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Date: 2006/04/08 13:50:45, Link
Author: Nike
I am new to this forum, and I haven't read every reply here, but I have been thinking about this question lately.

First, though, we need some definitions.  On the face of it, this question does not make much sense.  What do we mean by "life" or "human life"?  Because, life obviously does not begin at conception, but long before!  The fertilized zygote is a mating of two separate living gametes.  Those gametes came from other living cells, through our parents, grandparents, and so on, all the way back through humans, other hominids, early mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, etc., and eventually to the very first living forms that arose billions of years ago.  That is when life began; all life existing today has split from the original stock, including human life.  That is to say, there is no beginning of life when a sperm enters an ovum; the ovum changes into a zygote, but does not change from non-life to life.  The ovum was already alive, as was the sperm.  The unfertilized ovum was already human, as was the sperm, although each contained only half the genetic material that adult human cells contain.

Perhaps what the asker meant was, when does life become an individual human being, separate from its mother?  But that merely begs the question, what is a human being?  And one can define the term to fit whatever answer one wants.  So if one wants to claim that life begins at conception, one might simply define a human being as the product of an ovum fertilized by a sperm.

Some religious people believe that a human being begins when a soul comes down from heaven and implants into the ovum at the same moment as the sperm.  The problem with this is that the soul cannot be observed, so this is purely a religious belief, which cannot be proven or disproven.  There are, however, some logical problems with this belief.

It has long been known that two separate individual human beings can come from a single zygote.  These are called identical twins.  This raises the question of what happens to the soul?  Does it also split?  Or does a new soul come down from heaven?  Or does one of the twins get the soul, and the other be soulless?  For hundreds of years, it was commonly believed that the soul does not enter the body until later, so it is ironic that so many now insist that it happens at a particular moment before the zygote splits.

But now we also know that, not only can one zygote split into two, but two separate zygotes, each the product of an separate ovum and sperm with different DNA, can merge together and grow into a single individual, called a chimera, with different DNA in different parts of its body.  This raises the question of what happens to both souls?  Does the individual have two souls?  Does one die?  Does the soul not enter the body until later, as earlier thinkers believed?  Or is there no such thing at all?

While a case may be made for fetuses which have beating hearts and developed nervous systems to have some sort of rights, the same argument does not hold for undifferentiated clumps of cells, as zygotes are in the first couple weeks of pregnancy.  The primary argument against terminating them is the religious one, that they have some invisible thing called a soul that means that they cannot be killed.  (Unlike all those men, women and children we drop bombs on, etc.)  Because of this dogma, we have opposition to "morning after" pills, therapeutic cloning, embryonic stem cell research, embryo reduction, in vitro reproduction, etc.

The true answer to when an individual human being begins, is that it does not happen at any particular moment, but the embryo develops gradually into a person over time, with no clear demarcation, and it is really arbitrary when it gets labelled as a human being.

Date: 2006/04/08 19:39:21, Link
Author: Nike
Quote (avocationist @ April 08 2006,19:40)
But that merely begs the question, what is a human being?  And one can define the term to fit whatever answer one wants.

Sure, I've seen it done.  If someone wants a human being to originate at conception, they simply define the term in such a way that it comes into existance then; for instance, a human being is defined as having a unique genome with a full complement of human chromosomes.  Sperm and ova have unique genomes, but not all the chromosomes until they come together.

But some might define a human being as something that thinks and feels, that has a head and a heart and a brain and other attributes which are commonly associated with human beings.

I believe that the Supreme Court defined a human being as being able to survive outside of its mother's body.

One could even say that a human being exists only outside its mother, after taking its first breath and stops being a fetus.

Since there is no universally accepted definition, it comes down to semantics.

Date: 2006/04/09 03:27:49, Link
Author: Nike
Quote (thordaddy @ April 09 2006,05:53)
Hey Faid, let's see how "logical" Nike's arguments are?

First, though, we need some definitions.  On the face of it, this question does not make much sense.  What do we mean by "life" or "human life"?

You and I and everything we were from the time of conception.  Human life.  Or, are you doubting yourself?

You define human life as "You and I and everything we were from the time of conception."  But this is your original postulate!

