, as this process is called, does not seem to occur in humans, but there is no theoretical reason why we cannot stimulate it artificially. So ova, at least, may have the potential to result in some being that will be agreed to be human life.

    Together, the sperm and ova can make a human life.

    So one sperm and one ovum = human life? Even before fertilisation has taken place? If so, I don’t believe I’ve heard that before (still makes more sense that fertilisation being the defining line).

    you cannot describe someone as being neither bald nor not bald

    Sure I can. An intermediate state such as ‘balding’ may exist, such that a person may not be bald yet, but also could not be described as being free from all signs of baldness. Some things do exist on a continuum.

    But if you are one of those people who say 10,000 grains of sand make a heap, and removing one grain of sand makes the remaining 9,999 grains no longer a heap, then I guess we are destined to argue (with me using fuzzy logic, and you using binary logic).


    • Aren’t you debating about human conception in the context of abortion? As you acknowledged that “Parthenogenesis, as this process is called, does not seem to occur in humans”, so why resort to the fallacy of boogeyman to make your case?

      It seems that some abortion proponents always have to resort to the contorted imagination of the outer limit to make their case when all else failed.


      • A logical ethical framework should not have any issues with the possibility of human parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis doesn’t occur naturally in humans, but it can be produced in the laboratory.


      • First show me the evidence that parthenogenesis in human has been produced in the laboratory. Then we’ll talk.

        Speaking about logic, a realistic logical ethical framework should be complete sterilization or total abstinence if a woman don’t want to be pregnant. If she want some in the future, too bad. You can’t kill and expected to be rewarded when you want it.


      • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17594198

        This article talks about a doctor who created a stem cell line using human parthenogenesis. It’s also from 2007, so its something that’s been possible for a while now.

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/08/03/hwang_parthenogenesis/

        This one talks about another doctor who did the same thing from the same year.


      • That’s not even true human parthenogenesis. True human parthenogenesis from unfertilized oocyte will only give rise to a haploid organism not a diploid human being. In order for the researcher to obtain a normal chromosome number of 46 he had to introduce another 23 chromosomes into the nucleus of the oocytes. This would be human cloning.

        Even so, now show me just one case of an unborn parthenogenetic baby in the world who was aborted in the abortion clinic. There is none.

        So, why can’t apologists for abortion cause make their case based on the reality of fact by nature instead of inventing twisted sci-fi fantasies of the outer limit that distort reality?


  10. For purposes of this argument, clearly it is of no concern what happens in other animals, unless you regard a different animal life as being equal to that of a human being, which I do not. AS for artificial stimulation of an ovum, if it would even be possible, then once the ovum is thus “stimulated”, I would regard it as equivalent to a zygote, i.e., an egg fertilized with a sperm.

    I hold that a zygote (sperm + egg) is the beginning of conception. I do not necessarily say that they are human life. Even in the quote of mine that you used, I said that they CAN MAKE a human life.

    This argument is a purely logical one. I continue to hold to my position as you hold to yours, and i don’t think we will get anywhere. Your statement about the sand heap is not the same argument as the process of balding or birth. Anyone who says that about the heap (9,999 is no longer a heap) is speaking totally illogically


  11. Looking back I think we are getting sidetracked from the main point of our discussion, i.e., whether or not there can be a distinct point of conception.
    My belief is that there is a distinct point, and that this point takes place when the sperm unites with the ovum to form a zygote. In the same way, aritifical conception would take place if an ovum was “stimulated” as your proposed above.
    In addition, in my mind I cannot conceive of the possibility of a process WITHOUT a distinct point of change between the two states, i.e., dead or alive or bald and not bald.
    My contention here is that to say that someone is “going bald” i.e., in an intermediate state,assumes that the person is losing his hair even further. Yet how would we notice that the person is “balding” if he is not already bald? I consider the term balding to actually mean a further progression of the baldness ALREADY ATTAINED. If I am not bald at all, why would I be described as balding? And if I am already balding, i must be already bald at least minimally in which case THE DISTINCT POINT OF HAVING ATTAINED BALDNESS HAS PASSED. If you wish to describe balding as the internal process of the hair, i.e., the process that we cannot see, it doesn’t change the fact that the distinct point would still take place IN THE VISUAL HAIR. At some point, the hair cannot be described as bald in any way. At a later point, the hair may be described as bald. In the necessary progression between these two points (in a potentially infinite reduction of the time it took to traverse between these two points) there is a distinct point in time that baldness took place.
    If you wouldn’t mind in your reply, try to tie this discussion back into the distinct point in conception issue so that our mind isnt totally on hair.

    Also I think I should explain I am taking an ethical philosophy class in college and am required to write on a topic similar to the one you presented in the pages above. My goal is not to convince you, nor be convinced myself, but rather to give myself food for thought so that I understand better, modify, and perhaps even reject my own ideas.


  12. this point takes place when the sperm unites with the ovum to form a zygote

    At what stage during fertilisation do you believe such a union occurs? When the sperm binds to the recognition molecules on the surface of the ovum? When the zona pellucida is breached? When sperm enters the ovum? When the ovum undergoes the second, and final, meiotic division? Or after the first mitotic division, when there are now cells containing both the maternal and paternal DNA withing a single nucleus?

    Just wondering where during conception you draw the line…


    • Does it matter the precise nanosecond of when that magical molecular event occur as long as the haploid sperm and egg fused together to form a diploid organism in which a human being exists as such according to the law of nature?

      Of course it doesn’t matter when one has no intention of bloodshed. You wonder to draw the line because you’re making a case to kill and destroy a life begotten by the procreative activity of a man and a woman.

      A sperm or an unfertilized egg by itself is just a reproductive component of human body. It is a haploid germ cell, meaning it only contained half the set of the human chromosome number, which is 46. No human being can exist as haploid cells in their body except in the gonads.

