"It is to be remembered that at all stages the embryo is a living organism, that is, it is a going concern with adequate mechanisms for its maintenance as of that time." http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage03.pdf
When does a new living human being begin to exist? This is an important scientific question these days, as much research -- including stem cell research, cloning, genetic engineering, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, etc. -- is performed using the early human embryo, and should be the starting point for any ethical analyses. But the answer to that scientific question depends on whether the human being was sexually or asexually reproduced.
Either way, once that new human being begins to exist, his/her rights should be fully respected and should be protected from harm -- ethically, legally and politically -- just as any other human being should be. Right? Even the European Court of Justice recently decided that both sexually and asexually reproduced human beings cannot be destroyed in scientific research for purposes of patents.1
Many of the objective scientific facts needed to understand both sexual and asexual human reproduction, and when human beings reproduced by these techniques begin to exist, are found in the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development. Quite unfortunately, this most universally accepted and documented source of such objective scientific information since 1942 (and continuously updated since then) has changed the URLs for its documentation online (although the same information is available in hard cover). This means that readers who need the accurate science and want to study the original documentation can no longer find that online by simply using the URLs found in any articles, books, etc., written over the last 40 years. And given that the early human embryo -- whether sexually or asexually reproduced -- is now involved in new complicated basic and medical research, as well as addressed in legal and ideological issues never even before contemplated, it is more important than ever to get this science straight in order that the ethical issues involved can be legitimately evaluated.
The purpose of this article, then, is to provide the readers with these new online URLs for the Carnegie Stages, and quote directly from them concerning the documentation of both sexual and asexual human reproduction. It is hoped that such accurate objective scientific facts can help to dispel at least some of the multitude of "scientific myths" surrounding these issues so prolific in these current debates -- especially given the current exponential rise in scientific fraud.2 Be sure to file them somewhere for easy access in order to verify the accuracy of scientific "claims" in the literature. Extensive references are also provided to familiarize the readers with current trends (most of which, interestingly, overlap).3
Understanding what sexual and asexual human reproductive techniques are, and their differences, is relatively easy, and provides us with the accurate scientific answer as to when human beings reproduced by these techniques begin to exist. These answers are not "mysteries", mere "theories", or subjective "opinions". They are based on well-known, long-known, and internationally acknowledged objective scientific facts. These scientific facts can also be used to dispel some of the plethora of scientific "myths" used to justify fundamentally unethical actions and research that have surrounded these related debates for decades now,4 and will continue to be appealed to -- especially given the accelerated rise in human embryo/fetal research involving genetic engineering,5 stem cell research,6 synthetic biology,7 nanotechnology,8 etc., as well as the troubling rise in global "services" such as "surrogacy",9 human trafficking,10 and the involvement of current "isms" such as "transhumanism",11 "futurism", "posthumanism", and similar others (all also interrelated). They should also be used as the starting point for any ethical evaluations of such issues -- a task that "bioethics" has grossly failed to accomplish.12
In human sexual reproduction (fertilization, fusion of sperm and oocyte), the new human embryo begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization with the formation of the "primitive embryo" -- not at the end of the process when the "zygote" is formed. (In fact, a great deal of artificial asexual reproduction -- such as in genetic engineering, cloning, etc. -- is done before the formation of the "zygote"). Human sexual reproduction (fertilization) can take place naturally in vivo (in the woman's fallopian tube) during normal reproduction, or artificially in vitro (e.g., in IVF/ART laboratories and clinics).
In human asexual reproduction, the new human embryo begins to exist when the DNA in the cell/s is "appropriately organized" or "reprogrammed" to be that of an organism, rather than as that of just a mere cell. Human asexual reproduction can also take place either in vivo (in the woman's body) or in vitro (e.g., in IVF/ART laboratories and clinics). An example of naturally occurring human asexual reproduction in vivo is "identical twinning" (monozygotic twinning), where the first twin is sexually reproduced, but the second twin is asexually reproduced when a totipotent cell or cells from the original embryo split off and are reverted to new human embryos. That is, the second twin is a clone of the first twin, is not reproduced by fertilization, and begins to exist at a different time than the original embryo. In fact, while some asexual reproduction is performed before the formation of the "zygote", many human embryos asexually reproduced are never "zygotes", because they begin to exist only at later stages of development. For example, two thirds of naturally occurring human identical twinning within the woman's body (in vivo) takes place at the blastocyst stage (5-7 days) of the development of the original embryo, and even beyond. Examples of artificial asexual reproduction in vitro are the artificial reproduction of identical "twins" in IVF/ART laboratories and clinics, as well as techniques involving genetic engineering, cloning, etc.
Examples of both kinds of human reproductive techniques -- "fertilization", and "identical twinning" -- are documented and described in the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development. Sources for additional documentation, and that of a multitude of other in vitro asexual reproduction, are prolific, but a few examples will be provided at the end of the article.
