The question of when life begins has been so politicized it can be hard to thoughtfully engage. Even the question can be confusingly broad in what it is asking. In biological terms, when is an organism an organism? Or philosophically, what makes a human a person? And spiritually, what is the relationship between the body and the soul?
Abortion. It is a hot-button issue on both sides of the political aisle with one side arguing for a fetus’s right to life and the other arguing for a woman’s right to choose. But what is abortion? According to Marriam-Webster, abortion is “the termination of a pregnancy… resulting in… the death of the embryo or fetus.” Despite the widely held debate on abortion, few seem to be able to give a definite, across-the-board answer on when life begins. So, when does human life start, scientifically speaking?
The overall point is that biology does not determine when human life begins. It is a question that can only be answered by appealing to our values, examining what we take to be human.
Perhaps biologists of the future will learn more. Until then, when human life begins during fetal developments is a question for philosophers and theologians. And policies based on an answer to that question will remain up to politicians – and judges.
There are Bible verses supporting the idea that life begins at conception, but do science and medicine line up with our faith-based claims?
Why is it so easy for us to believe the science behind the wearing of masks during this coronavirus pandemic, climate change, vaccines, and genetically modified foods, but find it difficult to believe the science of embryology and genetics behind when life begins for a human person? If we say that we trust the science, then we need to actually trust the science.
The question of when a human life begins is a profoundly intricate one, with widespread
implications, ranging from abortion rights to stem cell research and beyond. A key point
in the debate rests on the way in which we choose to define the concepts of humanity, life
and human life.
What is life? Better yet, when does life begin? These are questions philosophers and scientists have debated for hundreds of years. If you ask a scientist, “what is life?” you’d get a very different answer than if you ask a philosopher.
Unlike the debate over death, which delved into exquisite medical and scientific detail, the legislative scramble to determine when life's building blocks reach a threshold that warrants government protection as human life has generally ignored the input of mainstream medical professionals.
The question at the heart of America’s abortion debate is the most elemental — and the most complicated.