Selam Heorhij my brother, how was your weekend? mine was very hectic, I did not have the time to give a timely response to your interesting comments, however even though I am dead tired and just got home from a long day of work I thought I should respond before I hit the sack. I came back to see the thread moved and another thread with similar content being like a battle field, so this might be my last comment on this issue lol
So going back to our discussion:)
As far as I know, it is the one point of agreement in the scientific field and based on the scientific facts that the philosophical and theological fields that peruse this ethical issue also agree upon, that individual human life indeed starts at fertilization when the sperm enters the ovum and there starts the new sequence of DNA that is different from both the sperm and the ova but is unique to the newly fertilized ovum. This has been agreed upon. I personally by “hanging around” those who studied and teach human embryology have seen only one definition of the beginning of the human life and that is fertilization. However it is what we mean by human that is the point of contention, Human for some means a Human person, a human that has personhood, whereas for others while the fertilized egg might be that of at the beginning stage of the human life in other words while it is indeed a human life that has started to develop, in order to qualify to be called a human Person it has to pass the standards of functionality and these standards of functionality are only achieved according to them after a certain point of the fetus’s life and not before, for some among them that point of functionality is not achieved until the baby is born, therefore the human embryo does not qualify to have the same standard of human right that are applicable to the adult human person. this is not only the issue that has to do with abortion only rather it has to do with a host of issues that have to deal with the seemingly infinite possibilities that are inherent with the manipulation of the human genome. The field of bioethics has tried to keep up with the accelerating leap of progress in the scientific field but as these things are dealing with human beings who have different views and interests the field itself is constantly being challenged to accommodate social human realities and scientific potential.
I think when you asked at what point of the development of the human embryo can we call it a baby, you meant at what point can we call it a person that is the heart of the debate that exists, and as we both agree on the answer to that I see no reason to explain further. However if you have meant to question the humanity of the fetus from scientific point of view indeed the scientific answer would be yes what you are looking at in all its stages of development and with all the names we use to identify it under those stages of development is a human embryo and All things being equal that is if it has all the nutrients and conducive environment it requires for it to thrive it will indeed will be a fully developed human baby. Although it may be at its very venerable stage it is only a stage of development of the human species at its youngest age yet completely human nevertheless.
Although I understand the point you were making by mentioning the virus viroids and prions, science has a certain clear method of classification of what is living and what is not that has been used for more than a millennia , based on the Cell theory of course , the ability for metabolism, respond to stimuli, the ability to reproduce and develop. Under that definition of life none of the above are alive. However when we go outside that definition and mainly use the evolutionary definition of life, then we can debate that viruses and viroids are alive while for prions the jury can be out even under that definition. Thus far the general credible scientific agreement has been that they are not alive, however I agree with you that those that debate that viruses are alive have an interesting point to make because of the very peculiar nature and behavior of viruses and viroids. While this is an interesting topic, the definition of cellular beings remains clear so for our purpose of defining life in the human life span development is relatively an easy and non ambiguous matter both from cell theory and evolutionary theory. As I have mentioned previously it is indeed the fullness of life as it is interpreted to include personhood or not is the topic of the debate that circles around issues like abortion, cloning , embryonic vs. adult stem cell research, euthanasia, etc. the definition of personhood if agreed upon will direct which way the ethical essence of our society goes. In my understanding it has the domino effect of permeating our entire social anthropological historical economical, religious and political in short all aspects of our life and human civilization. For instance abortion does not only affect the baby being aborted but the mother that is aborting the baby, the father, those who are participating in the abortion including but not limited to medical personnel, in all the aforementioned aspects of their lives one way or another.
Knowing fully that you and I agree on our convictions and are merely developing points inherent in these issues, I will continue to address the point you mentioned about the increased natural morality of the fertilized ovum before implantation. It is true that there are a high number of fertilized ovum that never make it into being a fully developed baby, we know there is a scientific explanation as to the reason why, you have mentioned few of them, and the argument of ethics is based on the initial premise that “all things being equal the full development of the human embryo will occur’’ however since you raised a theological question tide to these events let us see it from theological perspective. I would say is it not true that we are mortal from the very beginning? Is it not a miracle that the baby who is not even compatible with the mother’s immune system to which it is totally a foreign entity yet it survives by maintaining its individual buoyant world where conditions are set that will protect it from the attack of the mother’s own immunity? Could it be this that David was speaking of when he said
“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” Psalm 139:13-17
yeah my ‘Geez’ version reads as ‘thou has protected me in my mother’s womb.’ But ‘covered me in my mother’s womb’ of the KJV works in the same way also. It is not that God wills any one of us to die and the others to be immortal but mortality as we know it is the human condition we all share, our time of mortality is different among us, yet mortal we all are! This weakness of the body sickness and corruption has entered our lives with the fall of Adam. We cannot blame God for those that naturally fail to implant just as we cannot blame him for those who naturally die. It is when humans attempt to take life that they cannot give back nor do have the ultimate authority of, that we have ‘issues’ with. Thus the natural world works in its present order with sin corruption, sickness and death as part of its reality, the human life begins at conception yet might end naturally at any point after wards as a fertilized ovum, an implanted embryo, a developing fetus, a baby born, a child, a youth, an adult, or old person. so just as we do not need to give ‘excuse’ in behalf of God for the death of an adult with developmental terminologies that will minimize the personhood of the person or the loss we feel or the factuality of the death, we do not need to use those developmental terminologies of human embryo to lessen that life mean to its continued existence, and what death means to it when it ceases to live and fully develop into the human baby all things being equal in order to avoid the perceived blame of God as their killer. The argument which as I have already mentioned is easily dealt with theologically speaking.
