Many individuals tend to appeal to ignorance when asked to mark the beginning of human life. The common response can be heard that no one knows when life begins. In addition, people of this opinion tend to view this issue as a religious and philosophic one which cannot be determined scientifically. They believe that personal values will determine the answer to this question. Most individuals who utilize this line of reasoning are attempting to uphold the right to choose abortion.
Randy Alcorn (1994) of the magazine Campus Life disagrees with this reasoning. He uses the following analogy to make his point:
If you're driving at night and you think the dark figure ahead on the road may be a child, but it may just be the shadow of a tree, do you drive into it or do you put on the brakes? If we find someone who may be dead or alive, but we're not sure, what is the best policy? To assume he is alive and try to save him, or to assume he is dead and walk away?According to Alcorn (1994), especially when the issue of abortion is at hand, it is much safer to assume that life begins at conception than to act while pleading ignorance.
Francis Beckwith (1994) agrees with Alcorn's point, but for slightly different reasoning. Beckwith (1994) relies on the biological facts which have been discovered to confirm that the fetus is human. Secondly, Beckwith (1994) states that pro-choice advocates have determined that life begins at birth by supporting abortion.
In conclusion, while some people try to appeal to ignorance when asked the question of when life begins, most people hold a view which more specifically determines the answer.
Return to Philosophic Theories.