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When Does Life Begin

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    (Original post by PinkMobilePhone)
    My point is that the question of when life begins cannot possibly be a simple matter of opinion, just as it's not a matter of opinion that a spade is a spade.

    Granted, we might not ever actually discover a pinpoint specific moment when life begins, (though yawn's argument is compelling), but that doesn't mean that such a moment doesn't exist. It has to. There has to be one deadly accurate moment when life begins.

    At the moment, it's a matter for conjecture, as nobody is 100% sure when it begins, but the moment has to have a definite starting point, it really isn't open to "cultural interpretation". It's not as though life begins for some people at conception, but other people aren't alive until the heart starts beating, or other people aren't alive until they are born...it's just not logical. We must all start our lives at the same point in our development, it's just that nobody can agree on what that point is. Doesn't mean all interpretations are correct though, there can only be 1 correct answer.
    If I have a haystack and I proceed to take pieces of hay from the haystack, at what point is that haystack no longer a haystack but just clumps of hay/grass?

    There is little point in asking when life begins because life is just a concept that is formed and defined by humans. A similar criticism occurs when asking when personhood begins:

    "When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding "truth" within the realm of reason. If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare "look, a mammal' I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be "true in itself" or really and universally valid apart from man. At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man." Nietzsche

    i.e. the argument is a meaningless one.
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    (Original post by Liquid27)
    If I have a haystack and I proceed to take pieces of hay from the haystack, at what point is that haystack no longer a haystack but just clumps of hay/grass?

    There is little point in asking when life begins because life is just a concept that is formed and defined by humans. A similar criticism occurs when asking when personhood begins:

    "When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding "truth" within the realm of reason. If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare "look, a mammal' I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be "true in itself" or really and universally valid apart from man. At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man." Nietzsche

    i.e. the argument is a meaningless one.
    I don't see why "life" can't have a determinate start. Presumably, there is a scientific definition of life - X is alive if it excretes and so on. Well, either something does excrete or it does not. The word "heap" is vague, whereas the word "life" is a lot less so.

    Personhood is different since it's a moralised concept. But this still doesn't help. Those who use the concept of personhood in moral arguments typically think that it supervenes on some natural facts, or range of natural facts. Either these facts obtain or they do not.
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    (Original post by RawJoh1)
    I don't see why "life" can't have a determinate start. Presumably, there is a scientific definition of life - X is alive if it excretes and so on. Well, either something does excrete or it does not. The word "heap" is vague, whereas the word "life" is a lot less so.

    Personhood is different since it's a moralised concept. But this still doesn't help. Those who use the concept of personhood in moral arguments typically think that it supervenes on some natural facts, or range of natural facts. Either these facts obtain or they do not.
    Yeah I agree that life has a deterministic start, but how you identify this start is all depending on what definition of life you use. The problem in this thread is that many people are using various different definitions of life, then identifying when exactly in development life begins as a result of this definition, and then proceeding to talk past each other because of this.

    We can then all agree to resign ourselves to an objective, scientific definition of life, but what use is this apart from providing us with a tool by which we can classify different objects in the world? What meaning does this have for ethical decision making?

    The current argument looks like this:

    It is immoral to kill W
    X is W if it possesses the property Y
    At stage Z of development, X begins to possess property Y
    Therefore, at/after stage Z of development, it is immoral to kill X

    However, the first premise has to be assumed to be axiomatic for the argument to work like all ethical premises (necessarily). However, there is no such thing as objective values, so there is no objective basis for defining what W ought to be.

    Therefore, this whole argument is pretty meaningless, if you wish to establish a normative method of discovering when it is objectively moral/immoral to terminate the foetus.
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    (Original post by Liquid27)
    If I have a haystack and I proceed to take pieces of hay from the haystack, at what point is that haystack no longer a haystack but just clumps of hay/grass?

    There is little point in asking when life begins because life is just a concept that is formed and defined by humans. A similar criticism occurs when asking when personhood begins:

    "When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding "truth" within the realm of reason. If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare "look, a mammal' I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be "true in itself" or really and universally valid apart from man. At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man." Nietzsche

    i.e. the argument is a meaningless one.
    As I said earlier though, SOME things are open to debate, but other things are not.
    Some things, like "when does a clump of hay become a haystack" are unclear, but whether something is alive or not is another kettle of fish. We're not all schrodingers cat you know. When something is dead, there is a very specific time of death. It stands to reason that there is a time of life as well - not to be confused with time of birth, as anybody would tell you that a foetus is very much alive inside the womb.
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    (Original post by Okashira)
    Let me ask you, what do you mean when you say life begins at conception?
    The fact that life begins at conception is the opinion of experts in the biological sciences. I have already provided the link to why they believe this on post #12 which I mentioned again to you in the post to which you now respond.

