We've seen from the Bible and theology that pre-born babies have a soul, can be filled with the Holy spirit and God recognizes life as beginning at conception. It is also abundantly clear from the study of biology and embryology that life begins at conception. Many people in our secular society consider science to be the ultimate way of determining truth. While this is not entirely true, it certainly is true that biology and science ultimately do lead us to the truth, since it is a study of God's creation. So what does embryology teach us about the life of the pre-born? Let's look at what some of the textbooks on embryology have to say. But first, take a quick look at the process of conception.
Conception is of course the joining of the woman's egg with the male sperm. Fertilization takes place when the sperm first attaches itself to the egg and then penetrates through the surface of the egg. When the DNA of the female egg and male sperm are combined, it forms what is referred to biologically as a zygote. See the following illustration:
Some would claim that fertilized eggs are single cell like blood cells or other parts of the body. However this simply is not true. This single cell is unique in that it contains DNA from both the fathers and mothers cells and is the beginning of every new human being. Textbooks on embryology make it clear that this is the beginning of human life. The textbook The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology states the following about this unique cell called a zygote. "Zygote: this cell results from the union of all oocyte and the sperm. The zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). Human development begins at fertilization. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us has a unique individual." Likewise, the textbook Essentials of Human Embryology states the following, "in this text, we began our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual." The textbook Human Embryology and Teratology states "fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is hereby formed." Another textbook Before We Are Born: Basic Embryology and Birth Defects states the following, "Zygote. This cell is the beginning of a human being. It results from the fertilization of an ovum (egg) by sperm (spermatozoon).
This biological and scientific view that life begins at conception is virtually universal. Consider what the following medical doctors say on the subject. Dr. Alfred Bongioanni from the University of Pennsylvania states, "I've learned from my earliest medical education and human life begins at the time of conception." Dr. Jerome LeJeune from the University of Descartes says "after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being." Dr. Hymie Gordon from the Mayo Clinic states, "By all criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception." Similarly Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth from Harvard University medical school states, "It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception."
It is clearly therefore a scientific fact based on embryology that human life starts at the moment of conception. A zygote is not a potential human life. It is human life.
It is also interesting to note, that in the embryological development process by the end of week eight, the beginnings of all essential external and internal structures are present in the developing baby. By the end of week 10 all the major organs have been formed including the sex organs, so sex can be differentiated. Embryological development from week eight on is essentially characterized by growth and elaboration of structures that are already in place. Furthermore we know that after 20 weeks life can be sustained outside of the womb.
If life does not begin at conception, when does it begin? Biologically there clearly is no other choice. The zygote formed at conception is the beginning of human life.
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