When Does A Human Life Begin?

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When does a human become a human? Is it when it’s expelled from the uterus, or is it within mere hours of conception, when the cells are already developing by the trillions to create a human life? Is it somewhere in between, or is it impossible to say?

 
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Considering we define the end of the human life as the death of the brain, it would only be logical to define the beginning of it as the birth of brain: when it actually takes form and is able to function, which is after the third month of development.

 
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That is very logical, although I have to admit it’s somewhat problematic in terms of human development. As our brain develops much differently than it shuts down, could it not be argued that as the cells are forming the brain, the brain is alive? Or is there some minimum threshold of actual brain activity in order for us to consider it alive? Very interesting point, Popperian.

 
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Seeing as the human brain develops gradually – as you intelligently pointed out -, there is not much we can do besides pick a somewhat arbitrary point on that development timeline and define it as “the beginning of life”. I would say it must have its basic structures in place that would at least allow it to possibly be conscious. VikaTae, AFAIK, is a neuroscientist, thus she will be able to contribute more to this speculation than I will.

 
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My definition of “human” would include “conscious” as a criterion, but unfortunately I don’t know enough about recognizing consciousness. Of course, the distinction itself is probably pretty blurry, so I’m not going to argue for any changes to abortion laws.

That is what this thread is about, right? Starting an abortion flame war discussion? The word “conception” kind of gives it away.

 
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No this is not to start any kind of flame war, I merely used conception to mean the moment when the sperm enters the egg and all of that junk. It is after this moment that cells begin to rapidly develop into a human life, so that’s the only reason I used it as a starting point. This is not meant to have anything to do with abortion law, but of course a discussion like this is inevitably a precursor to that sort of thing. I meant this to be exactly what it is stated to be.

 
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Ok, then it’s time for me to apologize for being so (passive-) aggressive, and leave this to vikaTae. As Popperian said, she’s the one who would actually know what she’s talking about.

(For the record, the medical term for when the sperm enters the egg is “fertilization,” but I knew full well what you meant and didn’t need to be so pedantic.)

 
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I don’t blame you one bit for being suspicious, I suppose.

I think everybody can have a valid opinion about this, though, regardless of their familiarity with neural-biology. For example, I believe Popperian’s post is very insightful and I also agree with your sentiment that the lines are inherently quite blurry, even (I believe) for an expert. I find it very interesting to talk about this sort of thing, especially since so many people don’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.

Also, I believe conception and fertilization are somewhat interchangeable, but I could definitely be wrong about that.

 
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Birth works for me. When it becomes a functional being (in general, before someone writes 8 paragraphs about the definition of ‘functional’ in relation to the multitude of modern medical stuff we use to keep some babies alive) outside the host body.

Oh, and of course it could be functional outside the host body at an earlier stage than birth… but it isn’t.

 
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I currently follow the idea that a fetus/baby should be considered a part of the woman’s body until such time that it is able to live without direct biological assistance from the mother (inside the womb). Viability is, at it’s lowest, currently around 23 weeks at minimum where there’s a significant chance of survival. By that time, a woman should have made the choice (barring special circumstances) on whether she wishes to keep the fetus/baby or abort it. Defining it by brain activity works well as a logical point (around 12 weeks is when brain activity starts afaik, heart beats at 7), but ignores that we can detect certain illnesses later on or complications can arise … which leads into the whole argument of “Is it right to abort a baby with a disorder?” but isn’t relevant to the question.

As for the question posed by the title of the thread, I would say that life begins at conception. That is life, as much as any other living tissue is. However, it’s going beyond absurd to call the potential of something equal to that of an established organism.

 
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On that note, another interesting question may be: when does “potential for life” become life?

 
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Originally posted by Nuob:

On that note, another interesting question may be: when does “potential for life” become life?

Seems fairly obvious, it would be when a sperm and an egg (assuming it’s sexual reproduction here, asexual is just constant) join to create a zygote.

 
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No, it isn’t obvious, that’s one of the reasons it’s such a contentious point. You’re the only person arrogant enough so far to say that any of these answers are obvious. I happen to agree, but it’s definitely not just an obvious fact as you seem to be claiming.

 
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Originally posted by Nuob:

Really? Nothing about how I was being a smart-ass and using a loophole in your phrasing?

You’re the only person arrogant enough so far to say that any of these answers are obvious.

Aren’t I the only person who answered that question?

 
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when does “potential for life” become life?

Eerrrrrrr….just so I’m understanding this here,,,at least somewhat.
There’s a HUUUGGGGEEEEEEE “loophole” in his phrasing.
Only life begets life.
The sperm & the ovum HAVE TO BE ALIVE,,,
or….ZIP, NADA, NO GO, “DRY RUN”, “DAY OFF” at the baby factory, …..

Only life itself has potential.

 
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Originally posted by Nuob:

You honestly have nothing else to say? Please, continue proving my point that you’re an arrogant windbag with absolutely nothing of value to contribute to these forums.

Who, me or Karma? It’s getting hard to tell, honestly.

Did you fail to notice that my phrasing was in direct response to what Kasic said about potential?

I know that it was because of his post that the question was asked, but the question itself still has a loophole.

Also, responses are more clearly seen as direct when you actually quote them.

 
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Life begins the moment a cell divides. That’s biology, not a social or political opinion.

 
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Originally posted by Nuob:

On that note, another interesting question may be: when does “potential for life” become life?

Why complicate it. An unfertilized egg, and a dry seed, is not alive. A fertilized egg, and a germinating seed, is alive. The DNA of that egg, or seed, is evidence of it’s predetermined course. To destroy a fertilized egg, or germinating seed, ends the development of that organism, and therefore it’s life. Whether or not a fetus is alive is an argument of semantics among the ignorant. Whether or not human life has value is different question altogether.
 
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Originally posted by Aleazor:
Originally posted by Nuob:

On that note, another interesting question may be: when does “potential for life” become life?

Why complicate it. An unfertilized egg, and a dry seed, is not alive. A fertilized egg, and a germinating seed, is alive. The DNA of that egg, or seed, is evidence of it’s predetermined course. To destroy a fertilized egg, or germinating seed, ends the development of that organism, and therefore it’s life.
Whether or not a fetus is alive is an argument of semantics among the ignorant. Whether or not human life has value is different question altogether.

Wrong. There are various definitions of life and most disagree (including traditional, scientific and medical).
According to the traditional definitions life begins at birth, this was/is due to the high number of miscarriages and the problem of being aware of the other possible times when life could be defined as having begun.
Scientifically/Medically depending on the definition, fertilization(mixture of DNA) is either not enough or unnecessary. Its either already life before that or not yet life because it lacks growth or an independent metabolism.

 
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Originally posted by Aleazor:

Life begins the moment a cell divides. That’s biology, not a social or political opinion.

What do you mean “that’s biology”? The cells were still alive before they started to divide, and so were the sperm & egg. The important thing is: when does a human life begin? This is not something that can be solved purely from biology, but rather from philosophy with the aid of biology.