      Yes, skin cells are also diploid cells. But, they they are a part of the whole which they derived from. A zygote (the so-called “fertilized egg) is a whole onto itself in which future skin cells, brain cells, muscle cells will come from. Therefore, unlike the skin cells, a zygote is not a part of a whole.

      For instance, in the crime lab the DNA of the skin cells can be traced to the body. Likewise, the DNA of a zygote or fetus, can be traced only to itself and not anybody else, including the mother.

      It’s not like abortion is simply removing a few skin cells from a fetal body and let live. Therefore, the “skin cells is also a human life” argument is tiresome and silly.


      • The fusion of the sperm and egg is not validation that a human life is alive or even if it contains enough human DNA to live. In fact thefused DNA is most often not comprised of enough human DNA to live as a human. Therefore all arguments that there is “life at conception” are simply conjecture. Life cannot be proved to be human until a living human is produced and the point at which that occurs is birth. (or sometime thereafter)


      • Your argument is so spurious and absurd that it only demonstrate your complete ignorant of basic embryology.

        I don’t know what you meant by “fused DNA” but when the haploid spermatozoon and the haploid oocyte unite to give rise to a zygote the chromosome number is restored from 23 in each gamete to 46 in the newly formed organism. The newly formed organism being now possessing 46 human chromosomes from two human parents is therefore a newly formed human being at conception. That’s the law of nature of procreation.

        However, genetic disorder, error in cell division and disease state leading to chromosomal sydromes such as Klinefelter (47 chromosomes, XXY) and Turner syndrome (45 chromosomes, X) do occur. Those that departs significantly from 46 will not survive. That does not mean that they aren’t human beings when conceived. It simply means they acquired certain genetic abnormality or unable to survive a severe disease condition.

        Born children and adults with severe genetic disorders sometimes succumbed to their progressive disease state. That doesn’t mean it proves born children and adults are non-human being just because some died in their disease state.


      • “Your argument is so spurious and absurd that it only demonstrate your complete ignorant of basic embryology.”

        I am sorry if you don’t understand, I will do my best to help you follow what I am saying.

        “I don’t know what you meant by “fused DNA” but when the haploid spermatozoon and the haploid oocyte unite to give rise to a zygote the chromosome number is restored from 23 in each gamete to 46 in the newly formed organism.”

        The 23 chromosomes are DNA and protein http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/chromosome . In order to “unite” the DNA must fuse. But the fact that the DNA does in fact fuse does not prove that it fused correctly or that it will “express” correctly.
        Until the DNA of the genotype expresses the correct phenotype one cannot tell if the product of conception is alive or human. The DNA of the chromosome must produce the correct RNA that must in turn express the correct proteins and other phenotypes in order to tell if the correct human phenotype has been built. The DNA and Chromosome number can be correct, but it may not produce the correct human form because it may not “express” correctly. For example the DNA must express the entire human body that will function at birth. The fetal heart, respiration, digestion and brain all function differently than the corresponding structures of a born baby. Those must change and they must be produced in timed stages that cannot be tested until birth. If the fetal heart does not function correctly, then the fetus will die, the same with the other organs. For that reason the correct phenotype cannot be determined until birth. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002395.htm

        Expression of DNA is a very complicated process and relies on replication of the DNA. See the link and you will understand the complexity. http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/dna/animations.html
        As you can see there is ample chance for error in the expression of the DNA. The important point is that the timing of the expression is critical. For example if the order of expression is out of time then there can be no life. If the DNA expresses a phenotype out of order then the entire fetus will be defective.

        The fact is that expression can be so flawed that all that is produced is a “blob” of tissue. In such cases the DNA could be correct but the expression could be so flawed that the fetus could not be determined to be of a human form or could be missing vital body structures.

        “ The newly formed organism being now possessing 46 human chromosomes from two human parents is therefore a newly formed human being at conception.”

        There is no proof that the DNA has fused correctly and there is no proof that the DNA, if it does fuse correctly, will express correctly. And it is impossible to tell if the DNA will produce the correct phenotype until birth.

        “ That’s the law of nature of procreation.”

        That is a view that is valid in the case where the outcome has already been confirmed. Most of the DNA that unites does not produce a human life.


      • Yes, DNA is packaged with protein and even RNA. That wasn’t the issue. What I took issue with is your notion that “DNA has fused”.

        Sperm and egg fused but DNA doesn’t fuse.

        What you were trying to say, if I understood correctly, is a process called chromosomal recombination. In chromosomal recombination the homologous chromosomes paired with each other at the equatorial region during prophase I of meiosis. During which time there is a genetic exchange of chromosomal segments between the homologous pairs known as chromosomal cross-over. This recombination reshuffling of homologous chromosomes is what makes us genetically unique from our own biological parents, siblings and ancestors.

        If there is some serious errors occurred during the recombination process the cell may undergoes apoptosis (cell death) or it may lead to cancer. This is what life is in all mortal organisms. Just because a specie of animal, or human being for that matter, dies due to some cancers, heart malformation or disease doesn’t prove that the biological existence of animal specie is somehow negated.All it proved is that living things die one way or another due to genetic error, disease or accidents. Therefore, your argument is just spurious.


  13. God created us before we were even conceived
    We were all created for a purpose and a specific plan that no one else can complete but us.
    Aborting a child is putting an unnecessary end to an unfulfilled plan.
    Which is wrong. It is not our decision to take life, we need to leave that up to God.

    Im guessing your not a Christian not because of your lack of moral, but i dont care.

    KILLING IS WRONG
    period.

    just because they arent out of the womb yet, doesnt make killing the child any more justifiable.


    • The Bible says otherwise April. Life, according to the Bible, begins at birth, not conception.

      http://www.libchrist.com/other/abortion/overview.html


      • You are twisting the words of God for your brand of perverted justice to suit your whims. Nothing in the webpage you linked makes any sense.

