RE: Infusion of the soul as a process

From: Adrian Teo (
Date: Wed Jul 24 2002 - 03:12:44 EDT

  • Next message: Adrian Teo: "RE: Infusion of the soul as a process"

    Hello Burgy,

    -----Original Message-----
    From: JW Burgeson []
    Sent: Mon 7/22/2002 2:33 PM
    To: Adrian Teo;;;
    Subject: RE: Infusion of the soul as a process

    >>Just a suggestion: How about the traditional view, that the
    huamn soul is
            formed upon conception and therefore, the conceptus is a
    fully human person?

            I addressed that, of course. It suffers from the three arguments I made
            which seem to make it untenable. To refresh your memory:

            1. Conception being a process, not an event
            2. The fact of occasional twinning
            3. The fact of occasional twins fusing back into one conceptus.

            As I pointed out, none of these is an absolute barrier to
    the traditional
            view, but the three together seem to make that view problemmatical.

            Adrian: More accurately, fertilization is a process, which
    begins when the sperm binds to the zona pellucida, a protective layer
    outside the egg. Penetrating this layer takes time, as anyone, even
    without the technical knowledge, would realize, because things are
    happening at the molecular level. However, the traditional view that
    personhood begins at some specific point in time (perhaps
    scientifically unmeasurable) still stands, probably when fusion (the
    final step in the fertilization process) between the sperm and the
    ovum take place.

            Point 2. The arg that prior to 2 weeks, twinning can occur
    suggests to some (e.g. Norbert Ford) that personhood begins only
    after that period because all the cells are totipotent (each capable
    of developing into distinct human individuals). There are a number of
    problems with this view. First, the scientific info is inaccurate.
    Twinning can occur after the 14-day period, even up to a few months
    (e.g. fetus-in fetus). Thus, advocates of the twinning argument would
    have to say that human personhood doesn't begin until much much
    later. But the more significant point is that even though the cells
    are totipotent, they are all part of a single embryo, a unified
    whole. Totipotency is simply a normal part of human development. At
    the point of fusion, the zygote has the full genetic complement of 46
    chromosomes - it is a human person.

            Point 3. Recombination following twinning says nothing about
    personhood. It is rationally possible that two persons came into
    existence, and one died along the way. I don't see why this is a
    relevant point.

            Cells do not develop into human persons. Personhood is a
    discrete category. The person either exist or not. I maintain that a
    person comes into existence at the point of fusion.


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