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The Contender
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Life begins at conception

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/7/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,503 times Debate No: 38610
Debate Rounds (3)
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Life begins when the sperm and egg combine. All individual life begins at conception.


Yet a sperm and an ovum are also "living" cells (gametes).

It would be more accurate, then, to say, "Multi-cellular life begins (or reproduces) at the moment of conception" (or something to that effect). Even one of the terms used to describe this 'kind' of reproduction is sometimes referred to as "morphologic".

Living cells can then make 'copies' of them selves, still not always producing a being, certainly not a human being yet, but still, in fact, "living".

Also, your opening doesn't exactly account for other 'kinds' of life in the exact same way as multi-cellular, animal-cell based life; e.g. flora, plant and vegetative life. The processes are somewhat similar, but always, and the terms would not be the same.

To say, like you did in a broad sense, "LIFE begins at conception," is simply not accurate. It causes an infinite regress and a whole plethora of other question considering the sperm and ovum are "living" cells. For example: Where did the living sperm and ovum come from?

I like how you kept your opening/challenge short and sweet but it's inaccurate in scope, technically wrong and limited and doomed from the start by the specific terminology and wording you chose.

I sincerely hope you are a trained biologist, or at least a physical anthropologist by vocation, and can better explain your idea.
Debate Round No. 1


I purposely used a bold bias here to see if there would be any other biased people against me, so I could prove a point. But I see you are logical and not biased, so I will give you my true stance on this.
I am talking about when a new individual life begins, a new human. This new life begins when the haploid sperm and haploid egg combine to create a new diploid celled organism, which is the new human. Now the reason I made this biased debate is to see how many people are ignorant to this biological fact. Yes the sperm is alive, and yes, the egg is technically alive. But the difference is, the sperm and egg contain THE MOTHER AND FATHER'S OWN INDIVIDUAL DNA haploid blueprints. This new life form starts when the sperm and egg combine and create a NEW DNA BLUEPRINT that is different from the mother and father. A new life begins at conception, and what I mean by that, is that a NEW ORGANISM starts at conception when the haploid sperm and egg combine.


That's not what you said though. Hate to hold you over the coals on this one but you said, "Life begins at conception," and placed this debate in the 'Science' category. You then took it even further in that direction with the specificity of, "Life begins when a sperm and egg combine.." and further still with, "ALL individual life begins at conception.."

So not only are you wrong on the science technically and idealistically in many ways, but you are also off semantically as well by your choice of language.

Life (in the broad sense) has already '"begun'". Life continues on by morphing generationally.. Further, life (in the broad sense) does not make much sense to us in terms of ultimate meaning when we look at single individuals, rather it makes more sense when we consider the "collective". But notice this is different than, "Life beginning at conception."

The only saving word you used is "individual" .. So if you are referring to what makes an individual, even still, those parts didn't start at conception either, but rather came from their parents.. and those came from their parents..

This isn't just an idea, it is literally mechanically-physically so, the material "stuff", DNA/chromosomes from both mom and dad were once "INSIDE" and WERE mom and dad. So it would then be accurate to say you, in fact, ARE your mom and dad (who were alive before your "individual" conception of their parts came together to make you).

You the individual is only important if we were then to discuss your memories say, or your experiences as an individual, but the stuff that physically makes you was around and literally already around and IN your parents before your conception, and was totally alive.

The interesting part is that your parents are their parents too, and so on, and so, and so, until you can connect other life relationally the further back you go generationally.

So to talk about the "individual" is to talk about one grain of sand on a vast beach, and then pin the importance of an individual at an arbitrary moment in the cyclical morphing and reproduction of the massive organismic collective we call and refer to as Life, is simply silly.