Basically, you are claiming that human life begins at conception, simply because your definition of human life requires it!  But this does not prove anything, except my point.

How about an answer which actually explains something?  Why do you define human life as beginning at conception?  How do you know?  What criteria are you using?

Date: 2006/04/11 02:12:51, Link
Author: Nike
Quote (thordaddy @ April 10 2006,16:48)
Note: If you believe human life can't be defined including its individual beginning then nothing I say will have much impact.

I never said that "human life" cannot be defined.  Of course it can; people make up definitions all the time!  Some of those definitions do not include undifferentiated clumps of cells.  The Supreme Court defined it as having viability outside the womb.  Arguing about definitions is pointless.

The real issue is, what should be the limits allowed in terminating pregnancy.  Some believe that it is wrong to prevent pregnancy before conception, i.e. contraception.  In some cultures, postnatal abortion was apparently accepted.

If you want to define human life as beginning at conception, that's fine, but that's not a good argument against allowing morning-after pills, embryonic stem cell research, therapeutic cloning, in vitro reproduction, etc.

Date: 2006/04/12 12:42:17, Link
Author: Nike
You can call it "human life" all you want, a zygote is still just a clump of cells that does not think or feel, so there is no reason why it cannot be destroyed, if the owner of the body it's in wishes.

Date: 2006/04/14 01:49:35, Link
Author: Nike
Quote (Henry J @ April 12 2006,21:13)
I though a zygote was one cell, and once it turns into a clump its called an embryo.

Sorry, I meant a blastula (I think) although the same argument applies for a single-celled zygote, and, arguably, for an embryo.

I'm really picking low-lying fruit here.  The more advanced the pregnancy, the more human characteristics the fetus has. so the more sophisticated the debate gets.  However, worrying about the life of a zygote or blastula is just silly.  Most of the people who do probably wouldn't bat an eye about the agonies cattle go through to provide them with hamburgers and shoes, and often seem to be more worried about microscopic cells than actual children their government is dropping bombs on.  Let's get some perspective!

zygotes = single cells
embryos = clumps of cells
men, women, children = breathing, feeling, thinking, talking human beings

Where should the priorities lie in preserving human life?

Date: 2006/04/14 12:01:33, Link
Author: Nike
I also made the point earlier about twins.  Even more problematic, I think, is when two zygotes, or "persons", result in a single human life, called a chimera.

Date: 2006/04/14 17:29:58, Link
Author: Nike
Quote (thordaddy @ April 14 2006,17:54)
Where should the priorities lie in preserving Nike?

The priority should be in preserving my life as a thinking, feeling, breathing, talking and typing human being, obviously.  I am no more concerned about existence of the zygote and embryo I descended from any more than of the sperm and egg that they were descended from, or of any of my single-celled ancestors from billions of years ago.  If any of those had not existed, then I would not be here to worry about it, so why should I worry about it now?  My hypothetical non-existence does not bother me, but since I do exist, I care about continuing my existence.  If my mother wanted to abort me, she should have been able to.

At no time did I ever identify myself (Nike) as a zygote or embryo.  I can only identify as a sentient being, not a potential one.  Cells are not capable of identifying themselves.

Date: 2006/04/17 01:24:55, Link
Author: Nike
Why on earth should I care about the non-existent?  "Conception" did not "give me life".  My life is part of an unbroken chain going back billions of years to primitive unicellular (and perhaps even non-cellular) organisms.  I am related to all organisms living today or in the past.  Their numbers are uncountable, yet should I be concerned about each and every cell in existence?  And you want me to worry about ones which never existed!

No, I do not care about every sperm and ovum "getting a chance."  Had a different one of my father's sperms entered my mother's ovum, then someone else would have been born, and I would never have existed.  Should I cry, "boo hoo!" because millions of potential siblings didn't make it?  Or about my twin zygote which may have not made it?

Do you think that I even care about my own zygote?  As I said, if my mother wished to terminate my embryo, she should have been able to.  This is not about me.  Of course I care about my continued existence, since I already exist, just as I care about yours and all other people who have been born.

A zygote has no thoughts, no feelings, no desires.  To equate this cell to a conscious human being, who does all these things, is illogical.