General Question

robmandu's avatar

When does life begin?

Asked by robmandu (21210 points ) September 17th, 2008

Human life, that is. At conception? At heart-beat? At brain activity? At first breath of outside air? When they move out of their parents’ house?

FORBIDDEN TOPICS in this thread include:
– abortion
– Constitution
– legal interpretations in general
– political debate

When do you think human life begins? Why?

What are some exceptions to your rule? Are there limits as to where/when that applies (example: On House last nite, the fetus was attached to the woman’s intestine… hence outside where it’s supposed to be).

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

86 Answers

bodyhead's avatar

The bible says life begins at the first breath. I guess that answer is as good as any.

allengreen's avatar

Life begins when I mix the Bloody Mary that procedes my marital copulation.

nikipedia's avatar

Oh boy.

I know this will be an extremely unpopular opinion, but in my mind life begins when a specific egg is fertilized by a specific sperm and forms a diploid cell. At the point the two complements of DNA merge and form one complete set of “build this specific human” instructions, that is a life in my mind.

JackAdams's avatar

Life begins before conception, because one cannot fertilize a dead egg with dead sperm, so BOTH need to be alive before they “meet.”

Judi's avatar

The Bible also says, “I knit you in your mothers womb.” I have 2 answers to this question. The one I apply to my life and encourage in my family is that life begins at conception. I also believe that women make very personal decisions and that I am not God. I would not presume to inflict my view on another woman, except if the child would be viable outside the womb and could be removed safely for both lives involved.

syz's avatar

That’s a tough question that will probably never have a good answer.

Technically, cells that divide are alive. But I don’t think that’s what you’re asking here.
I don’t consider a ball of cells a person. I tend to think of fetuses as “people” when they are viable for survival on their own.

Response moderated
loser's avatar

Life begins at 40!!!

tinyfaery's avatar

So every masturbatory act that results in ejaculation is murder?

See syz for my answer.

osullivanbr's avatar

OK I’ve got a kinda wierd take on this one. I reckon live begins 22 days(ish) after conception, that’s when the heart begins to beat with the child’s blood. A good a time as any I reckon.

Remember, on the other hand Bill Hicks said “that your not a person till you’re in my phonebook”

Judi's avatar

You said it loser! Lurve to you!!

bodyhead's avatar

@Judi, I’m not familiar with that verse but it does make sense. Even if you knit a sweater. It isn’t a sweater until it’s finished. Before then, it’s just arranged string. Therefore, it would make sense for the bible to say life begins at the first breath.

allengreen's avatar

Is the removal of a gallbladder muder? (clump of cells living that die when removed)

nikipedia's avatar

@allengreen: I think those of us making a cellular argument are distinguishing between somatic cells and gametes and further distinguishing between fertilized and unfertilized gametes.

allengreen's avatar

@nik—i’m way out of my league on this one…...

gailcalled's avatar

AG: and your drink probably precedes copulation, no?

PupnTaco's avatar

Life (Big Picture) began in the great unknown all those years ago. We all carry that spark with us.

Individual life begins at conception, but viability as an independent organism comes much later in the pregnancy.

JackAdams's avatar

Tell ya what: I’ll pay $10,000 CASH to anyone who can scientifically prove that a sperm AND an egg are both NOT ALIVE when conception occurs.

Let me know where to mail the cashier’s check, as soon as you do that.

nikipedia's avatar

@JackAdams: Are you being intentionally obtuse or do you really not understand the question @robmandu is getting at? Yes, sex cells are “alive” but they do not constitute “a life” in the way that all of the other readers of this question are interpreting it and the way that I assume Rob meant it. Language has its limitations.

robmandu's avatar

-
just to help refine the direction of the question, yes, my intention is what everyone here is discussing… except allengreen and JackAdams who are just playing silly.

We’re talking human life… not kidney life, or sperm life.

Even a fetus in the earliest weeks of development would be biologically classified as homo sapiens. A human egg or other component part would not.
-

JackAdams's avatar

Please examine human sperm (swimming in semen) under a microscope, sometime, then tell me they are not life, or that they are not alive.

gailcalled's avatar

My mother used to repeat herself and raise her voice when she argued – having run out of reasonable data. It was and is difficult to respond to.