An example of what you have done is like me saying, "The beach started when the grain of sand was made.." Which actually sounds really cool, but you then see my point? That doesn't quite accurately describe the beginning of the beach nor the individual grain of sand in/part of the beach.
Debate Round No. 2


Yes, I understand that a fetus isn't fully developed yet and it cannot live outside its mother's womb. However, that does not prove that the fetus is not human. If someone were to be born with a disorder that caused them to not be able to feel, would you say they are no longer a human?
Basic biology agrees that a human life does indeed start at conception. When the haploid sperm and egg combine, they create a zygote cell that works just like human cells, not frog cells, not pig cells. This cell rapidly divides into other human cells in which start to specify. This biological fact does not make it so the fetus is not a human anymore, that is where you are wrong. A fetus is very much human, the only factor that makes it less human is because it isn't fully developed and it cannot live out of its mother's womb. That is an ignorant assumption, right there we can assume that a growing tomato on a vine is not a tomato, when in fact it is. The tomato contains tomato genetics and tomato characteristics, even though the characteristics are not exactly fully developed. Same with the fetus, it has working DNA and blood cells that are human DNA and blood cells, how could it not be human?
"Science teaches without reservation that life begins at conception. It is a scientific fact that an organism exists after conception that did not exist before conception. This new organism has its own DNA distinct from the mother and father, meaning that it is neither part of the mother nor part of father. As the embryo grows, it develops a heartbeat (22 days after conception), its own circulatory system, and its own organs. From conception it is a new organism that is alive and will continue to grow and develop as long as nutrition is provided and its life is not ended through violence or illness.

Artistic metal representation of DNA double helix structure.

It is indisputably human, as it has human DNA.

The offspring of two members of a species is always the same type of creature as the parents. No two dogs will ever conceive and give birth to a cat; no fish egg will ever produce a snake. According to all the laws of nature, the unborn baby is human.

Scientific textbooks proclaim this fact. Keith L. Moore"s The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003) states the following:

A zygote [fertilized egg] is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete " unites with a female gamete or oocyte " to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.

Hi, kids!

The term "zygote" is a scientific term for the new life that is created when the sperm and the egg combine. "Oocyte" is another term for the egg cell, the cell released by woman"s ovary which travels down the fallopian tube and is fertilized by the male sperm.

The author of this scientific textbook, Keith L. Moore, is a world-renowned embryologist. He has written a number of definitive books on embryology, and his scientific knowledge and experience are vast and beyond reproach. Few medical students can complete their careers without studying from his textbooks.

Moore puts it even more plainly in Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology (7th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008, p. 2):

[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being.

Here is an example from another scientific work.

From Human Embryology & Teratology (Ronan R. O"Rahilly, Fabiola Muller [New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996], 5-55):

Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed[.]

This third embryology textbook is as clear as the first two " fertilization is the beginning of new life and the start of a new, distinct human organism.

From T.W. Sadler, Langman"s Medical Embryology (10th edition, Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006, p. 11):

Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the femal gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.

And in another source (Ronan O"Rahilly and Fabiola Miller, Human Embryology and Teratology [3rd edition, New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001, p. 8]):

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization " is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.

In yet another textbook (William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology [New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998, pp. 1, 14]), we read the following: .

Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization[.] " This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.

As we can see, embryology textbooks are unanimous: life begins at fertilization. And the life that begins is not simply a continuation of the life of the sperm or egg cell. Rather, it is the life of a distinct, unique, new individual which has never existed before in history and will never exist again. Nothing will be added to the new organism except nutrition, and it will continue to grow and develop until death occurs due to injury or illness.

Lennart Nilsson was a photographer who took the first pictures of unborn embryos and fetuses and made them available in his famous book A Child is Born. In the introduction to this book, which contains beautiful full-color pictures of unborn babies in different stages of development, he says:

" but the whole story does not begin with delivery. The baby has existed for months before " at first signaling its presence only with small outer signs, later on as a somewhat foreign little being which has been growing and gradually affecting the lives of those close by[.]

This incredible book shows gorgeous photographs of the unborn baby from conception to birth. We see the shape of the six-week-old embryo begin to resemble the profile of the baby who will be born. We see the tiny, fully formed fingers of an eight-week-old unborn baby. It is a remarkable book that many expectant mothers have seen, and its photographs have been reproduced many times.

