Pregnancy: too badly designed? Zygotes not implanted, miscarriages... where's God?


#1

Hello,

I’m starting this thread, because there is almost zero information on Google and Apologetics forums. It looks like a topic that’s neglected. Since I’m a scientist, and I want to preserve my Christian faith, there’s literally no chance this question will be left unanswered. The facts I’m going to present to you are so shocking, that it’s almost a deal breaker for me.

Because, okay - we may discuss a lot things about evolution. But embryonal development is something we can study very well, and results can be replicated.

To put it simply: the pregnancy process seems not only extremely badly designed, but also there’s zero evidence that God micro-manages it.

It’s estimated that 70% of fertilized zygotes fail to make it to delivery. The chart on Rationalwiki is very explainatory:

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Spontaneous_abortion_in_humans

Out of 200 eggs with sperm nearby:

Only 168 are fertilized (84% left alive)

Only 84 survive 4 weeks (42% left alive)

Only 70 survive to become a fetus (35% left alive)

Only 62 survive to term (31% left alive).

So, to put it simply… In contrast to what the Bible teaches (For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made), everything is better explained by chance:

There’s a chance the egg won’t be fertilized

There’s a chance the zygote won’t be implanted (and even if it’s implanted, it could be in a place that’s dangerous - ectopic pregnancy).

There’s a chance the implanted zygote won’t make it to fetus.

There’s a chance the fetus won’t make it to birth…

To put it simply, everything shows we’re just a product of sheer chance. God does nothing to protect the zygote (embryo) in the mother’s uterus. The’s no evidence that the process is micromanaged - just governed by natural laws that are not perfect.

Please, help with this difficult topic. It’s too important to be neglected.


#2

There is a chance you will die in an earthquake. What you are asking about is natural evil which leads to a discussion of theodicy. A subject that is above my pay grade.


(Randy) #3

First, nice to meet you. What is your scientific background? I am in family medicine, but did enjoy organic chem and considered (briefly) MD/PhD. I’m grateful to have survived to the family medicine /MD (multiple dimwits) level.

Second, I understand that the loss of pregnancy/zygotes (which I understand is 50%; but close enough) is to prevent undue burden on the mother for pregnancies likely not to survive or be healthy.

Third, I understand Psalms to be full of hyperbole. Psalm 51:5 says “surely I was sinful from birth, from the moment my mother conceived me.” Is it God that makes us sinful, if He forms us from moment to moment? Reportedly, he was referring to his sin to Bathsheba at the time. https://peteenns.com/5-old-testament-reasons-original-sin-doesnt-work/

I’m not trying to get into the original sin debate. I’m just pointing out the hyperbole.

@AMWolfe, Thank you for the note below about Nigerien mortality! I originally wrote here that 50% of under 5’s in Niger die–I was grossly wrong and appreciate the correction! I had heard that estimate when I was a child in about 1985 or so. From what I can see on line, the actual decrease in Niger has been from 30% in 1970 to less than 10%. It was about 50% in 1800 I should go to detention for this sloppiness!. @RoundEarth, I’m referencing you to apologize for my mistake. Thanks.

Having said all this, I do agree with @RoundEarth and @Elle that I don’t understand the reason for this.

Blessings.

Randy


(Laura) #4

Thanks for asking this – I think this is a question that many will wrestle with, especially those who have personal experience with miscarriage or infant loss. It can be hard to reconcile what we understand of God theologically with what we see and experience in the natural world – in that sense, humanity is not much different from the rest of nature, considering the high rates of death for baby animals, countless seeds that never germinate – it’s one giant race for reproduction.

I zeroed in on your quote above, because perhaps that’s the real question, especially when trying to make sense of the degree to which God “guides” evolution – to what degree does God micromanage his creation (or not)? What does he personally control and what does he leave to “natural” processes that he either created or allowed to begin with? I think that’s one of the things we’ll never know. I really can’t say “God does nothing to protect the zygote…” when I really have no idea how deeply his hand is in it. I suppose it goes back to the “problem of evil” in general. And perhaps this question comes up because we really want to know whether he actually loves us.

Anyway, when I read David’s words I don’t see him necessarily making a biological declaration, but asserting that God is loving and has cared for him and given him all he has. Even without our biological knowledge, David was no stranger to death – it was all around him, and even more visible than it is to many of us.

It makes me think a little of James 1:17 (“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…”). All I know is, if I have something good, it is from God, and therefore he is the one who deserves my gratitude. It doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else (or more #blessed), or that my zygote was somehow of more value than anyone else’s – it’s just that, one way or another, micromanaged or not, God gives us everything we have.

I’m sorry, that probably doesn’t make much sense of your biological question, but I don’t think that what appears to us to be “chance” rules out God in any way.


#5

I think that’s mostly speculation. One could also speculate that the reason why women have near monthly cycles is because the failure rate, post-fertilization, is so high in humans.