Response moderated
AstroChuck's avatar

According to Hasbro/Milton Bradley, Life begins when a player chooses either to start a career, or to start college, and then spins the wheel.

cyndyh's avatar

Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies.

osullivanbr's avatar

Issues in cyndyh’s house eh…

cyndyh's avatar

Not at all, osullivanbr. Life has begun already for me. :^>

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

My adult life started when i moved from home. that distinction has been so much more important to me personally, than any other question of when life begins.

waterskier2007's avatar

when the pepe juice enters the vajayjay

SuperMouse's avatar

I believe that life, as Rob is referring to it, begins when a baby can survive outside of the mother’s womb. Until that point its life only consists of the mother’s life coursing through it.

allengreen's avatar

SuperM——that is just far too reasonable….

Seesul's avatar

Just to throw into the mix, what about premature infants that must be on life support? Are they still fetuses since they are not yet viable on their own?

Bri_L's avatar

In my mind, and I suspect by the end of this I will question myself, I am with Nikipedia on this

” life begins when a specific egg is fertilized by a specific sperm and forms a diploid cell. At the point the two complements of DNA merge and form one complete set of “build this specific human” instructions, that is a life”

My reasoning, all life, adult life, cellular life, plant life, grown up life needs something outside themselves to live. So the fact it lives off of the mother or not doesn’t matter to me. We as adults live. If the fertilized egg continues to grow with what it needs it will be a human.

Nimis's avatar

There’s a difference between being alive and being sentient, no?

Bri_L's avatar

I suppose so.

generalspecific's avatar

Well I dunno about all this technical stuff, but my life began when I got my license :)
oh how I do love freedom.

blastfamy's avatar

@JackAdams – Living cell – yes! Living human? NO.

The gamete only contains half of the DNA material required for Human life. It is therefore not a life in the context of homo Saphien (sp?) humanity.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Seesul, there is a gestational turning point. Before this point the baby cannot survive outside of its mother even with every medical intervention available.

@Bri, plants don’t need another life to keep them alive, they just need nourishment from an outside source. The baby in a mother’s womb needs the mother’s life to keep it alive.

Bri_L's avatar

@ super – i didn’t mean to imply plants needed another life anymore than adults did. I just meant to point out that we, as do plants needed a source out side our selves to survive.
the baby needs the mother. I don’t differentiate that.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bri – gotcha.

Poser's avatar

@Supermouse—Suppose we are eventually able to build an artificial womb, so that a human life could be created, gestated, and “delivered,” all without the need of a biological womb. At what point would that theoretical life begin?

PupnTaco's avatar

@cyndy: I like that answer, but I’ll miss the dog :(

SuperMouse's avatar

@Poser, I would use the same criteria – once the fetus can survive outside of the artificial womb. But if we had an artificial womb wouldn’t it be created so that there is no chance of the baby being delivered anytime before 40 weeks gestation? If we are ever advanced enough to produce something along those lines, we would most likely be advanced enough to pick a date of birth at the time of conception.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Supermouse – so you don’t consider it relying on the mother akin to us relying on life support or air or plants and the sun?

If I may ask, what quality, aside from location, is compromised by the baby relying on the mother.

Are conjoined twins who share lungs and a heart not alive by that reas?

Poser's avatar

@Supermouse—My point was that there would really be no difference between the child in the artificial womb, and the premature child inside an incubator. As Bri says, isn’t it merely a matter of location?

tinyfaery's avatar

Plants aren’t parasites. The sun is not depleted by giving life.

Seesul's avatar

…and the violability age and weight of the premature child keeps decreasing.

Bri_L's avatar

wouldn’t plants be parasites of the earth? Don’t you rotate crops because they deplete the soil of certain elements they need?

Bri_L's avatar

I am afraid of what SuperMouse is typing. :-)

I have never in my life discussed this with anyone before. so I am a little on edge and nervous

tinyfaery's avatar

Is the soil living? Is the sun living for that matter? Ultimately I suppose we need to define what it means to be “a life”. Women are definitely living.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bri and Poser, I stand by my statement. It is the mother’s life that gives the fetus life. Again, I am talking about that turning point where there is no way, under any circumstances that the fetus could survive outside of the mother. Before that point the mother is literally giving the fetus life. If we had Poser’s artificial womb, things would become more murky in my mind, but since we don’t, and nature determines when a fetus is viable outside of its mother, I see that as the point when life begins.

@Bri, It would be a tremendous leap to say that conjoined twins who share vital organs would, by my reasoning, not be alive. These twins are capable of surviving without the mother’s life to give them life. Of course their life has begun.

@Seesul, it does, and I believe that is a miracle and a very wonderful thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is, and more than likely will always be, a certain developmental threshold a fetus must to pass in order to survive without the mother giving it life.

@Bri, I promise to always be respectful and never to attack you personally! Please don’t be afraid of what I’m typing! P.S. I got that same nervous feeling when I saw you were crafting a response!