Not only is knowing that human beings can be reproduced by both sexual and asexual techniques critical in the various related debates, but knowing when new human beings begins to exist via each reproductive technique is equally so, for various reasons.
For example, if it is not clear that human beings can be asexually reproduced or when they begin to exist, then how can their rights and dignity as human beings be protected when they are used in destructive scientific research or killed by the use of abortifacients?13 Are we just looking at "a bunch of cells" that possibly might become human beings at some point, or are we looking at already existing new living human beings who are already there? How can we even correctly form our consciences before making personal decisions or leading public policy discussions?14
Also, one of the common concerns in these various related debates is that each term used to describe the human embryo at various stages of development can be used in formal definitions in national and international legal documents (bills, laws, amendments, regulations, etc.).15 The mis-use or falsification of such terms in legal documents is often purposefully used as a means of inserting legal "loopholes" for political or other agendas, in order to "allow" the unethical research to go forward by default. This often happens because lawyers and lobbyists at least understand that the courts are usually legally required to interpret such terms as "exclusionary", i.e., the law would only apply to precisely those entities as are formally defined in that law. (So if a law defines all bears as "brown", then it would not cover any bears that are "black" or "white"; or, if the definition in a law is scientifically erroneous, the law would only apply to whatever that false scientific definition refers to). Similarly, if a law mis-defines "cloning" as only somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), then that law would not cover all the other dozens of kinds of cloning. Or, if a law refers only to human beings who are sexually reproduced (fertilization), especially if it concerns "personhood" legislation,16 then that law would not cover any human beings asexually reproduced. This would encompass and allow almost all of the research involving asexually reproduced human beings in genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and related destructive research.
Another reason we should get this straight concerns the prolific exponential increase globally in the use of artificial reproductive techniques (ARTs) such as genetic engineering, etc. -- all of which can change the genes and chromosomes or components of them in new human embryos according to design. Such research now constitutes Big Business globally. But if people aren't aware that human embryos can be asexually reproduced or know when such experimental human embryos begin to exist, how can they take part in the ethical and policy making debates and decisions involving such research? And how do women who are serving as "surrogates" for "intended parents", or even participating in illegal trafficking, really know what is being implanted into them, or if these embryos are actually experimental?
Consider also that bioethics lawyers have succeeded for decades in transferring the legal definitions they obtain for issues involving the beginning of life to legal definitions involving the end of life (and vice versa). For example, the term "right to privacy" was transferred from the abortion issue to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide issues at the end of life. Recently, the erroneous definition of "brain death" used at the end of life was applied to determining when a new human being begins to exist at the beginning of life - after the formation of the brain! Thus any erroneous scientific "myths" that permeate these beginning of life issues will have a direct impact and influence on many end of life issues as well.
This applies especially now to the various "personhood" initiatives roaming around this country and the world. If you're not legally a "person" at the beginning of life, then you are probably not going to be legally considered a "person" at the end of life either -- and thus euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, organ transplantation, etc., would be deemed as "ethical". And if a "person" is defined only in terms of those human beings sexually reproduced (fertilization), then all human beings asexually reproduced -- in vivo and in vitro -- will not possess "personhood" and the rights and protections afforded human persons. Consider those consequences.
And although genetic engineering not immediately directed to changing the genes in humans seems innocuous, it is well worth considering that genetically modified seeds and crops are consumed by animals -- and both are consumed by humans. Debates still rage on the soundness of the "science" used by corporation researchers, as well as continuous documentation of deleterious effects of GMOs on both animals and humans -- including pregnant women -- by independent researchers globally.17 Additionally, much of the genetic research in plants and animals are precursors for research in human genetic engineering.
And finally, it also needs to be said at this point that these ARTs are especially used and promoted by those involved in heavily Gnostic transhumanism, futurism, technoprogressivism, and similar "isms" who aim to "create" posthumans by means of asexual and/or sexual reproductive techniques, thereby "transcending evolution and human nature" (for various purposes, not all of which are "beneficent"). Artificially reproducing new human embryos by these various asexual reproductive techniques is the first step in gathering "data" for their enterprises. And that means implanting these experimental asexually reproduced human embryos into women -- and then aborting them for necessary "data". Regardless of whether such research is weird or not, much damage can be done in the process. Would those abortions be covered by the "language" used and proposed in most abortion legislation? Probably not.
Given the import of understanding what both sexual and asexual human reproduction are, and also given decades of experience in observing how such critical definitions are usually deconstructed and manipulated, here are definitions carefully grounded in the Carnegie Stages, any internationally accepted human embryology and human molecular genetics textbooks (purposefully leaving out any "developmental biology" texts), as well as dozens of peer-reviewed articles by scientists with appropriate advanced degrees in the relevant scientific fields (some of which are copied at the end of this article):
Based on the long known accurate internationally documented and acknowledged scientific references below, "human sexual reproduction" can be defined briefly as the following:
"In human sexual reproduction (i.e., the immediate use of human sperm and human oocyte) -- both in vivo (inside the body) and in vitro (outside the body) -- a new human being begins to exist when a human sperm makes contact with the protective covering of and fuses with a human oocyte (before the "zygote" is developed)."
