Monday 20 August 2018

My belief is 'a child is conceived for eternity'

Each person, from the first moment of conception, is destined for a union with God

Repeal the 8th march. Demonstrators at the rally on Merrion Square. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Repeal the 8th march. Demonstrators at the rally on Merrion Square. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Vincent Twomey

Scientific advances have clarified with great precision the process as to how a child comes into being, namely when two incomplete cells (sperm and ovum) fuse to become one cell (zygote), which, with its inbuilt dynamism, reduplicates itself. But is the conceptus one of us?

The crucial question is: is it a human being with potential - or a potential human being? The key term is 'potential'. Aristotle (384-322 BC) developed the notion of potency to explain continuity in change. Potency, he distinguished, can be either passive or active.

  • 'Passive potential' refers to material that can be used to produce something. For example, wood can be made into a table at the hands of a carpenter.
  • 'Active potential' denotes a capacity inherent in the thing itself.

He further distinguished between two types of active potential. A latent ability, such as an artist's talent, which may or may not be activated. And that inbuilt dynamic potential active in every organism to enable it to develop ­- provided it is placed in the proper environment and is free from outside interference. It is an organism's 'natural active potential'.

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