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When does human life begin?


BusaDave9
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11 members have voted

  1. 1. When does human life begin?

    • Life begins at conception
      4
    • It's not truly a human until birth
      3
    • It becomes a human after conception but before birth.
      4


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Many people say life begins at conception. Actually it begins before that. Every sperm cell, egg cell and blood cell in our bodies are alive. The much more important question is when does that life become a human? That is the topic I am interested in. At what point can you say "that's a human".

 

I know answer 3 is vague. I would have said "it's a human when it's viable to live on it's own" But I was afraid that would leave some wanting to say none of the above.


The way I see this, the building of a human is gradual. It starts off as a fertilized egg. Then becomes more complex as the fetus develops. It may be a human when it is viable outside the mother.

 

I do not believe the fertilized egg is a human. If I were to hire an architect to build a million dollar home but someone were to destroy those plans I can't sue for a million dollars. It wasn't a house yet even though the plans show just what the final home would look like.

Edited by BusaDave9
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This is a very difficult question. As already described in the OP life exists throughout the process. Even prior to Conception. If we are purely commenting on biology I guess human life begins at conception. At that point genetically it is a human and no longer just an egg or just a sperm. Of course a large number of fertilized eggs miscarriage. So conception is no guarentee of a birth or a life lived. So I selected not truly human until born because ultimately the mothers life is still the dominating factor. Once born a baby can survive being cared for by anyone willing and able. Prior to to birth life is still contingent on a variety biological processes.

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This is a very difficult question. As already described in the OP life exists throughout the process. Even prior to Conception. If we are purely commenting on biology I guess human life begins at conception. At that point genetically it is a human and no longer just an egg or just a sperm. Of course a large number of fertilized eggs miscarriage. So conception is no guarentee of a birth or a life lived. So I selected not truly human until born because ultimately the mothers life is still the dominating factor. Once born a baby can survive being cared for by anyone willing and able. Prior to to birth life is still contingent on a variety biological processes.

Technically, after it's born, its life is still contingent on a variety of biological processes as well. Just not necessarily so many of the mother's.

 

Biology doesn't really lend itself well to hard boundary lines and distinct classifications. We impose them for the sake of convenience, but they generally don't exist in a true sense the way they do in some other branches of science.

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I don't think anyone can argue that human life doesn't begin at conception, I mean, its alive and its human. i think we should be asking, when is abortion still ethical? Well that's very difficult to answer, but what i can say is that abortion near conception is ok, this is because at that stage we don't have a nervous system, so I don't see a problem with killing it at that stage. We human place value on that little embryo because we imagine it as a fully grown person, but at that point it is a very simple biological machine, simpler than an insect, do you feel bad about killing an insect?

 

Some would argue that the embryo has the "potential" of turning into a human, but imagine I take 100 eggs and fertilize them with 100 sperm in a lab, is it realistic to now place more value on it just because they have been combined? I don't think so. Imagine humans had a reproduction system where we had thousands of eggs which all get fertilised, but though random processes only 1 or 2 survive till birth. Would we still be placing such value on embryos? Would we mourn for the loss off each of the 1000s of embryos? No that would be ridiculous, those things are alive and also human, but so biologically simple at that stage that it would be silly to place value on them yet as they are so far from being a conscious person.

 

I would draw the line when the embryo starts moving and has a functioning neutral system, as it is showing the sign of consciousness which is what I view as being valuable. Why do we let brain dead people die, their body is alive, they are human, but their consciousness is gone. That is what is truly valuable, so until embryos show signs of consciousness, they are not people but simply a biological construct.

 

To sum up, you begin when your mind begins, not your DNA or body. DNA can be modified, copied, implanted, that is not you.

 

*I don't mean conscious as in awake, baby their is a better word i could have used. Probably better to replace that with "brain activity", that's when "you" begin.

Edited by CasualKilla
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Curiously, since this is a question about meaning, the question is meaningless.

 

The argument in favour of, or against, the options, potentially involve not only science, but politics, religion, culture and other complex, opinion-loaded considerations. Scientists can not even agree on a definition of life (see many threads on this forum), so how can we expect to satisfactorily define the beginning of human life.

 

To borrow a phrase from physics, unless we have defined our frame of reference any statement as to when life begins is meaningless. And two observers in different frames of reference will never agree.

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I don't think anyone can argue that human life doesn't begin at conception, I mean, its alive and its human.

I can argue against that perfectly easily.

The sperm and egg were alive and human.

That's before conception.

 

However, as ophiolite is right, all we could argue about would be the details of the meanings of the words.

Edited by John Cuthber
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The scientific community generally agrees that the start of human life is at fertilization of the secondary oocyte.

 

https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/embryoquotes2.html

 

This is logical as your unique DNA is formed and the zygote will eventually proceed to become a conscious human being. Sperm and an egg will never develop into a human being.

 

Even prominent atheists agree:

 

Edited by Vexen
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This is logical as your unique DNA is formed and the zygote will eventually proceed to become a human being.

If they are going to become a human, then logically they can't be one yet. So they are not human life.

