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'Most Biologists Believe Life Begins at Conception': UChicago Ph.D. Candidate Surveys Thousands of Scientists


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A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago wrote and successfully defended his dissertation after asking thousands of scientists, "When does life begin?" And the results of his survey answer that very question.

The College Fix reports the result of Steven Jacobs' work reveals a stunning fact about American academia in the field of biology: a large majority of professors overwhelmingly agree with the pro-life position that human life begins at conception even though their politics may not. 

However, Jacobs admits gathering the data for his paper, arguing it, and getting it published took five years. 


Jacobs asked three questions in the survey. The first question asked biologists to respond to the contention that the development of a mammalian organism begins at the moment of fertilization. Around 90 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative. To the question that "fertilization marks the beginning of a human's life," fully three-quarters of respondents said yes.

The third question was an essay question, "When does life begin?" According to the website, while nearly 90 percent of "very pro-life" respondents answered that it begins at fertilization, still nearly three-quarters of "pro-choice" respondents answered the same. Around three-fifths of "very pro-choice" respondents felt the same.

Even though he used questions firmly rooted in the premises of biological science rather than any political ideology, Jacobs told The Fix  backlash to the survey was relentless and negative.

One biologist even threatened to sabotage his work by telling others not to participate in the study, he said. That respondent reported Jacobs to the school's ethics committee. His work was allowed to continue after his faculty advisor defended him in front of the committee.

Jacobs told the website that he believes the overwhelmingly negative response to his research has damaged his standing in academia, perhaps irreparably.

"I have gotten the sense that this has been talked about a lot," he said. "I've been regularly told I can't get a job in academia. I've been told don't try. I've been told maybe a Christian school would hire me."

However, Jacobs went on to defend his dissertation and was awarded his Ph.D. 

The survey responses put a spotlight on the critical question that has come up throughout the abortion debate. Jacobs large-scale polling of credible biology professors may finally end the debate of exactly when life begins.

Jacobs told The Fix that he would like to see the abortion debate move away from "When does life begin?" and toward "Is it okay to kill unborn humans?"

"A human's life begins at fertilization. An abortion is the intentional killing of a human, and thus should be recognized as a homicide," Jacobs told the website in a telephone interview. He noted that he does not use the term "murder," as that has both legal and negative connotations. Rather, he uses the word "homicide," and says that the central question about abortion is: "When is that homicide justifiable?"

"Let's stop debating whether a fetus is a human and start debating whether all humans have rights and, if so, how to balance one human's right to abort and another human's right to life," he continued.

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of