Social Question

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

When does life begin?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (24431points) 1 month ago

Their are different stages.

Before conception, at conception, birth?

Why do embryos consider to be a child in law , and not sperm or unfertilzed eggs?

If the soul exists; then when does it enter the body?

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66 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Really neat question, and other than just my opinion I can’t answer any segment of your question.

gorillapaws's avatar

Life begins at the moment of conception.

Every time I sneeze I eject thousands? millions? billions? of living human cells any of which have the potential to become human people given the right circumstance.

Personhood on the other hand… At minimum, you need some kind of brain structure with brain functions that outclass invertebrates.

elbanditoroso's avatar

I’m staying away from this one. All you’ll get is crazies.

This has been pondered for 5000+ years. We won’t answer it here.

gondwanalon's avatar

When the blob of cells first begins to look like a human baby.

smudges's avatar

This has been fought about for almost forever. It’s what all the abortion debates are about. There are many opinions, so pick one that matches what you believe. You’ve stirred quite a hornet’s nest.

seawulf575's avatar

It is all a matter of viewpoint and what the convenient situation is at the time.

A sperm and an egg are not, individually, considered a life because they retain the DNA of the father/mother. They are not separate from them and are just a part of the parents. But when the sperm fertilizes the egg, it creates something new that starts growing and which has a separate DNA from either parent. Different DNA = different life.

The debate comes into play when you start discussing getting rid of group of cells/embryo. If you are discussing abortion, many that support abortion will say it isn’t murder since it is part of the woman’s body. That debate can take you down a rabbit hole. BUT, those same people will say it is fair to charge someone with murder if they do something that kills the baby (kill the mother, for instance. It, in many states, brings a charge for murder of the woman and a second charge for the child).

Scientifically, I’d say life begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg and that egg begins to grow.

ragingloli's avatar

When, outside, it does not need machines and constant medical intervention just to stay alive.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Most people used to say at the point the fetus recoils from pain, or tries to avoid the instruments killing them.

When is it okay to kill a kitten and not feel bad?

seawulf575's avatar

@ragingloli So if you are in a bad accident and need machines and constant medical intervention to stay alive you are not considered a life any longer?

canidmajor's avatar

@seawulf575 That is a one-dimensional false equivalency, and one that is as clichéed as the “What about SCUBA divers?” “What about astronauts?” questions that are always brought up.

Please, anyone who claims to know the word of God on this issue, share with us the scripture, from any organized religion, that states that human life begins before a fetus is viable extra-utero.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 “So if you are in a bad accident and need machines and constant medical intervention to stay alive you are not considered a life any longer?”

Your next of kin can legally pull the plug on you without your consent if you’re a vegetable. Nobody disputes the vegetable person is “alive” but they also recognize that you don’t have the same rights as when you weren’t in a permanent vegetative state.

seawulf575's avatar

@canidmajor Not a one-dimensional anything. If you claim that life only begins when you can survive without aid of machines and medical care, there are many times that could fit. I know that is inconvenient for you. But look at what @ragingloli said: “When, outside, it does not need machines and constant medical intervention just to stay alive.” Just to stay alive. In other words, the child was alive prior to the need for machines and medical intervention. So no, it is already established my example is not a one-dimensional false equivalency. It was already stated in the statement to which I was responding.

seawulf575's avatar

@canidmajor In response to your challenge for biblical references

Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Exodus 21:22–25 – When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Psalm 139:13–16 – For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Galatians 1:15 – But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,

Job 31:15 – Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Luke 1:44 – For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Do I need to go on?

