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WHEN DOES A HUMAN LIFE BEGIN TO BE A HUMAN LIFE AND END?

December 4, 2011

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HUMAN LIFE IS A CONTINUUM FROM THE MOMENT THAT A SINGLE-CELL EMBRYONIC ZYGOTE, AN ORGANISM WITH 46 CHROMOSOMES, THE NUMBER REQUIRED OF A MEMBER OF THE HUMAN SPECIES COMES INTO EXISTENCE EITHER NATURALLY THROUGH THE PENETRATION OF A SPERM INTO AN OOCYTE (FERTILIZATION), OR THROUGH THE LABORATORY MANIPULATION OF AN OOCYTE,  SUCH THAT THE OOCYTE, NOW A ZYGOTE,  IMMEDIATELY PRODUCES SPECIFICALLY HUMAN PROTEINS AND ENZYMES, DIRECTS HIS/HER OWN FURTHER GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT AS HUMAN, AND IS A NEW, GENETICALLY UNIQUE, NEWLY EXISTING, INDIVIDUAL HUMAN INDIVIDUAL.      

HUMAN LIFE ENDS, AFTER HAVING BECOME FULLY DEVELOPED IN THE WOMB, WHEN THE UNITY OF THE ACTION OF THE COMPLEXUS OF BRAIN, HEART AND LUNGS HAS CEASED TO FUNCTION.

- Abyssum

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When Does a Human Begin?

November 18, 2011 by Gerard M. Nadal

http://gerardnadal.com/2011/11/18/when-does-a-human-begin/

When one considers the ethics of manipulation, the question of whether we ought to, or whether we may manipulate an organism or entity depends on the answer to the first and most fundamental question:

What is it?

Ascertaining the identity and status of the object of our intended manipulation is essential.

In the fields of obstetrical medicine and reproductive medicine the ethical debates have raged for four decades. Enlightened discourse between opposing parties must assume good motives by all involved, and then go about asking the essential questions, following where the truth of science and reason lead.

Many claim that life begins at some point distant from fertilization, always beyond the point at which they propose some manipulation (abortion, embryonic stem cell culturing, etc…). There are always a list of biological functions that are given to define when human life begins: Cognitive capacity, etc.

The simple biological truth of the matter is that the Cell Theory states that all cells arise from pre-existing cells. There is no blackout period between sperm and egg uniting, and then the emergence of ‘life’ at some point distant.

The Carnegie stages of human development indicate that human development begins in the zygotic stage. Then there is the assertion of developmental biologist and leading textbook author in the field, Scott Gilbert. In his text, Gilbert takes us through the life cycle of a dog. His text, Developmental Biology, is arguably the leading text in the field. According to Gilbert:

“Traditional ways of classifying catalog animals according to their adult structure. But, as J. T. Bonner (1965) pointed out, this is a very artificial method, because what we consider an individual is usually just a brief slice of its life cycle. When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death.”

First, note how he sets the word dog off in quotes at one point, to communicate the very essence of the organism:

But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm…

The same may be said of all vertebrates, including cats, giraffes, chimpanzees, and humans. Substituting the word human for dog in Gilbert’s analysis gets to the heart of the matter. We are human for our entire life cycle. We are whole and complete in form and function at every stage of our development, for that given developmental stage. The prepubescent child is fully human, even though they lack the capacity to execute all human functions, such as abstract reasoning, or reproduction.

In the same way, the early embryo is alive and fully human, though it has not yet executed all human organismal functions.

Photo via: embryology.med.unsw.edu.au

- Gerard M. Nadal

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A correlative question is:  when does a person begin to be a person?

The theologian would respond that human life begins with the union of the human soul with the human body.  When that occurs in time only God knows, but it is reasonable to assume that it begins with EITHER  the fertilization of the egg by the spermatazoon, or by the manipulation of the oocyte in the laboratory resulting in the presence of the 46 chromosomes.

The philosopher might respond that according to the principle of individuation, the moment the organism acquires sui motio, the ability to activate itself, it acquires personhood, perhaps between Carnegie stages 7 and 8 in the above scale, although some would argue that personhood is coexistent with life.

- Abyssum

From → Abortion, ROE V WADE

2 Comments
  1. domnewman permalink

    There is an interesting post on this subject on another blog which notes that the Marian apparitions at Zeitoun in Egypt (listed as offically approved by the Catholic Church in Cardinal Bertone’s book The Last Secret of Fatima) which first began to appear on April 2nd 1968 directly coincided with the implementation of the UK Abortion Act, which was brought into effect on 27th April. After the UK Abortion Act was established, this opened the floodgates for abortion elsewhere in world, with many other european countries following Britian’s lead, as well as the U.S after Roe vs Wade in 1973. The author notes that the apparitions in Egypt have occurred in places associated with the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt to escape from King Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. He then goes on to suggest that the timing and location of these apparitions in relation to the legalisation of abortion may have been trying to communicate to the world that it was about to engage in a modern day version of the “slaughter of the innocents”. Over 50 million innocent lives have been destroyed in the womb since 1973 in the U.S alone.
    The author notes that Marian apparitions often occur during periods of great upheaval – those at Fatima coincided with the rise of communist Russia, whilst those at Banneux and Beauraing took place during the rise to power of Hitler. The Rwandian genocide was also prefigured in the appearances of Our Lady at Kibeho.
    You can find the article at http://unveilingtheapocalypse.blogspot.com/2011/12/our-lady-of-light-and-apocalyptic.html

  2. On the philosophical question of the personhood of the unborn child, I defer to my intellectual superior: philosopher Peter Kreeft. His arguments can be found in many places on the internet. I think he is completely correct when he says that the pro-choice movement is not concerned about how and when the unborn becomes a human ‘person,’ but about how to facilitate a contraceptive of last resort to facilitate the sexual revolution in line with radical feminist objectives. I would add the money factor as well since killing babies is big business.

    I find that Kreeft asks an interesting question. He asks: If you are driving down the highway and see what appears to be a person lying in the middle of the road, do you run over it on the supposition that it is “probably” not a person? Or do you try to stop or go around? Any sane person will take the safer course and avoid possibly running over someone. Kreeft then goes on to say: Even if we allowed for the possibility [which we do NOT allow] that the unborn is possibly not a human person, still we would be unjustified in killing it. And if we say we have absolute certitude that the unborn child is not a person, we are liars!

    Other than that, all I can do is shut up and reiterate the teaching of the Catholic Church: ” Someone may ask us, however, When does the person, the subject of basic rights that must be absolutely respected, begin to exist? . . . . Regarding this question, if the magisterium has not expressed itself in a binding way by a philosophical affirmation, it has taught consistently that from the first moment of its existence as a product of human generation, the embryo must be guaranteed the unconditional respect that is morally due to a human being in his spiritual and bodily totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore, from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.” [The Essential Pope Benedict XVI, 386]

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