Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The beginning of life

Don’t let the science-lingo put you off, but have a read of this:
‘The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual’.
Sound like something from the pro-life debate? It’s not. It comes from medical textbook Patten’s Foundations of Embryology*. Best quotes it as an example of how, for the scientific world, the embryo is a human being, albeit in the early stages of development, right from the moment of fertilization. It’s an example of how in chapters 2-3, Best is at her best (shameless pun), weaving together science and theology, and packaging it in a very accessible format.
In chapter 2 she provides a simple framework for ethics (motivation, intention, action, consequence). Whilst this does not have the depth of other frameworks (e.g. Andrew Cameron’s in Joined-up Life which we reviewed on EQUIP book club last year), nevertheless, it serves its purpose.
The highlights for me came in chapter 3 where Best combines science and a discussion of the incarnation to show how fertilization is the most logical point to say life begins.
By the time a woman knows she is pregnant – that is, when the embryo is at least two weeks old – there is really no disagreement among educated people about whether it is a human being at an early stage of development. The disagreement is more about how it should be treated. (p41)
It is this question she turns to in the remainder of the book.
In these chapters (and those that follow), Best is seeking to cover a lot of ground and to keep the book very accessible. This means that at times I can’t help feeling that this book would be very confronting if I were unexpectedly pregnant. But to be honest, I think that in a large part this is due to the nature of the topic. We are talking about big, hard, things. We are talking about our responsibility and opportunity to care for unborn human beings. But it does mean that if you’re intending to give it to someone, it’s probably worth reading first, or even perhaps reading with them/sending them sections. This is particularly the case with chapter 5 which we’ll consider next week.

*$155.86 from Amazon if you’re interested – I’m sure it’s a great read!

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