Halee, actually there is almost universal consensus among biologists that human life begins at conception. In a landmark study in 2019 Steve Jacobs “emailed surveys to professors in the biology departments of over 1,000 institutions around the world.” The results showed that the vast majority of biologists believe that life begins at conception. Jacobs wrote, “I found that 5,337 biologists (96%) affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization, with 240 (4%) rejecting that view.” Please read this article describing the study and its findings.  

The Scientific Consensus on When a Human’s Life Begins – PubMed (nih.gov)

Please also consider this quote from Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.”

…Your statement that not everyone will agree is, of course, true. There are people who do not believe the fact that we landed on the moon in 1969. However, the majority of people when presented with the facts of science are persuaded. 

For something as important as respecting the very right to life, we as a society need to base policy on facts. Scientifically, at the moment of conception, a genetically unique human being is formed, different from their mother or father. 

Lora, something as precious and irreplaceable as human life should not be determined by an arbitrary, shifting measure. The determination of life has an objective, scientific criteria – DNA. DNA is the identifier of life forms. When the sperm and egg meet, a unique, 46-chromosome human being is formed. Nothing will be added apart from time and nourishment. Scientifically, a human life has begun.   

Howard, thank you for joining the conversation and sharing your Ricochet article. Philosophy is definitely central to the beginning question of whether human life should be valued/protected. In our society that determination has long ago been made. We as a nation proclaim that we value human life – “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable right, that among these are life…”.      

Then from that point the determination of what is a “human” should be based on objective, scientific truth. Therefore, the objective criteria of when life begins must remain the valid focus. As the Ricochet article points out, it is undeniable scientifically that a human being begins life at conception. It is because that fact is so incontrovertible that proponents of abortion seek to strategically shift the discussion to be a philosophical one.  

 Again, philosophical discussions become centered around subjective values. Such philosophical discussions make for good debate but make for bad policy because they have no objective basis. For an issue as important as the protection of human lives, the focus needs to be on an objective determinant – when does a human life begin.  

We would welcome your further thoughts. 

Brad, there most definitely is an instant change! At conception, the sperm is not simply altered – instead a completely different being is formed. This new human being has the complete set of 46 chromosomes (23 from the sperm and 23 from the egg) that uniquely identify it as a human being – not just an altered sperm. Absolutely NOTHING genetically will be added from that point forward. The new human being simply will follow the same course of development that we each have followed – both inside and outside the womb. 

Remember development does not stop at birth. The human being who has gone through puberty is VERY different than prior to puberty. An elderly person is VERY different physiologically from a 20-year-old. Yet these development changes do not alter the unique genetic being that is formed instantly at conception. 

That is why scientifically, conception is the moment when human life begins. Here is a quote from an embryology textbook. “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because … a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed….” [O’Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29.]   

Brad, something as important as the definition and protection of a human life should not be arbitrary. That is why we provided you with a citation from an actual embryology textbook. Genetics would seem to be a logical, objective criterion. Please provide evidence for your position. It appears to simply be your opinion. Even for yourself – your opinion may change over time. Again, something as important as human life should not be arbitrary or subjective.  

Adam, the question of identifying what an organism is IS a FUNDAMENTAL scientific issue. The entire field of Biology is about the study of life and that study starts with identifying forms of life and when they begin.

DNA is the scientific identifier of life and provides the mechanism for verifying the claim that each human life begins at conception. We refer you again to the 2019 study by Steve Jacobs. The results showed that the vast majority of biologists – across various cultures – believe that life begins at conception.

They are making that determination from a scientific perspective. Jacobs wrote, “I found that 5,337 biologists (96%) affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization…”

Michael, it most certainly matters when a human life begins. According to the Constitution, we are each “created equal”. Once a human being’s life begins they have “human rights”. The question of life is fundamentally a scientific, biological issue. At fertilization, all 46 chromosomes scientifically identifying the being as a human being are in place.   

You contend that the fetus’s human life does not have the same value as an adult’s human life. On what scientific or philosophical basis do you make that contention? The position of valuing one human life over another is the very basis of oppression throughout the world. Every human life has intrinsic value. When we start to put people in categories, we are all eventually put at risk.  

Daniel, the determination of the beginning of human life has a clear scientific basis – regardless of religious views. Please consider the following quotes from well-respected experts, taken from naapc.org/why-life-begins-at-conception/ :  

Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, was the discoverer of the chromosome pattern of Down syndrome. Dr. LeJeune testified to the Judiciary Subcommittee, “after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” He stated that this “is no longer a matter of taste or opinion,” and “not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.” He added, “Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.” 

Professor Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic: “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” 

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard University Medical School: “It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception…. Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.”