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Thanks for this great post.
It seems that much of what you are saying is based on the assumption that "life begins at conception." Biologically I get that. But even before conception there is life...that is sperm and egg are "living."
Where I need help is figuring out when life becomes human? Or if that is even the best question to be asking? I've been told the Jewish understanding of human life is that it begins when we are "ensouled" and that happens at first breath, as the hebrew for breath and spirit are the same (God "breathing" life, see Gen.).
Anyway, I agree with your assumption that everything changes when we are dealing with a human life. I'm just not sure how to think about that or begin to figure it out, so up until I have given the benefit of the doubt to life...that is life begins at conception.
Can you shed some light on this issue for me?


Great points, and I don't have a clear answer for you but some more things to consider. I agree that "life" and "human life" should be distinguished. From a scientific point of view, sperm and egg are certainly alive since they are mostly self-sustaining and can divide to make copies of themselves (biological criteria). However, they each have only half the number of chromosomes necessary to make an embryo, so sperm and egg need to fuse together (i.e. combine their chromosomes) to have the potential to become human. From a spiritual point of view I think one of the defining characteristics of human life is a relationship with God. I always have in mind the verse in Psalm 139 that says God knew us in the womb. I just came across more scriptures along those same lines (Jer 1:5, Isaiah 44:2). So by that definition I would say we are human before "first breath".


In vitro fertilization also involves creating and destroying embryos. The stem cells for research will most likely come from embryos left-over from IVF, otherwise destined for disposal. I wonder why there isn't so much ethical concern about IVF?


Thanks Philomena! Good stuff to think about.

Thomas More

Here's an update on this discussion from the Wall Street Journal (which requires a free subscription I think):


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