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws Yep, they can. Additionally if you are determined to be brain dead, the hospital can pull the plug. So you would no longer be alive, correct? According to @ragingloli that is what the defining trait was. You need machines and constant medical care to keep you alive. The implication is, of course, that you were alive before the machines and medical attention came into the picture.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 Exactly, you’re alive, but aren’t considered a person with full rights and can be killed based on the judgement of other people without it being a crime.

jca2's avatar

If you’re brain dead, but haven’t signed any legal documents which would get the plug pulled, you may be kept alive despite there being zero chance of your recovery, for a period.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws The question isn’t when you a person, it is when life begins. @ragingloli admits that babies in the womb are alive but couldn’t survive without machines and medical oversight. So if they are alive, then to terminate a pregnancy would be murder. It is deemed such if someone other than the mother kills the unborn. Apparently a mother can commit murder and people cheer.

seawulf575's avatar

@jca2 Not entirely sure if that is across the country or at specific hospitals. My niece had an issue that put her in the hospital with little to no chance for recovery. Brain stem aneurism. The hospital has a protocol for declaring brain death. They check the patient 3 times, about 12 hours apart each time. If there is no response, death is declared. There are a series of tests that the nurses do. Things like telling the person to move a toe or squeeze a hand, open eyes, etc. My niece got as far as the third test and the nurse got in her face telling her she needed to stop screwing around and needed to squeeze her hand right now! And she did. After that they checked further. Wiggling fingers, moving toes, etc all started happening when asked. The doctors said it was impossible, but there it was. The doctors also said she would be a vegetable and within a week was making cognitive decisions…what music to listen to for example. They said she’d be trapped in her body and never be able to move, talk, etc. Now she does all of those things. It has taken time but she made it.

But again, I don’t know if that hospitals protocols are the same as every other hospital. Seems odd that we don’t have a set of standards for things like that.

gorillapaws's avatar

@seawulf575 “So if they are alive, then to terminate a pregnancy would be murder”

Inaccurate. You get charged with murder when you kill a person. If it were just living human cells that have the potential to become people, then you’d be committing genocide every time you blow your nose, or cut your finger.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws Except that is how the law works. If I attack a pregnant woman and in the process cause her unborn child to die, I get charged with murder. But if that same pregnant woman decides she doesn’t want the child and goes for an abortion, it’s suddenly not murder any longer.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@gorillapaws You get charged with two if she’s pregnant. A la Scott Peterson.

Zaku's avatar

It’s pointless to ask those questions without a solid definition of life, and for what purposes you intend to use that definition of life.

smudges's avatar

^^ Exactly. Just a hornet’s nest.

YARNLADY's avatar

To me, the definition of “life” and “human being” are two different things. After all, we destroy and even eat living things all the time.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Thanks @YARNLADY Is sentience a better term? If not then what do you suggest?

seawulf575's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 Sentience wouldn’t apply either. Pigs, cows, chickens, shrimp, crabs, fish are all sentient. There is some evidence even plants have a certain sentience.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@seawulf575 I had some other terms but they are synonyms of sentience. How about transcendent awareness? Or civilized? Human?

seawulf575's avatar

Sorry. Transcendent awareness and civilized don’t really apply to all people that are adults. To expect that out of a fertilized egg or even a newborn baby is unrealistic. Using those terms would eliminate most people from being considered “alive”. “Human” comes back to “what is the definition of when life begins?” To say someone is human…when do they actually become that? Is it the individual DNA? Is it when they can react to stimuli? Is it when they can breathe on their own? And with any of those sorts of definitions comes the obvious question: If you once were human and entered a situation where those definitions no longer apply, are you no longer human? If you get Covid-19 and have to go onto a respirator, do you stop being human?

As @Zaku said, it comes down to what is the definition of life. Just like “What is a woman?” it is a question that sounds so simple and basic yet causes much upheaval in society and for the same reason. In both cases, it is made difficult by people that “want” it to mean something or “feel” it should mean something.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@seawulf575 The issue reminds me of Star Trek TNG “the measure of a man”. Where the crew have a trial over a researcher wants to reverse engineer Data, and whether Data has right to refuse.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@seawulf575 How about has a soul?