Examples of human sexual reproduction include normal natural sexual intercourse, and artificial sexual reproduction in IVF/ART and similar research laboratories and infertility clinics.
Based on the long known accurate internationally documented and acknowledged scientific references below, "human asexual reproduction" can be defined briefly as the following:
"In human asexual reproduction (i.e., without the immediate use of human sperm and human oocyte) -- both in vivo (inside the body) and in vitro (outside the body) -- a new human being begins to exist when the status of the DNA in a mere human cell or cells is regulated or reversed back to that of a new human being/organism, when the sperm or oocyte have been genetically modified, or when artificial genes, chromosomes, sperms or oocytes are used."
Examples of human asexual reproduction include naturally occurring human identical (monozygotic) "twinning" within the woman's fallopian tube and/or uterus, and artificial "twinning", pronuclei transfer, somatic cell nuclear transfer, germ line cell nuclear transfer, and other genetic engineering and regenerative medicine research techniques (including gene transfer, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, etc.) in IVF/ART and other research laboratories and infertility clinics. It also includes the use of artificial genes and chromosomes (which can now be synthesized using synthetic biology), and genetic engineering of sperm and oocytes before their use in "fertilization" or in asexual reproductive techniques.
The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development are found at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Human Developmental Anatomy Center [2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20910; USA; email@example.com].
The known facts of the science of human embryology are not "new". The first to study the human embryo systematically was Wilhelm His, Sr., who established the basis of reconstruction, i.e., the assembling of three-dimensional form from microscopic sections. His, who has been called the "Vesalium of human embryology," published his three-volume masterpiece Anatomie menschlicher Embryonen in 1880-85 [His, Vogel, Leipzig]. In it the human embryo was studied as a whole for the first time internationally. A detailed Handbook of Human Embryology by Keibel and Mall appeared in 1910-12. Franklin P. Mall, who studied under His, established the Carnegie Embryological Collection in Baltimore and was the first person to stage human embryos (in 1914). Mall's collection soon became the most important repository of human embryos in the world and has ever since served as a "Bureau of Standards" for the science of human embryology. Mall's successor, George L. Streeter, laid down the basis of the currently used staging system for human embryos (1942-48), which was instituted in 1942, completed by O'Rahilly (1973) and revised by O'Rahilly and Muller (1987). [See history of Carnegie Collection, at: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/index.cfm?p=collections.hdac.collections.burdi; see also, Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001); also, O'Rahilly and Muller, ibid., (3rd ed., 1994), p. 3].
The standard source for generations for the documentation for both human sexual and the human asexual reproductive technique of "twinning" has been the Carnegie Stages, and especially when they developed their internet online website, volumes of articles and books have been written referencing those Stages and the URLs where they could be found. Those online URLs have now changed, precluding others reading these articles and books from double-checking them for accuracy. In order to continue to be able to verify such documentation, the following NEW URLs for the Carnegie Stages is provided:
Go to the URLs listed below (examples of first 6 Stages only). Any particular Stage will first be shown as a brief summary of the scientific facts on that website URL. But if you look toward the bottom left of the webpage, you will see a "photo" of a human embryology textbook by O'Rahilly and Muller; it is actually a hyperlink. Click into that hyperlink, and you will be taken to the full original pages of the Carnegie Stage giving extensive details and documentation.
Stage 1 of the Carnegie Stages is divided into three sub-categories: (a), (b), and (c). As it always has and still documents, the new human embryo sexually reproduced begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization -- i.e., when the sperm makes contact with the oocyte (Stage 1 (a). The next sub-category of the embryo's development is (b), when the male and female pronuclei come together (the "pronuclear embryo"). The last sub-category of the embryo's development is (c), when the "zygote" is formed. Thus, to claim that the new human embryo sexually reproduced begins to exist with the formation of the zygote is scientifically false, and ignores the already existing embryo who has already developed as documented in sub-categories (a) and (b). It so happens that a great deal of genetic engineering and related research takes place when the already existing embryo is at sub-categories (a) and (b) -- before the formation of the zygote.
Here are short excerpts of the accurate scientific facts about Stage 1 of the developing human embryo documented and quoted here verbatim from the Carnegie Stages. I encourage the readers to go online and read it themselves. Stage 1 (a), (b), (c) includes the new unicellular human organism, the new human embryo, the new human being, who is sexually reproduced, and who begins to exist from the beginning of the process of fertilization. After that critical event, the new sexually reproduced human embryo simply continues to grow bigger and more complex continuously through the later embryonic, fetal, infant, childhood through adult stages of human development (emphases added for those unfamiliar with the science):
STAGE 1: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage01.pdf
The most recent updating of the Carnegie Stages (Jan. 2012) by the international nomenclature committee on human embryology, i.e., the Terminologia Embryologica Committee (FIPAT), is now also online and accessible on the internet (although not as "user friendly").
