Mkoll wrote:For example, consider a specific aspect of nāma, painful bodily feeling. This requires specialized receptors for pain (nociceptors) that sense a certain form of stimulus (e.g. heat, mechanical pressure) and relay that information through peripheral nerves, up the spinal cord, and to the brain where only then it can be felt. That's why when you stub your toe, it takes a moment for the physical pain to actually arise in consciousness because nervous signals can only travel so fast. If you block that nervous transmission, say via local anesthetic, no bodily pain will be felt, no bodily pain will arise in consciousness. This illustrates the dependence of nāmarūpa and consciousness.
In the case of an embryo or fetus, if those nerves and brain do not exist or have not matured to the point where they can transmit and receive signals, how could there possibly be human nāma and consciousness?
What I am saying is that this hinges on the assumption that whatever happens in our daily life is the same for a fetus. We have no idea what a fetus can feel, how he can feel, whether he is able to feel something without a material nervous system, whether he can feel something with a type of sensory perception we haven't discovered yet that would exist only in the fetus... That's too many unknowns to be able to make any kind of trustworthy reasoning. You would be likely to end up like Descartes 'I think therefore I am'. I believe this is what the Buddha referred to in the famous Kalama sutta as
"mā takka·hetu, mā naya·hetu, mā ākāra·parivitakkena, mā diṭṭhi·nijjhāna·kkhantiyā, mā bhabba·rūpatāya, mā ‘samaṇo no garū’ti."
(not on the basis of logical reasoning, nor on the basis of inference, nor by reflection on appearances, nor by agreement after pondering views, nor by what seems probable, nor by [the thought:] 'The samaṇa is our revered teacher'.)
And I think the above AN 4.77 quote is also relevant.
My point overall is that it is better to discuss on the basis of what the texts say (with proper lucidity as regards to the extent of the knowledge their provide us), because we don't have direct knowledge of what the reality exactly is. We only see it through the lens of present-day scientific knowledge, and assuming there is nothing beyond its scope that could overturn the conclusions we try to make on the basis of its partial understanding of the way reality works.