Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Are you aware human life begins at thought?

I think therefore I am, said Descartes. Plato identified the nature of man as that he thinks. Aristotle called man the Rational Animal. Even as recently as Terry Schivo, the issue wasn't whether her heart still beat, or lungs breathed, it was whether or not she thought. Brain death is death, because even if every other part of the body is still alive, without the mind, it's just flesh.

Consider the case of parasitic twins. That's when one twin is re-absorbed by the other, often resulting in the child being born with apparently an extra arm, or leg. That arm or leg was not part of her original body, but when that part is removed nobody thinks of it as it's own person, with it's own soul. It's just an arm or leg, because there's no mind, no thought. That's why conjoined twins are a totally different matter. When there's another brain involved, another mind, then there's no doubt there's another person there. It's the mind, it's thinking which defines what's a person, and what's just flesh.

We might never know exactly when the mind develops. But we know the ballpark. Modern science has been able to identify that the brain is developed enough to arguably hold a mind within three months of birth, and definitely not within the first three months after conception.

But we don't need science. We have an intuitive understanding based on something much older, and common to all faiths and beliefs. The burial sacrament. All cultures and all religions understand that when someone dies, they should be put to rest. Common sense tells you there's no need to bury the amputated limb of a parasitic twin. There was never a person there, so there's nobody to bury. It's just flesh. Likewise if an embryo was deformed and never developed a head, was just a torso and limbs and organs, there'd be no urge to mark a person's passing. No mind, no person.

Likewise, nobody even considers funerals for early miscarriages. In those first three months when more than a quarter of pregnancies end, the sorrow isn't for the loss of a person who was, it's for the loss of the person who might have been. In our hearts we know that invisible unformed body didn't have time to reach the point of having a first thought, and until that thought, that group of cells, though clearly human, never got the chance to be a person. People start feeling the need to have a funeral for an unborn child only after 5 or 6 months have passed, when people get serious about choosing a name, when it really feels that a new human being is on the way.... at about the same time science tells us the unborn mind might have started to think.

That's no coincidence. Science is just telling us what we already know: Pregnancy begins at conception, but a person begins at thought.

4 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Tom Finegan said...

both science and genetics agree that human life begins at the moment of conception. most religions concur. thought is not the basis for existence, existence is the basis for thought. cartesian philosophy holds no water and what aristotle meant by "rational animal" is fullfilled by any individual human being ie the human embryo. A potential human being is an egg and a sperm, a human being is an embryo:again a scientific fact. If our personhood a defined by how capable we are of thought then those with mental disabilities are less human than those among us talented enough to write mini essays on the internet, which also means they should have less rights. In early 20th century canada women were not thought of as persons because they were part of an inferior "sex" group- lets not define the unborn child out of personhood because they belong to an inferior "thought" group.

 
At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Tom Finegan said...

both science and genetics agree that human life begins at the moment of conception. most religions concur. thought is not the basis for existence, existence is the basis for thought. cartesian philosophy holds no water and what aristotle meant by "rational animal" is fullfilled by any individual human being ie the human embryo. A potential human being is an egg and a sperm, a human being is an embryo:again a scientific fact. If our personhood a defined by how capable we are of thought then those with mental disabilities are less human than those among us talented enough to write mini essays on the internet, which also means they should have less rights. In early 20th century canada women were not thought of as persons because they were part of an inferior "sex" group- lets not define the unborn child out of personhood because they belong to an inferior "thought" group.

 
At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

both science and genetics agree that human life begins at the moment of conception. most religions concur. thought is not the basis for existence, existence is the basis for thought. cartesian philosophy holds no water and what aristotle meant by "rational animal" is fullfilled by any individual human being ie the human embryo. A potential human being is an egg and a sperm, a human being is an embryo:again a scientific fact. If our personhood a defined by how capable we are of thought then those with mental disabilities are less human than those among us talented enough to write mini essays on the internet, which also means they should have less rights. In early 20th century canada women were not thought of as persons because they were part of an inferior "sex" group- lets not define the unborn child out of personhood because they belong to an inferior "thought" group.

 
At 1:14 PM, Blogger tom said...

both science and genetics agree that human life begins at the moment of conception. most religions concur. thought is not the basis for existence, existence is the basis for thought. cartesian philosophy holds no water and what aristotle meant by "rational animal" is fullfilled by any individual human being ie the human embryo. A potential human being is an egg and a sperm, a human being is an embryo:again a scientific fact. If our personhood a defined by how capable we are of thought then those with mental disabilities are less human than those among us talented enough to write mini essays on the internet, which also means they should have less rights. In early 20th century canada women were not thought of as persons because they were part of an inferior "sex" group- lets not define the unborn child out of personhood because they belong to an inferior "thought" group.

 

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