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The Fetus is not a human?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/4/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,697 times Debate No: 38496
Debate Rounds (3)
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Can you give me any scientific proof that a fetus isn't a human? Because every scientific study on fetuses prove that the fetus's cells work identical to those of a born human being.
Pro-lifers are often criticized for their position that a new, human life begins at conception. Many incorrectly think that this belief is based on some blind religious dogma, a scripture passage somewhere, or some stubborn need to tell women what to do with their bodies. All the while, this same opposition likes to pretend that they are the scientific, logical ones " obviously not blinded by religion or some judgmental God.
Of course, this is exactly backwards from reality. The entire basis for a new, human life beginning at conception stems from well documented, universally recognized scientific fact. The only ones who deny this are those blinded by their own religious dogma of so-called "choice" who have a stubborn need to deny scientific fact in order to stay faithful to their own ideology.
If science had proven that human life actually began at implantation or at nine weeks or whenever, then that"s precisely when we (Catholics and any other reasonable belief system) would believe that human life began. Simple. And, logically, it would be from that moment when this human being should be treated with the rights and dignities that come with being a human being.
But that"s not what science has told us. Science has quite clearly and decidedly proven that a new, human life begins at conception (i.e. fertilization. AKA the moment sperm and ovum meet and form an entirely new, self-directing living organism of the human species with its own individual DNA distinct from both mother and father.).
At this point in the debate, some try and introduce a separate distinction and question of "personhood." Aside from this usually being a convoluted way to try and create classes of human beings and that it doesn"t hold up to any consistently logical scrutiny, it"s also not at all a scientific argument. It"s a philosophical one. So it is totally irrelevant to the scientific question of when human life begins.
Recently, Dr. Robert George wrote an article outlining this whole topic in more detail. And if you want to really learn your stuff, pick up his excellent book entitled Embryo (I"m in the middle of reading it right now). In his words:
"That is, in human reproduction, when sperm joins ovum, these two individual cells cease to be, and their union generates a new and distinct organism. This organism is a whole, though in the beginning developmentally immature, member of the human species. Readers need not take our word for this: They can consult any of the standard human-embryology texts, such as Moore and Persaud"s The Developing Human, Larsen"s Human Embryology, Carlson"s Human Embryology & Developmental Biology, and O"Rahilly and Mueller"s Human Embryology & Teratology." " Dr. Robert George
"Human embryos, whether they are formed by fertilization (natural or in vitro) or by successful somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT " i.e., cloning), do have the internal resources and active disposition to develop themselves to the mature stage of a human organism, requiring only a suitable environment and nutrition. In fact, scientists distinguish embryos from other cells or clusters of cells precisely by their self-directed, integral functioning " their organismal behavior. Thus, human embryos are what the embryology textbooks say they are, namely, human organisms " living individuals of the human species " at the earliest developmental stage." " Dr. Robert George
Did we catch that? Human embryos only need a suitable environment and nutrition to become more mature human beings. Hey, that"s kind of like humans at any stage " at least for our biological maturity. Unfortunately, the culture outside of the womb is seemingly a less and less "suitable environment" for bringing about other kinds of maturity. But that"s another issue entirely.
But despite our maturity, biological or otherwise, we are "whole" members of the human species " human beings. And with that comes an inherent dignity and right to life.
One of the great powers of science is that it is able to help clarify moral issues like this for us. It"s a powerful tool. Science is clear on this one. If you are a fan of science, then consider also being a fan of human life " at all of its stages.
So it's pretty clear that the fetus is a living human being, unless you are ignorant.


I shall argue that a Fetus is not human until it is born.

I present my starting arguments:

It is not a baby: A fetus is not classed as human until it is born, until that point it is just potential. Potential life, a blueprint of sorts. If one was to compare a fetus to a child that has just been born you would see significant differences between the two. I mentioned earlier that a fetus is only potential, it is only a blueprint of DNA, a starting point of which a human is created. If I were to put the dough to create bread into an oven and wait for it to rise, I would not say that the dough inside the oven is bread, it would still be dough, a starting point to which will become bread, but it is still dough until it has risen and been taken out of the oven. One would not call the dough bread until the baking process was completed. I will continue this by saying that the dough and bread share no physical similarities, the dough in the oven is just dough until has risen and become bread, the same applies to a fetus and a human baby. You would not call a human baby and a fetus the same, one is a blueprint the other is the finished product. The phrase "Life begins at conception is purely nonsensical as life began only once on this planet, over three and a half billion years ago, and hasn't stopped since. A fertilized egg is simply life continuing in a modified form only one small step removed from the separate sperm and ovum, both alive before joining together, and both representing the unique genetic potential of a human being. In an anti-choice context, the term "Life begins at conception" can only be translated as: "A human being starts at conception." Once again, this is begging the question. Perhaps a potential human being gets its start at conception, but on no account does it begin at conception.

