Conception and the point of ‘ensoulment’

Re “When are the souls handed out?” Opinion, July 18

David Barash provides convincing scientific details that reveal there is no one moment of conception.

Conception is a process. So maybe the formation of a soul comes into being in a parallel process. Or maybe it leaps into being at some particular or random time during the conception process. We most likely never will know.

Does it really matter? If you believe a baby at birth has a soul, it makes sense to believe that its soul came into being sometime during the conception process.


Of course, I suspect that Barash believes souls do not exist, and he seeks scientific arguments that help him cope with his bleak view of the universe.

Sheldon Welles

Pacific Palisades


By focusing on conception, Barash is far off the target when discussing souls. The soul does not enter the body until the first breath of air at birth, with the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

Before then, an embryo or fetus is merely a potential human. Thus, abortion cannot be murder. And the life of a fetus cannot have priority over the needs of its mother.

David E. Ross

Oak Park


By tracing the conversion and evolution of an ovum and a sperm through various stages, Barash’s claim that it is impossible to determine the moment of “ensoulment” indulges those who believe in the existence of something that has no scientific validity.

Humans believe in a spirit that survives the body for the same reason they believe in gods and an afterlife: because they want to. It enables them to rationalize the finality of death. Technical explanations of when neurons form will not change that.

Opponents of abortion and stem cell research are free to believe whatever they want, but they are not free to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else.

Forrest G. Wood