When I look at an “innocent” human life at four to six weeks gestational age, I think of Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy (so *cute* as babies), because so often the word “innocent” is applied to zygotes, embryos, and fetuses. Human development, like cancer, is “staged.” Because important things happen in every stage. Also, like cancer, smaller is better in terms of how likely it is to kill you. But I digress…
I’ve wondered about this a lot, the “innocent until…when?” Are they innocent until they can have a conscious thought? Until they have an ugly thought? Until they experience physical desire? Until they intentionally hurt someone? Until they become sexually active? Was the Virgin Mary perpetually “innocent” but for the rest of us, does simply being born annihilate all our “innate innocence”? Is there any such thing?
Isn’t innocence a lot like happiness? Fleeting, spotty, and randomly occurring (among the “living”)? Are we only innocent while standing still and incapable of having thoughts?
And what is “good”?
Psychopathy can be physically demonstrated on an MRI of the brain. Which means that if an embryo had a fully formed brain, we could scan it and predict who’s at risk of becoming a serial killer. But we wouldn’t be able to scan for sociopathy or narcissistic personality disorder, because these are “nurture” events, not “nature” conditions. We also can’t divine which embryos will later develop tumors in their left temporal lobes that may cause them to do heinous things like murder other humans.
Some of the worst serial killers had as many as thirty victims, maybe more. In the context of a conscious human being murdered, a being capable of laughter and tears, hopes and dreams, memories and musings, “innocence” makes more sense to me. Because on the whole, these humans were realized potential, animated beings who dreamed out loud and suffered when they died.
A woman is born with ovaries housing every egg she’ll ever have — one to two MILLION potential people. Only a handful will become actual people, and some of these will become miscarriages or bundles of anomalies inconsistent with “life.” Which is another interesting word: Life.
Is a single-celled amoeba alive? Is a single cardiac cell, capable of beating on its own, “alive”? Coral reefs? Plankton? Atoms? (I hear the audience screaming, “Souls! They gotta have souls!”). And to that I say this: The Greek word for soul is “psyche”. So can we call the SOUL a MIND? And a mind lives in the brain. And when does a brain house a mind? When can it “think/feel”? Third trimester of pregnancy. But I digress again…
I don’t think we can know when life “begins” because we haven’t meaningfully defined “life.” If conscious life outranks unconscious life, whole minds outranking mindless/soulless life forms, and if no one can discern which embryos are “good” versus bad, then “innocence” is no longer a useful defense. Especially since no one can really define it.
By the way, Jeffrey Dahmer converted to Christianity before he was murdered in prison. So if you’re “good,” you’ll meet him in “heaven.” 😁 I’m so excited! (IF I make the cut…😬).