Chromosomal abnormalities within the embryo are associated with many (most) failures. I suspect that genetic load issues are a root cause.


(Phil) #6

Good question, and applies to a lot in life, not just pregnancy. In the Bible, barrenness was used as a issue in several character’s lives, and the barrenness was not seen as a curse from God, but the pregnancy as a gift. In biology, if you look at egg laying animals, very few survive to adulthood in most cases, and there is a lot of wastage also.
It is a very close subject to my heart as one of my daughters lost a pregnancy and has been since unable to conceive, but blessed with an adopted child.
I guess my thoughts go along the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, not only in this but in the randomness of life in general. I am more Arminian than Calvinist in my theology, though am fuzzy at times on both, and think I would have more difficulty with how that all works if I tended more Calvinistic.


(Randy) #7

Argon,

Thanks for your note. Maybe I overstated it. I guess I sounded like our bodies reject chromosomal abnormalities in a sort of immune recognition, as though it was a cancer. The genetic abnormalities themselves likely cause the abortion. I was probably too teleologically oriented–it’s good that they abort because they would be abnormal, but I don’t know that our bodies actually recognize that. I should have said that the majority of conceptions are in some way abnormal and it’s good that we don’t carry them to term. Thanks for your correction. I agree.

Here’s a note about how genetically impaired zygotes may not secrete adequate trypsin for implantation:

From Up to Date:
ETIOLOGY — Spontaneous abortion is most commonly caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo or exposure to teratogens. It is often difficult to determine the cause of a spontaneous abortion in an individual case. In one-third occurring at 8 weeks of gestation or earlier, no embryo or yolk sac is observed in the gestational sac. In the remaining two-thirds of cases in which an embryo is identified, approximately half are abnormal, dysmorphic, stunted, or too macerated for examination [54].

Yes, it’s interesting that there are so few species that menstruate, and we still don’t know why we do it. Seems like it’s such a common part of our lives it would be easier to find out.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

I likewise struggle with finding a coherent answer for why God causes children to be born with birth defects, I know God loves everyone, but why does he have to make some with less ability than others, as if it’s some kind of sick joke? I see open theism and process theology as being on the table theoretically, but not biblically as theodicies.


(Randy) #9

Have you read Thomas Jay Oord? I bought his book, “The Uncontrolling Love of God,” but haven’t read it yet.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #10

“Liked” because I’m in precisely the same boat. Purchased and put on a long list of “I’ll read this someday” but never read…


(Randy) #11

Ah yes, that list is getting longer yet for me!


(RiderOnTheClouds) #12

The New Testament kind of has an explanation, it says people are born defective so they can show the works of God once they are miraculously healed. But even assuming this does happen, why does it not occur to children with terminal cancer, who do not receive this healing, and the omniscient God ‘knows’ they will not?

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #13

My theodicy…

God creates birth defects in order to stimulate people to help others.


(Randy) #14

Hm yes, but that was only in one situation, right? I think Lewis wrote that his principal worry was that God created a huge vivisection experiement–all for our own good, of course, but cruel. I like Job in that it doesn’t give us an answer but does show the struggle.

I agree that the other points you put are valid. I also agree with Alfred, Lord Tennyson when he asks if even cutting a worm in two works for the good; and that we’re infants crying for a light, and don’t know even how to do more than cry.

In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 54
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Oh, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final end of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy’d,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.


(Randy) #15

That is a noble response. I don’t know that it explains things for me, but it is a grand response.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #16

I will answer two potential criticisms:

  • It does not completely explain why animals are born defective, unless helping animals also helps to build character, perhaps it does, since treatment of animals is often indicative of how we treat humans.

  • It does not explain why pre-human animals suffered from birth defects, unless God wished to stimulate moral evolution into the Imago Dei.

What about those animals which were not human ancestors? Perhaps someone else can answer this.


(Matthew Pevarnik) #17

One question I would ask to begin is there any evidence that God micro-manages the weather? Do hurricane models (while the system is wildly chaotic and we don’t have all the information) include an extra term as ‘+G’ for God’s involvement in their systems? Here are a list of Scriptures that seem to indicate lots of God’s involvement historically and regularly in regards to the weather. What does the field of meteorology mean for God? What about when the elements turn against us? Does God do this?

Ultimately as many other have noted, this touches upon the question of theodicy.

Here is one perspective from the main BL site:


(Randy) #18

I like that posting by @jstump I still have that tagged for a short cut to look it up on my browser, as I have for the last few months.


#19

That’s an absolutely horrific thought. It puts God at odds with Jesus and his healing ministry. And if it is true, it didn’t work–evangelicals cheered a guy who made fun of a disabled reporter.


(RiderOnTheClouds) #20

They didn’t cheer ‘that’ particular thing, as far as I know, they only voted for him