Bri_L's avatar

@ Super – I see what you are saying and respect your view. I must disagree. Once the DNA code is in place the building process has begun. To me that is life. Every bit of information that is needed and used for a human is there isn’t it? So how is that not life?

@Super – thanks this was a scary step for me.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Tiny – We are born we live we die we decompose and be come part of the earth we plant seeds grow food eat the food it becomes part of us. The worm crawls in the worm crawls out.

parasite |ˈparəˌsīt|
noun
an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense.

I don’t know if it has to be a living organism like an animal.

We can remove that from my example if it is troublesome. It didn’t advance my point

SuperMouse's avatar

But isn’t every bit of information there the second the sperm and the egg meet? Even given that fact, if the fertilized egg doesn’t travel through the fallopian tube and implant in the uterus, the fetus will not begin to grow and will not survive.

Bri_L's avatar

Agreed. I believe that life begins at that point, but will not survive if it doesn’t travel through the fallopian tube and implant in the uterus.

I believe this to be one of the many things that can happen durning a pregnancy. Things can obstruct a birth the entire process.

@Super- I am enjoying this discussion but am feeling a bit under the weather. I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say

allengreen's avatar

This is an issue where humility must come into consideration. As a human, we may not have the capacity to know the exact moment life begins, though I agree with supermouse for the most part.

We have to say sometimes—that is a really big question, and we really don’t know the answer.

The question should be, “why is it importaint to know the exact moment life begins”?

osullivanbr's avatar

Not trying to piss everyone off here now or anything, but saying that life begins when sperm and the egg fertilise doesn’t make sense to me. Fair enough every bit of information required is there but it hasn’t been “put together” as such. Isn’t that kinda like saying a bunch of bricks and cement on the ground constitutes a house? Even though they haven’t been built up to form a house?

Kinda silly analogy I know, but you know what I’m getting at.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Osulivanbr – not pissing me off at all, that is a good point. The difference is the house can’t put itself together.

bodyhead's avatar

Bri_L, The baby also cannot put itself together. Take it out of the mother and see how long it lasts. The fetus can’t do it alone. It needs help. It needs nutrition. The mother is necessary.

Bri_L's avatar

@ bodyhead- The baby can put itself together, as long as you keep it in an environment conducive to doing so as you pointed out.

No matter what you do the house cannot.

The same way we, as full grown “living” adults can not live if you remove us from an environment that provides us with what we nee. but that goes back to my point that we need things to support our lives. We rely on food and water we get from outside our bodies.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Bri, it is an interesting point about removing adults from an environment that provides what we need. I would argue that the adult (or even not fully grown) human has a developed brain and therefore the ability to attempt to find what it requires for survival. The developing fetus does not have that.

This might be a bit off topic, but I gotta say, this thread has managed to stay very interesting and not the least bit offensive. What an amazing Collective! Kudos to all.

osullivanbr's avatar

@bri Surely it’s the mother’s body that’s putting the baby together, not the baby itself.

gailcalled's avatar

It is complicated. Have you ever watch the slo-mo films of the Lion sperm (after swimming many miles upstream against bad odds) battering its way into the egg, which is attached to the wall of the uterus? Then suddenly the single fertilized cell splits into two, and then four.

Mom is not doing much yet except providing a hospitable environment.

The mother’s body, thru umbilical cord and placenta supplies nourishment, but the little bundle of cells is programmed to do what it does, which is to multiply and be fruitful…I am no biologist but it all gets pretty complicated.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Super – So that would make the definition of life the ability to sustain of find what you need to sustain it, according to what your saying. But baby’s outside the womb can’t do what your describing. A new born baby can’t feed itself or take care of itself. I am sure we both agree that it is alive.

@ osullivanbr – I agree with gail – the cellular development, while needing what the mother provides as nourishment, happens on its own, not as a result of it. That occurs becaus the fertilization.

—and don’t call me Surely hehehe (sorry I had to)

I second Super’s point! Way to go people we are all on “11” on the 10 point civility scale here!

SuperMouse's avatar

But a newborn baby does have the instinct to find food. I remember reading somewhere, that then put on a mother’s tummy, and newborn will instinctively work its way up to the breast, begin to root, and will try to latch on.

Bri_L's avatar

True, I have seen that same thing written somewhere, but instinct is a byproduct of brain function. Brain function and development is a function of the baby, not the nutrients the mother provides. When does that occur?

nikipedia's avatar

Brain function and development is a function of the baby, not the nutrients the mother provides. When does that occur?

