I'm an atheist. I believe in reproductive rights for women. I believe a woman should be able to abort a pregnancy no questions asked. Why should I have to also believe the nonsense that "life begins at birth"? It seems to me that a human being is created as soon as a sperm fertilizes an egg. The DNA of a human being exists from that point onward. Are we so under the thumbs of the religious right that we can't say, "Yeah, life begins at conception. So what? The woman still has control."?
Definitions are not facts, they are conventions. A convention sets some sort of set point or trigger.
Descriptions of set points and triggers are factual, but set points and triggers themselves are just conventions.
Start by defining 'life'. Why is a zygote 'alive' but a developing mineral crystal 'not alive'? To me, 'human life' begins when human experiences start being recorded in memory - although I don't know exactly when that is, biologically speaking. I don't see any magic in the initial assembly of DNA from sperm/egg that sets the genetics of a human zygote that will eventually develop into a human being.
Conception vs at birth:
A big part of this (definition) I think comes from the question of when it's OK to abort. I don't pretend to have an answer for that.
True: people customize their definitions of when life begins to align with their attitude on the matter.
The DNA of a human being exists from that point onward.
Cut off your thumb. It has the DNA of a human being, yet is not a human being and will never be a human being. Therefore, the presence of human DNA does not, in and of itself, prove there is a human being involved. We need a better definition of what is a human being before we can have this discussion properly.
I agree "life begins at birth" is absurd and arbitrary. I would say, equally as absurd as "life begins at conception".
Teleologically, the destiny of the DNA in a fetus is to become a human person. One can't say the same about a thumb, though who knows what the future of cloning may hold!
"What appears to be troubling Unseen, and me as well, is the highly polarized political debate in which each side takes an extreme and absolute position. Does life-worth-protecting begin at conception? Of course not. Does life-worth-protecting only begin at birth? I can't accept that either."
Well said Joe, well said.
It seems to me that in reading all of these posts that there definately needs to be an agreement on the labels being used. Could clear up a lot of confusion and eliminate a lot of unnecessary posts. Personally I think the term "life cycle" could be useful. The human life cycle begins at conception. Would anyone disagree with that? I think the idea of a "soul" muddys the water way to much on this whole issue as well. I liked the example of twins where in if the soul would be injected at conception, and then the zygote splits, do the twins only have half each? Does the soul multiply? Do they have the same soul?
As for abortion..I heard a woman once say or maybe even she was quoting someone else, that if men could become pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. I couldn't agree more. While I would never choose to impose my view on any woman on this because of this reason, I do feel that the man involved with the pregnancy should have 50% say in whether the child is brought to term. Yes the woman does all the physical task but as has been stated that doesn't mean the man is any less emotionally invested in his unborn child. It's not as if she didn't know what could happen when she let him stick his penis in her, and so by doing so I think that automatically forfeits any idea of having more say in what happens between the two. Only if both sides agree on abortion should it take place, imo. Now obviously im excluding medical circumstances or any other extremes.
It would also seem to me that if we were to worry so much about abortion, why not be proactive and start focusing on breeding and cut it off at the pass? You need a license to operate a motor vehicle but not to create and be responsible for another life? Natural selection is all but out the fuckin window for our species and raising a child is supposed to be instinctual but let's face it a lot of people suck at it. I know this is a slippery slope but it's also true imo. Off topic as well... Bottom line seems to me we need to agree on terms and labels and debate nationally without religious bullshit clouding out real facts. Duh right?
Uh, we're all mammals right? Is a human embryo any more precious than a canine or feline embryo? Not too me. We're simply a higher order being that has developed the ability to place unnecessary emotional importance on a developing human fetus. Just ask the Catholic hospital doctors in Ireland about that. Remove the concept of religion and I believe this debate would be largely non-existent.