The embryo sexually reproduced begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization:
To use this new website for the Terminologia Embryologica online go to FIPAT, at: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/. Click on "Free access to published terminologies", "Enter" to get to: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/HomePublic.html. You are now on the Public Entry Page; Click into "Source terminologies as originally published", to get to: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/ViewSource.html. This page lists the 3 Terminologias. To the right of the page, under "Terminologia Embryologica, from internal document (2009)", click onto "General Terms", that takes you to: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/ViewTE/TEe01.html. At the bottom of the page see "Footnote #5: E22.214.171.124.0..0.2 - Aetas a fecundiatione - Fertilization age begins at the time of fertilization with the sperm penetrating the oocyte and the formation of the zygote. It is the age of the conceptus and the preferred measure."
There is no such thing as a "pre-embryo":
Again, go to FIPAT, at: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/. Click on "Free access to published terminologies", "Enter" to get to: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/HomePublic.html. You are now on the Public Entry Page; Click into "Source terminologies as originally published", to get to: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/ViewSource.html. This page lists the 3 Terminologias. To the right of the page, under "Terminologia Embryologica, from internal document (2009)", click onto e2.0: "Ontogeny" in order to get to: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/ViewTE/TEe02.html. You are now viewing "Page 8". This is a bit tricky: Now use button-arrows at top right of web page to move to Page 10 to arrive at the description of Carnegie Stages 1-5 in the Chart. The right side of the Chart provides the following documentation of the first 5 Stages; see especially "Single cell EMBRYO [St. 1] [["Stage One"]]. At the bottom of Page 10, in a footnote, you can find their rejection of the false scientific term "pre-embryo": Footnote #32 - E126.96.36.199.0.0.3 - Embryo praegastrulationis [St. 1 ad 6a] The term pregastrulation embryo is useful because such an embryo has distinctive attributes (see footnote 35). The foreshortened term "pre-embryo", which has been used in legal and clinical contexts, is not recommended." [[Note: "St. 1 ad 6a" means "Stages 1 to 6a"]]
The Virtual Human Embryo Project [http://virtualhumanembryo.lsuhsc.edu/] was originally developed as a collaboration between embryologist Dr. Raymond Gasser at LSUHSC and the HDAC in Washington DC. The overall aim of the project is to make the Carnegie collection, which is housed at the HDAC, accessible for research and teaching of human embryology. Dr. John Cork at LSUHSC joined the project at its inception as the software developer with a special interest in 3D-reconstruction. The project has two components, both of which are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health. Anyone can access the various stages of the new sexually reproduced developing human embryo by going to the Virtual Human Embryo's "DREM DEMOS" page, click into "Enter", then click into "Demo" on the left of the page. Click into "Stage One: Introduction":
Stage 1 is the unicellular embryo that contains unique genetic material and is an individually specific cell that has the potential to develop into all of the subsequent stages of a human being. It is the beginning of embryonic life and ontogenetic development that starts when an oocyte, arrested in metaphase of meiosis II, is penetrated by a sperm. This is the first event of fertilization. The embryo has a postovulatory age of approximately one day, is between 0.1 to 0.15 mm in diameter and weighs approximately 0.004 mg.
Fertilization is a series of events that begins when a sperm makes contact with an oocyte and ends with the intermingling of paternal (male) and maternal (female) chromosomes on the spindle at metaphase of the first mitotic division of the single cell. The events of fertilization require just over 24 hrs. to complete and normally take place in the ampulla of the uterine tube. Stage 1 is divided into three substages; a, b and c. Stage 1a is referred to as the 'primordial embryo' since all the genetic material necessary for the new individual, plus some redundant chromosomes, is now within a single plasmalemma (cell membrane). From the perspective of the female gamete it has also been named the penetrated oocyte. The fertilizing sperm has passed through the zona (capsula) pellucida and its plasmalemma has fused with that of the oocyte. Penetration activates the embryo into resuming its arrested meiosis II and after anaphase it enters telophase with the expulsion of the redundant chromosomes as a second polar body. This marks the beginning of Stage 1b in which the single-cell is referred to as the 'pronuclear embryo'. From the perspective of the female gamete it has also been named the ootid because its female component is haploid like a spermatid. However, in the pronuclear embryo there are two separate haploid components: one maternal, or female, pronucleus and one paternal, or male, pronucleus. The pronuclei move toward each other and eventually compress their envelopes where they lie adjacent near the center of the cell. Stage 1c is the last phase of fertilization and exists for a relatively short period. The pronuclear envelopes disappear and the parental chromosomes that were contained in separate pronuclei come together in a process called syngamy thereby establishing the genome of the embryo. The one-cell Stage 1c embryo is named the 'syngamic embryo' or zygote. The chromosomes assume positions on the rapidly formed first mitotic spindle in preparation for cleavage. [http://virtualhumanembryo.lsuhsc.edu/demos/Stage1/Intro_pg/Intro.htm]
Thanks to USA.gov, anyone can access the new iPhone app entitled, "Embryo", from the National Library of Medicine, documenting the same facts of human embryology. The iPhone app is now available at: http://apps.usa.gov/embryo/. It is necessary to have iTunes for this application, but you can download it free from this same site (also downloads onto all computers). As noted on this government website:
Scientists and educators have used the Carnegie Embryo Collection, housed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, to define normal human embryo development for decades. A database, called the Virtual Human Embryo, has been created to provide digital serial sections of human embryos from the collection....
