Tuesday, 18 November 2014


There must be a record number of comments attached to a National Geographic online posting in this article by Virginia Hughes. It is not unexpected, since it deals with the vexed question of: when does a person become a person? To most people who believe in a personal creator, there is little doubt; it's at the moment of conception. It is not a view shared by the law in England and Wales, though a case currently before the Court of Appeal could put a dent in that.

Objectively, the clump of undifferentiated cells which immediately results is not recognisable as a human and even after the foetus takes shape brain activity begins only at 28 weeks. It seems that we should regard becoming a person as a process, rather than a moment - just as dementia takes away individuality at the other end of life. No doubt Ms Hughes will deal with this at the end of her series.

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