A fetus is incapable of feelings attributed to humans: A fetus is incapable of feeling any kind of emotion that defines human beings, such as joy, anger, hatred or compassion. A fetus does not develop these qualities until it is born and starts interacting with it's surroundings and other human beings, all human beings experience such emotions to say a fetus is human when it does not experience such emotion is like attributing a bacteria or a similar organism with a human, although they may be in a sense alive, they do not experience the necessary emotion to be considered human. A fetus is incapable of such emotion until it is born, rendering it non human until it is born.

Debate Round No. 1


There is scientific evidence that the fetus does indeed feel pain. It is a fundamental fact that human life begins at conception. The zygote produces the same type of nutrients as we do now. The baby is very alive in the mother's womb. It may not be developed, but it is certainly alive my friend.
According to this elementary definition of life, life begins at fertilization, when a sperm unites with an oocyte. From this moment, the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has the ability to reproduce (the cells divide, then divide again, etc., and barring pathology and pending reproductive maturity has the potential to reproduce other members of the species). Non-living things do not do these things. Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her.
Furthermore, that life is unquestionably human. A human being is a member of the species homo sapiens. Human beings are products of conception, which is when a human male sperm unites with a human female oocyte (egg). When humans procreate, they don't make non-humans like slugs, monkeys, cactuses, bacteria, or any such thing. Emperically-verifiable proof is as close as your nearest abortion clinic: send a sample of an aborted fetus to a laboratory and have them test the DNA to see if its human or not. Genetically, a new human being comes into existence from the earliest moment of conception.

The evidence of fetal pain
With the advent of sonograms and live-action ultrasound images, neonatologists and nurses are able to see unborn babies at 20 weeks gestation react physically to outside stimuli such as sound, light and touch. The sense of touch is so acute that even a single human hair drawn across an unborn baby's palm causes the baby to make a fist.

Did you know that this 20-week-old unborn child can feel pain?
Surgeons entering the womb to perform corrective procedures on tiny unborn babies have seen those babies flinch, jerk and recoil from sharp objects and incisions.

"The neural pathways are present for pain to be experienced quite early by unborn babies," explains Steven Calvin, M.D., perinatologist, chair of the Program in Human Rights Medicine, University of Minnesota, where he teaches obstetrics.

Medical facts of fetal pain
Anatomical studies have documented that the body"s pain network"the spino-thalamic pathway"is established by 20 weeks gestation.

" "At 20 weeks, the fetal brain has the full complement of brain cells present in adulthood, ready and waiting to receive pain signals from the body, and their electrical activity can be recorded by standard electroencephalography (EEG)."
" Dr. Paul Ranalli, neurologist, University of Toronto

" An unborn baby at 20 weeks gestation "is fully capable of experiencing pain. " Without question, [abortion] is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure."
" Robert J. White, M.D., PhD., professor of neurosurgery, Case Western University

Unborn babies have heightened sensitivities
Unborn babies at 20 weeks development actually feel pain more intensely than adults. This is a "uniquely vulnerable time, since the pain system is fully established, yet the higher level pain-modifying system has barely begun to develop," according to Dr. Ranalli.

"Having administered anesthesia for fetal surgery, I know that on occasion we need to administer anesthesia directly to the fetus, because even at these early gestational ages the fetus moves away from the pain of the stimulation," stated David Birnbach, M.D., president of the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology and self-described as "pro-choice," in testimony before the U.S. Congress.

Given the medical evidence that unborn babies experience pain, compassionate people are viewing abortion more and more as an inhumane and intolerable brutality against defenseless human beings.


I shall continue.

A fetus is a form of life but it is not a human life yet: A fetus is by all accounts a form of life, living and existing inside the mothers womb, however the fetus is not human yet, it is just part of the mother, a cell that grows strong inside her, needless to say once a baby is born they do not need to gain strength through the umbilical cord like a fetus, no non foetal mammal gains nourishment this way, only the fetus. I could take a cell from my own body and it would still contain DNA, but it would never be described as human, the same process apply's with a fetus. It is not yet human until it is born, just like the cell from my body would not be human unless it was somehow cloned into a person. Although the examples differ the concept is the same, a fetus is just a cell, a part of a woman's body.

