Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Conception to Consciousness

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), English poet and philosopher, stated, “The history of a man for the nine months preceding his birth would, probably, be far more interesting and contain events of greater moment than all the three score and ten years that follow it.” Coleridge was neither a scientist nor a theologian but this scientific insight was far ahead of its time. The detailed wonders of pre-natal development were not known two centuries ago. Intuitively, however, many theologians and scientists since the psalmist David have understood the truth of Psalm 139. The psalmist recognized the divine contribution to the physical assembly of our human frame during the pre-natal time period, not to mention the divine implantation of the mysterious “breath of life.”

David realized God saw his unformed body and the days ordained for him even before he physically existed (verse 16). This speaks of the Creator’s omniscience. Centuries before the startling discoveries of modern science, the psalm writer and the English poet understood that life originated in a tiny speck of matter--the seed from which our bodies sprang and were eventually woven and knit together.

The Psalmist believed fully human life existed in the womb at the earliest moment. Abortion activists, some medical practitioners, and most sadly, prospective mothers who wish to avoid giving birth, have developed various rationales to avoid the conclusion that fully human life begins at the moment of conception and deserves vigorous, yet tender protection. The term “quickening” has identified the moment when the pregnant mother first becomes aware of physical movements within her body, usually about mid way through the pregnancy. We have heard the disclaimer from abortion advocates that prior to this quickening, contents of the womb are termed “the products of conception” or a similar value neutral expression rather than “living human being” in an effort to reduce guilt connected with the abortion procedure. This is only one of numerous rationales posed by those favoring termination of viable pregnancies.

The Association of Pro-Life Physicians has published an introductory website asking, “When Does Human Life Begin?” They state there is little controversy in the scientific community regarding the question. They reference a popular textbook outlining the five characteristics of living things: is highly organized, has ability to acquire materials and energy, has ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has ability to reproduce (individual developing cells reproduce and will continue to reproduce individual members of their species when the organism reaches maturity). Blended human DNA manifests the standard of humanity. The fertilized egg achieves this standard: The zygote produced by the union of sperm and egg is fully human.

Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun wrote the decision in the 1973 case legalizing abortion. He stated, “If the suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (Fourteenth) amendment.” The denial that the developing entity within the womb is fully human and deserves protection from the moment of conception to the moment of birth and beyond has become a paramount collective sin staining our nation. The abortion ruling legalizes the termination of a living, developing human being within the womb.

Several supernatural miracles are associated with our discussion. The creation of a life, specifically human life blessed with full human consciousness in less than a single calendar year, is a surpassingly miraculous work of the Creator. Even a superficial understanding of the process of physical development of the human body in utero with its many functional systems in place in the short interval of nine months--these are causes for breathtaking wonder and reverence.

Thousands of observers over the centuries have joined King David and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in their exultations concerning the process of pre-natal development. King David expressed his intuitive recognition of prenatal development as the work of God. We are less certain of Coleridge’s intuitive recognition of the complex beauty of the prenatal construction process as the work of God. However, we are certain all of today’s scientists would join Psalmist David and poet Coleridge in acknowledging the unmistakable wonder of design and process in the production of human form and functioning body systems prior to birth.