        We slaughter pig and eat ham. We don’t eat human being, so what kind of logic are you trying to pull? What an absurd comparison.

        And about God breathing through the nostril of Adam to make him alive, that doesn’t mean that God is reenacting genesis with every human reproduction by forming a fully formed human from dust in the womb.

        If a newly conceived prenatal human life in the womb is not alive and breathing, tell me, how does it grow and develop? A dead or non-living thing isn’t going to come alive and growing.

        Instead, it just shows how you and the website are so foolish and completely ignorant of the most basic biological fact.

        The prenatal life is breathing and being nourished by the mother through the placenta. Hence, from Adam, who is the only one who got God’s breadth directly from God, the rest of us got ours through Adam passing down to us via our foreparents.

        With such humongous blunder in logic, how can any true children of God believe the rest of your message is from God? Absolutely not, because God is truthful, logical and far more intelligent to impart such absurdity in logic.

        Didn’t God say, beware of false prophet. Put their message to the test and you will know whether it’s from God or from the devil. Obviously, yours is not!


      • With 50 millions of innocent human bloods being shed since Roe v Wade, you still want more through twisting God’s words to corrupt God’s children?

        Repent, otherwise you will one day have to face the Almighty God for the wanton bloodsheds through your cause.


      • I really don’t care what a book of fairy tales says. I most certainly resent it though when people try to impose those fairy tales on me as fact.


      • Abortion cause has been utterly defeated in every angle, including science and logic. The Bible is just one angle when it is being brought up and distorted for discussion, that’s all.


  14. God created us before we were even conceived

    Wouldn’t that mean that if we choose not to conceive a child, we are also ‘putting an unnecessary end to an unfulfilled plan’? Any choice not to have sex, or to use contraception, would be akin to abortion?

    Except, that God knows our future, and knows what we will choose, so won’t create a person if the conception won’t happen. But why create a person if God knows that person will be aborted shortly after?


    • It’s called free will.


  15. No
    God isnt stupid, hes not going to make a child for you if hes knows your not going to have sex. What a silly question.

    ‘But why create a person if God knows that person will be aborted shortly after?’

    I honestly don’t know. Sorry, but im not God. Im a 13 year old girl who thinks that taking the life of defenseless babies is wrong.

    Pro-choice- Do you think those babies had a choice on whether or not to end their lives? Do you thinks those babies would have chosen to have their head punctured and their brain vacuumed out while their 3-4 inches from life? Do you think those babies chose to have a highly toxic saline burn them alive? Do you think those babies chose to have their arms and legs ripped off while they are still in their mother’s womb?


    • I don’t think they have the capacity to make a choice. Generally, we don’t even ask babies what kind of food they want. We just deal it out. Also, agruing about what God wanted is all fine and dandy if you believe in him.

      Your entire argument is based on the existence and reality of a God. If that were ever to be practiced, then there would no longer be a seperation of the Church and State. By which I mean, your logic is unfounded.


    • I award you 0 points. Good day, sir.


    • The error here is that abortion in fact saves life. The idea that there have been 55 million dead babies from abortion is a fantasy. The fact is that after the common use of the pill in 1960 until Roe v Wade there was a drop of 6 million births and after Roe there was an increase in births of 25 million. So the truth is that pro life ideas lead to the loss of 6 million babies and pro choice ideas lead to an increase of 25 million babies. The 55 million number used by pro lifers relates to the number of abortions, not net babies. The net baby analysis shows that if the pro lifers had continued to hold power there would have been a decrease in babies and that is all that really matters. Whyxx, because the 55 million number is a farce, the actual number of abortions is over 550 million when natural abortions are included. Abortion is a natural process that ends in the saving of life not the loss of life.


      • Why exactly do you think that hormonal contraception is a pro-life idea? You are sadly mistaken, my friend.


      • I don’t think contraception of any type is a pro life idea. Contraception is opposed by some factions of the pro life movement. I am confused as to what would make you think I believe that contraception is a pro life idea.


    • Newborn babies also don’t have the capacity to make a choice. Likewise, we don’t even ask babies what kind of food they want. We just deal it out. So, by your logic killing born babies should be a right?


  16. Do you think those babies had a choice on whether or not to end their lives?

    Of course they didn’t. But it’s not like they chose to live and we went against that choice. They just can’t choose at all, so why ask what they would choose?

    Are you a vegetarian? It’s not like fish choose to be caught and chickens choose to be slaughtered. And we don’t ask plants for their opinion on being turned into salad either. Why? Because plants don’t have the ability to choose. Fish and livestock can’t choose either.

    And neither can a human embryo make that decision. But the mother can, so it’s her choice that matters.


    • And neither can a human embryo make that decision. But the mother can, so it’s her choice that matters.

      Interesting point of view you have here. But may I ask you about your comment above. Do you think that 1 days old baby can chose to live or not ? and can the mother (or father) decides for her whether she is going to live or not ?


      • But may I ask you about your comment above. Do you think that 1 days old baby can chose to live or not ? and can the mother (or father) decides for her whether she is going to live or not ?

        To answer the first question, no. So for the second question, I answer yes.


    • -And neither can a human embryo make that decision. But the -mother can, so it’s her choice that matters.

      So we wait until the new human life can make that decision. Can you always make a decision when your are in full deep sleep? Doesn’t mean someone has the right to pull the plug on you.


    • Vegetables and animals that we eat are foods for consumption. Human beings are not foods for another human beings.


