Part of being a writer is putting life under a microscope. But life itself is often questioned in politics, science, and society.
Most publications swing left or right. It’s difficult finding publishers who value all aspects of an argument, so today I’m posting an article that was deemed “too controversial” to be published with many philosophy and religious magazines.
Hopefully you will read it through regardless of which stance you take.
Many of our lifestyles and beliefs center on inherent rights. The question of when those rights become valid is increasingly valuable. When is a life a life? When is a person human enough to be protected by the very laws and rules we create?
Nearly every religion believes that life begins at conception. It is one of the most important shared connections, but modern society shuns these views. We view this perspective as backwards and uneducated.
To find true peace and enlightenment, one must be willing to look at all sides of an argument. Even without the tenants of religion and faith, even science points away from common rhetoric at times depending on which branch is being examined. Instead of continuing to go back-and-forth about what God would want or that there is no god, let’s look at the scientific and social implications of the three main stances on when life begins.
Biologists consider brainless sea sponges alive. Chemists base their ethics off of more substantial evidence like heartbeats, brain activity, and the ability to feel pain. Western culture as a whole has fought to declare that life begins at birth.
In biology, a being is considered alive if:
- They have life, in opposition to being dead; being in a state in which the organs perform their functions; as, an animal or plant which is alive.
- They are in a state of action; in force or operation; unextinguished; unexpired; existent; as to keep the fire alive; to keep the affections alive.
- They exhibit the activity and motion of many living beings; swarming; thronged.
Brainless sea sponges are classified as living creatures because they contribute to ecosystems with a main function: they are multi-cellular organisms that can reproduce. They do not have organs or thoughts. They are not conscious, but they do eat by absorbing and digesting food. They do not have a mouth or care for their young.
Sponges perfectly represent the second definition of being alive.
From this biological standpoint every human, from the moment they are conceived, is in fact a human. From the very moment of conception, the sperm itself could be deemed alive. It has a function, performs actions, and exhibits the same motions of many fully formed humans. For example: The need to find its destination.
But that is an unpopular stance in modern society. It creates too many conflicting ideologies and a lack of substantiality without intervention.
Chemistry is another breed of science that may classify sponges as alive, but they do not see this life as a viable creature that deserves rights and protections. To them the concept of “life” is more comparable to the idea that a person is a person when they are an organism with fully developed organs, brain activity, and the ability to feel pain.
Bringing pain into question opens up many other philosophical debates. The main one being, when do humans feel pain?
The medical community is conflicted on the answer. Many doctors and scientists believe that fetuses cannot feel pain until between twenty-three and twenty-four weeks, or even up to thirty week of gestation being that the nervous system is not fully formed nor is the brain at that point.
Others state that nineteen weeks is when the neurons in the spinal cord have the possibility to transmit signals to the brain. We know that with medical advances fetuses can survive outside of the womb at as early as twenty-two weeks.
Even one doctor declared that a fetus could potentially feel pain as young as eight weeks into development because that is when the nervous system truly begins to develop. This has been highly unpopular within the medical community but is important to note because no one truly knows.
Feeling pain is an important aspect of life because when we feel pain we are able to suffer and suffering is an unfortunate part of being alive. Inflicting pain treads on a being’s inherent rights. It is subject to criminal charges, and often shunned by intelligent people because we believe it is wrong.
Most citizens of western culture are educated enough to understand that causing unnecessary pain is unethical. But how we look at pain and its link to suffering and tragedy depends on when we believe a person is alive.
And that debate is ongoing.
The last main portion of the great question of life and when it begins is not a scientific one. It is the societal approach. We as a group of humans who create, define, uphold, and enforce laws, have voiced the concept that life begins at birth.
A fetus cannot live outside of the womb and therefore has no rights until it is born. This protects the mother, her rights, and the future of her reproductive decisions. It is a clear cut divide that allows law makers and citizens to care for themselves instead of worrying about the contradictions that occur when trying to uphold laws that protect the rights of unborn fetuses.
Fetuses are seen as clumps of cells instead of living beings that can eat, think, feel, or have aspirations. This allows women to do what they please with that clump of cells at her discretion because she is a human being, deserving of her inherent rights. Her body belongs to her to do with as she chooses.
This stance is widely popular and is present across many areas. It gifts women protections they have not been allowed in many civilizations throughout history. It allows them the same rights as men who do not have to carry children or experience vast bodily changes without their consent.
When discussing life, the main question seems to be: Which is more valued, the rights of a full-grown developed woman, or that of a fetus which can potentially survive outside of the womb?
The answer is never unanimous because it is determined by people that have had the opportunity to live.
Anyone with strong faith in themselves and/or their god knows that deep down, the life of the most innocent creatures must be protected first and foremost. But when is a life a life?
Dr. Seuss once said, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
The older I get the more clear that becomes. But I am not everyone.
Instead of dividing based on how we feel about this, we have the opportunity to engage in intelligent discourse and try to understand why so many people have such strong views on the topic instead of depicting opposition as uneducated or cruel. All sides believe they stand behind what is right. We cannot change what has happened. We can only hope to find a better way as we move forward.
Ayu Mesdya. 11 Jan, 2018. “Top 25 Surprising Sea Sponges Facts.” Deep Ocean Facts. Web.
Pediatrician, Bhatia, Jatinder. Apr, 2017. “When can my baby survive outside the womb?” Baby Center.
Biology-Online. Jul 2019. “Definition of Alive.” Web.
DO, Showalter, Anita L. 27 May, 2015“A Growing Body of Research Shows That Fetuses Can Feel Pain.” Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/845410
Miller, Sara G. 17 May 2016. “Do Fetuses Feel Pain? What the Science Says. Live Science. Web.
Staff. 17 Dec, 2018. “Fact Sheet: Science of Fetal Pain.” Lozier Institute. Web.