This project is a collaboration between:
- National Library of Medicine
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center
- National Museum of Health & Medicine, Human Developmental Anatomy Center [The Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development]
The "Introduction" page for Stage 1 [http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/index.cfm?p=collections.hdac.anatomy.s01] provides the most accurate scientific facts about the earliest human embryo (as the Carnegie Stages have done since their institutionalization in 1942, and continuously updated since then). It also dispels several scientific "myths" so current today, especially in debates concerning abortion, the use of abortifacients, human embryo research, human embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and other genetic engineering research, regenerative medicine, "personhood" initiatives, "surrogacy" debates, etc. For example, it documents that:
-- The "zygote" [Stage 1(c)] is not when a new sexually reproduced human being begins to exist, but rather a new sexually reproduced human being begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization [Stage 1(a)]. Since much human cloning and genetic engineering research is performed using the new already existing human embryo at Stage 1(a) and Stage 1(c), defining the formation of the zygote (Stage 1(c)) as when all human beings begin to exist would leave out all of those human embryos already existing at Stage 1(a) and Stage 1(b). This fact has implications for much of the human genetic engineering research in progress today.
-- Although the entire process of fertilization takes about 1 day (roughly 24 hours), the new human embryo / human being already exists before the end of that process (Stage 1(c)), i.e., at the formation of the primitive embryo (Stage 1(a)) and of the pronuclear embryo (Stage 1(b). This fact has implications for the use of MAPs and other forms of "emergency contraception" in hospital policy making.
-- The beginning of the process of fertilization is also when a woman normally becomes "pregnant" (and not at implantation which is 5-7 days post-fertilization). It is only when using artificial methods of reproduction in IVF/ART that a woman becomes "pregnant" when the clinician implants the already existing embryo from the clinic's petri dish or test tube into her uterus. Again, this fact has implications for the issues of abortion, the use of abortifacients, human embryo research, human cloning, human genetic engineering, surrogacy, etc.
-- Fertilization normally takes place in the woman's fallopian (uterine) tube, and not in her uterus. Therefore, before implantation (5-7 days post-fertilization) the newly existing and developing human embryo already exists in the woman's fallopian tube, while the embryo is trying to move through the fallopian tube towards the uterus for implantation. This fact also has implications for the use of MAP and other "contraceptives". In artificial reproduction (whether sexual or asexual), the woman may not be "pregnant" yet before the embryo is implanted into her; however, the embryo in the petri dish on the clinic or laboratory counter does already exist, and has for almost a week.
-- It is tempting to conclude that a new human being begins to exist only at the end of the process of fertilization with the formation of the zygote, when the cell's genome has been formed. However, that would be a case of "genetic biological reductionism". While genes are important, they are not the be-all of humanness. As the details of the Carnegie Stages indicate, the material status of a human being is not to be defined in genetic terms only, but rather in terms of all of the various biological components that constitute the human organism. In fact, these various biological components must act in sync with each other. E.g., there is cell-specific and idiosyncratic biochemical "communication" in each cell between its nucleus and the other vital components of the cell that lie outside the nucleus in the cell's cytoplasm. All of these types of "intracellular talks" among the various components actually predetermine the specific biological processes that follow, including the formation of the genome in the zygote. Indeed, the actual genome of that particular human individual can change over time due to genetic mutations, even in the earliest embryos, when genetic errors are incurred due to faulty gene crossing-over during mitosis - or due to external environmental influences. That doesn't mean, however, that the human person literally changes identity each time a mutation in a gene takes place during life. Finally, the "human genome" is not defined in terms of the nuclear genes alone, but rather in terms of all of the DNA in a human cell -- both nuclear and extra-nuclear (e.g., mitochondrial DNA in the cell's cytoplasm). Any research -- or legislation -- that defines the human genome only in terms of the nuclear DNA is erroneous, and if applied to human embryos/fetuses or patients is immunologically dangerous.
