When does human life begin?

When human life begins is a question that has been the focus of a lot of controversy and debate, especially in recent times. One of the main reasons for this is because it is directly related to the abortion debate. It would be impossible to determine if abortion is morally right or wrong, or whether or not it should be legal without first determining when human life begins.

To begin with, it is important to understand what specific question is being asked by “When does human life begin?”  It could mean,  “When does biological life begin?” It could also mean,  “When do human organisms attain basic human rights or value?” The second question is philosophical as it deals with the rights and value of the organism. However, when biological life begins is a purely scientific issue.

Biologically, the answer is clear. Life begins at conception. But what proof is there of this?  Consider these logical points: If the unborn is growing, it must be alive. Dead things do not grow. From the moment of conception, a human fetus grows through cellular reproduction and division. Also, during later stages of development, the human fetus can react to external stimuli and metabolize food for energy.  Have you ever heard of something that is not alive that can react to external stimuli or metabolize food for energy? If you find yourself thinking, “Sure… but animals and trees are alive also!” you would be right! Life exists in many forms, but here, the focus is on human life.

If the parents of the unborn organism in question are human beings, wouldn’t that make the unborn being in question also human? The Law of Biogenesis states that each living thing reproduces after its own kind. It is clearly true that two human parents can’t produce something that is not human.  Also, it is impossible for human parents to produce something that it is not initially human but only becomes human at a later point in time.  Te only option left is that the unborn fetus conceived by two human parents must be human.  It could not be a tree, or another kind of animal.  The unborn child has the DNA that is completely unique to the human species. All credible embryology textbooks will confirm this. For example, Langman’s  Medical Embryology, 12th Edition states, “Development begins at fertilization, the process by which male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote” (pg. 10).

Despite this line of reasoning, there are some that argue that while the fetus of human parents is indeed human tissue with human DNA, the fetus is no different than the sperm or eggs that also contain human DNA.  But this view is obviously not correct. There is clearly a  scientific difference between the two. It is true that sperm and eggs are made up of human substance and DNA, but they are not a whole complete human organism. In fact, a sperm and an egg are only functional parts of male and female organisms. At the moment of fertilization, the sperm and the egg no longer  exist and a new and unique organism begins to exist. Also, after the time of fertilization, there is no additional DNA or essential material that is added to the unborn fetus.  

So despite what some would say, there is a clear scientific argument for when life actually begins.  But what does the Bible say about when life begins? Does the Bible go against science? There are certainly many who argue that this is the case, But these individuals are incorrect.  The Bible doesn’t, and never has,  contradicted true science.  On the contrary, The Bible actually validates true science.  According to God and His Word, human life begins at conception, just as we observe in biology.

There are several biblical passages that unmistakably show that God views unborn babies as human beings. Unborn babies are called “children,” the same word used for already born infants and young children (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; Exod. 21:22). The unborn are created by God (Ps. 139:13) just as God created Adam and Eve in His image (Gen. 1:27). The life of the unborn is protected by the same punishment for injury or death as that of an adult (Exod. 21:22; Gen. 9:6). Unborn children possess personal emotions such as joy that are distinctive to humans (Luke1:44) .  Personal pronouns are also used to describe unborn children (Jer. 1:5; Matt. 1:20-21). Finally, the unborn are known personally and intimately by God just as He knows all other people (Ps. 139:15-16; Jer. 1:5).

What about those that claim that while God does consider the unborn to be humans, they are not alive humans until sometime after conception (more specifically after birth)? The most common passage used to support this is Genesis 2:7 which says, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” These individuals argue that the unborn do not become a “living being” until they are born because it was at birth that God ‘breathed” the breath of life into them. However, this line of thought is built on a couple of serious logical errors.  

First, the creation of Adam and Eve was a intensely unique situation.  Adam was the only human who was ever created with a mature body from the dust of the earth.  Eve was equally unique being created from Adam’s rib. Because these verses apply specifically to that unique situaiton, they can’t be applied to unborn children.  Second, the Bible describes humans as being alive in the womb before birth, even at the moment of conception. For example, Psalm 51:5 describes King David being alive at the moment of conception. In this passage, the Psalmist writes “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” Further, Matthew 1:20 states, “But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” In addition, while it is true that an unborn baby does not breathe in one sense, the process of breathing through the transfer of oxygen from the mother does occur. It is simply a different way to “breathe.”

When all these things are considered, it is clear that both biology and the Bible support the scientific truth that human life does indeed begin at conception. This is a very important truth. But why? Because, as Greg Koukl (a Christian apologist) once said, before you can answer the question, “Can I kill this,” you must first answer the all-important question, “what is it?” This could not be more true than it is in the debate surrounding abortion. How can anyone truly know whether it is morally right or wrong to kill the unborn unless we first know what it that is being killed? If human life begins at conception, it can be safely concluded that killing the unborn in an abortion, whether surgically, or chemically, is morally wrong.    



Life Training Institute – http://prolifetraining.com

Stand to Reason – http://www.str.org/Search?q=abortion

Abortion Unfiltered – http://www.abort73.com


Randy Alcorn - ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments (http://amzn.com/1576737519)

Scott Klusendorf - The Case For Life (http://amzn.com/B00294YEJI)


Greg Koukl- Making Abortion Unthinkable (DVD) (http://amzn.com/193083604X)

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