Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Life Does Not Begin at Conception

Why Life Does Not Begin at Conception

Does a sperm have to be alive before it can fertilize an egg? Of course it does. Only live sperms can propel themselves forward to reach an egg. As for the egg, a dead egg cannot be fertilized. So whatever happens, life had already begun before conception.

True enough, when a sperm joins an egg, the combining of two DNA systems form a new entity, which is a plan, a layout for a new human existence. OK, but is this enough to qualify for the definition of a human being? Is a body without a head or a head without brain a human being? Is a humanoid embryonic miniature without a brain already a human being? The seed of a cherry tree once in the ground is not yet a tree because it does not have the components that define a tree. Indeed, in terms of human life a functioning brain is an essential defining element. Where the definition of death used to be the stoppage of the heart, it is now defined as the moment at which brain activity has ceased.

Basically, an embryo in its early stages is nothing more than a fertilized egg. One could claim that the fertilized egg contains the soul of a future hen or rooster, but in order for the soul to get from the great beyond to the here-on-earth, the soul passes through many steps of implantation such as fertilization, growth, hatching etc., and it would be absurd to claim the soul has a “right” to go from one stage to the next. Any acts on the part of human beings that promote or impede growth are part of the greater picture in which it is decided where and how far any given soul might travel.

No one would claim that anyone eating a fertilized egg for breakfast is eating a chicken. Would disposing of an egg that might contain an almost-hatched chicken mean the “killing of a chicken?” Animal rights activists might label the destruction of a chicken embryo murder because an animal's life is terminated. While we might never ever solve the puzzle of what came first, the chicken or the egg, it is generally understood that a chicken is not an egg, nor is an egg a chicken. Similarly, determining when an embryo becomes a real human being is not altogether different from drawing the boundaries between the chicken and the egg, so let us beware of being bludgeoned by the so-called “pro-life” bullies.