-- Obviously, if the human embryo begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization, then there is no such thing as a "pre-embryo", a term manufactured by Jesuit theologian Richard McCormick and California frog embryologist Clifford Grobstein that has already "ethically" justified a lot of unethical research and medical practices, as well as its use to justify "delayed" rather than "immediate" personhood. As documented above, the term "pre-embryo" has been formally rejected by the international nomenclature committee on human embryology. Nor is the term "conception" scientifically accurate, and it too has been formally rejected by the international nomenclature committee. (Unfortunately, many state laws even formally mis-define "conception" as "implantation" -- 5-7 days post-fertilization). As Swiss human embryologist Ronan O'Rahilly, one of the original founders of the Carnegie Stages, puts it in his human embryology textbooks:
"The term 'pre-embryo' is not used here for the following reasons: (1) it is ill-defined because it is said to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or to include neurulation; (2) it is inaccurate because purely embryonic cells can already be distinguished after a few days, as can also the embryonic (not pre-embryonic!) disc; (3) it is unjustified because the accepted meaning of the word embryo includes all of the first 8 weeks; (4) it is equivocal because it may convey the erroneous idea that a new human organism is formed at only some considerable time after fertilization; and (5) it was [used] in 1986 'largely for public policy reasons' (Biggers).... Just as postnatal age begins at birth, prenatal age begins at fertilization." (O'Rahilly and Muller 2001, p. 88)... The ill-defined and inaccurate term pre-embryo, which includes the embryonic disc, is said either to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or to include neurulation. The term is not used in this book.. (O'Rahilly and Muller 1994, p. 55)... The term conception, however, may refer either to fertilization or to implantation and hence (like gestation) is best avoided." (O'Rahilly and Muller 2001, p. 19). (emphases added) [See formal rejection of the term "pre-embryo" by the international committee on human embryology, at: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/ViewTE/TEe02.html, Footnote #32 - E188.8.131.52.0.0.3: "Embryo praegastrulationis [St. 1 ad 6a] - The term pregastrulation embryo is useful because such an embryo has distinctive attributes (see footnote 35). The foreshortened term "pre-embryo", which has been used in legal and clinical contexts, is not recommended."
Nor, obviously, is there any such thing as a "fertilized egg". Once an "egg" has been fertilized it is an embryo:
The term "ovum", which has been used for such disparate structures as an oocyte and a 3-week embryo, has no scientific usefulness and is not used here. Indeed, strictly speaking, "the existence of the ovum... is impossible" (Franchi, 1970). The term "egg" is best reserved for a nutritive object frequently seen on the breakfast table. [Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development, Stage 1, at: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage01.pdf]
Yet consider the damage that has already been done with appeals to fake scientific terms such as "pre-embryo" and "fertilized egg". And consider, also, what is to come.
"A-sexual" human reproduction refers to various methods of reproducing new human embryos without the immediate use of sperm and oocyte fusion (fertilization). Such methods include "twinning" (blastomere separation, blastocyst splitting, embryo multiplication, etc.) which can take place both naturally in the woman's body in vivo, and artificially in IVF/ART and similar laboratories and clinics in vitro; pronuclei transfer; mitochondrial transfer; parthenogenesis, and many other kinds of genetic engineering -- such as gene transfer, gene programming and reprogramming, regenerative medicine, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, etc. (all documented for decades on PubMed and other scientific search engines). These methods have particularly been mischaracterized in debates by many "developmental biologists" (a field grounded in Darwin's theory of evolution); they are not academically human embryologists and have taken different course work.
As noted above, one well-known asexual method of human reproduction is monozygotic (identical) "twinning". As will become clear, the natural in vivo asexual human reproductive process of monozygotic (identical) "twinning" is addressed in Carnegie Stages 2, 3, 4, and 5 (and has been since 1942). In identical twinning, the first twin is reproduced sexually (fertilization). But the second twin is reproduced asexually by cloning from the first twin. In the early human embryo, most of the cells are totipotent (NOT "pluripotent"), thus capable of being reverted to whole new embryos by means of the natural biological process of "regulation". Regulation removes certain methyl-bars off of the cell's DNA, thus freeing that DNA to "speak" again (make products needed for an earlier-stage embryo). So the second twin is a clone of the first twin.
To read these current facts about natural human asexual reproduction by monozygotic "twinning" in vivo, please go to Stage 2 on the official Carnegie Stages website (emphases added below): http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage02.pdf
STAGE 2: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage02.pdf.
"Stage 2 comprises specimens from 2 cells up to the appearance of the blastocystic (or segmentation) cavity.... a blastomere isolated from the mammalian 2-cell organism is capable of forming a complete embryo. Separation of the early blastomeres is believed to account for about one-third of all cases of monozygotic twinning in the human (Corner, 1955)....
"... Such twins should be dichorial and diamniotic (fig. 5-2). The fact that nearly 60 percent of dichorial twins (whether monozygotic or dizygotic) have two unfused placentae "indicates that the zona pellucida must have disappeared sufficiently long before implantation to allow the twins to become implanted in independent positions in the uterus" (Bulmer, 1970). Dizygotic twins, in contrast, are believed to arise from two oocytes, from a binucleate oocyte, or from a second polar body (Gedda, 1961). The successive cleavage divisions do not occur synchronously,... "
STAGE 3: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage03.pdf.
