It is clear that it was known more than a hundred years ago that the fusion of the spermatozoa and the oocyte begins the life of a new individual human being. In embryology, the terms understood are integral. In the common sense there is human, being, persona, individual, human being, life and human life. It is unfortunate that every one of these terms have been corrupted, by scientists and the lay audience alike, to mean something that it does not. This is made evident in the corruption of the term individual into individuation. There are other problems, that is, when the early embryo split, does the ‘soul’ also split? And, if until that time, how could there be, then, a person. By soul, in the scientific context, one refers to the ‘animated essence.’ This is not an issue for theology alone, but theologians always muddle the waters of this very issue when it comes to abortion…
Some would certainly say, however, that this is a question for theology. I disagree for the simple expedient that the science has been there for over a hundred years. As a point of fact, it should be clear that when human life does begin there is no relationship to religion. The pro-life opponents to abortion are arguing about the undifferentiated tissue of a fertilized ovum without a developed brain or conscience; a cluster of cells, to be precise. Many embryologists agree that fertilization is the beginning of a new human life. I disagree on two points. First, not all fertilized eggs make it to term and never develop a neocortex or frontal lobe by the end of the first trimester. Second, the word human itself is associated with identity and feeling, something that a fetus does not develop in the womb.
It is certain that scientists will continue to manipulate biological organisms and the various elements that constitute an organism. There have been and are proposals for gene selectionism, gene deletion, and gene insertion. The first gene therapy took place in 1990 on a four year old with an inherited disorder. Jesse Gelsinger underwent a gene therapy in 1999 at the university of Pennsylvania and died.
A chimera is an organism composed of chromosomes from two different organisms. There are human animal chimera already in the form of the SCID mouse. The mouse is born without an immune system. It is called SCID because of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. One of the SCID mice received a transplant from a human fetus. Without an immune system, the transplant is not rejected, as it would be if the animal had an immune system.
Transplants from animals to humans seem to be on the horizon. They have been proposed and are discussed amongst geneticists, as have been human to human chimeras. Do these situations call for ethical assessment? The science is clearly manipulating life. The geneticist Arthur Caplan has said: these forms, will they be human life or a genetically programmed embryo, a flawed human being or a improperly formed non-embryo? Caplan is on the side of caution when it comes to issues of manipulating chromosomes and embryos. But it is unreasonable to think that this science is without value.
Are transplants from animal to human likely? They certainly have been proposed and discussed in scientific circles, as have been human – human chimeras. These situations will call for bioethical assessment; the science being involved is clear that what we normally agree to be life is being manipulated. This has caused the bioethicist, Arthur Caplan, to state: will these forms be a human life or “a genetically misprogrammed embryo, a flawed human being or simply a non – properly formed non – embryo”.
In Mary Shelley’s ghost novel, Frankenstein said: “I had worked hard for nearly two years for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body.” But when he witnessed the first signs of life in his creation: “the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”
In 1979 Clifford Grobstein, a frog embryologist, invented the term “preembryo” in his publication in Scientific American entitled: “External Human Fertilization” . He boldly admitted that this term was conceived in order to reduce “the status” of the early human embryo. At this time the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph Califano, Jr., had publicly called for an evaluation of the early human embryo because of the proliferation of in-vitro fertilization clinics and laboratories and he was worried about the moral status of what was essentially experimentation on the early human being.
Grobstein accomodated; he presented the term preembryo as a pre-person. The justification to Grobstein was the fact that these terms were predicted in artificial human embryology. It was in the same article that [Grobstein] invented another term: ‘individuation.’ He also declared that, because of the early embryo could divide into (perhaps more) ‘indivudals.’ This related to identical twins (monozygotic twins.) For fourteen days prior, before this, post fertilization, individuation had not occurred. The reasoning is this: the ‘individual’ was not present, ergo, the human being, as Grobstein claimed, in terms of scientific differentiation, was not a human being or, as he put it, a “person” was not present.