I can try to tackle this one if you want, but it would probably be pretty technical and boring. What aspect of brain function are you interested in?

nikipedia's avatar

@osullivanbr: No, I don’t think it’s analogous. I think by definition, a house is provides shelter, and in order to provide shelter those materials necessarily must be assembled. The whole point of this question is that we don’t have a working definition of “life”, and it seems reasonable to me that the one we come up with might not necessarily include fully assembled parts.

Bri_L's avatar

I am ready to learn.

I guess that is where I personal trouble myself and why I am enjoying this. Well I guess, when does the brain develop to the point where it starts regulating and processing things like the heart, pain, etc. biofunctions.

gailcalled's avatar

The whole process takes nine months for a reason; different parts develop at different rates and at different times. For example, preemies often have lung problems.

@path; I am waiting eagerly for your comment. Yust be careful not to be too clear.

allengreen's avatar

Let’s say we all agreed on when life begins. Then what?

Would the stock market come back? Would Jesus come back? Rapture ? Would home values stop dropping?

Why is this so important?

pathfinder's avatar

The live itself can start anytime.If you mix the water of two kind or more than live as common one each minute has been born new baby.In a first case the question is when the live will come up.Any cain of live as a first has to pass trough incubation witch is period when the live creating itself hide from the eyes=When=Basicly we can count the period in time.I thing this is tricky one.Is a live{ when} before or after…....................

Bri_L's avatar

@ allen – just a discussion going on.

robmandu's avatar

@allengreen, try this link.

bodyhead's avatar

allen, It’s extremely important in abortion arguments. We just won’t bring it to it’s logical argumentative conclusion because robmandu put those arguments to rest in the question.

I had one person message me. If anyone’s interested in what the bible says about this issue:
http://www.ffrf.org/nontracts/abortion.php
http://joeschwartz.net/life.htm

Take a gander if you’d like.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Allen, maybe if we come up with a concrete answer it will miraculously repair the economy, who knows. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch, but if we did answer we could move on to another age old question like the whole chicken and the egg thing. Or maybe once we have proven that we can solve this, we can put our collective minds together and solve something else, like world hunger! Yes, I guess that is a bit of a stretch as well.

allengreen's avatar

My point was: they restrictions on the question don’t allow honest and complete discussion important aspects of the topic being limited.
It would be like asking a question about the virtues of the Iraq war with out being able to discuss civilian causalities, Bush, or WMD’s.
I’m so often criticized for asking a loaded question, but now feel license to ask a loaded question, and then restrict it to the point of nonsense.

syz's avatar

I’m willing to bet that this question came with those restrictions in order to avoid overly contentious discussions. I think it has worked quite well and all allowed for thoughtful discourse.

Bri_L's avatar

I took it as an effort to strip it down to a biological and logical process.

That doesn’t happen often.

blastfamy's avatar

@allengreen – Many times, questions concerning topics of violent debate turn into just that here.
Abortion debates usually boil down to the idea that life begins inside or outside the womb, and that real issue is shrouded by the angry date over the word “abortion.”

This question stripped that political makeup from the question, allowing the important question at hand to be answered.

gailcalled's avatar

@AG:“allowing the important question at hand to be answered.“Or at least discussed. No one of us will probably change our mind from a debate on this subject. I certainly have thought about it ever since I was old enough to get pregnant.

trz's avatar

Yes life begins in first breath, but real life in this planet begins when you start deciding for your self. What to do and not to do, eat and not to eat and everything with respnsibility

tonychikoni's avatar

technically, life begins as soon as the organism follows all the rules that would classify it as a living organism which are:
Living things are made of cells.

Living things obtain and use energy.

Living things grow and develop.

Living things reproduce.

Living things respond to their environment.

Living things adapt to their environment.

as soon as an organism can do all these things, then it would be considered living.

bea2345's avatar

Human life doesn’t really begin. It continues. Since we are finite and a book has to have a beginning, we say, and believe, that life begins at conception, or the first breath, or at some arbitrary stage. We even fight about it. But life began, if it really began in any real sense, a long time ago and each of us is a carrier of the seed from which our ancestors came. this is not an original idea but I can’t remember where I got it from.

TogoldorMandar's avatar

Well life begins when you “feel” that you are alive and acknowledge that !!

shrubbery's avatar

@TogoldorMandar you cannot expect a baby to distinguish what “life” is. They cannot comprehend it, nor acknowledge it. Are you suggesting that you are not truly alive until maybe age 5 when you start learning about life and death?

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