"Stage 3 consists of the free (that is, unattached) blastocyst, a term used as soon as a cavity (the blastocystic, or segmentation, cavity) can be recognized by light microscopy....
"... [An example of rejection of the "biogenetic law"] It is necessary to stress that the cavity of the mammalian blastocyst is not the counterpart of the amphibian or the avian blastocoel. In the bird, the blastocoel is the limited space between the epiblast and the primary endoderm. The cavity of the mammalian blastocyst, however, corresponds to the subgerminal space together with the area occupied by the yolk (Torrey, personal communication, 1972).
"... The mammalian blastocyst differs from a blastula in that its cells have already differentiated into at least two types: trophoblastic and embryonic cells proper. Heuser and Streeter (1941) emphasized an important point by using stage 3 as an example: The blastocyst form is not to be thought of solely in terms of the next succeeding stage in development. It is to be remembered that at all stages the embryo is a living organism, that is, it is a going concern with adequate mechanisms for its maintenance as of that time.
"... It is no less true, however, that changes occur "in the growing organism and its environment which provide critically for the future survival of the organism" (Reynolds, 1954). Indeed, such morphological and functional changes during development "critically anticipate future morphological and functional requirements for the survival and welfare of the organism" (ibid.).
"... Duplication of the inner cell mass probably accounts for most instances of monozygotic twinning (Corner, 1955; Bulmer, 1970). Such twins should be monochorial but diamniotic (fig. 5-2). in vitro, "many blastocysts fail to hatch fully from their zona pellucida," and "two separate embryos could form if the inner cell mass was bisected during hatching" (Edwards, Mettler, and Walters, 1986)."
STAGE 4: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage04.pdf.
"Stage 4, the onset of implantation, is reserved for the attaching blastocyst, which is probably 5-6 days old." [See "twinning" referred to for Stage 4 in description of the next stage, Stage 5.]
STAGE 5: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage05.pdf.
"Stage 5 comprises embryos that are implanted to a varying degree but are previllous, i.e., that do not yet show definite chorionic villi. Such embryos are believed to be 7-12 days old.
An amniotic cavity is found by stage 5. If duplication of the embryo occurs after the differentiation of the amnion, the resulting monozygotic twins should be monochorial and monoamniotic (fig. 5-2). It has been estimated that the frequency of monoamniotic twins among monozygotic twins is about 4 percent (Bulmer, 1970). About once in every 400 monozygotic twin pregnancies, the duplication is incomplete and conjoined ("Siamese") twins (e.g., the second specimen of Shaw, 1932) result.
"... Fig. 5-2. Diagram to illustrate the presumed mode of development of monozygotic twins in the human. Based partly on Corner (1955). There exist "three critical stages at which the division of the embryo to form monozygotic twins may occur" (Bulmer, 1970). At stage 2, before the differentiation of the trophoblast, separation of the blastomeres would result in twins with separate choria and amnia. At stage 3 (and presumably at stage 4) before differentiation of the amnion, duplication of the inner cell mass would result in twins with a common chorion but separate amnia. At stage 5, duplication of the embryonic disc would result in twins with a common chorion and amnion. Deceptive fusion of the membranes may occur subsequently in certain instances but "the placenta and membranes, if subjected to skilled examination, including microscopic study of the chorionamniotic walls when necessary, will generally yield a correct impression of the type of twinning" (Corner, 1955; see also Allen and Turner, 1971). Partial instead of complete embryonic separation would result in conjoined twins of the various types classified by Wilder (1904)."
The quotes above documenting in vivo asexual reproduction during Carnegie Stages 2, 3, 4 and 5 (and even later) can help dismiss even more scientific "myths" used in current debates involving the early human embryo. But it would seem that the long-known and documented objective scientific facts about human asexual reproduction are an inconvenient truth for many, so the less the public knows about them the better. Best to "frame the debates" in terms of sexual reproduction only.
And, indeed, discussing only "fertilization", or sexual reproduction", has had the consequence that the public is now oblivious to the fact that most of the extremely popular research using genetic engineering (including stem cell research, synthetic biology and nanotechnology) involves the asexual reproduction, destruction, and even implantation of experimental human embryos. Further, when only terms involving human sexual reproduction are used in legal documents, those legal documents will thus not cover the use of any asexual reproductive techniques -- that is, experimentation with and abortion of the living human embryos so reproduced can continue unfettered.
-- Precision in the use of the terms "IVF" and "ARTs" is required in order for people to know what is going on and thus know how to respond to them. The researchers have blended these terms so that now they can refer to a reproductive technique as "IVF", yet the technique they are using is really asexual. Both sexual and some asexual human reproduction can take place both naturally and artificially, and both in vivo and in vitro. Asexual monozygotic (identical) "twining" can take place naturally in vivo at Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, and Stage 5 (and even later, with conjoined and Siamese twins). It can also take place artificially in vitro in IVF/ART laboratories and clinics. "IVF", or "in vitro fertilization", refers to "fertilization", or sexual reproduction. "Fertilization" can take place either in the woman's body or in labs and clinics. "ARTs", or artificial reproductive techniques, refers both to "fertilization" and to all asexual reproductive techniques.