The complexity of a born human being outclasses that of a fetus: I will refer back to the fetus being only potential, a blueprint of sorts, that blueprint does not share the intellectual or physical capacity of a human. I shall refer back to my statement about the dough and bread, the dough cannot preform it's purpose as bread until it has been baked, therefore it is not bread. A fetus is the same, it cannot become a human being until it has been born.

Mary Ann Warren, a philosopher, argues that in order to be considered a person, a being should have the following characteristics:

1. A developed capacity for reasoning- Which a fetus does not posess.

2. Self awareness- Which a fetus does not posess. They are unaware of their surroundings and their existence until they are born.

3.Consciousness and ability to feel pain- A fetus can feel pain at 29 weeks, they do not posess a consiousness.

4. Self motivated activity- A fetus is not properly aware of it's movements, they are not self motivated

5. Capacity to comminicate messages of an indefinite variety of types- A fetus cannot communicate, people sometimes misinterpret kicks or movement with communication but the fetus is not aware of an outside world, or it's mother.

A fetus cannot survive outside it's mothers body: a fetus is totally dependent on a woman's body to survive. you may argue that born human beings can be entirely dependent on other people too, but the crucial difference is that they are not dependent on one, specific person to the exclusion of all others. Anybody can take care of a newborn infant (or disabled person), but only that pregnant woman can nurture her fetus. She can"t hire someone else to do it. thus making it impossible for the fetus to survive outside the womb, which is a substantial difference from a newborn child.
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."


Now to finish.

If a fetus is human then is a fertilised egg human: If a fetus is to be classed as human then is a fertilised egg human? The differences between the two are not substantial difference, both are starting points of a potential person, and both contain human DNA, although there are some differences they both share the sane basis, they are both mindless matter that only contains the potential for life.

The theory of quickening:This is when the foetus first moves in the womb. This happens about 16 to 17 weeks after fertilisation.
the idea came from a now abandoned Christian theory that this was the moment that the foetus got its soul
for example St. Augustine made a distinction between embryo inanimatus, not yet endowed with a soul, and embryo animatus, endowed with a soul
without "ensoulment", quickening does not seem to have any merit as the start time for human rights
medically, the time of quickening is influenced by irrelevant factors, such as the number of previous pregnancies that the mother has had.

Aristotle's theory:
Aristotle had a theory that life began at 40 days (males), 90 days (females)
these are purely arbitrary times - and there's certainly no reason for males and females to get the right to life at different stages of development
the idea itself came out of Aristotle's three-stage theory of life: vegetable, animal, rational. The vegetable stage was reached at conception, the animal at 'animation', and the rational soon after live birth.

Activity of the fetus's brain: Some people believe life begins at the first sign of brain activity.
this is a logical point, as it marks a necessary state for many of the characteristics that some people think a 'moral person' has to possess
but brain activity at this stage is no more than a precondition - it doesn't demonstrate that the foetus is actually "conscious"

Viability of the fetus: Other people take the view that life begins at the stage when the foetus could survive outside the womb.
this is the most common criterion used in drafting laws regulating abortion

whether a foetus can survive outside the womb depends on:
the state of medical science

the medical facilities available at a particular location

the competence or willingness of the mother (or some other care-giver)

the gender of the foetus

the race of the foetus

These factor given, a fetus could not survive outside of the womb as a human baby could.

Conclusion: A fetus is merely potential life that is the starting point for a human baby. The fetus is merely a collective of DNA that would amount to a person if given the chance to develop and become a child.

Round two source (I forgot to post it)
Debate Round No. 3
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2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Nice debate. I like Pro's sources better, and I liked his formatting better. I thought arguments were to close for me to assign points. Very close; well done!
Vote Placed by NiqashMotawadi3 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The crux of the disagreement was the definition of human. Con claimed that the zygote is a human because it has human cells. This is a fallacious argument. You're not human just because you have human cells or because you have the human DNA signature. To be a human you need to be a conscious entity with cognitive abilities IMO. Pro demonstrated how that is false and how the fetus is only a potential human and cannot be given consciousness and morality at earlier stages. The debate was close but I believe Pro had more substantial arguments.