    Scripture points out that Adam's life didn't start until God breathed the breath of life into him. (Which he then became a living soul) So Adam's body was there, his brain was there, but until God put Adam's true essense into the body, it was just that.

    Similarly, there is a point where God put's our essense into our bodies, and there is reason to believe it happens later, not at conception. If it did, again you will have to say human chimeras are two people. And if you say science confirms the zygote is alive, then you will also have to say bacteria and trees are as much alive as we are. (This means there is a difference between the scientific term for life, and life of a living soul)

    Also, we are no longer bound by the law within the OT, which Jesus fulfilled for us. Yet God's command to Noah was before the law. Life is still in the blood. I mean, I guess we could drink the blood within an animal, but why would we want to do that? And again, life being in the blood is not only true to the animal, but to us as well. It was Jesus' life blood that remits all of our sin.
    I guess what I'm trying to put across is that appeals to scripture do nothing to convince the non-believer in a Divine Creator [your audience on this thread, presumbly.] Since they have not been persuaded yet on the existence of God, they are not going to be persuaded by the evidence of scripture which is partly used by some religious apologists to give evidence to the existence of God!

    Using scripture to convince me of the wrongs of abortion is futile for two reasons. The first is that I already view abortion as wrong since it destroys human life that has already begun, (and I'm not interested to rehashing all previous debate with different members of TSR over the last 12 years of my membership, which rely on the use of semantics to defend their position) and secondly, your personal interpretations of scripture don't necessarily accord with the interpretations propogated by my Church "...which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." [1 Tim. 3:15]

    Please, I remind you again that my involvement in this debate is merely to answer the question posed in the OP title and not get involved in wider debate which you are trying to ensnare me into.

    Have the respect for a fellow human being to listen to their wish not to be more involved and leave it at that, resisting the urge to inveigle me into widening the parameter of debate beyond that which I have already set myself.

    Thank you...and God bless.

    Edit: Yes, bacteria and trees are just as alive as we are...the big difference is that they aren't human life with a conscience or ability to reason, ultimately.
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    (Original post by Okashira)
    I'm not totally sure where to place this topic, but the argument I'm using is coming from the Bible.



    The argument with abortion is basically when does life begin? Recently I've been meditating (thinking) on Scripture (Bible), and I remember God telling Noah not to eat any animal with it's blood inside of it because it's life is in the blood.



    So along with this kind of thought, I said to myself once the fetus produces it's own blood, certainly it's life is inside of it. It makes logical sense when you think about it (not to enforce my faith on others) because the fetus is certainly not circulating it's mother's blood. The blood it's circulating is it's own. I'm told by three or four weeks after conception, the heart forms and starts beating. So certainly by then, there is blood within the fetus. When you think about a dead body, and more specifically a body that's been dead for more than 48 hrs, the blood is no longer circulating and probably no longer present within the body. In the same way with conception and the days following, there may be no blood present. However certainly by the time the heart is beating (not that I'm saying blood is present once the heart is formed and beating), the fetus is circulating it's own blood. If there was a body in the morgue that we examined and found blood is still circulating within him/her, we would say this cat could still be alive.



    So maybe science can answer at particulary what point does the fetus have it's own blood, and within that amount of time between conception and the flowing of blood, abortion can be done.

    Actually, the question you need to answer first is: "What is 'life'?" And the question you actually seem to be answering here is: "When does 'life' enter the physical body?"

    When things are not PRECISELY defined to start with, it is quite impossible to properly examine them with any significant degree of thoroughness, intellectually.
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    (Original post by yawn)
    When does life begin?

    Human life begins at conception; an irrefutable biological fact.

    Any further debate is fruitless because not only has it been done to death, but also because it's circuitous and tends to bring in all other irrelavancies.
    See if it is an irrefutable biological fact, why do many biologists/scientists of any kind refute that argument?

    Edit: If it was irrefutable, there would be no discussion or argument between those in the field of science, it would just be a fact, like the fact that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen.
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    (Original post by AlmostChicGeek)
    See if it is an irrefutable biological fact, why do many biologists/scientists of any kind refute that argument?

    Edit: If it was irrefutable, there would be no discussion or argument between those in the field of science, it would just be a fact, like the fact that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen.
    I think you would be hard pressed to find a scientist that refutes the idea that a zygote is alive immediately after conception. And it has human DNA therefore it is human.

    as I've said earlier the debate is down to whether it is a person, whether it is important enough to care that it is alive or whether its simply alive in the way that any other tissue people experiment on/ discard is alive.

    for the record I am pro choice I don't think it is a person or that it matters at all. But it is still ALIVE, in the same way that my toe is alive or a bug is alive, Id still amputate my toe if there was reason to and I'd still squish a bug.
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    (Original post by Liquid27)
    Yeah I agree that life has a deterministic start, but how you identify this start is all depending on what definition of life you use. The problem in this thread is that many people are using various different definitions of life, then identifying when exactly in development life begins as a result of this definition, and then proceeding to talk past each other because of this.

