WHAT DO THE UNBORN KNOW BEFORE BIRTH?
It has been said “The more we learn of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.” Recent studies of unborn animals have taught us a great deal about life before birth and have also helped us to comprehend a little better the role of instinct in animal behavior. In addition to these subjects the study of reproduction and instincts add to the abundance of evidence which shows God's design in the creation.
One of the pioneers in the study of living things before birth has been Dr. Gilbert Gottlieb. Dr. Gottlieb has done some most interesting work with duck embryos. Using wood ducks and mallard ducks Gottlieb has shown that the ducklings while still inside the egg communicate with their mothers. Not only does the communication take place, but the ducklings are able to recognize their mother's voices instinctively while still unhatched.
Dr. Gottlieb took hatching mallard and wood duck eggs into the lab and hatched them in an incubator. He then played recordings of different duck calls from different mothers including their own. In 100% of the cases the baby ducks responded only to their mother's call.
Another interesting fact is that the babies, even at a later age, respond to the sound of their mother over the sight of her. A stuffed chicken emitting the mother's sound attracts the ducklings more readily than the appearance of the mother herself when she is muted. This instinctive capability seems to be acquired very early in the chick's embryonic development. Ducklings hearing their mother's sounds many days before hatching respond to it. Wood duck ducklings are raised in dark underground nests and never see their mothers. When they do come out of the burrow they do so upon being called by their mothers by the same call that was used when they were in the eggs.
The ability of an embryo to communicate with its parent has a variety of implications. The system has many advantages. First of all it provides a built-in communication for later times. A duckling and its mother can easily become separated in a swamp or lake. Being able to communicate with one another can be a life and death matter.
The fact that all this takes place well before the duckling hatches explodes the claim of some that instinctive behavior is either learned or a reflex. The duckling experiments show an individualized response to stress. God has built this capability into the duckling genetically. It is not a behavioralistic phenomenon.
Another implication of this research is that it strongly challenges the claim that a fetus is not really an individual. Birth or hatching does not initiate individualistic response on the part of the duckling. Abortion advocates who try to minimize the human nature of an unborn child will have difficulties dealing with this kind of research.
Obviously the transfer from a bird to a mammal is a major transition, but the basic evidence strongly suggests that the only reasonable point to use in considering something living is the point of conception.
— John N. Clayton
From the Does God Exist? journal from June 1978, page 9.