Those who deal with bioethical issues know the power of definitions and semantics to both expose and obscure facts. This is understood even by those whose interest it is to form public opinion; whether they are religious, economic, political etc. integrity to facts is not easily maintained. One of the admirable thing in the video that strike me was that the Jewish American person who is obviously anti abortion and using what he has learnt from what has lead to the atrocities committed to his ancestors , and knowing the individual ‘ Hitler’ as the primary leader of that atrocity, his message that even if he knew Hitler’s mother while pregnant knowing what Hitler will do if born ,because of this integrity to the pro life cause he would not shot the mother nor kill Hitler while in the womb. This message he conveyed coming from a Jewish man, was a testament of hope for the cause of pro life movement, that there are people who can think beyond their personal gain, beyond their personal loss, and stand up for what is right at all given situation in life. I have seen some say that to call it a holocaust is to demean what happened to those certain class of people that suffered holocausts, I find this very ironic, it seemed to me that some needed to see all the aborted babies in one space in time with all their mutilated bodies discarded in some unknown grave before they realize the extent and gravity of the continuing human tragedy against a select class of human beings, it might even be because they have not yet recognized that those certain class of human beings , the unborn as human enough for them for their lives or deaths to mean anything, but then again they are entitled to their opinion as I am to mine. It’s a free world after all is it not? LOL
My dear brother I am glad you mentioned how powerful it is when one SEES what that embryo can do so we can relate to it by our own standards of experiencing life, smiling frowning, the hiccups , the protective moving away from intrusion, and to those who are interested in the in-depth understanding of what the human embryo is capable of doing to maintain its survival in the mother’s womb the its incredible hormonal sabotage of the mother’s immune system, the training of itself how to suck that later will determine its ability to suckle, how curious it is to external stimuli, pain and pleasure, that it can be bored or excited, there is a lot to be in awe of , at various stages of human development. For some seeing this incredible wonder of life is enough to convince them of the preciousness of it, and that what we are today started in the fullness of what we were at the moment of conception. However for some it is necessary to see what the human embryo looks like at its horrific death, where all those we mentioned become overpowered by death unnaturally inflicted on them to understand that death is death at any stage of life, as life is life at any stage of existence. As I see their horrific death I feel that I owe it to them to look and SEE and acknowledge what they are ,who they are ,their existence and their death, if they can endure it and die in that horrific unnatural manner ,if all their history is that, I by CHOICE, and ONLY by PERSONAL CHOICE will honor them by not turning my eyes from the horror and pain that takes my breath away and leaves me with a visceral reaction each time, and I let their suffering speak to me to tell me what I am capable of doing and becoming. What we humans are capable of doing and becoming. But also the hope of what I am capable of stopping and becoming, what we humans are capable of stopping and becoming. Because indeed as Shakespeare has said through hamlet ‘to be or not to be that is the question!’ without the added speculation he goes into lol now as I have said above we are all different, and acknowledging that difference, will lead us to understand one another better and learn to agree to disagree on matters if not in a Christian manner with charity but at least in a civil manner.
If those who agree that abortion is indeed infanticide then it is the moral duty of all of them to engage in the active and timely work of stopping it from happening,, and this includes addressing all the probable issues that lead to the decision of Abortion, and from the religious and physiological point of view the appropriate help offered for those who have undergone abortion. This is one of the fundamental issues that go hand in hand with the entire attempt to formulate ethical standards and moral codes that guide the scientific community and society at large. It is not an Either OR situation , Both as part of the solution must exist for this to work, for instance : we cannot ignore the economic woes of those who are forced to make a decision to allow another mouth to feed into the already starving family and in the process that they all perish, there are many examples of issues that will lead to making the difficult decision of abortion and the way these issues are dealt with and the presenting and availability of positive alternatives will balance the pro life movement enough to make it effective in accomplishing its mission of protection of human life under ethical values from conception to the natural death.
To conclude my brother, thank you for your thoughtful comments and I have learnt a lot from you in our discussion. Ethical values, of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficense, justice, dignity, truthfulness and honesty, all these are values that are relevant to human persons. However Before they can be used and applied to the unborn, to the terminally sick, to the old and incapacitated, to mentally altered etc... The question of personhood of the human need to be agreed upon. That remains the ethical dilemma of our time. Like you I as a Christian look at all these issues through the lens of my faith even while I genuinely consider the points raised from all sides. This issue like many human problem is a complicated issue , and I do not dare to think I have addressed even the tip of the ice berg so to speak, even from the point of realizing what questions are being asked let alone to answer them to the satisfaction of any. however seeing that we are all accountable for our actions before the Lord I can only pray the Lord give us the grace to heal and help heal all that have been harmed and continue to be harmed by all manner of human evil.
May the Peace of the Lord be with us all Amen.