For those who believe?
When does the soul enter the body?

seawulf575's avatar

Not everyone believes in the soul. There is limited research into the existence of a soul. So using the soul as the yardstick would, again, cause problems. And if you don’t believe in a soul, does that mean you are no longer alive?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@seawulf575 Good points. Thanks. Dan Browns “the lost symbol ” has a discussion about the main characters doing research into whether the soul has weight. They found out that when a person dies that they weigh slightly less. Is a work of fiction, but It would be interesting to see if any real research is done outside of religion and or the Bible.

seawulf575's avatar

We had a discussion on Fluther in the past about if there was any scientific proof or studies showing the existence of a soul. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have an entirely different take on this whole question, since it ultimately relates to abortion.
If it’s ok to kill a criminal, and ok to kill people in wartime, then is it not also OK to kill unborn people as well?

flutherother's avatar

Life begins the moment a baby is born.

seawulf575's avatar

@YARNLADY The grand answer is that it’s never okay to kill a person. However, sometimes it is necessary. If someone is attacking you and it’s a matter of killing them or they kill and brutalize you and your family, killing them is the choice you have. And killing that person is ultimately like cutting away dead tissue from around a wound…it prevents further spread of infection. If you don’t kill that one person, then at least you (possibly your family or others around you) are going to die. That person will then be able to go on and kill more people. But killing a person is a big deal and should never be done on a whim.

But I find it interesting: you list criminals and opposing wartime enemies as the same as unborn children? There is a huge, glaring difference between criminals/wartime opponents and unborn children: one of experience. The criminal committed a heinous crime, usually killing one or more people. The enemy in a war likewise has killed others (or will). Both of these have, or could, hurt you. The unborn baby did absolutely nothing. It didn’t decide to be conceived (that was the mother with help from the father) and committed no crimes. It is innocent. That you lump all these situations together as being the same is very odd.

Additionally, the comparison brings us back to the aforementioned killing for a whim. You have reasons to kill the criminal or the opponent in a war. What is the reason for killing the baby? The baby that you created? Yes, there are humane reasons…Zika babies for instance will never truly know living, though they will be alive. Severe birth defects that are detected before birth is another. I’d even throw rape in there since the baby wasn’t created based on your decision. But those are the vast minority of all abortions. The vast majority are for convenience in one form or another.

smudges's avatar

@seawulf575 I agreed with your post until you stated unequivocally that “the vast majority [of abortions] are for convenience”.

Cite me your statistics from a reputable source, please.

ragingloli's avatar

His source is GOATSE

seawulf575's avatar

@smudges This article does an interesting take on reasons for abortion. They try to split it up as much as possible for a lot of different reasons. But look at the reasons and ask the question: did that reason exist before the woman had unprotected sex? Look at the reasons:

Financial: They felt they weren’t financially ready for a baby. Probably there when they had unprotected sex.

Timing: goes back to financial, but adds emotionally unready and age as reasons. Probably there when they had unprotected sex.

Partner-related Reasons: Again, their relationship is so-so, the guy doesn’t want children, he is abusive, she wanted to be married first, etc. All those were there when they had unprotected sex. And in this one especially if they guy didn’t want kids, why is he not using a condom?!?

Other Responsibilities: Women felt overwhelmed with the children they already have and can’t deal with another one. OR women felt a pregnancy and child would interfere with their life choices of career, school, etc. All these reasons existed when they had unprotected sex.

Emotions and health: Women didn’t feel emotionally or mentally able to have children. This did not sneak up on them. This is how they were when they had unprotected sex.

Other Health Related issues: This one is mixed bag. Some of the reasons fall in with reasons I already gave for an abortion being okay, others do not. Health of mother or child – good. Alcohol or drug use – bad. Some of the health issues, though, are well known prior to having unprotected sex.

Inability to provide for a child: This one falls back on financial and mentality for the most part. Both of these existed prior to having unprotected sex. And this doesn’t explain why they can’t have the baby and put it up for adoption.

Not independent or mature enough for having a baby: Again…this is not something that crept up. It existed when she had unprotected sex.

Most of these, the vast number of these, are for convenience. They don’t want the burden of the baby. But in most of these cases, the condition they were claiming existed when they made the decision to have unprotected sex. The only answer is that they figured they could get an abortion if they got pregnant. It is being used as a form of birth control. Rather than being responsible up front, they are using the abortion as a way out of the problems they created themselves.

smudges's avatar

@seawulf575 I asked for statistics regarding “convenient” abortions, not a kitchen sink of reasons. You haven’t answered. Why? Because there are no statistics.