 

It's a matter of playing with words.

What does it mean for something to be to be "human life"?

 

Also, it's entirely possible that the secondary oocyte will not actually proceed to become a human because it may be unviable for some reason.

Edited by John Cuthber
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If they are going to become a human, then logically they can't be one yet. So they are not human life.

A conscious human being.

 

My personal definition of human life is when the diploid genome forms. When your genome formed, your life began. That genetic program is you.

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This is logical as your unique DNA is formed and the zygote will eventually proceed to become a human being. Sperm and an egg will never develop into a human being.

 

 

Yes a zygote WILL become a human being. But you must use future tense. At what point can you say it IS a human life.

I like Ophiolite's post. It is a matter of defining words but you are playing with words if you must use future tense.

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I give up.

You can't define a point in a continuum - which is what the development of an organism is - without it being arbitrary. Leave that definition to people that need to define it for the purposes of their argument or profession.

Edited by StringJunky
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A conscious human being.

 

My personal definition of human life is when the diploid genome forms. When your genome formed, your life began. That genetic program is you.

So, you cease to be human each night when you sleep?

 

I'm rather more than my DNA- for example, it can't type.

 

At best it's a matter of opinion when life begins.

Pick a random point on a continuum.

Edited by John Cuthber
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You can't define a point in a continuum - which is what the development of an organism is - without it being arbitrary. Leave that definition to people that need to define it for the purposes of their argument or profession.

So you voted for the last option: "It becomes a human after conception but before birth" ?

The other 2 options say there is a specific event that suddenly makes the creation of a human.

 

The creation of a human is a gradual process. At conception you get a full set of genes that specify what traits the human WILL have. But it is not yet a human. I don't see how a scientifically minded person can answer anything but the last option.

 

If I were to ask the same question on a religious site almost every response would be that life begins at conception.Religious people need a specific, miraculous event where God says "Let there be life" and then infuses a soul (whatever that is) into the unborn child. I think science agrees that the development of a human is gradual. No one can give a specific event that defines when human life begins.

Edited by BusaDave9
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At conception you get a full set of genes that specify what traits the human WILL have. But it is not yet a human. I don't see how a scientifically minded person can answer anything but the last option.

I've given you scientific and linguistic reasons why a) you can come up with different options b) it is a pointless exercise.

 

 

I think science agrees that the development of a human is gradual. No one can give a specific event that defines when human life begins.

It has been said that humans have an eighteen months gestation period. It's just that the last nine months are spent outside the womb.

 

Human characteristics are not fully present until adulthood and one could easily make a case for saying a child is not human till at least their first birthday. So, why are you arguing for a cut off point at birth, rather than a later date - say when theory of mind is evident? You appear to have chosen upper and lower limits for your range simply because they are conventional and obvious. Is that truly a "scientific minded" method?

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So you voted for the last option: "It becomes a human after conception but before birth" ?

The other 2 options say there is a specific event that suddenly makes the creation of a human.

I didn't choose anything because how can one confidently choose a point in a continuum and say "It starts here"?

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Human characteristics are not fully present until adulthood and one could easily make a case for saying a child is not human till at least their first birthday. So, why are you arguing for a cut off point at birth, rather than a later date - say when theory of mind is evident? You appear to have chosen upper and lower limits for your range simply because they are conventional and obvious. Is that truly a "scientific minded" method?

 

Interesting. And I agree no other animal needs parental support for 18 years (or anything close to that). A human infant is completely helpless. But I can't imagine if you had an accident that killed a newborn child that you would tell the courts or press that "it wasn't really a human. It was only half a year old." Could you really say that, even to yourself?

I didn't choose anything because how can one confidently choose a point in a continuum and say "It starts here"?

You don't have to say "it starts here" if you choose the last option. that is unless you (Like Ophiolite) think that it's not truly a human life until after birth.

The bottom line is I believe the creation of human life is a gradual process that encompasses the time between conception and birth. To say it extends outside of those bounds is hard to believe (but I am listening).

Edited by BusaDave9
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Interesting. And I agree no other animal needs parental support for 18 years (or anything close to that). A human infant is completely helpless. But I can't imagine if you had an accident that killed a newborn child that you would tell the courts or press that "it wasn't really a human. It was only half a year old." Could you really say that, even to yourself?

What I could, or could not say is wholly irrelevant. The point is that such a viewpoint has almost certainly been held by at least some members of every generation of humans that has walked on this planet. Infanticide is practiced routinely in some societies. So, I ask again, why have you chosen the cut off dates you have chosen? I repeat, you appear to be bowing to convention rather than scientific analysis. Convince me otherwise.

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So, I ask again, why have you chosen the cut off dates you have chosen? I repeat, you appear to be bowing to convention rather than scientific analysis. Convince me otherwise.

 

To answer that. I do not believe it is scientifically reasonable to say that at the time of conception a fertilized egg is suddenly a human life.

Also I do not believe it is scientifically reasonable to say that a fetus suddenly becomes a human life at the time of birth.