  17. I agree with you on pretty much everything you’ve said in this post, and consider myself a sort of fan of this blog(not to put pressure on you or tell you what to do or anything, but it’d be cool if you posted more often, I for one would totally appreciate it), but I still have a question:

    First, when does consciousness develop in humans? The only insight into it that I can think of is Gordon Gallup’s mirror test, which humans are supposed to pass at around 18 months(I read that in the Wikipedia article and the source was a book that I haven’t ordered yet, so take it for what it’s worth), but that’s not much to go on(though obviously better than a book written by middle eastern herdsmen upwards of a thousand years ago, or an instinctive emotional response to the image of a fetus). So the questions regarding that are: Do you know of any other research in regards to the development of consciousness in humans? and when do you think a child should be afforded protection: 18 months, sooner(to lower the risk of killing an early developing child that had the ability to value it’s life), later(because self recognition is only a precursor to true consciousness), a different age based on research I don’t know about?

    And I apologise for my bad writing, I’m told I write a lot of run on sentences, sorry if it bothers you.


    • it’d be cool if you posted more often, I for one would totally appreciate it

      I wish I could too, but finding the time is a problem. I have many half-completed blog entries, so perhaps this holiday period I shall complete some of those and post them.

      First, when does consciousness develop in humans?

      That’s a very difficult question, because we don’t really know what consciousness is. It’s hard to search for the origin of something so hard to define.

      Do you know of any other research in regards to the development of consciousness in humans?

      Not off the top of my head. The consciousness problem is basically unreachable in neuroscience, so not much serious research can be done in that field.

      And when do you think a child should be afforded protection?

      Well, a child should be protected if the parents value the child, but I don’t think the child has any intrinsic value (i.e. valuable for its own sake) until the child is at the very least, self-aware. And I don’t think self-awareness is present in a newborn child, but seems to be present in an 18-month old child. I can’t really find any good line to draw between those two days. For policy reasons, perhaps some extra safe age, say 1-2 months of age, should be used (I don’t really see much of a reason for infanticide to be practiced beyond a few weeks after birth).


      • Suffix to say, your way of thinking and reasoning is fatally dangerous to the very young and those who are cognitively impaired.


      • WOW. SICK SICK SICK


  18. [...] [...]


  19. I considered writing out a long drawn out response to this… but then I realized that literally 90% of the conclusions in this article are drawn from ludicrous logic. This is one of the weakest pro-choice defenses that I’ve ever seen. There are many MUCH more logical defenses for the pro-choice position to take, but literally every conclusion in this article is total nonsense.


    • This isn’t pro-choice. I didn’t mention choice, or defend choice in any way. This is just against some of the arguments used by the anti-abortion groups.


      • I agree this isn’t pro-choice since you didn’t mention choice. But, you did mention anti-abortion. Therefore, one must conclude that you are pro-abortion.


  20. Your argument could be used to support peadophilla.

    “The process of a child becoming and adult involves many chemical reactions and processes. It is not an instantaneous occurrence.

    So somewhere along that set of chemical reactions, which finally result in an adult, at what point does that happen? 16, 16 and 1 day, 18, 15 and 300 days?

    The fact of the matter is that 16 is no less of an arbitrary ‘line in the sand’ than any other point that one picks, such as being 10, or 2 or 45. But there is nothing wrong per se with something being arbitrary.

    Obviously this is a silly argument, it does not become good when you apply it to the embryo.


  21. [...] [...]


  22. Now, regarding the lengthy article you posted above, I will make some brief mentions since I don’t have the time and besides, it ain’t nothing new. Most of those points you brought up I had already debated and covered at length during the course of my abortion debate elsewhere in other forums.

    The ability of early stage embryo to twin doesn’t negate the fact that human life begins at conception. When we say that in simplistic term we are stating the common occurrence of the least factor, i.e. in most cases it is one. Also, the fact that twinning does occur doesn’t prove your contention that human life doesn’t occur at conception.

    Cloning is akin to twinning except that in cloning the process is man-made and at distant time apart. Does the cloning of the Dolly the sheep negate the fact that the cloned twin of Dolly is not a sheep? Of course not, so why then should the ability to twin or clone negate the fact that human life exists at conception?

    Furthermore, in cloning a somatic cell of your body, such as your favorite skin cell, the whole cell is not used; only the DNA of the nucleus. Therefore, it’s not the skin cell anymore that’s being used but the naked genetic materials. Furthermore, this retrieved genetic material has to be injected into the nucleus of a fertilized egg in which the genetic material of the egg nucleus is completely removed. So, we are back to the stage of conception even for cloning. In any event, cloning is an artificial event that is far removed from the issue of abortion in which at issue is a natural event of conception and its embryogenic development that was in contention. Like I said before, proponents for abortion rights always seem unable to argue on the ground and merit of normal biological processes, and have to always resort to twisted contortion of nature and man-made events.

    In chimera, one fraternal twin died prematurely in uterus and the remaining cells were grafted into the surviving twin. That’s how the surviving twin resulted with two different DNA profiles akin to siblings. So, how does that prove your point that human life didn’t begin at conception?

    Your “Failure of an embryo to implant” argument is simply absurd. The fact that only a fraction of zygotes go on to form a human being doesn’t prove that human being didn’t begin at conception. There are many infants born that didn’t make it to the first year in life. Does that prove that infants aren’t human beings when they were born and living during those periods? What does holding a funeral determine whether one is a human being or not? There are many people slaughtered in the ME, Africa and other war torn islamic countries that didn’t have remains for a hole in the ground let alone funerals, are you saying they weren’t human beings by your standard?

    Lastly, at conception the newly procreated individual/individuals is/are fully a human being/human beings (see why it’s better to be simplistic?). They aren’t potentials!


    • In the case of chimera, which twin died? How do you work that out?


      • Obviously, the one that is living is not the one dead. Have you met a chimera human who acts like two different persons day in and day out at the same time?

        So, not knowing which one lives and which one died, how does that proof your point that procreated human life didn’t begin at conception?


