Ensoulment happens at conception but when does conception happen?

I think that the rational soul is present at conception and no later.

This is the Church’s teaching too no?

Before I ask my main question though, I would like to cast my hat in the ring of contenders who argue with each other over when the rational soul exists. Some say that ensoulment takes place over a period of time with the vegetative, sensitive, and rational soul following each other in succession. But I think that this is impossible, because if this was true then either the human being has multiple substantial forms which is absurd, or the human being was not a human being and is actually multiple substances which is born and dissolves with each subsequent ensoulment and this doctrine is so singular that alas, the old saying that “there is nothing so absurd that a philosopher has not taught it” fails to describe its unreason.

And again, if man has multiple souls, then how is man a single, united substance and not just an accidental unity of differing things? To claim that man has many souls is to cut at the root of what it means to be human.

So clearly there is but one soul in man, which soul can better express itself as the body grows; for first the body is weak, so only the souls nutritive powers are seen, then as the body grows stronger then the sensible and rational parts are capable of being expressed.

My main question now, is does the Church or anyone know when conception happens? If not, could we maintain that we don’t really know when a human becomes a human because we don’t know when any particular conception happens?

Apologies if this seems remedial. Hopefully it is a fresh take.

When an ovum is released it starts to degrade. It has everything necessary to sustain itself for at least a week but does not have that spark of life but without that spark, it becomes nonviable in only a day. Conversely, a spermatozoa does not even have anything to sustain itself (it is basically a bag of DNA with a tail dependent on outside sources for energy). Aside from its DNA, it doesn’t have anything to add to the ovum. When they are united, all kinds of activity start and the zygote (the united ovum and spermatozoa) no longer degrades but actively begins to form the new person. There is no other moment so profound in the entire pregnancy.

Conception happens when a sperm from the male “gets it on” with an egg from the female. The sperm enters the egg, fertilising it. That is the definition of conception. However, the zygote is not considered viable until it implants itself on the side of the womb. Conception normally occurs in the fallopian tube.

Pick up a biology textbook. :thumbsup:

:smiley: Thanks for making me laugh.

If someone defined the moment of conception as something other than “sperm meets egg”, I would have to scratch my head and wonder what they’re thinking. :stuck_out_tongue:

You’re welcome. :wink:

I wonder if the OP is getting confused between the definition of conception and the definition of when life begins.

With mathematical precision at the instant of fusion of the male and female gametes! :slight_smile:

I had a chuckle at “gets it on”

“Viability” is a rather slippery term. The child isn’t “viable” until able to survive outside the womb. Society generally considers a born person to be “viable” at age 16 (U.S. driver’s license), 18 (legal adult), 21 (consumption of alcohol), (insert any other arbitrary age here) or upon graduating college.

Viability is one of the pretexts used to justify abortion… :eek:

If a fertilised egg doesn’t implant its viability is 0%. So there is no pretext, no debate.

I think you mean viability is one of the words used. It doesn’t change its meaning in the way I used it.

Indeed! It is one of the very few clear-cut issues… :slight_smile:

Viability is not a condition of ensoulment.

That is not the fault of the embryo. It is fully ready to implant and capable of living (viable, definition 1) but for whatever reason could not. Nonimplantation is more comparable to missing a connecting flight in the airport where the consequence is death.

Viable does not only mean capable of sustaining its own life (something which a toddler couldn’t do and most preadolescents would likely fail at).

Obviously, I am not describing medical viability. Describing a non-implanted embryo as viable is biologically accurate, however.

Why is everyone writing about viability, etc? Obviously I wrote something wrong?

The point is that life (that is the fusion of soul and matter) begins at conception.

True or not?

In addition to that I’m (1) arguing against the idea that ensoulment could happen at any other time after conception and (2) I’m asking when conception happens, that is, does it happen 3 min after sex or 30 days, and is there any variability to this or is it as set as the proportions of the sides of a triangle are set?

And if it is not so set, then can we say that we don’t “know” in the strong sense of the word, when conception happens?

True (sorry about the aside - the question of viability rather does muddy things. It’s nothing you wrote)

There is some variability. Sperm can spend some days swimming around a woman’s reproductive tract until either meeting an ovum or dying. The ovum can travel down the reproductive tract for about a day before dying. They could meet a few minutes after intercourse or a few days after. So while we can define when conception occurs is is not possible (with current means) to identify the exact time a specific conception occurs.

That could make all the difference between whether or not a person is guilty of abortion…


Are you referring to the aspect of “Plan B” that prevents implantation of an embryo?

I think he means, lack of certainty RE: time of conception makes the question of whether or not you are pregnant a matter of guess-work so we don’t really know when abortions occur or not.

That’s my question too, if we don’t know the when of conception, then what does this imply about the use of birth control pills or abortificients? Are they still a moral problem or is it the Church’s stance to err on the side of caution?

Emergency contraception (Plan B) is permitted to rape victims if it can be positively determined that ovulation has not occurred. I think this can be tested with a urine analysis.

Not quite, it is allowed as long as it is taken within 24 hours. It takes approximately 48 hours from the point of fertilisation for an egg to implant on the side of the womb, so as long as you take emergency contraception within that window it’s not considered an abortion, as the egg is 0% viable until its implanted.

Note - it would be useless to give plan B to a rape victim if ovulation has not occured as they couldn’t get pregnant, so what you’re suggesting doesn’t make sense.

Your description of when Plan B is allowed makes no sense either, in view of the Church’s position. Deliberately taking something to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting is actively killing a developing child. The Church says that life begins at conception, not implantation.

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