Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Cool synopsis on where Obama and Biden stand on the 'beginning of life'.

In the Beginning...

Both insist that the question of when a human life begins is a theological question, and so one without a generally applicable answer. But in fact, the question of when a new human life begins is not fundamentally a theological question but a biological question. After conception is concluded, a new biological organism exists that did not exist before -- a member of our species in every way, alive and human. That is when the life of that human being starts. That life will proceed in one continuous path until death, whether that comes days later in a lab dish, months later in a clinic, or decades later in a nursing home surrounded by children and grandchildren. Human life has a straightforward scientific definition, and its beginning in biological terms is complicated only by questions about the process of conception itself. When conception is completed and a developing embryo exists, a life has begun.
That fact does not by itself necessarily settle the abortion or embryo research debates. After all this new human being is at first very small, for a little while does not resemble anyone we encounter in our daily life, and at first does not even feel pain or exhibit any but the simplest autonomic responses. The embryo and the fetus are different in some important physical respects from most of us. So the question is not when life begins, but whether every human life is equal.

For some people, this question of equality does have a theological component, for others it does not. But either way the question obviously has a political and legal component, and indeed America's political tradition offers one answer to the question, written in the Declaration of Independence. We can disagree with the answer, but to do so we must take up the appropriate question: not when does life begin, but whether we are all created equal. Do all human beings share in some minimal equal humanity that entitles us to some minimal equal protections, like the protection from intentional killing, regardless of our age, our size, our capacities, abilities, and circumstances?
That's not a question that answers itself. But it is the question at the heart of the abortion and embryo research debates, and Senators Obama and Biden are avoiding the question by insisting they lack an answer to the prior question -- the question of the beginning of life -- which they wrongly assert to be a matter of theology.
Now tell me again which party seeks refuge in theology when it doesn't like the facts that science helps us know.


No comments:

Post a Comment