Embryonic understanding


There’s much talk of research using embryos; it seems reasonable to suppose benefits will emerge. The industry requires objects upon which to conduct experiments and must supervene on Ethicists‘ acknowledgment of when Life begins: a foetus first wriggling or sucking its thumb or … something?

What, then, is an embryo? It might be useful to look at the end of Life … or death as it’s often termed.

What does it mean to be dead? The state of Life has left the body; the animating force defining consciousness has separated away? Equally, what does it mean to be alive? That an animating property has inseparably infused itself within and amid an entity – a fertilized egg. Whether a thing is alive or dead seems determined by the presence or absence of this animating property: Mind or Soul or however you choose to term a force utterly resistant to capture.

Can we posit the instant of mingling Mind with Matter is, for the sake of the argument, that moment Life begins? Or, is it vaguely the moment an embryo becomes a foetus; is that when life begins to beat? Yet this is merely one living thing evolving into another – egg, larva, pupa, butterfly: at which stage do we allow it life?

When one dies, everything stops. The counter-factual must be when one lives, everything starts.

It appears we’re still on the starting blocks in the race to understand ramifications of medical research. Freezing embryos, conducting research on them when less than 15 days old: it’s still experimenting on living, sentient, conscious beings.