I can’t just let this go.
I’m pretty sure I was created by a sequence of chemical reactions in my brain that started when my sensory apparatus started to work and began to perceive the Universe around me. Before that time, although my body was a living thing, there was nothing to differentiate me from any other lump of bone and protoplasm on the planet, and therefore the entity called “Jas Strong” did not exist in any meaningful way. As soon as my brain began to absorb information, teach itself to understand the shapes, colours, smells, sounds and textures around me, and began to form opinions of which were pleasurable and which were not, I existed as an individual, an entity different to any which had previously existed, and as a person (albeit a small, red and frequently given to screaming at complete strangers type of person).
My creator was, therefore, the rich sensory tapestry of the Universe.
If you read out my brain’s patterns and programmed them into a machine that simulated them perfectly, then that machine would contain a copy of “me”, regardless of whether it was alive or not; the question is therefore not one of where life begins, since life has been a continuous process beginning some four billion years ago (or maybe longer?). The spark of life that (probably) started in some amino-encrusted ocean four billion years ago has never been extinguished and recreated on its journey from self-replicating chemical structure to thinking, loving human being, and it seems to me that the life itself is not important- we all wash with soap every day, destroying billions upon billions of simpler organisms, after all.
What seems to me to be important is not where life begins- since it really begins four billion years ago- but where individuality begins. Maybe it begins while the foetus is still in the womb. I am told that maybe a foetus can dream, hear and feel while in utero. If this is the case, then there is an argument to be made in favour of a definition of the last legitimate point for abortion that includes some kind of measurement of brain structure complexity (and, therefore, differentiation). I have no ethical problem in ending biological life for those whose brains are hopelessly damaged beyond the point of sapience, and I have correspondingly little trouble in arguing for the right of a mother to terminate a biological entity that has not yet evolved the ability to perceive.
I’ve tried to couch all that in terms that hopefully won’t invite a terminology backlash, so please don’t get upset if you feel I’ve used the wrong words.
I understand that many of you will disagree with my assessment of the beginning of an individual’s life. I really don’t care.