When Does Life Begin? What Do the Textbooks Say?

One of the major trends many of us have witnessed over the years has been the way God has basically been thrown out of the public education system, including secular colleges and universities. Students often have to contend with teaching that is contradictory to God’s Word—especially when it comes to the origin of the universe.

What about public education and the question of when human life starts? A biology textbook author recently wrote an article in which she discusses the variety of views secular biologists have on when human life begins. Dr. Ricki Lewis is one of the authors of McGraw-Hill’s biology textbook Life (as well as a number of other books) and is an adjunct professor of genetics at Albany Medical College.

Now, Dr. Lewis acknowledges that biology textbooks don’t usually take a strong stand on when human life begins:

Life science textbooks from traditional publishers . . . don’t explicitly state when life begins, because that is a question not only of biology, but of philosophy, politics, psychology, religion, technology, and emotions. Rather, textbooks list the characteristics of life, leaving interpretation to the reader.

That’s a lot of factors to consider in thinking about when life begins. But based primarily on biological factors, Dr. Lewis manages to narrow down the options to just 17 different points in time when a human might possibly be considered to have “life.” These range from points prior to fertilization all the way to puberty (and facetiously “acceptance into medical school”). And notice that while textbooks may not push any one definition, they certainly aren’t teaching the biblical definition of when life begins—at fertilization.

Why is this? Well, it’s likely that very few secular biology textbook authors hold the biblical view of when life begins. Dr. Lewis herself doesn’t. Of these many possible moments when she believes life begins, Dr. Lewis holds to point 14 in her list, saying that life begins at week 22 of pregnancy:

My answer? #14. The ability to survive outside the body of another sets a practical limit on defining when a sustainable human life begins.

Sadly, Dr. Lewis’s conclusion is false. She reaches it using human reasoning rather than the Word of God, and that’s likely how biology writers and teachers across the country are instructing their students to determine when life begins. No wonder so many think that abortion is not killing a human being—or really murdering a human being!

Our Western culture has abandoned biblical authority, and this is just another confirmation of that. We must get our definition of life from God’s Word. We can’t simply say arbitrarily that life begins at fertilization or that abortion is wrong. We have to start with God’s Word:

[The psalmist David says of God:] For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13–14)

[God said to the prophet Jeremiah:] “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Our God makes clear in these passages that every person—including an unborn baby—is known by Him and is human from the time of fertilization. You see, ultimately the only way to turn the tide in the abortion issue is to restore faith in God’s Word as the absolute authority in every area of life, including faith, history, and life science.

Yes, abortion is deliberately taking the life of a human being! And think about it—around 55 million children have been brutally murdered in the mother’s wombs since the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision (1973). That makes what Hitler did at the Holocaust pale in comparison! No wonder this nation is in big trouble!

Read more about this question in the chapter of The New Answers Book 2 titled “When Does Life Begin?” written by medical doctor and AiG speaker Dr. Tommy Mitchell.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

Today’s blog post was written with the assistance of Steve Golden.