Sunday, February 19, 2012


Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update last night saw the humorous "Really!?!" bit take on the topic of Contraception and Abortion.

In the bit, Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers poke fun at the belief held by many Christians that human life begins at conception, stating that "What's next? Life begins at last call?" or "Life begins when you click 'send' on your profile?"

I accept that within a pluralistic society there will be differing views on matters pertaining to human life and liberty. And it may be that Christians should channel their energy into areas other than changing laws while so many people are philosophically at another pole. What Christians should do is continue to challenge society to explore the logical basis for differing attributions of human life, liberty, and dignity.

In this current case, it should be pointed out that the above "joke" rather facilely asserts that human life beginning at conception is ridiculous precisely because temporal points prior to conception would be even more ridiculous. The logic of this "joke" could be reapplied to any point of post- or pre-gestation. "You think human life begins at age three? What's next? Life begins at birth?"

Each one of us must ultimately have a position on when human life does finally begin. You can mock my belief that conception is the only philosophically tenable point to impart human rights, but if you disagree you must then tell me a specific point before, during, or after birth when you believe that it is officially wrong to terminate a human organism.

Nota bene, I use the term "human organism" to refer to each and every creature of the species Homo Sapiens, in every moment of its life cycle. Embryologists specializing in amphibians will inform you that a fertilized frog egg, racing to emerge as a tadpole, is a new life form, with a genetic code distinct from both of its parents. The same is true of every human organism, from the moment of conception, whether you want to grant that human organism all human rights or not.

Any biologist not trying to play politics will admit that every unhatched bald eagle in the egg is already a living organism with its own distinct genetic code. And that places us face to face with the question--when is it wrong to take the life of a bald eagle? Is it more wrong to kill a ten year old eagle than it is to smash one--
in ovo--against the ground? Should it even be illegal to destroy bald eagle eggs? I mean, they aren't really eagles, are they?

And so, anyone who wants to mock my medieval view that humans are humans no matter how small, must also reciprocate, in all decency, with a thoughtful counter argument, telling me not just that I'm wrong to impute human rights so far up the gestational cycle, but informing me of a superior point on which to fix human dignity.

All but the lamest will reject the notion that natural vaginal birth can serve as this philosophical point. In any healthy situation, it would be possible to perform a Caesarian Section one day before what would have been a natural birth and the organism we take out of the uterus will grow quite unabated. So those who would mock the notion of conception as the beginning of human life will end up asserting that human life begins at some point prior to natural birth but certainly after whatever point someone might want to perform an abortion.

And so I do put the ball back in your court. Jokes aside, unless you believe killing a three year old is acceptable, tell me the specific point--and why--killing a three, two, one, less-than-one-year old is wrong. I have a view wherein no point from age three toward conception logically presents itself as an obvious point to attribute personhood. And therefore I grant all human organisms, of any gestational stage, human dignity. Christians in the public square will be the butt of jokes. But we also deserve to hear a thoughtful counterargument.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding. A link to this, and background, here:

    Relevant as well is this, just in:

    These topics have vast implications, and are pivotal in our conception of what it means to be human.