But those are the vast minority of all abortions. The vast majority are for convenience in one form or another.

Just your biased opinion.

smudges's avatar

@ragingloli What’s a GOATSE?

ragingloli's avatar

It is an old internet meme, a photograph depicting a man stretching open his anus to an unnatural extent.

smudges's avatar


Smashley's avatar

Pretty sure life begins at 40,

seawulf575's avatar

@smudges I suspect you didn’t look at the article as it gave percentages of the time each reason was given for an Abortion. So now you want another citation that you won’t look at? Ok

Go ahead and tell me how wrong it is without reviewing it.

smudges's avatar

@seawulf575 Does being a smart alec come naturally or do you have to work at it? You could have said the above in various ways. You chose nasty sarcasm.

As it happens, I did read that. You are the one calling those reasons “convenient”. And I looked over the other link also. Yes, there are statistics for each reason.

I guess what it boils down to is that you call those reasons “convenient”, whereas I don’t judge the women, and I assume they made the choice that was best for them at the time rather than bringing an “inconvenient” baby into the world. Good for them!

And now, since this has veered off into a discussion of the pros and cons of abortion rather than the OP’s question…I’m out.

seawulf575's avatar

@smudges I think it is a God-given talent. But be honest. Even when I’m not being snarky, I’m often greeted with far worse that what I just did.

I understand you think those reasons showed responsibility. But think about it for a minute. How did that baby get started? They got started when a man and woman had unprotected sex of some sort. Possibly rape, possibly condom breakage, most likely just didn’t want to use BC. AFTER they are pregnant, that is when it suddenly becomes necessary to stop the pregnancy. Why not before? So their bad choices in many cases lead to situations where now it is inconvenient for them to have a baby. Let me ask another question: which is cheaper: BC pills and/or a condom or an abortion? Which is less emotionally trying for the woman: BC pills and/or a condom or an unwanted pregnancy? Which has less chance of damage to a woman: BC pills and/or a condom or an abortion?

But getting back to the question and tying this all back to it, if a woman gets pregnant and doesn’t want a baby, aren’t they acknowledging the thing growing in their belly is a living being? They know it can be removed without actual surgery so it isn’t really part of them, right? So apparently everyone knows that life starts somewhere between the fertilization of the egg and even the month after (or less).

smudges's avatar

^^ Even when I’m not being snarky, I’m often greeted with far worse that what I just did.

My point was, I wasn’t snarky and could have been several times.

…aren’t they acknowledging the thing growing in their belly is a living being?

It’s a potential living being. At the point you’re talking about, it’s just a ball of cells, not a “being”.

So apparently everyone knows that life starts somewhere between the fertilization of the egg and even the month after (or less)

Bullshit. That’s what this entire hornet’s nest is about…when does life begin! silly goose. Don’t make assumptions about everyone else, stick to your own beliefs.

seawulf575's avatar

@smudges They won’t admit to knowing life starts somewhere between the fertilization and about a month or less, but they know it. The actions all point to them knowing it. The problem is one of admitting it and being held accountable for your previous actions (unprotected sex) or denying it so you can get out of the consequences and still feel good about yourself. Kinda hard to feel good about yourself if you have to admit it is a living thing, separate from the you, and you want to kill it.

You, yourself, say it’s a potential living being. It’s just a ball of cells and not a being. You are trying to parse words (alive and being) to make a distinction. The ball of cells is growing, all on it’s own. It isn’t like cancer. Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that are normal in a body, designed to perform a function that they can no longer perform due to the abnormal structure of the changed (cancerous) cells. The “ball of cells” are not part of the woman’s body. They have an entirely different DNA structure from the woman. They are not serving any function for the woman as they did not exist until the egg was fertilized. And yet they are growing. It is 100% true the woman is the incubator for these cells, but that doesn’t make them part of her. If I put a hen’s egg into an incubator, that egg continues to grow, yet is not part of the incubator.

