Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Life Week: Life in a Heartbeat

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Today’s article features guest writer Ruan Meintjes. Ruan is an alumnus of Generation Joshua who has participated widely in speech and debate on the national level through NCFCA. He placed 9th in persuasive speaking at the national level by arguing that life begins at the heartbeat and that the pro-life movement should focus on “Heartbeat Bills” to stem the tide of abortion in our nation. In this article, he advocates the theory that life begins at the heartbeat, rather than fertilization. 

Some might ask why it is necessary to deviate from the standard pro-life argument that life begins at fertilization. In the modern academic debate, one of the biggest hurdles to the theory that life begins at conception is the question of personal identity -- can a divisible embryo be considered a unique, individual person? It is this question that the heartbeat theory seeks to answer.

As always, the views appearing on this blog are not necessarily the views of Generation Joshua or HSLDA and should not be construed as positions of either.

Ruan Meintjes
Defining the starting point of life is crucial in the fight against abortion. Because of its importance, I propose we reevaluate our stance on life in the context of science and theology.

As we enter into the realms of science and theology, we need a clear definition of human life. The definition I want to offer is this: human life is a trichotomous entity, consisting of the body, the soul and the spirit. Life starts when these three components join, and it ends when they separate. This, of course, begs the question, when exactly do these components join?

Take the example of identical twins. If a fertilized embryo were mechanically split under a microscope before 14 days, the result would be identical twins. Did the embryologist split the soul and spirit with his blade? Is it even possible to split the non-physical with the physical? Identical twins, although similar in appearance and originating from the same embryo, are two distinctly different human beings in spirit. A 14-day old embryo cannot be split in this manner, because its millions of cells have already specialized to the point where the tiny heart cells beat, the very first sign of the presence of blood. Splitting it would kill it. The heartbeat, therefore, provides an acceptable scientific indicator of life.

Further, few people realize that approximately 80% of all naturally conceived human embryos do not grow past the eight cell stage of development, that is a 5 day old embryo. Because our gene pool deteriorates with each generation, we have arrived at a point where the genetics contained in the majority of egg and sperm have been corrupted past the point of natural repair. What this means for our argument today is that 80% of all embryos fail to properly form organs, appendages, and other features essential to life. Here is the question: all these embryos were fertilized, but did they ever have a spirit and soul? Practically, if we believe that life starts at fertilization, we believe that 80% of the human race never takes their first breath. 1, 2.

We turn now to look at what Scripture has to say on the matter. Blood has special meaning in the Bible. The obvious question is, “why?” In Genesis 9:4, we get the first answer. God said to Noah, “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (New King James Version, Genesis 9:4). Later in Leviticus, God dedicated a whole chapter to the sanctity of blood, saying, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’” (New King James Version, Leviticus 17:11). God further explains in Leviticus 17:14, “for it is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life. Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.’” (New King James Version, Leviticus 17:14). It is very clear that blood has serious meaning, both spiritually and physically. In the New Testament, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, on a spiritual level, demonstrates the life qualities of blood. Jesus, speaking to uncomprehending Jews in John 6 said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…” (New King James Version, John 6:53-54). Naturally, Jesus was speaking illustratively, showing the path to Salvation. However, I think it concludes this point well, indicating that blood is the silver cord that binds our body, soul, and spirit together.

The case is clear. Scientifically, we have very good grounds to believe that the spirit and the soul are not bound to the body at fertilization. Theologically, we have every reason to believe that God endows a child with the spirit and soul when the blood is present. At 22 days, an ultrasound screen will show something almost magical: the heart of a little being no larger than a kernel of rice, pulsating fiercely to drive a life-giving iota of blood to every growing cell. That, undisputedly, is what we call life.

1. Deteriorating gene pool/lack genetic diversity.

a. Bendjilali N., Hsueh WC., He Q., Willcox DC., Nievergelt CM., Donlon TA., Kwok PY., Suzuki M., Willcox BJ.,"Who Are the Okinawans? Ancestry, Genome Diversity, and Implications for the Genetic Study of Human Longevity From a Geographically Isolated Population.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci [January 2014].
b. Costas J., Salas A., Phillips C., Carracedo A., "Human genome-wide screen of haplotype-like blocks of reduced diversity.” Genetics [April 2005].
c. Batai K., Williams SR., "Mitochondrial variation among the aymara and the signatures of population expansion in the central Andes.” American Journal of Human Biology [January 2014].
d. Allendorf FW., Berry O., Ryman N., "So long to genetic diversity, and thanks for all the fish.” Molecular Ecology [January 2014].

2. Unviability of high percentages of embryos prior to 8 days due to genetic damage in original DNA coding.

a. Munné S., Magli C., Bachçe M., Fung J., Legator M., Morrision L., Cohert J., Gianaroli L., "Preimplantation diagnosis of the aneuploidies most commonly found in spontaneous abortions and live births: XY, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22.” Prenatal Diagnostics [December 1998].
b. Munné S., Lee A., Rosenwaks S., Grifo J., Cohen J., "Diagnosis of major chromosome aneuploidies in human preimplantation embryos.” Human Reproduction [December 1993].
c. Warren JE., Silver RM., “Genetics of pregnancy loss.” Clinical Obstet. Gynecology [March 2008].

Editor's Note: We've received a request to provide backing for a pair of claims made in the article. Please click "Endnotes" to see citations.

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