      • But which is dead? No cell of the embryos have died, so which embryo died? The one that formed the brain lived?

        By talking about how people act, you’re just proving the point that a person is defined by how they think and act, not by how they were conceived.


      • I covered the whole spectrum: the knowing and the unknowing, The knowing part where people can discern is the talking about how people act so that people like you can understand. The unknowing part refers to the unborns or new borns who can’t express themselves was used to render your argument moot.

        Human chimera is akin to people who receive organ transplantation. The hosts have two entirely different sets of DNA in their bodies. So, tell me, no cell of the donated organ or the host body has died, can you tell who died if I show you two pictures without revealing who is the receipient and who is the donor?

        Not knowing, does that argument prove that they aren’t human beings?

        Also, you have not answered my previous question: how does that proof your point that procreated human life didn’t begin at conception?


      • The one with the brain is the recipient. If you transplanted a brain into another body, the body would be the donor and the brain the recipient.

        This is why a fertilised embryo can’t be considered a person. It doesn’t have a brain.


      • Human being doesn’t come into existence fully formed with all the parts and components intact, including brain. A brain is just an organ with incredible cognitive power. Biologically speaking, that’s not what makes you a human being. Human DNA is.


  23. Defeated in your distortion in biology and now you want to evade into arguing about “person”? If you could destroy Microsoft or Google, Inc, would you be charged with murder? Of course not, that’s as much nonsense as your personhood theology.

    I’d debated on this absurdity of yours ad nauseam for years and this aburd undead zombie keeps popping its ugly head at every turn.Let me just use my canned speech:

    The term “person”, in legal field, is simply defined as 1) a human being, 2) a corporation.

    a human being = a person

    Talk about without a brain, do you consider a baby born with half the brain missing to be only half a person?

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article229585.ece

    Quote: “CHASE SMITH is your typical, cute toddler. She loves to play with her friends at nursery, snuggle up with her mummy and cuddle her teddy.

    Yet the two-year-old is different from her playmates in one incredible way ? she was born with half her brain missing.”

    So, according to your absurd logic, the beautiful 2 year old toddler is only half a person? Does that mean you can dismembered and abort half her body with impunity? See how absurd your argument is!

    To expect an embryo to instantly form a brain is just as absurd. Did you have a brain when you were an embryo? Of course not. So, what’s your point on brain when you have one now but can’t even think?

    You are reading too much fairy tales. It’s time to grow up. Jack and his giant bean stalk that grew overnight into heaven isn’t reality. So, get real.


    • The DNA of the genotype must create the correct RNA and that RNA must create the correct (proteins, acids, etc.) phenotype for there to be a human life. The correct phenotype cannot be determined to exist until birth. Therefore the only time that one can determine that there is human life is after the phenotype is tested with birth. If it is born it is likely a human and has enough human DNA to live as a human. However in some extremely rare cases it is possible that a non human life could develop that are not determined to be fully human until a later stage. For example, humans reproduce, and if the life cannot reproduce because of genetic flaws that make it impossible to breed with other humans, then the life is not fully human.

      http://www.scientificabortionlaws.com

      http://www.facebook.com/naturalabortionlaws


      • “For example, humans reproduce, and if the life cannot reproduce because of genetic flaws that make it impossible to breed with other humans, then the life is not fully human.”
        Perhaps you’d like to rephrase that, laddie. From your above statement, one might say that infertile adults are not fully human. This opens up a huge can of worms. If a person has an auto-immune disease that prevents reproduction, does that mean the person is not a human?


  24. If only there were “experts” that could help shed some light on this subject and refute your horribly biased and painfully inept opinion. Oh wait! There are. “Langman’s Medical Embryology” textbook used by Harvard Medical school states life begins at conception. “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology” used by the Yale School of Medicine states that life begins at conception. But hey, Yale and Harvard, the bastions of religious conservationism they are, probably use those text books in their medical schools to push their misogynistic, choice hating point of view.


    • The medical books you refer to are taking a point of view reflecting on what has occurred in a particular conception, not on what is existing at the moment of conception. The fact is that every medical expert knows that around 70 percent of conceptions die in the first trimester and of those that die 60 percent do not have enough human DNA to live as a human. So you are taking what is said out of context.


      • That has nothing to do with anything. We all know natural spontaneous abortions happen.

        A particular conception vs the moment of conception. What?
        Your entire reply makes no sense.


    • The point in the human embryology medical text about an individual human life begins at conception is very straightforward. You are the one who distorts it out of context for your abortion cause.

      Born babies, children and adult human beings die all the time due to genetic problems or other diseases. That doesn’t make them any less of a human being.

      So, your argument is silly.


      • My above post was directed at Russel. The forum format in this bog is so confusing.


  25. Oh wait!! Some more!!

    “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being—a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.” (Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981, 7.)


  26. its funny that we all argue about what got us here… shows how much time we have on our hands


    • We are dealing with the human lives of the unborn human beings in the womb and not some abstraction of human ideology.


  27. Don’t really know why I’m bothering to comment on an argument that is so flawed, but anyway. . .
    Let’s compare your explanation to the story of Marcie, who was involved in a car crash.
    Can we draw a line to define the moment that Marcie caused the the car crash?
    Was the car crash bound to happen the moment a tired Marcie got behind the steering wheel?
    Or was the defining moment when Marcie decided to take the longer route to avoid the road works?
    Or, was the defining moment Marcie’s failure to notice the stop sign?
    You see, your argument about when conception begins is much like the story of Marcie’s crash. Things did happen before the crash, but there was only one moment among all the things that happened that, if it did not occur, there would be no crash.
    Marcie may have been tired, but she could have reached her destination.
    Marcie could have made it safely home via the longer route.
    But Marcie could not have avoided the vehicles going through the intersection that she plowed through.
    Therefore, the car crash was caused by her failure to stop.
    The car crash began the moment she failed to stop.
    Similarly, life begins the moment sperm and egg come together. If sperm and egg come together, there is no life. There is no other way life can begin than for sperm and egg to come together.
    Therefore, life begins when sperm and egg come together.
    If you don’t understand this, you are retarded.


