Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Another Reply to Kathryn
Denis C. Hancock, Jr.
Department of Biology
Sterling, Kansas 67579
From: JASA 30 (March
Ms. Lindskoog (Journal ASA, March, 1977) apparently has some inaccurate views of the biology of reproduction. First of all, parthenogenesis does involve some aspects of fertilization. Fertilization stimulates the egg to develop; without fertilization, there is no development. A point that must be considered is that spermatozoa are not the only agents capable of triggering development. Mechanical stimulation of the egg can trigger development, although in higher animals this does not proceed to embryo formation. In the instances with which I am familiar of parthenogenesis in vertebrates, the mechanism appears to be either the failure of the first cleavage to complete or the recombination of one of the polar bodies with the egg cell. Either way, parthenogenesis in vertebrates results in diploid individuals. Of interest to me is that the offspring produced parthenogenetically are XX in chromosome constitution. For birds such as the turkey, which have been successfully produced in this fashion, the result would be a male. For mammals, with the opposite means of sex determination, the result would, in all cases, be a female. Historically, Jesus was a man. Parthenogenesis as we understand it today could not have resulted in his birth.
In answer to another point, Man has 46 rather than 48 chromosomes. A chromosome smear was miscounted and the figure of 48 appeared in scientific literature of the late 1940's and early 1950's.
Inasmuch as Jesus was truly God and truly man, it seems reasonable to assume that he was not only outwardly human, but genetically human. Therefore I believe that Jesus was diploid in chromosome number and did in fact have all the organs of a functional male. It seems rather farfetched to me to believe that Jesus produced sperm prior to his appearance on earth as a true man.
In conclusion, I feel there is no biologically satisfactory explanation for the virgin birth. As a Christian, it is reasonable for me to believe that Jesus' birth occurred as reported in Matthew without necessarily requiring a biological explanation for it. As biological knowledge expands, an explanation may be forthcoming, but for now faith suffices.