The development of an egg into an individual without fertilization has actually been known to exist in nature since the 18th century. Parthenogenesis, as it is known scientifically, has been observed in lower plants and animals, such as insects. In many social insects, such as the honeybee and the ant, the unfertilized eggs develop into the male drones and the fertilized eggs into the female workers and queens. Recently a captive female hammerhead shark at a zoo in Nebraska made the news when it gave birth without having contact with a male. Scientists confirmed that the young animal possessed no paternal DNA.
Parthenogenesis has also been induced artificially. This was first clearly demonstrated by 1900 by Jacques Loeb, who found that unfertilized frog eggs that he pierced with a needle caused some times normal embryonic development to start. Artificial parthenogenesis has been achieved in almost all major groups of animals and in mammals, although usually resulting in incomplete and abnormal development. What is relevant to the discussion of the virginal conception of Jesus, however, is that there are no reports of successful parthenogenesis involving humans.
The scientific argument has been elaborated further. The nucleus of the human cell contains two sex chromosomes. These are X chromosomes in females, and one X and one Y in males. In a normal fertilization process which involves a sperm and an egg, the fertilized egg would either inherit one X chromosome from the egg and one X chromosome from the sperm and develop into a female, or one X chromosome from the egg and one Y chromosome from the sperm and become a male. As there is no male participation in a virginal conception, no Y chromosome is involved, so the egg would have only X chromosomes and would develop into a female. Since Jesus was a man, he could not have been conceived by virginal conception.
The scientific arguments against the virginal conception are misguided, because Jesus’ conception is presented in the scriptures as a miracle — that is, an event that violated natural laws. In fact, the whole point of a miracle is that it is supernatural. Jesus’ story in the both the New Testament and the Qur’an contains many miracles, and the virginal conception is only one of those miracles, so the scientific arguments go actually beyond the current discussion of the virginal conception. Science can also be appealed to, for instance, to reject Jesus’ miracles of raising the dead. I have already indicated that I will not deal in this book with the question of whether miracles can or cannot happen, as this complex subject is outside the scope of this book. But I have it made clear that, following the Qur’anic approach, I believe that miracle did and can happen.
Copyright © 2007 Louay Fatoohi
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