    • The problem with your argument is that the zygote is not a car and the sperm and egg are life at an earlier stage. The egg and sperm are the same DNA and thus the same life at any point before conception. Not only that, the DNA at conception may not produce a human. Of the options available at conception, the odds are 42 percent that the zygote will not have enough human DNA to live as a human.


      • Different DNA from mom and different DNA from dad. Also don’t forget about the Chromosomes… 23 from him and 23 from her make 46.. the total needed for a human being.

        Please explain how human DNA could produce anything but a human. If you mean that there may be spontaneous abortion… can be the result of thousands of abnormalities or circumstances… of the human zygote, then its still human even though it did not survive.


      • Mary, what would you call the hydatidiform mole that my mother’s body spontaneously aborted at six months? It had teeth and hair, a mixture of their DNA, and it was a living thing, but was it a “human” life? It had DNA. It had the biological and genealogical “stuff” necessary to form a human at conception. Therefore, that “thing” must have been a life from the cherry-picked statements you have provided here. Just trying to clarify your stance.


      • LG,hydatidiform mole is clearly an abnormal cell due to genetic error that results in a disease state. In complete hm it usually leads to malignant tumor. Other forms have more than the usual normal 46 chromosomes, e.g. 69 or 92. Human beings normally have 46 give or take one or two.

        As in born human being, malignant cancer can erode your bones, cartilage and other normal tissue causing abnormal growth of cancerous tissues that disfigure the body. That doesn’t mean that you are less of a human being when your body is grotesquely eroded by uncontrolled cancerous mass.

        So, having hydatidiform mole doesn’t prove that other genetically normal and healthy developing unborn life in human womb is not a human being.

        To put things into perspective, vast majority of abortions performed in abortion clinics are on genetically normal and healthy developing unborn babies. Why can’t you people deal squarely on reality?

        As always, abortion proponents can’t deal squarely with fact so they have to invent extreme false argument, false analogy and/or false dilemma at just about every turn.


    • A sperm or an unfertilized egg is haploid, meaning it contains only half of the two human chromosome set. A human being is a diploid organism with two sets of homologous human chromosomes. This is what an unborn is starting from conception.

      Therefore, sperms and unfertilized eggs are not the same as a diploid human life at conception.

      If a zygotic cell has not enough DNA and dies it is simply a result of genetic error. It doesn’t prove that the rest of the normally inherited and developed unborn human offsprings who are systematically aborted in abortion clinics are any less of a human being.


  28. It is self evident why new life begins at conception.
    It takes the fusion of the egg and sperm to make a zygote.
    Skin or even gamete cells will only die when their life cycle ends if left alone.


    • It is most certainly not self evident that life begins at conception. So far as we are ware life began about 550+ million years ago. Since that time life has been a seamless process that simply transforms from one form to another.


      • Conception requires the union of gametes from the woman and the man. So, what’s your point here, Russell?

        A sperm is haploid therefore it’s not a baby. Why do you keep bringing up a fallacious point that is clearly proven wrong?

        It gets very tiresome.


    • The fact is that the zygote, embryo and fetus cannot produce a human life without the woman. So the fact that the egg and sperm need each other to create the zygote is similar to the fact that the zygote must have the woman the make the baby. If a zygote is a baby, then a sperm is likewise a baby. If a sperm is a baby, then a cell in meiosis is a baby. —– And the same logic follows back to the first life billions of years ago.


    • We are talking about human reproduction of a human offspring and not human evolution. So, please stay on topic.


  29. If life begins at conception, every pregnant woman ought to be able to claim her unborn child as a dependent. If there are multiples in the womb, she should be able to claim each one as a dependent. Until the government changes the laws to reflect this, the government has no business making laws about conception as life.


  30. This kind of reductionism just parses us away from our human dignity. If you want consistency, look at the Catholic teaching on this. A virgin male and virgin female get married. They have lived chastely. Their sperm and ova have been protected, with allowance made for natural cycles. When they get married, they consummate the marriage, and the result, at least potentially, is the conception of a child. That child develops and emerges from the womb. This entire process is how human beings share in God’s creation. If it is the will of God for there to be twins, then there are two children. The husband and wife care for their children and work to provide for them. This is beautiful.

    Will there be exceptions, based on genetic faults or accidents, yes. We live in a physical reality, and physical reality does not run perfectly 100% of the time.

    Perversions of this natural process of sexuality serve to do nothing but enslave people to desire, whether their own or someone else’s. Nice mental exercise, though.


    • What’s so beautiful about it? It’s just biology. As for the whole god thing I’ll consider it when someone provides repeatable empirical evidence for the supernatural. Until such a time I consider it to simply be the creation of stone aged imaginations.


    • The odds are that God will not give them a baby first, it will give them a natural abortion 7 out of 10 times. So the implication is that even virgins consent to abortion by God’s laws. God makes it clear that any consent to sex is consent to abortion. Even for Catholic virgins.


  31. In the fog of war concerning abortion I shall regard you as a chief fogmaker.


  32. [...] power of articulate… Murder– The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another Inconsistancy in the “life begins at conception” argument Human Enhancement and Biopolit… ^^ this is a very good read. I have some videos You laughed at me for stating i was a [...]


  33. 1. Corpses do not have the potential of human life that zygotes have.

