Here lies a question of great debate amongst scholars …. Er, um, amongst people who want to debate if a baby is a “baby” or a “fetus?” Regardless, it is possibly an interesting and sound, scientific and theological question for those of you who do not yet, possess the answer.
Let’s set aside the sheer and utter depravation of human thought that even begets this question to consider the facts with a clear frame of mind. Because, the first fact is that: Humans don’t know the answer to when life begins.
But, you do have life-examples from which to draw
Is the seed of a sapling alive before it’s planted? Well … is that alive on the branch of the tree from which it came, acting like a parasite toward that tree, or alive in the ground before it sprouts? Is it alive when it’s still inside the tree, first beginning to bud into a flower?
Baby fish and tadpoles have been seen swimming around in their eggs … are they alive?
Are you alive right now, or is this a transitionary period in between life times?
Consider this: Only 33 – 34 days after its conception, a kangaroo embryo (a “fetus” by our scientific terms), breaks free from its sack, still partially unformed, and crawls to the pouch where it will feed. A young, red kangaroo won’t leave that pouch for 198 days. So, from conception to first leaving the pouch – that’s just under 8 months’ time – not too far from human beings. Given a human’s complex anatomy and cerebral development, the extra month is probably justified. But – is that kangaroo fetus crawling toward survival simply because it’s a pre-programmed machine, or because there’s a little something of life, inside of it, that wants to survive?
Is lack of movement at the very beginning, before muscles are formed, evidence that life is not there? Suppose you’re asleep … and your skeletal muscles are at rest and without movement. Are you dead? Is lack of tactile response due to an undeveloped nervous system evidence that life is not there? Ask a quadriplegic if not being able to move their legs or feel anything below the neck makes them dead…
The Jewish faith does not believe that a baby is alive until its head is at least half-way emerged from the womb (maybe a point where it can take its first breath?).
God breathed life into Adam through the nostrils … but if you remember correctly, He did not do so for Eve. In fact, once God was done breathing in air (which, under more precise interpretations and a more enlightened understanding of Apocryphal texts, it can be interpreted that He breathed “light” into Adam), man-kind was left to procreate of his own accord. So … is the breathing in air thing … necessary (since mankind became capable of taking that first breath on his own, after the first creation)? If we were to ask a fish, born underwater, if air was a necessity to its existence, perhaps we might not feel so compelled to limit our decisions geographically. In fact, doesn’t an infant, in the womb, breathe (just through an umbilical cord, like a diver through a tube)? What about infants born through C-Sections, earlier than their full terms? They did not ever take a breath after emerging from the canal – so are they not alive? And, does not their birth provide some small, shred of evidence that life does not start after some magical, 9-month number? Even if Doctors can’t keep a fetus alive born after 1 month – that does not negate the fact that for one, brief moment, that infant, may have been alive when first extracted (forgetting that fact that as science grows and expands, just because we can’t do something today, doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to do it tomorrow).
Let’s consider the most fundamental particles of life … and then simplify to the three, basic components: neutrons, protons, and electrons. While there may be some other differences in the subatomic jungle, or sub- subatomic differences beyond what we know, the difference between atoms is typically the quantity of each of these three particles (the foundation of alchemy). So, what distinguishes you, as a human being, from, say, an animal that walks on all fours like a dog? What about a tree? What about … a rock?
If we can simply change the quantity of subatomic particles per atom in your body and physically transform you … then the questions I’ve posed about whether or not a sapling seed or a kangaroo are alive at birth – apply.
Ahh … I know it’s in the back of your mind – for I have foreseen these things: a soul.
Let’s consider that, shall we? Because, science cannot take DNA, even if given all the raw materials, and form a living body with shape, dimension, and precise features simply by following the map in the DNA. Why not? Because the DNA is not a stamp of how you will look (otherwise … we’d all look alike), it is the “range” of possibilities of how you will look. Yes, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and with any luck, 10 fingers and 10 toes. But, the color of your hair and eyes, the texture of your skin, your gender, and many other subtle differences about you all require 1, additional component.
A decision must be made. Will you have brown hair … or red? Will your eyes be blue, or green? And so on – and so on. So, if we consider the function that a soul plays, it’s not just the “you” that is “you,” – it is the “you” that shapes “you.”
And, if you disagree … then answer this – why do we age differently? With a finite value of variances in each and every person’s life, with varying degrees of possibility within those variances, how is it some people look older than they are, younger than they are, more alive than others, and so on. C’mon – you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. You can look at a person and determine their character, their personality, and even assess your level of interest in them. What makes one person more interesting than the other? There IS an unspoken, and unknown element that we all possess.
But – for a soul to be inside you – for you to be MORE than a ROCK – ask yourself …
When does that soul enter (or, if you’re not convinced, when does that distinction occur)? At birth … by some mystical transition through the air? Maybe. During pregnancy, when we’re forming? Possibly. But, if we understand that the soul creates small distinctions between us, fine-tuned and carefully crafted, and that our DNA, once set – is SET, then we must consider the possibility that the soul is set with the egg, and awaits its energy source that will cause a chemical reaction allowing it to burst into life.
Don’t want to believe in a soul? No problem. As was previously written – once the DNA is set – it’s set. So, something happens, at the very beginning that defines what we will be and how we will appear. Like it or not, human beings are, in part, just machines. They are preprogrammed. For example, curiosity, mimicking, crying, movement of limbs to strengthen neural connections in the brain, recognition of shapes – and many, many other features – are preprogrammed. An infant knows how to suckle a breast – but not because they’re taught. In the womb – they aren’t even given the chance. How do they know? Preprogramming.
When does that preprogramming begin? It’s already there. Arguments that life only begins when an infant can survive outside of the womb (forgetting the kangaroo example) – are then a little sketchy. If the programming already exists from the beginning – then the code for survival and the function of life is there – from the beginning.
Life is hard.
Choosing to give, or to not give life – is VERY HARD. I would NEVER envy anyone trapped in that situation – although I don’t find myself ever having to question it. Does knowing that life starts before life – in a place before this one, silently waiting their turn to be given entrance – make any difference? Would a woman who becomes pregnant through an aggressive assault feel any less hurt or violated? I would suppose … perhaps … not ….
And so, the discussion about when life begins may be moot. You may have to continue going on with justifications to end it.
But, I wonder –
Perhaps the debate about when life begins is just too big, for those who walk on this planet and live within the confines of life’s definitions. Some things, you just do not have the resources to know.
Is arguing the truth of a subject to which you do not know the truth and could possibly never establish it, even sensible? Perhaps, we should consider, one last idea:
Because you are not equipped to satisfactorily determine when life starts – you should consider acting with some small measure of reason and err on the side of caution. Because, once having been seeded, life will happen if left uninterrupted; that fact, you do know. Think of it this way – eating glass “could” most likely kill you. But, you just can’t be 100% sure. Testing that theory though, if you’re wrong, would result in phenomenal agony and suffering preceding an excruciating death. Perhaps, erring on the side of caution, in all things pertaining to life and death, is a good idea.
If science can’t even answer what the appendix is for … then how can it justify making any interpretations on when life begins?
Rather … you would have to believe that life ends, in order to believe, it begins. But, I suppose that thought is a flaw of being mortal …