This type of reasoning has formed the belief by many that no human life is present prior to mitosis, prior to fourteen days. The term ‘human’ at the core is vague and undefined and, its humanity, or lack thereof, has been, for many centuries, left open to interpretation. When does life begin in embryology? I will return to this in a later chapter.
Grobstein’s contributions are still being applied today, published wide and by many; the pundits and the scientists too have favored this view. First of all, those who devalue the early embryo based on Grobstein’s reasoning seldom comments on what takes place in the developing embryo. Monozygotic twinning is unlikely and rare, this means that, by Grobstein’s logic, we are individuated during embryology. When [he] applies this concept to all human embryos, he is in error.
Pre-embryo and individuation has been unequivocally been refuted, no exception to embryologists, and discredited further by Nomenclature and the Association of Anatomists, who have excluded the concepts in respect to the official lexicon of anatomical terminology (Terminologia embryologica.) These terms have not been used in any book on human embryology.
Professor Lee Silver, the president of molecular biology at Princeton penned a paper, published by the Washington Post, in which he declased that a human embryo is not a human life, that it was ambiguous in terminology, the words ’embryo’ and ‘life’ have several meanings.
A professor of neuroscience at Dartmouth College, and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, Michael Gazzaniga authored an article in 2002 entitled: ‘Zygotes and People Aren’t Quite the Same.’ He believed that cloning was a question of ethics, best fit for moralists and theologians. The early embryo is a cluster of cells, no more, and has no conceptualization of space, time, self, or pain. I don’t think that the direction of scientific study should fall under the domain of layman theologians who, for the most part, shun new discoveries that aren’t tailored to their scripture. One need only to read of Galileo to see the dogmatic triumphing over inconvenient truths. And, since then, science has been allowed its baby steps into the acceptance of an increasingly large number of apologists. A human embryo is not a living thing in the sense that we classify living things. It is a clump of cells, about the size of the dot in an i. Should the value of human life be reduced according to size?
There is an obstinately ignorant streak in those biologists whose tautology is a perverted and an uninspired one, as they relate to irrelevant size. The argument against the secular scientist, in classifying the embryo as not [yet] human life, goes like this: The value of human life is according to size! Does this mean that small people are less significant or less human?
This is an ignorant line of questioning from the outset. A human being, having been born, is not restricted in humanity based on size, and the embryo of a human being is only referred to in size during the earliest days of conception. When a mass of cells coalesce from the spermatozoa fertilizing the ovum, there is still much time yet for it to become life at all, much less human life. A sapling, from a flower, may have a full trunk and be in good condition; would it be a dead plant if it had no leaves? Is the seed alive? Certainly not. It can become life (by being watered and being exposed to sunlight) but a seed, on its own, does not constitute a form of life no more than the early human embryo.
Human pregnancy begins when the sperm fuses with the egg. This is, to some extent, a plausible acknowledgement of life. This is true for well understood biological reasons. The concern of embryology, a particular branch of science. Bruce Carlson, in a 1994 textbook may have led to the erroneous conclusion that pregnancy, whether it be in the fallopian tube, uterus, ectopically, or in a petri dish. This is a fundamental error and often a Christian one.
Human pregnancy does not always follow that the embryo, once fertilized, will ever predictably lead to a full term pregnancy. Fertilized eggs, along with other unused eggs, are flushed out during menstruation. With this line of thinking, human pregnancy does not begin with the sperm fertilizes the egg: it begins to divide by mitosis.
Because there are substances which prevent the sperm from penetrating and fertilizing the ovum, the classic definition of conception, they are not strictly contraceptives. This prevents the fertilized egg from implanting itself in the uterus. The inference, since it comes after conception, has been, by some, considered a form of abortion. It has been suggested, What they do is prevent the newly fertilized egg from implanting itself in the uterus. Since the interference occurs after conception, some embryologists choose implantation instead of fertilization as a constituent of developing mind.