Science and the Beginning of Life

As I’ve stated in previous posts on this blog, science is nearly unanimous that life begins at conception.  First of all, what do we mean by “conception.”?   We normally understand “the union of sperm and ovum.” A term also used to describe that event is “fertilization.”  Essentially, this is the single cell stage.  What does science say about this?

  • Professor Robert George of Princeton University, in his great book Embryo, A Defense of Human Life, quotes the authors of a well-known embryology textbook by Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, in The Developing Human: ” Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to produce a single cell – a zygote.” Moore and Persaud write that the initial totipotent cell that is the result of fertilization “marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”
  • In the Fetal Development page of the Priests for Life web site the following sources are highlighted for the humanity of the zygote:
  • Dr. Jerome Lejeune, “Father of Modern Genetics” and discoverer of the cause of Down’s Syndrome, stated, “To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion . . . it is plain experimental evidence.”
  • Dr. Hymie Gordon, Chairman, Department of Genetics at Mayo Clinic, stated, “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”
  • Sir William Liley, a key pioneer of fetal therapy, wrote a famous article in 1972, The Foetus as a Personality, in which he shows us why we have moved away from the view of the fetus as an inert, unformed passenger awaiting arrival at the destination of life, and have seen that the fetus is a splendidly functioning human, full of vigor and very much in command of the pregnancy.
  • The widely used medical textbook The Developing Human, Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th Edition, Moore, Persaud, Saunders, 1998, states at page 2 that “The intricate processes by which a baby develops from a single cell are miraculous …. This cell [the zygote] results from the union of an oocyte [egg] and sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being ….” At page 18 this theme is repeated: “Human development begins at fertilization [emphasis in original] ….”
  • Scott Klusendorf, in his book Pro-Life 101 quotes Dr. Landrum Shettles, the first scientist to achieve conception in a test tube:  “conception not only confers life, it “defines” life.”
  • The former Director of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Alan Guttmacher, was perplexed that anyone, much less a medical doctor would question this.  “This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge” he wrote in his book Life In the Making.
  • The following link lists numerous quotes from scientific books that are too numerous to list.  I provide a link for you to look.  Click here.

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