Pro-lifers are often criticized for their position that a new, human life begins at conception. Many incorrectly think that this belief is based on some blind religious dogma, a scripture passage somewhere, or some stubborn need to tell women what to do with their bodies. All the while, this same opposition likes to pretend that they are the scientific, logical ones – obviously not blinded by religion or some judgmental God.
Of course, this is exactly backwards from reality. The entire basis for a new, human life beginning at conception stems from well documented, universally recognized scientific fact. The only ones who deny this are those blinded by their own religious dogma of so-called “choice” who have a stubborn need to deny scientific fact in order to stay faithful to their own ideology.
If science had proven that human life actually began at implantation or at nine weeks or whenever, then that’s precisely when we (Catholics and any other reasonable belief system) would believe that human life began. Simple. And, logically, it would be from that moment when this human being should be treated with the rights and dignities that come with being a human being.
But that’s not what science has told us. Science has quite clearly and decidedly proven that a new, human life begins at conception (i.e. fertilization. AKA the moment sperm and ovum meet and form an entirely new, self-directing living organism of the human species with its own individual DNA distinct from both mother and father.).
At this point in the debate, some try and introduce a separate distinction and question of “personhood.” Aside from this usually being a convoluted way to try and create classes of human beings and that it doesn’t hold up to any consistently logical scrutiny, it’s also not at all a scientific argument. It’s a philosophical one. So it is totally irrelevant to the scientific question of when human life begins.
Recently, Dr. Robert George wrote an article outlining this whole topic in more detail. And if you want to really learn your stuff, pick up his excellent book entitled Embryo (I’m in the middle of reading it right now). In his words:
“That is, in human reproduction, when sperm joins ovum, these two individual cells cease to be, and their union generates a new and distinct organism. This organism is a whole, though in the beginning developmentally immature, member of the human species. Readers need not take our word for this: They can consult any of the standard human-embryology texts, such as Moore and Persaud’s The Developing Human, Larsen’s Human Embryology, Carlson’s Human Embryology & Developmental Biology, and O’Rahilly and Mueller’s Human Embryology & Teratology.” – Dr. Robert George
“Human embryos, whether they are formed by fertilization (natural or in vitro) or by successful somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT — i.e., cloning), do have the internal resources and active disposition to develop themselves to the mature stage of a human organism, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition. In fact, scientists distinguish embryos from other cells or clusters of cells precisely by their self-directed, integral functioning — their organismal behavior. Thus, human embryos are what the embryology textbooks say they are, namely, human organisms — living individuals of the human species — at the earliest developmental stage.” – Dr. Robert George
Did we catch that? Human embryos only need a suitable environment and nutrition to become more mature human beings. Hey, that’s kind of like humans at any stage – at least for our biological maturity. Unfortunately, the culture outside of the womb is seemingly a less and less “suitable environment” for bringing about other kinds of maturity. But that’s another issue entirely.
But despite our maturity, biological or otherwise, we are “whole” members of the human species – human beings. And with that comes an inherent dignity and right to life.
One of the great powers of science is that it is able to help clarify moral issues like this for us. It’s a powerful tool. Science is clear on this one. If you are a fan of science, then consider also being a fan of human life – at all of its stages.