The word "embryo" is defined as such (Considine, Douglas [ed.], Van Nostrand"s Scientific Encyclopedia, 5th edition, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943):

Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism. " At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun[.]

And yet another textbook (Carlson, Bruce M. Patten"s Foundations of Embryology, 6th edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3) states:

Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)[.] " The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.

This is a mere handful of excerpts from medical textbooks. In fact, try as you might, you will never find a book on genetics or embryology that does not state that life begins at conception.

National Geographic put together a television program ("In the Womb," 2005) documenting the development of the baby throughout pregnancy. In the introduction of their program, they sum up the scientific knowledge of the beginning of life in the following way:

The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual"s unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated."


Let me just say, I'm not too sure about the first line of your first paragraph. What you said here doesn't really have relevance. Much of your last argument is suspicious to me for these kinds of reasons; the "Hey Kids!" line, and for other reasons as well. Perhaps you copied info from other sources too closely?

There is a bit of back-peddling going on here too. It also looks like you are making amendments, what you "meant to say"..

What about single-cell organisms?! There is NO "conception" when single-cell organisms reproduce! Yet, a single-cell organism is still Life that is "living" and reproduces new ""individuals""..! This concept alone shatters your notions!

Gamete cells (sperm and ovum) are "LIVING" cells too! These are ALIVE BEFORE the moment of conception.

Isolating the moment of conception is not the right terminology or process to apply toward other kinds of Life; e.g., single-cell organisms, flora, plants, various vegetative life. We are all related to these other kinds of life. There is no conception exactly like you are referring to in these cases of life producing new individuals.. We even share the DNA of an oak tree! - Life has and continues to morph!

I think the semantics are important. What you think of as Life, and when Life begins, is what we are debating. "Life Begins at Conception," is the title of this debate and challenge. I have shown that to be absolutely false. Rather, Life has already BEGUN and "conception" is just a specific moment of the continuing of life; it is morphing into more life.

We can say conception is when we classify the beginning of new distinct "individuals" of complex multi-cellular life, for the sake of categorization, but it's not a full accurate description of what is really going on. Even the molecular constituents of which the life is made CAME FROM previous life. Again, this is literally mechanically so. The physical hard molecules came from both mom and dad; and were/are mom and dad.

Again, your kinds of ideas are not accurate; least we say, "..not the whole story.."

I can take a living skin cell from my nose and clone myself from it. This can actually be done with any of my cells from my body with a nucleus. OR I can take a living cell from my arm and have that cell produce a whole new arm, or leg, or nose. This is what stem-cell research is all about.

So LIFE is much more complicated than these restrictions that you are implementing. The lines for what we consider Life to be, how it's defined, when it began, how it continues on, etc.. are not so clear anymore. The lines are blurred now.

Biologist have historically considered Life from the microscopic and up through to the macroscopic. So we are classifying these systems from a microscopic perspective in the biological sciences, which also influences our philosophy.

Therefore, folks want to use biology, then, to "individualize" Life. It's an egocentric attitude because "we" [are] Life.. and life is connected to all other life biologically. Life is connected to the Earth chemically. And Life is connected to the rest of the Cosmos and universe atomically. This is a scientific fact.

You as an individual (you the person) becomes relevant only when we examine any information storage that you have retained; your experiences, your memories, etc. BUT the material, mechanical parts and the physical "stuff" that literally makes up who you are came from your parents and was "living" before your conception.

So a "new distinct genetic blue print" is still an exact blend of your parents genetics, assorted an arranged randomly, to make your material body. And those material parts and "stuff" were already alive and [was] your parents before your "conception".

If you want to individualize Life (by isolating one specific moment of Life morphing and continuing on), that's fine, but it just seems like an unbalanced perspective and seems like a very limited understanding of what Life is and how it lives and continues..
Debate Round No. 3
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Vote Placed by tylergraham95 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: After reading the arguments and doing a small bit of digging it is evident that the Pro has plagiarized a large portion of one of his arguments. (the one with the "Hi, Kids!" bit). Votes easily go to Con.