The SCIENTIFIC Basis for Defending All Human Life

If you are around young children very often, you’re probably familiar with the Olivia the Pig series.  My niece loves those books.  But you’re probably not as familiar with Oliver the Egg.  Let me tell you about him.  Christopher Franceschelli has written a cute book about Oliver, who is really a chick growing inside of an egg.

Since I’d really not enjoy being sued for copyright violations, I won’t quote this entire six sentence book.  Suffice it to say that Mr. Franceschelli describes the very few things that Oliver could do as an egg.  He says, “But he was simply an egg and that was that.”

This little book (while very cute) completely misses the boat on science.  It’s final pages say, “until one day” (with a picture of an egg) “everything changed” (with a picture of a chick).  While rather entertaining for a small child, this book lacks any scientific or accurate value.  It’s patently untrue to say that, before hatching, a chick is “simply an egg.”  Uh, no.  It’s an unhatched chick inside an egg.

Oliver serves to illustrate the general lack of scientific and medical knowledge that many people and some pro-lifers have about the beginning of human life.  When exactly does human life begin?  Is there such a thing as a “fertilized egg”?  What’s the accurate term to call a new human being at the earliest stages?  Can we really prove from science that we should defend all human life?  What do medical experts say about this issue?  Pro-lifers  need to be more knowledgeable about what we are for and why we believe what we believe.

1.  When exactly does human life begin?  What do the medical experts say?

Well, the very simplest way to answer this question is to say “at the beginning.”  What a novel thought.  Honestly, though, pick up any embryology textbook (yes, doubters, please go do this), and you will find that these textbooks teach that a new, unique human being (i.e., not the potential for life, but an actual life) begins at the moment of fertilization; the moment the sperm meets the egg.

To clarify even further, an egg or a sperm are “potential life” because, under the right circumstances, they can combine to create a new, unique human being.  However, once that combination (fertilization) occurs, we are talking about an actual human being.

Human Fertilization

Human Fertilization

Don’t want to take my word for it?  I don’t blame you.  Read from these experts:

“(Fertilization is) that wondrous moment that marks the beginning of life for a new unique individual.” Dr. Louis Fridhandler, in Biology of Gestation Volume One

“A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg.” Encyclopedia Britannica

“I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception….I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life….I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty…is not a human being.  This is human life at every stage….”  Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni—professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the U. of Penn

2.  Is there such a thing as a “fertilized egg”?

Uh, no.  Only in the biased minds of A LOT of media and Planned Parenthood and company.  Several politicians and others also parrot this term commonly.  But really, to call a new, unique human being a fertilized egg is just ignorance (or blatant lies) talking.  There’s a really BIG difference between an egg or sperm and a human being.

Fertilization is the means by which a new human being is usually created, but that human being is never a fertilized egg.  He or she is a human being at the very moment that fertilization occurs.  “Fertilized egg” is an ignorant, dehumanizing, and VERY unscientific term.

3.  What’s the accurate term to call a new human being at the early stages?

Well, if you want to use scientific terms, the early stages of human growth and development include:  blastocyst, zygote, embryo, and fetus.  You may think these don’t sound any better than “fertilized egg”, but “fertilized egg” does nothing to communicate the fact that a new human being is actually who we’re talking about.  At least the scientific terms are human and living terms.  They communicate that who we’re talking about is human and living.

It would also be perfectly fine to call an unborn child at any stage exactly that…an unborn child, baby, etc.  We don’t tend to refer to any other human being by the scientific stage of growth they’re in, after all!

Along these lines, it’s also important to note that humans continually move through different growth and development stages throughout our lives.  These stages just happen more rapidly when we first start to grow.  If you think about it, though, why should a “zygote” be any less worthy of protection than an “adolescent”?  Every person (who lives that long) goes through every stage and is the exact same person at each stage.  Their value shouldn’t—and doesn’t—change as they go along.

Check this and this out for more precise info.

Ok, so there you go, in a nutshell.  We pro-lifers have no excuse to fail to understand or be able to explain exactly how and when human life begins from a scientific standpoint.  If you believe that every human is worthy of protection, here’s your scientific basis for arguing that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization and ought to be protected from that point.

One last thing.  ALL pro-lifers should read this research paper, or at least the section on science.  It’s incredible!   I’d also suggest that before you disagree with anything I’ve written here, you read the paper.  If, after that, you disagree, let’s hear what you have to say.

  • http://bluecollarliving.com James Dibben

    Rick Warren: “Senator Obama, when does life begin?”

    Senator Obama: “To answer that question with an specificity is above my pay grade.”

    Rick Warren: “Here is a high school Anatomy and Physiology text book, please turn to page 8 and let’s read together.” 

    • Kelly Mapes

      I really really wish Rick Warren actually DID say that!  I PRAY that he sees President Obama for who he is,  the MOST PROABORTION President EVER>

      • Blueyedqueennyc

        Guess you don’t know that Mr. Superchurch Rick Warren is a member of the CFR… the same organization that Michelle oBOMBa belongs to.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001485371359 Grace Garner

      Ohmigoodness, that totally made my day.