    2. Isn’t the greater possibility of life in a zygote as compared to a sperm or ovum significant?


  34. Joshua– if life exists in a continuum, then so must death, by your logic…if life is a process, then logically, I would imagine you contend death is also a process, with no finite point at which one can call a person “dead”…for surely it can’t be when the heart beats its final beat, for other organs are still shutting down…and surely it can’t be when organs begin to decay, because the process can take months, maybe longer depending on chemicals that preserve the body, or a coffin that slows the decaying process… are some people more “dead” than others because they are further along in the decaying process? is someone dead when their body is cremated, but continues to exist as ash? one could conclude that if life has no beginning, then death has no end…and you’ve perhaps made a case (accidentally?) for eternal life. ;) i digress. what critera would you use to define human life? human death? is a zygote less alive than a 2 week old fetus? is a two week old fetus less alive than a 24 week old fetus? is a 24 week old fetus less alive than a 24 year old man? i’m curious to know how, scientifically, you explain what human life actually IS.


    • Human life occurs when the DNA of the genotype expresses the correct phenotype. That cannot occur until all the lengthy process of replication builds the correct phenotype and the mind activates the necessary processes that must occur at birth. Until birth there is no way to prove that the baby will be alive and human at birth.


    • Wrong, Russell.

      Human life of a newly procreated human being occurs at the moment of conception. Everything about that unique individual is already contained in his inherited DNA. It only needs time and nourishment for it to grow and develop in the womb.


  35. Actually, death IS a process. Look it up. However, death takes far less time than life to meet its completion.


  36. [...] [...]


  37. I want my CLONE……..
    Would be fun to see myself


    • It would be just like seeing your Johnny-come-lately identical twin. That’s all.


  38. Life of a human being begins at a point when he/she has an INTRINSIC capacity to develop as a human being. Just like any human who still develops his potentials, the zygote develops given the right environment and nutrition he needs. Humans don’t begin as sperms or ova. We begin at a point when the conceptus possesses all the mechanisms necessary for that development (natural conception, or artificially when the clone already has the complete genome + materials needed).

    Twinning is not an inconsistency. Consider a multicellular embryo. By our definition, he is a single human within the continuum of development and he is made up of several cells. If the embryo divides in twinning, his cell parts separate to become another living being with an intrinsic capacity to develop. Hence, we may say that at first, the first twin was developing and as his parts separate, the other portions contribute to become a new person. Having one’s parts contribute as parts of another person is not unusual. That’s what happens in blood transfusion, organ transplants, or even during reproduction (sperms are human parts of the father donated to the ovum, to become a part of the zygote).


    • Take note that skin cells doesn’t have an intrinsic capacity to become a human being. If theoretically cloned, they are merely being used as materials to make another person. If he cloner composes all the materials needed into something that has an intrinsic capacity to develop as a human being (that is, as a human being who is in a continuum of development), only then has a new human being begun.


  39. Chimeras are not an inconsistency. By our definition, the two fraternal zygotes are separate human beings. But if they fuse such that only the chimera continue to live, it is apparent that one of the two no longer becomes a human being (dies) and instead contributes his body parts (cells) to his twin. This is somewhat similar to a scenario when a twin brother donates his vital organs to his twin.

    Finally, “NOT artificially twinning” is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Choosing not to cause life is different from ending an existent life. If not attempting to cause life is immoral, then couples should be procreating as much as they can, which is absurd. You could see though in our framework that artificially producing chimeras is like killing a person.

    On the other hand, NATURAL twinning or chimerization is not a moral issue since no moral agent (human) artificially intervened to cause or kill an innocent human life. Its the same as a man who is naturally struck by lightning without anyone intending him to die. Spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, and any unintended/non-artificial cause of failure to implant are likewise no moral issues by the same token. In contrast, induced abortions are intended and artificially produced – it is comparable to murder.


  40. Protection of humans from the moment of conception has its foundation on the intrinsic value and dignity of the LIFE OF A HUMAN BEING. This is the foundation of our proscription of the murder of innocent persons, regardless of the human potentials they have been able to develop or exercise. Thus, we don’t just kill a child who’s not yet matured, or a person in a coma who cannot exercise his full mental capacities.

    If human life is intrinsically valuable, then it follows that it should be protected in all its stages, throughout its continuum of development, from conception to natural death. Yes, scientific breakthrough in embryology and genetics have identified the start of this continuum at the zygote stage which already gained the intrinsic capacity to develop. Its growth and development and genetic make-up already points out that the developing embryo is already an entire living human organism. But even if it were argued that it is not yet human and is merely set to become one, intervening to frustrate the development of what is ALREADY SET to become a human being is still contrary to the intrinsic value of a human life, and is thus still immoral.


    • The problem with your argument is that it is impossible to “save” a fetus without causing the death of a born baby. There are more people dying than can be saved. So you must choose which life to save. You may choose to save a fetus, but if you do you will cause the death of a born person. Why, because they are dying at a rate of 1.8 per second. If you choose to spend 1 second saving fetuses then in that second 1.8 born humans will die. It is all about choice.


    • Russell, your argument is so fallaciously off the wall.

      First of all, abortion is not about saving life unless we are talking about the rare incident of saving the mother’s life in medical emergency. Even so, the effort should be saving both lives instead of purposely killing a human life as in abortion on demand.

      Second, by your logic, if you saved a neighbor’s child from the hands of a murderer, are you then causing “the death of a born person…because they are dying at a rate of 1.8 per second”? Are you going to use this silly logic to tell the murderer to go ahead to kill the child just because there are other children dying in large number we as society cannot do anything about it?


  41. This is an excellent, well-thought out, and articulately written article. I find it depressing that so many of the comments which seek to criticise it completely ignore many of the points you have raised, and argued so rhetorically.

    I absolutely agree that “potential” is not an excuse – for example, if that were true, then executing a prisoner in an extremist state would surely qualify as genocide, as you are also eliminating the *potential* lives of all of his possible future offspring.