It is the idea that people will be held accountable for their sketchy behavior that makes determining when life begins so much of a hornet’s nest.

smudges's avatar

Again, stop speaking for everyone else and making assumptions about what they think and believe.

seawulf575's avatar

Just applying logic and science.

smudges's avatar

No, you’re applying emotions and your beliefs.

waiting for your response since I know you must have the last word…but that’s ok, go ahead and get it out.

seawulf575's avatar

Well, you are now making an assumption about how I think and what I believe. How are you different from what you say I’m doing? And what emotions am I bringing into the discussion? I’m bringing my beliefs…I believe in science and logic. I’m discussing it from those views.

If you want another of my beliefs, it is very simple. Until people can listen and discuss a topic honestly, it will continue to be a point of contention.

…waiting for your response since I know you must have the last word

YARNLADY's avatar

Wulfie doesn’t really believe all the things he argues about. He’s just being devil’s advocate to get people to actually think about what they are saying, and it works.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Wow!! @YARNLADY I think you nailed it right with that answer I wish I could give you a hundred GAs for it.

seawulf575's avatar

@YARNLADY That must be it. But since my opinions vary little from thread to thread, couldn’t it also be that I just have a different viewpoint from most of the jellies on these pages? You see it as being a Devil’s Advocate only because I’m voicing the view that the rest of the echo chamber doesn’t? Gee, that might be because most jellies on these pages are rabid lefties and I’m a rightie? Or even a Centrist?

Here’s a test to tell the truth of it: Go to threads that aren’t political in nature. See if I strive to take opposite sides from everyone else. I think what you will find is that my views differ very little from everyone else.

In every discussion (just about) there are generally at least 2 sides to a topic. On Fluther, in political discussion or on hot button topics (basically the same thing), I typically have the view point opposite to many others. And in every discussion, the point of discussion is to hear opposing viewpoints to help us think about our own beliefs. Does my view hold true? Is there any truth in what the other view has? That is how we grow and learn. And here’s a lesson I am learning from Fluther: Most of the lefties on Fluther (not the Centrists or mildly left) spout a lot of things that they cannot back up. They have view points that, when challenged, are found to be untenable. And in many cases, this results in a variety of efforts to avoid actually admitting that. Typically I get deflection in one form or another. Either an immediate change of topic or focus or I get an answer to a challenge that was never made. When I press the issue to get back to the point that was in disagreement, I typically get personal attacks used to try shutting me down. Neither of these is useful in the debate of a topic and don’t help anyone to learn anything. What these defenses do is embolden me. They tell me that my point is extremely valid and that the other people in the discussion just don’t like that and will never admit it.

But I will confess to a personal quirk that I have voiced before. This cognitive dissonance mystifies me. I’m fascinated how people can do such mental gymnastics to avoid actually addressing what is discussed. I’ve seen it for many years in my life. You have a discussion with somebody that sounds amazingly like “So you agree that A = B? Yes. And you agree that B = C? Yes. So A has to = C! NO!!!” It dazzles me and makes me want to understand how that thinking occurs.

smudges's avatar

^^ Pot calling kettle. just sayin’.

jca2's avatar

@smudges It’s the Trump syndrome. “I’m the victim.”

seawulf575's avatar

@smudges possibly. But I try to actually address what is being said. When someone on the left makes a claim or offers an opinion, I look into it. I think about it, research it and see if it is valid, partially valid, or complete nutso. Look at what I just replied to @YARNLADY. She was making an assumption about how I felt and thought…you know, all the things you hate? But I stayed with the conversation. I explained my viewpoint, I defended my thoughts. I tried to correct the misconception I was merely playing Devil’s Advocate, a role that would imply I purposely picked the opposing side just to stir things up. And all the points I made are valid. Look at what @jca2 just responded. Changed the focus, made a personal attack, all because what I say makes her uncomfortable.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf575 You are very consistent and I continue to admire your patience here. We may not always agree, but because I admire facts over conjecture, I pay close attention to your posts. :)

seawulf575's avatar

@KNOWITALL Thank you, m’dear. I don’t expect to agree with everyone and I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me. We are all different with different roots, experiences, values, and beliefs. As it should be. But open, honest, conversation can help whittle those differences down.

kritiper's avatar

Life begins at conception. Human life begins when conscient, reasoning thought begins

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