-- Human beings can obviously be reproduced both sexually and asexually. Thus any bill, law, amendment, regulation, or other legal document that claims to protect all human beings, but then formally defines human beings as only "beginning to exist at fertilization/conception", would thereby leave out of legal protection all asexually reproduced human beings, whether reproduced naturally or artificially, in vivo or in vitro.
-- The fact that these asexually reproduced human embryos have already been implanted into women as "infertility treatments" also indicates that "reproductive cloning" has already been going on for decades. Artificial identical (monozygotic) "twinning" (aka, "embryo multiplication"), is a form of cloning, and has been used for decades in IVF/ART facilities as "infertility treatments":
The term 'clones' indicates genetic identity and so can describe genetically identical molecules (DNA clones), genetically identical cells or genetically identical organisms. Animal clones occur naturally as a result of sexual reproduction. For example, genetically identical twins [momozygotic twins] are clones...." [Tom Strachan and Andrew P. Read, Human Molecular Genetics 2 (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1999), pp. 508-509]. (See additional references in Addendum at the end of this article)
And since the term "reproductive cloning" as now defined includes the implantation of human embryos asexually reproduced by SCNT only, it would not include the implantation of human embryos asexually reproduced by a myriad of other genetic engineering techniques, including monozygotic "twinning", if used in legal documents. And, incidentally, how does any woman know exactly what is being implanted into her uterus? This applies to all women -- including women who act as "surrogates" for "intended parents".
-- The fact that these asexually reproduced human embryos have already been implanted into women as "infertility treatments" indicates that the term "abortion" can no longer refer only to the intentional killing of sexually reproduced (fertilization) human beings. The term "abortion" must now refer to the intentional killing of both sexually and asexually reproduced human embryos and fetuses. Indeed, as has been demonstrated, the asexual method of "twinning" takes place naturally within the body of a woman through at least Carnegie Stage 5 (even up to months later in cases of conjoined and Siamese twins). If abortion laws refer to "fertilization" only, then one of every two naturally occurring identical twin could be aborted. And there is only one way to find out the necessary "data" desired by those who would use asexual reproductive techniques for gestating human beings with desired characteristics -- and that is to serially abort these experimental embryos to show a causal effect between the researchers' manipulations and the developing human. Ask any researcher. Also documented in minutes of the NIH conferences on human embryo research and on human fetal tissue transplant research.
-- Since the second twin is reproduced by the splitting off of one or more totipotent cells of the original embryo, those twins are asexually reproduced, never do go through Carnegie Stage 1, and never form a single-cell "zygote". These twins are usually formed well after that point, when multiple totipotent cells break off from the original embryo, and are then reverted to a new multi-celled embryo. Most of them don't begin to exist until Stage 5! Thus any law that defines sexually reproduced human beings as beginning to exist as a "zygote" would not cover any asexually reproduced human identical twins -- whether in vivo or in vitro.
-- The cells or blastomeres of these early human embryos are usually "totipotent" (not "pluripotent), as any instance of monozygotic twinning clearly demonstrates. Therefore, it would be simple to reproduce scores of new human embryos in vitro by means of artificial "twinning".
One would hope that these are the accurate scientific facts that are used to describe human embryonic development in vivo (including descriptions of "prenatal development") and in vitro, for either sexually or asexually reproduced human embryos. One would also hope that these are also the accurate scientific facts that are used as the "starting points" for deriving any legitimate positions in philosophy, theology, bioethics, sociology, medicine, scientific research, etc., and in determining public policies, laws, regulations and other legal documents concerning the early human embryo.18 Starting with false scientific "facts" about the human embryo -- either through ignorance or through malice -- necessarily leads to different and erroneous positions, policies and laws.
For far too long now those interested in exploiting living human embryos, and their "bits and pieces", for political, economic, legal, and many other agendas, have succeeded in massively confusing people and in corrupting their consciences - not to mention corrupting the sciences of human embryology and genetics themselves in spurious textbooks and "research studies". This corruption is now institutionalized and legalized, and spreading like a cancer. If it is not stopped now and exposed for the fraud that it is, it will slowly engulf and corrupt the "science" used in fields and issues now unrelated to the early human embryo and human fetus. If "scientists" will lie about this issue, they will gladly lie about any other issue -- as recent debates about the exponential rise in scientific fraud indicates. Fortunately, with the Carnegie Stages, the public will at least have the opportunity to identify for themselves what "facts" about human embryology are true and accurate, and which ones are not -- no longer relying entirely on fraudulent scientific "experts" - none of whom even have graduate degrees in human embryology.