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  • Kmacdoula

    It doesn’t take a “chick” to know that ALL LIFE begins at conception… Science can prove it and and in all of our hearts we ALL know it.. EVEN all the PPer’s know the lie’s and look the other way… God help you!

  • Deb

    Ditto this!

  • John Wahl

    Good article, Kristi.  I’m a high school chemistry and biology teacher. 

    Think about all the methods that forensics science uses to identify a unique individual for a criminal investigation, or the way medical science decides whether someone is alive.

    In the early 1900s, American police departments and courts began using fingerprints to identify and convict bad guys.  A baby in the womb has fingerprints at week 14.  More recently, advances in genetics have allowed for the unique identification of individuals via DNA analysis.  An unborn child has unique DNA, separate and distinct from her mother, from the moment of conception.

    The most common criterion medical personnel apply to determine whether someone is alive in an emergency situation is whether his heart is beating or can be re-started.  Baby in womb has a heartbeat from Day 18.

    Controversy surrounds the ethics of unplugging life support for persons whose prognosis is uncertain.  If there is limited brain activity, family and doctors agonize over whether the patient might recover if just given more time.  If you could say with certainty that a particular patient would wake up and get better if given just a few more weeks on life support, would any sane person deny that person life support?  Of course not.  We know that children in the womb will live independently if given just a little more time to develop – on life support, so to speak.  How can we not protect these weakest and most innocent among us? 

    Be blessed, and keep up the good work.

    • Terry

       So well-put! Thank you! :)

    • Kristiburtonbrown

       You make some amazing arguments, John.  Thanks for weighing in!  I think I’ll use several of the things you said in the future.  Thank you!!

  • Cody R.

    Definitions are human constructs—to define that first cell as a human or not is entirely up to us as a civilization—there is no “scientific” method of determining whether or not the egg becomes human at the moment it is fertilized because we can define the word human to mean anything we want. Since words are about communication we want to choose our definitions to most effectively convey meaning (which is why refining the definition of “planet” excluded Pluto). 
    The ‘research’ paper you linked uses phrases like “pre-implantation age… child” and “one cell age… child,” which falsely invokes imagery of children when they are talking about a single cell, indistinguishable to the average person from a mote of dust—and indistinguishable (to a PCR analysis) from a flake of skin. Whether or not that cell should be protected is debatable, but to call it a child is very misleading, and to mislead those of us who value truth and honesty is to create motivated opponents—I may be an atheist but I still do not bear false witness, and I can’t trust those that do.There are distinct and important differences between a child and a fetus—first and foremost, a child can survive independent of a womb, while a fetus—at least until fairly late stages—cannot. (Technology is pushing that line back—probably one day we’ll be able to nurture an embryo to maturity without a womb—but at the moment the line exists and draws a sharp (in meaning, not time) distinction between “child” and “fetus”.) There are of course many such distinctive stages (you named more above), and any one of them could be declared by either side to be ‘the line’.There are much more serious questions to ask, Peter Singer and Noam Chomsky illuminate many good questions in this video (taken from the documentary “Lake of Fire”—I recommend watching the whole movie to get a good overview of both sides of the debate): http://youtu.be/rzY0L2g1f64Please *please* realize that most abortions are *not* wanted, and it is a very difficult choice to make. In some cases pregnancy threatens the life of the mother—if you can’t accept abortion in those cases then please stop thinking of yourself as pro-life. 

    I hope that someday every child born will have all the love, care, sustenance, and other opportunities that every person deserves—but I know that likely will never be the case. In the meantime I am not going to fault women who choose to abort pregnancies (“kill children” in your eyes) because they want to wait until they can offer their children the life every child deserves. 

    Thank you for the article, and your time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=631960733 Scott Blasco

      RE: definitions as human constructs… if you want to play semantics with the words “human” and “child,” be my guest. What does not change is that at the moment of fertilization a genetically unique organism belonging to the species homo sapiens (what people generally mean by “human”) begins its existence. Any marker of development from this point on does nothing to change that fact or to alter its identity as a genetically unique “human.” 

      I don’t think most people will follow your equivocation on the term “human,” because, like “dog” or “cat,” it is pretty much universally acknowledged as the common term for a species. If you want to debate the meaning of “person,” that’s another thing… but that doesn’t touch on the science of the matter, it concerns philosophy. This article is about the science of fertilization, not the philosophical ethics of identity and personhood, which are both debatable terms. “Human,” not so much.

      Likewise, “child” is not a misleading term in referring to a developing human, in part because “child” is not a scientific term at all and is likewise open to a considerable range of semantic content. Your personal definition apparently means that a “child” is a human who can survive outside of the womb… presumably up to some arbitrary developmental stage at which “child” ceases to apply. Does the “child” then cease to exist, and a new being takes its place? Not in a scientific sense. Likewise, from fertilization to old age, there is no point in time at which one human organism ceases to exist and another takes its place.