    We can then all agree to resign ourselves to an objective, scientific definition of life, but what use is this apart from providing us with a tool by which we can classify different objects in the world? What meaning does this have for ethical decision making?

    The current argument looks like this:

    It is immoral to kill W
    X is W if it possesses the property Y
    At stage Z of development, X begins to possess property Y
    Therefore, at/after stage Z of development, it is immoral to kill X

    However, the first premise has to be assumed to be axiomatic for the argument to work like all ethical premises (necessarily). However, there is no such thing as objective values, so there is no objective basis for defining what W ought to be.

    Therefore, this whole argument is pretty meaningless, if you wish to establish a normative method of discovering when it is objectively moral/immoral to terminate the foetus.
    Nobody's talking about objectivity. Why bring that into it?

    Re: the first premise. Well, we look at the reasons/intuitions presented in favour of it, and then we look at the reasons that can be presented against it? Are they good reasons?

    For example - suppose the first premise is "it's wrong to take action which will lead to the death of a person". Seems fairly plausible. But then we read A defence of abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson, and it doesn't seem so plausible anymore. In other words, we just do some philosophy.
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    (Original post by AlmostChicGeek)
    See if it is an irrefutable biological fact, why do many biologists/scientists of any kind refute that argument?
    They don't...that's the point, because it's a simple biological fact that once conception has taken place, the zygote represents human life regardless of the semantic arguments that one might raise to try to evade that fact.

    See post #12 and click on the spoiler. This information comes courtesy of Princeton University in the USA.
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    (Original post by yawn)
    The fact that life begins at conception is the opinion of experts in the biological sciences. I have already provided the link to why they believe this on post #12 which I mentioned again to you in the post to which you now respond.



    I guess what I'm trying to put across is that appeals to scripture do nothing to convince the non-believer in a Divine Creator [your audience on this thread, presumbly.] Since they have not been persuaded yet on the existence of God, they are not going to be persuaded by the evidence of scripture which is partly used by some religious apologists to give evidence to the existence of God!

    Using scripture to convince me of the wrongs of abortion is futile for two reasons. The first is that I already view abortion as wrong since it destroys human life that has already begun, (and I'm not interested to rehashing all previous debate with different members of TSR over the last 12 years of my membership, which rely on the use of semantics to defend their position) and secondly, your personal interpretations of scripture don't necessarily accord with the interpretations propogated by my Church "...which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth." [1 Tim. 3:15]

    Please, I remind you again that my involvement in this debate is merely to answer the question posed in the OP title and not get involved in wider debate which you are trying to ensnare me into.

    Have the respect for a fellow human being to listen to their wish not to be more involved and leave it at that, resisting the urge to inveigle me into widening the parameter of debate beyond that which I have already set myself.

    Thank you...and God bless.

    Edit: Yes, bacteria and trees are just as alive as we are...the big difference is that they aren't human life with a conscience or ability to reason, ultimately.



    I don't want to argue either, and I believe you have my views all wrong when it comes to abortion. I respected your wish not to continue to debate, but after my post saying so, you responded to another one of my points, in which I responded to. Also, I wanted this topic to be geared toward believers, but this topic was moved here and out of the religion section. So I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything per say, I only wanted to talk to believers. (Particularly those who say life begins at conception)



    Ultimately, if we say life begins at conception, Lydia is two lives in one body. There is absolutely no way around that fact! If we were to say life begin at conception, and also say Lydia is one life, that would be like saying 2+2=10. One last question, do you believe Lydia is two lives in one body? If you say yes, then you can say life begins at conception (or conceptions). If you say no, you cannot believe life begins at conception. (And I'm not being sarcastic or snide about this, it's just the bare truth. And I want my brethren to know the truth. I'm against abortion, but there is reason to believe "true life" doesn't begin until certain time has passed, when God put's our true essence into the fetus. Blood would be the sign this has happened.)



    Edit: After reading my very first post, it does appear I was talking to everyone. Yet with my post on page three, the tune of my question changed paced. (Upon my research with human chimera, which is a genetic term) After that, my conversation became geared more towards Christains who believe life begins at conception.
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    (Original post by Okashira)
    You should read my latest three posts.
    I'd like to in some ways but I would get very confused, I'd prefer not to seperate the definition of life into one for Christianity (and other faiths) and Science.

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