Biologically Irrefutable, Guv’nor?

During The Daily Show on 13 November 2012, Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, ordained Southern Baptist minister, but not a biologist, said “Life begins at conception … you can argue the theology of it … but it’s irrefutable from the biological standpoint.”

He is correct about the theology. Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and BREATHED into his nostrils the BREATH of LIFE, and man BECAME A LIVING BEING.” From God’s standpoint it is unequivocally clear that life begins at first breath. Nice to know, however, we are free to argue about this cause and effect all we want.

But God doesn’t change from one day to the next as Huckabee pointed out on The Daily Show regarding the Genesis account of marriage being between a man and woman. Otherwise, gay marriage becomes a viable topic for evangelicals. According to Huckabee, God only changes concerning the beginning of life, breath to conception in our case. Adam and Eve being “special cases.” [See Sneakers article, 23 Skidoo].

Also Psalm 139 and the beginning of Jeremiah rather than addressing human life beginning at conception, addresses the issue of God’s omnipotence and omniscience. Life at first breath, birth, is consistent throughout the Biblical record despite beliefs to the contrary by Conceived-Again Christians. Conception does not mark the beginning of life, but rather the beginning of cyesis, or pregnancy. Birth denotes the beginning of life, both in the flesh and in the spirit. I suppose we could argue the theology of it with Christ that he got this one wrong too.

Biblically, life beginning at conception makes Cain, not Adam, the first man even though it is clear Adam was the first mankind. “And so it is written, the first man Adam became a living [Greek zao, breathing] being” … when he got “the BREATH of LIFE.” [I Cor 15:45; Gen. 2:7]. Adam and Eve are only “special cases” when we deviate from the clear point made in Genesis 2:7. No special cases are needed when we take Genesis 2:7 at what it says-- life at first breath.

Also biologically, Governor Huckabee’s point is quite refutable. Some doctors are of the opinion that the first detectable brain waves mark the beginning of life. Others say it’s a beating heart or reacting to certain stimuli. Yet, the last organs to develop in the fetus are the lungs, the organs of breath. This too is consistent with Genesis 2:7. Maybe God knew what he was doing when forming man of the dust of the earth?

And if life begins at conception, how do we explain a stillbirth? As Conceived-Again Christians would argue, the conceived fetus is alive inside the womb without breath in its nostrils, but the next minute, the conceived fetus is dead outside the womb without breath in its nostrils!? The only thing that’s changed is the location. It’s still conceived! Logically, a stillborn only can be dead if life begins at first breath, not conception, which again is consistent with Gen. 2:7. As the apostle James points out, "... the body without breath is dead ...." [James 2:26].

Individual biological life at birth is supported both scientifically and mathematically. “The English physiologist Douglas Wilkie has called attention to an interesting transition in metabolic rate that occurs in a human infant shortly after birth [first breath]. Measurements show that the (intrinsic) basal rate of oxygen consumption in the newborn rises in about 36 hours from a rate of 3.5 milliliters per minute per kilogram (appropriate for an animal the size of the mother) to approximately 7 milliliters per minute per kilogram (appropriate for the body mass of the baby). While the fetus is within its mother, it behaves metabolically as if it were simply one of her organs, ticking over at the relatively low metabolic intensity determined by her weight. Within 36 hours after birth, the rates at which all of its enzymes act and rate of activity of its mitochondria have changed, speeding up its cellular processes sufficiently to bring it onto that point on the human segment of the Kleiber line determined by its own weight as a separate small individual. Biology is extremely short on mathematical laws as clear and as general as this one.” [copyright Scientific American book, On Size and Life, p. 66, McMahon and Bonner, 1983]. 

In speaking with nurses who work in neo-natal wards of hospitals, this fact is common knowledge. This mathematical law of biology clearly shows that all individual living humans have a metabolic rate common to their own size and weight. If individual human life begins at conception, then the embryo NEVER can have the same metabolic rate as its mother due to their tremendous differences in size and weight. Yet, fetus and mother are metabolically indistinguishable from each other from the moment of conception all the way through gestation until first breath when everything begins to change. It is only at birth, when we take our first breath, that humans become a small separate living individual. This is biological and mathematical law that just happens to coincide with Genesis 2:7. Individual human life begins at first breath, birth, just as God created it with the first man in Genesis. [See chapter three, The Blind Man’s Elephant, now a complimentary PDF at the bottom of our Home page].

I understand that many Christians abhor abortion, some to the point of biological absurdity. All life is sacred they claim. But the hypocrisy is twofold: 1- these same people have no qualms about their taxes going to, or as a member of Congress voting for, the military appropriations bill supporting the world’s largest military that fires drone missiles into targets that have been proven to kill "all life is sacred" non-military personnel including pregnant women; and 2- in order to make their point, these same Christians discard the very plain truth of Genesis 2:7, fostering lies about the word of God thereby jumping feet first into a social and theological tar pit.

Conservatives in the church burned many at the stake for their “heretical” belief that the Earth orbits the Sun. It’s a shame, that all these centuries later, many in the church today prefer the familiar darkness to the unfamiliar light.

Words within ( ) are the Scientific American book’s authors. 

For more details, see chapter four, If Life Begins At 40, Where Does That Leave Conception? p. 105, in The Blind Man's Elephant.

Italics, underline and words within [ ] are MJM's.

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