Sunday, June 12, 2005


A statement in this week's New Scientist (June 11-17, 2005, Vol. 186 No. 2503) caught my eye:
Biological life begins at conception, but when does human life begin?
I disagree with this statement. Is the sperm that fertilizes the egg (and says "So long, losers!" to its hundreds of thousands* of failed companions) not alive? And is the egg itself, waiting to be fertilized by the winner of the Great Sperm Race, not alive, as alive as its dozens of predecessors who had sloughed off unfertilized?

Life is an unbroken chain stretching back to the earliest ancestor of all living things on Earth. It is not something that just happens to start on some specific date and time. Allow me to quote myself:

Every living thing on Earth represents the end product of over a billion years of evolution (a thousand million years, for you consarned funny-talkin' furriners again.) Every amoeba, every tsetse fly, every blade of grass, every duck-billed platypus and every annoying jerk in line at the supermarket checkout can trace his, her, or its respective lineage to that great primordial unknown from which all life developed. Each of them has come from an unbroken chain of forebears which, it can be demonstrated, managed to reproduce in some way. Every fly you swat, every germ you kill as you wash your hands, every weed you poison, and every bug that smashes off your windshield is the end of the entire history of life as represented by that individual's heritage. Death is no small matter.
Life is no small matter, either.

*Millions, maybe? Sorry, I don't remember how many sperm are included per ejaculation. It's been a long time since high school biology, and even my semi-omniscience has limits.


Anonymous said...

You're conflating categories and that's why you're off beam. The individual life begins at conception. Not Life its Ownself.


Betz said...

This is a very interesting debate. As a I guess sperm receiver..I shall say what I think on the subject. ;)
I have to think of how to word it so as not to erm "piss" anyone off.

Anonymous said...

Conception represents potential life. Just as not every ovum or sperm will achieve "life", not every conception results in a live birth. And a live birth does not guarantee LIFE. I suppose that we could look at everything as "potential." Now, whadda you doing with your potential?