CONCEPTION- DOES IT BEGIN WITH FERTILIZATION, THE UNION OF SPERM AND EGG ?
“BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN THE WOMB I KNEW YOU”
There is no universal understanding about the beginning of human life. When does human life begins ? There are several moral and ethical issues that involve the manner in which we define the beginning of human life. The society is totally polarized about woman’s reproductive rights, the right to abortion and about destruction of human embryos for purposes of scientific research. The moral and ethical validity of abortion and the embryonic stem cell research depend upon our understanding of the origin of human life. People who endorse the choice of abortion, and the scientists who conduct research upon cells derived from the early stages of embryonic development claim that the human individual begins later in the fetal stage of development when the fetus displays clearly visible features of being a human individual. They are opposed by people who believe that life begins at conception, when the union of the male gamete with a set of 23 chromosomes with a mature female gamete with a set of 23 chromosomes takes place which results in the formation of a fertilized egg with a set of 46 chromosomes. The newly formed genome is unique and has a new identity of its own and such genome has not existed before and the same genome would not be formed again as each genome displays individualistic variations. This process called conception creates and brings forth a new being.
Human culture informs us that the human entity is known to the Creator even before it has formed in the womb and much before the individual is born. Since conception appears to be an act of creation, it should be preceded by a creative thought. The fact that the human life begins with a creative thought is stated repeatedly in several religious traditions. In the Old Testament Book of Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” and the thought to create man was expressed before the act of creation. The fact that God is involved in the process of conception is stated when God had promised to Abraham that he would father a son when he was nearing the age of 100 and his wife Sarah was at the age of 90. The Book of Genesis, chapter 17, verse 16 reads, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her.” Similarly, the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, chapter 44, verse 2 reads, This is what the Lord says “He who made you, who formed you in the womb,” and in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 4 and 5 read, The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”
THE BIRTH OF JESUS FORETOLD TO VIRGIN MARY :
The idea of ‘Immaculate Conception’ is the corner-stone of Christian belief and is described in the New Testament Book of Luke, chapter 1, verses 30 and 31 which read, But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus.” The idea that a virgin could conceive is also stated in the Book of Matthew, chapter 1, verse 23 which reads, The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel which means, “God with us.” It clearly demonstrates that conception is not an accidental event but is pre-planned and is predetermined according to the will of the Creator. This idea that conception is a pre-planned event is also stated in the Book of Luke, chapter 1, verses 36 and 37 which read ” Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” The son of Elizabeth is known as ‘John the Baptist’ and his crucial role was also foretold.
THE INDIAN TRADITION ABOUT BEGINNING OF HUMAN LIFE :
Srimad Bhagavatam also known as Bhagavata Purana in the Seventh Canto narrates the story of Prahlada. His birth was foretold and most interestingly, Prahlada had acquired the knowledge of God while he was still in his mother’s womb and he had shared this knowledge of God with others without receiving any further instructions or learning after his physical birth. Human life originates as a creative thought and the thought leads to creative action which results in conception, a new beginning.
THE MORAL IMPLICATIONS OF CREATION :
If man is created, it implies the operation of a creative force or energy which was set in motion by a creative thought and hence man’s beginning becomes the expression of a creative will. The destruction of human embryo for scientific research and the killing of human fetus before birth would be viewed as acts of disobedience of that creative will which caused the human existence.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.