    A collection of cells being *human* is also not a valid argument – would it be remotely logical or moral to accord the same rights as those of a sentient person to, say, a bag of donated blood, or a swab of spit? That would be ridiculous.

    Sentience is humanity, in the ideological, figurative, and most important sense. Independent thought, morality, compassion, and self-awareness – these are the qualities that make up the metaphorical “soul”.

    To apply the scientific definition of “human” to the figurative notion of “humanity” is ridiculous. The words are the same, but they have different meanings.

    To use the example of a sentient alien above – it is self awareness that defines, and ascribes value to life. Because we believe ourselves to be the only race on this planet to possess it, many people mistakenly consider the two to be synonymous – but they are not. If the most basic, cellular level, is the depth to which we must sink in order to call something “human”, then we’ve clearly lost sight of what it really means to be a person in the first place.

    Just as one piece of lego isn’t the same as a 3000 piece model spaceship, so a couple of hundred cells is not the same as a complete human being, made out of billions of them.


    • The reality is: a human being, like all animals, begins life as a one cell human organism.

      It then divides and multiply into a collection of genetically identical cells that goes on to form the tissues and organs of the body according to the blueprint in the DNA. That’s the reality of nature. We don’t come into existence in an instant and phooof become a fully formed human being with every component part intact and fully functioning. That would be unreal and absurd.

      Sentience is simply a characteristic and state of brain function. Lack of self-awareness as in a coma doesn’t make you a non-human being anymore than having more self-aware than others makes you more of a human being than others.


  42. [...] two idential twins share a common life with a common "soul" as Catholics might put it? Inconsistancy in the “life begins at conception” argument | Human Enhancement and Biopol… Sign in or Register Now to [...]


  43. There are scientific laws that control abortion. Those laws show that any attempt to force life by a pro lifer leads to the death of a born person. The 6 abortion laws explain every issue regarding abortion. http://www.scientificabortionlaws.com

    http://www.facebook.com/naturalabortionlaw


    • I don’t know what you are trying to argue here. Laws are man-made. They have to be logical and just in order to be valid.


  44. Until any of you have a degree in Embryology, your opinions are just that… opinions.

    There is scientific fact involved here that seems to be all but ignored. If you are so determined to keep your right to choose that you ignore the facts, that is your issue. However, since this site will probably get a few who are interested in the truth or the science of it, let me just add a few references:

    Keith L. Moore’s The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003) states the following:

    A zygote [fertilized egg] is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete … unites with a female gamete or oocyte … to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.

    The term “zygote” is a scientific term for the new life that is created when the sperm and the egg combine. “Oocyte” is another term for the egg cell, the cell released by woman’s ovary which travels down the fallopian tube and is fertilized by the male sperm.

    Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology (7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008, p. 2):

    [The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being.

    From Human Embryology & Teratology (Ronan R. O’Rahilly, Fabiola Muller [New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996], 5-55):

    Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed[.]

    T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology (10th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006, p. 11):

    Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the femal gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.

    Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Miller, Human Embryology and Teratology [3rd edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001, p. 8]:

    Although life is a continuous process, fertilization … is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.

    William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology [New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998, pp. 1, 14],

    Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization[.] … This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.

    The word “embryo” is defined as such (Considine, Douglas [ed.], Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, 5th edition, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943):

    Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism. … At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun[.]

    Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology, 6th edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3:

    In 1981 (April 23-24), a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held hearings on the question of when human life begins. Appearing to speak on behalf of the scientific community was a group of internationally known geneticists and biologists who had the same story to tell – namely, that human life begins at conception – and they told their story with a complete absence of opposing testimony (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981).

    *** Dr. Micheline M. Mathews-Roth, Harvard Medical School, gave confirming testimony, supported by references from over 20 embryology and other medical textbooks that human life began at conception.

    It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.

    *** “Father of Modern Genetics” Dr. Jerome Lejeune told the lawmakers:

    To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion … it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.

    *** Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor, University of Tennessee, testified:

    The exact moment of the beginning of personhood and of the human body is at the moment of conception.

    *** Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni, professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, concluded:

    I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty … is not a human being. … I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.

    ***Dr. Richard V. Jaynes:

    To say that the beginning of human life cannot be determined scientifically is utterly ridiculous.

    ***Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the “Father of In Vitro Fertilization,” notes:

    Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind.

    And on the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade,

    To deny a truth [about when life begins] should not be made a basis for legalizing abortion.

    *** Professor Eugene Diamond stated:

    … either the justices were fed a backwoods biology or they were pretending ignorance about a scientific certainty.

    ***Gordon, Hymie, M.D., FRCP, chairman of medical genetics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester:

    By all criteria of modern molecular biology,life is present from the moment of conception. … Science has a very simple conception of man; as soon as he has been conceived, a man is a man.

    *** C. Christopher Hook, M.D. Oncologist, Mayo Clinic, Director of Ethics Education, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine:

    When fertilization is complete, a unique genetic human entity exists.

    The official Senate report reached this conclusion:

    Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.

    So go on and speak your opinions about what you THINK is going on, but understand that your information is out on the internet for all to see and you are responsible for what you are proclaiming. Your uneducated and biased information may cause the death of a child because you did not bother to do the research in fear of losing your precious right to kill an unborn child.


  45. I see your point about conception, however I cannot agree that human life has no value (other than subjective value). May be human life and soul comes at a later stage than conception. If you say human life has no value then it means that you can kill as much people (even adults) you want, because there is no right or wrong? I think objective moral values do exit (eg. human life is sacred) and they come from God.


  46. The question I would like to pose is do humans have a soul. If yes, when is the most logical point does the soul enter the body – as the head crowns, or at 3 months gestation. Maybe you say there is no way of knowing – then shouldn’t we take the most conservative approach to ending this soul’s existence on earth and have to assume it begins at conception.



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