    • DavidM

      Dear Cody,
      As I understand it, Kristi is writing a series of articles about defending life. This is the first, and it addresses the scientific basis. Your objections are philosophical, not scientific, and are thus fallacious (look up ‘ignoratio elenchi’ – you fail to understand the kind of refutation that is required for this particular line of argument). Biologically there is absolutely no question about it: the zygote is a human being. In science we certainly cannot arbitrarily define words however we please. Our use of words is sharply constrained by the masses of incontrovertible scientific theory which those words are used to express. You can only redefine words willy-nilly, as you suggest, if you don’t care to make sense. (This last point is a general philosophical one.) In any case, if you want to renew your objections, I would suggest waiting until Kristi offers us her philosophical arguments.

      Re. the use of the word ‘child': ‘child’ (like ‘fetus’) is a relative term, its correlative being ‘parent.’ Its use to refer to human offspring at any stage should not be misleading, and clearly it could well be the term which most effectively communicates the meaning intended by those referred to here. So how can you justify your accusation of dishonesty? You yourself admit that your so-called ‘sharp line’ between ‘fetus’ and ‘child’ is merely a contingent corollary of the state of our technology.

      In general, I think you should try to be more careful about understanding the position you disagree with before trying to attack it.

    • Aquinas

      Who determines what constitutes “the life every child deserves”? There are many an individual who have had incredible struggles in their childhood – possibly struggles that someone else (even that person’s own mother) might have felt that the child shouldn’t have had to go through and might have considered abortion because of that possible life – yet those individuals have grown up to have magnificent lives and contribute fantastically to society and are awesome individuals. People have interior constitutions that determine how a life is affected by circumstances and surroundings just as much as environment and opportunity. So, in my view, those arguments never hold any water. What only holds water is whether it is a human life. One question. Is it a human life? And if so, then it deserves all the protection that any other human life deserves. It is that simple. It is.

    • Jesikas6194

      the latin root for the word fetus is “little one”.. do your home work before spouting off.

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  • Oedipa

    Good article, Ms. Brown. Really, the only argument on your side that I find compelling. Wish you would have touched on the idea of “viability”, though, which is baked right into the legal reasoning of Roe.

  • Saul Labbe

    May the Lord God bless you for your important work.

  • DavidM

    Kristi wrote: “If you believe that every human is worthy of protection, here’s your scientific basis for arguing that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization and ought to be protected from that point.”
    Correction: you have a clear scientific basis regarding the beginning of human life; you do not thereby have a scientific basis for the claim that life ought to be protected from its beginning. Science simply doesn’t deal with the latter kind of claim.

    • MoonChild02

      That’s not what she said. She said that if you believe that every human is worthy of protection, that this article gives a scientific basis for arguing that life begins at fertilization and arguing that it ought to be protected from that point. She didn’t say that science outright argues for life to be protected from conception.

      Science is used all the time for legal testimony in both judicial settings and legislative settings. Scientific inquiry and fact are imperative to the legal process.

      Since science does argue that life begins at conception, it can be argued in a legal setting that life should be protected from that point, since said life is a living human.

      • DavidM

        hmmm… Yes, that is what she said, and what I said she said, and it’s not correct. The article does not provide a scientific basis for arguing that life ought to be protected from its beginning, again, because there is no such argument. If you think I’m wrong about this, then please find this alleged argument and quote it for me – I’m sure you won’t be able to.

        Re. legal arguments: what legal arguments are possible depend on what legal framework exists. But the moral law is prior to the enacted law, so you can’t settle questions about the former by appealing to the latter.

        • Sara

          I suggest you reread the answer you were given…

          ” She said that if you believe that every human is worthy of protection, that this article gives a scientific basis for arguingthat life begins at fertilization and arguing that it ought to be protected from that point. She didn’t say that science outright argues for life to be protected from conception.”

          So let’s go thorugh this again, since you clearly didn’t get it the first time: Science argues that life begins at conception. Science does not suggest what to do with this knowledge whatsoever, nor do people claim it does. But if people find (like most do) that human life is worthy of protection, and that all humans should have certain rights, it makes sense to protect it from when the life is seen as human. If science then says human life begins at conception, it would be a logical place to start giving human rights.

  • Isa241

    The way I explain this to people is that zygote and blastocyst,
    like embryo and fetus, are classifications for a particular stage of
    development. For example, Zygote, Blastocyst, Embryo, Fetus, Newborn, Infant,
    Toddler, Child, Adolescent, Adult.  

    Also, this is another great research paper about when life
    begins that is based purely on science. And it’s written by a woman which is
    great when dealing with a feminist pro-choicer that wouldn’t accept it
    otherwise…

    http://www.westchesterinstitute.net/images/wi_whitepaper_life_print.pdf

  • http://www.facebook.com/WarriorJoeBaker Joe Baker

    Thank you so much for this article and all that you!  

    http://www.SaveTheStorks.com

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FYNIGOOKMG2O3CGTDYN42HAGWU Victoria

    For an excellent explanation concerning the biological facts pertaining to early human life, check out the book carried by American Life League entitled “The Human Development Hoax:  Time to Tell the Truth” by C. Ward Kirschner, M.S., Ph.D. and Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D., both of whom majored in the science of embryology.  The realities come through loud and clear regarding the fact that human life does indeed begin at no other time than the moment of conception, period.  Every human being is fully programmed to be all they are going to be from that moment onward. 

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