How Small Is Too Small?

June 2012By Donald DeMarco

Donald DeMarco is a Senior Fellow of HLI America, an initiative of Human Life International. He is Professor Emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, and Adjunct Professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. His recent writings may be found at

Rumaisa and Hiba are the world’s smallest surviving twins. Born in 2004, Rumaisa set a Guinness world record for the all-time lowest birth weight of 9.2 ounces; her sister weighed in at a slightly heftier one pound, five ounces. Today, according to the physicians who wrote the girls’ case report in an article in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Dec. 12, 2011), both have normal motor and language development. Ru­maisa and Hiba are also the two smallest surviving babies born in the U.S.

The present splendid functioning of the twins affirms the fact that, tiny as they were, these two little girls were indubitably human beings at least from birth. They were demonstrably viable at an exceedingly low birth weight. For some people (consider Planned Parenthood), viability is the criterion that determines the humanity of an unborn child. Rumaisa and Hiba, however, have not only advanced the frontiers of viability, but have raised, once again, the criterion of size. Can an unborn child be too small to be considered human? Is there a cutoff point at which any being is simply too small to be considered a living entity? The twins demonstrate their humanity by continuing toward maturity of body and getting larger. But would humans lose their humanity if they got smaller? The world of fiction has some interesting things to say on this point.

In Dr. Seuss’s children’s book Horton Hears a Who! (1954), Horton the Elephant hears a small speck of dust talking to him. The speck of dust is actually a minuscule planet populated by microscopic creatures known as “Whos.” Horton, thanks to his large elephant ears, is able to hear the “Mayor of the Whos” quite well and agrees to protect the Whos from harm. “After all,” Hor­ton proclaims throughout the book, “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The point here is more philosophical than biological. Size is relative, and it is prejudicial to assume that being too small is a disqualification for being a person.

In the movie Fantastic Voyage (1966), a surgical team is micro-miniaturized and injected through a hypodermic needle into a patient. The members of this Lilli­putian team endure a harrowing odyssey as they maneuver to the location of the pathology, where they apply the needed therapy. The miniaturization process does not affect either their intellectual or physical capabilities. They are simply smaller, but no less effective and no less human. These courageous and competent “micro-biologists” finally make their exit from the patient, appropriately enough, through a teardrop which, from the patient’s viewpoint, seems to be a spontaneous expression of gratitude.

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Jehovah - name of God in the Old Testament. 1530 Iehoua,in the Tyndale Bible; borrowing of New Latin. The new Latin form Iehoua was an erroneous transliteration of the Hebrew divine name YHWH( the "tetra damnation" ) using vowels points of Hebrew adhonai my lord; these vowel points have been originally added to YHWH by the Hebrew scribes as a direction to the reader to substitute adhonai for the "ineffable name" and not as the vowels of the " tetragrammation " itself,which in the Jewish religion is unpronounceable ,though scholars often represent and pronounce it as Yaweh.The name is generally assumed to be a formation on the Hebrew verb "hawah" to be,exist.
The word nature has three distinct meaning
1) It designates the universe ( the heavens ,the earth, ,all that meets sense
2) It expresses essence- that which characterizes or constitutes a class of beings or individuality
3) It is used to signify the First Cause personified ,and may then be considered as synonymous with God ,or Creator

Posted by: laguerre12
June 18, 2012 11:07 AM EDT
Plato ( 428-427BCE-348/347BCE) Timaeus 69B/Nature and the Cosmos
" Now of the divine ,he himself ( God) was the creator ,but the creation of the mortal he committed to his offspring. And they, imitating him,received from him the immortal principle of the soul; and around this they proceeded to fashion a mortal body,and made it to be the vehicle of the soul, and constructed within the body a soul of another nature which was mortal"
Posted by: laguerre12
July 02, 2012 12:22 PM EDT
"God is clever,but dishonest" (Dr. Albert Einstein.Engraved over a fireplace in Fibe Hall ,Princeton,N.J.) Posted by: laguerre12
July 17, 2012 11:47 AM EDT
Correction: God is clever ,but not dishonest" ( Dr Albert Einstein,Engraved over a fireplace in Fine Hall,Princeton,N.J.)
Posted by: laguerre12
July 17, 2012 11:49 AM EDT
Mr. DeMarco makes a great case for life irrespective of physical size and it does answer somewhat the secular world's faulty definition of life as beginning at birth. It is critical however to go beyond merely reacting to this secular thesis and to clearly lay out the moral case for life, which is not dependent upon physical characterizes or pregnancy timeline. It is time for the Church and defenders of life to stop trying to fight Caesar directly and on Caesar's terms. Jesus commanded the Apostles to go forth and evangelize. To spread the good word. And to fear not for He will send the Holy Spirit who will guide and protect them. The Church prevailed and converted the Roman Empire to Catholicism. Today is no different, only Caesar is different. The Church must hammer away its simple unsophisticated yet morally powerful message. That man is made in the image and likeness of God. That killing is wrong because of this. That life begins at conception. That a fertilized egg is genetically identical to a newborn baby and therefore both are human. Therefore Thou Shalt Not Kill applies. The Church must stop being seemingly ashamed of laying out these simple truths for the sake of political correctness or secular acceptance. If the Church wants to prevail it must go back to its religious core which is faith and evangelization – spreading the truth, no matter what the consequences. Posted by: dagbat
July 17, 2012 12:56 PM EDT
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