 

So in making the thread, I wanted to ask people if they had the same believe as me. I created a poll that not only included my view, but also include what I think are the other 2 most common views of when life begins. In all honesty I don't think many people think it suddenly becomes a human life at the moment of birth but I felt I should include it.

 

So I really am not trying to convince you of anything at all. Nothing. I am only trying to ask for opinions (hence the poll). If you could write a fourth poll answer, what would it be? Just a short one sentence answer.

Should I apologize for not arguing?

Edited by BusaDave9
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Interesting. And I agree no other animal needs parental support for 18 years (or anything close to that). A human infant is completely helpless. But I can't imagine if you had an accident that killed a newborn child that you would tell the courts or press that "it wasn't really a human. It was only half a year old." Could you really say that, even to yourself?

 

You don't have to say "it starts here" if you choose the last option. that is unless you (Like Ophiolite) think that it's not truly a human life until after birth.

 

The bottom line is I believe the creation of human life is a gradual process that encompasses the time between conception and birth. To say it extends outside of those bounds is hard to believe (but I am listening).

The last option excludes the moment of conception and any time during or after birth. There's no comprehensive "it happens at some point" option, and I'm not sure that voting for it to be a single point even makes sense.

 

From the moment of conception arguably through puberty that little bundle of cells is developing more and more human characteristics. The debate is really "which characteristics define us as humans and how many/which of them are needed before something qualifies for human status?"

 

And that applies to animals as well as zygotes. Eventually it might apply to computers/software as well. Not that all of those things necessarily qualify as humans, but that the debate does/will exist for each of them.

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What an argumentative bunch? I'm not trying to make a point. I'm trying to ask opinions.

True I didn't have an option worded exactly as you would have worded it.

 

The last option excludes the moment of conception and any time during or after birth. There's no comprehensive "it happens at some point" option, and I'm not sure that voting for it to be a single point even makes sense.

Once again I am not asking for anyone to vote for a single point of time.

Do you think the egg suddenly becomes a human life at conception? If not don't vote for #1.

Do you think the fetus suddenly becomes a human life at birth? If not don't vote for #2.

I thought the 3rd option was vague enough and encompassed enough time.

Do any of you really think it is not a human life at the time of birth or are you guys being argumentative? I didn't want to have a million options for every opinion possible.

 

From the moment of conception arguably through puberty that little bundle of cells is developing more and more human characteristics. The debate is really "which characteristics define us as humans and how many/which of them are needed before something qualifies for human status?"

NO. The debate is not "which characteristics define us as humans and how many/which of them are needed before something qualifies for human status?"

I am asking when can the life be considered a human life. Sure we all develop after birth. But does that mean we are not humans when we are children?

 

 

 

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What an argumentative bunch? I'm not trying to make a point. I'm trying to ask opinions.

True I didn't have an option worded exactly as you would have worded it.

 

Once again I am not asking for anyone to vote for a single point of time.

Do you think the egg suddenly becomes a human life at conception? If not don't vote for #1.

Do you think the fetus suddenly becomes a human life at birth? If not don't vote for #2.

I thought the 3rd option was vague enough and encompassed enough time.

Do any of you really think it is not a human life at the time of birth or are you guys being argumentative? I didn't want to have a million options for every opinion possible.

 

NO. The debate is not "which characteristics define us as humans and how many/which of them are needed before something qualifies for human status?"

I am asking when can the life be considered a human life. Sure we all develop after birth. But does that mean we are not humans when we are children?

 

 

 

I could make a few arguments for excluding children under the age of ~1-2 from falling into the "full human being" category. Not that I necessarily think we should, but I could make a consistent argument for doing so.

 

And yes, that really is what the debate is about. We're debating where the cutoff point is, which is defined by what characteristics make something human or not.

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To answer that. I do not believe it is scientifically reasonable to say that at the time of conception a fertilized egg is suddenly a human life.

Also I do not believe it is scientifically reasonable to say that a fetus suddenly becomes a human life at the time of birth.

If I understand you correctly, then, you chose the cut-offs you did precisely because these are commonly held cut-offs in the general populace. It would have saved us both some time if you'd said that in your first reply.

 

So I really am not trying to convince you of anything at all. Nothing. I am only trying to ask for opinions (hence the poll). If you could write a fourth poll answer, what would it be? Just a short one sentence answer.

4. The identification of a point where we become human is meaningless, since the definition of human is impacted by diverse scientific, religious and cultural viewpoints that prevent arriving at an agreement.

 

Should I apologize for not arguing?

Probably.

 

What an argumentative bunch? I'm not trying to make a point. I'm trying to ask opinions.

It's a frigging discussion forum. If you want neatly packaged answers go ask a kindergarten teacher.

 

Several members have given you their opinions and you seem to be complaining because those don't fit into the poll options you gave and you wish to blame the members, not the poll! It's an interesting approach.

 

Vexen said:

Okay. My argument is:

 

People should make the definition of the start of human life as soon as fertilization occurs

That is not an argument, that is an assertion. What is your argument justifying that assertion?

Edited by Ophiolite
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