Analysis of Legislative and Regulatory Chaos in the U.S.: Asexual Human Reproduction and Genetic Engineering

C. Definitions of a "human organism" and a "human cell"

Central to the analyses of literally all the federal documents addressed here and to the larger debates -- especially those concerning asexual human reproduction and human genetic engineering -- is how to define a "human organism" and a "cell". Desperate -- even amusing -- claims to the contrary, there is no confusion in biology as to what a "human organism" is, and how it differs from just a "cell" -- regardless if one is talking about sexual or asexual human reproduction. Nor is it difficult to obtain this information. Indeed, all one would have to do is go to the library or internet and look it up. We are talking Biology 101 here (not "physics").15 Yet some will persist in the scientifically ludicrous claim that the immediate product of any human reproductive process is just a "cell", rather than an "organism". Thus, they argue, there is no human being there. So one can reproduce and kill it for its biological body parts, and pretend one is just doing "stem cell research" or "genetic engineering". Such claims are nothing more than professionally irresponsible scientific "fairy tales" concocted in order to fool the public and unwary politicians and legislators.

There is a critical difference between an "organism" and its constituent cells. Even common dictionaries understand this, e.g., "In biology and ecology, an organism is a living being. The phrase complex organism describes any organism with more than one cell. Characteristics common to many organisms include: movement, feeding, respiration, growth, reproduction, sensitivity to stimuli."16 (emphases added) "In biology, the cell is the fundamental structural and functional unit of all living organisms. The cell theory, first developed in the 19th century, states that all organisms are composed of one or more cells."17 (emphases added)

Thus an "organism" is a whole being, an individual (terms used in the scientific textbooks) -- even if that being is comprised of just one cell. This includes the immediate product of both sexual and asexual human reproduction -- the single-cell human being:

A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). (p. 2) Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm ... unites with a female gamete or oocyte ... to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.18 (emphases added)

In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.19 (emphases added)

... Coalescence of homologous chromosomes, resulting in a one-cell embryo. ... The zygote is characteristic of the last phase of fertilization and is identified by the first cleavage spindle. It is a unicellular embryo and is a highly specialized cell. (p. 33) ... [I]t is now accepted that the word embryo, as currently used in human embryology, means 'an unborn human in the first 8 weeks' from fertilization.20 (emphases added)

In multi-cellular organisms, the cells that comprise it are only "parts" of that whole being. An organism is inherently capable of its growth and reproduction as a being; a cell can only multiply more cells, not more beings (unless they are totipotent, separated from the whole organism, and the state of differentiation of their DNA is reversed to "zero" by the process of "regulation" -- the basis of cloning by "twinning".)21

O'Rahilly addresses "human organisms", their growth and development, and their distinction from just "cells" in his first chapter dealing with the science of human embryology. As O'Rahilly documents, the immediate product of human sexual reproduction is a single-cell organism:

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization ... is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte. This remains true even though the embryonic genome is not actually activated until 2-8 cells are present at about 2-3 days.22 (emphases added)

It is precisely because the immediate product is an organism that the international Nomina Embryologica Committee formally rejected the fake term "pre-embryo". As O'Rahilly put it:

(4) it [the term "pre-embryo"] is equivocal because it may convey the erroneous idea that a new human organism is formed at only some considerable time after fertilization;23 (emphases added)

Rather, the single-cell human organism -- the human being, human embryo, human individual -- simply then proceeds to grow bigger:

Human embryology ... is the study of the human embryo and fetus. ... Development includes growth (an increase in the mass of tissue) and differentiation, by which is meant increasing complexity. Although early development, particularly that of the embryo, is the main focus of embryology, development continues after birth as well as before. ... Development is under the control of the genome, which operates at several levels of organization. A reductionist approach, however, needs to be complemented by descriptive embryology so that the end products of genetic and environmental interaction, mainly organs and systems, can be clearly discerned. (p. 7) ... Growth, strictly speaking, is an increase in the size of an organism or of its parts. ... The chief cause of prenatal growth is cellular division. Growth is ordinarily accompanied by the specialized cellular changes that constitute differentiation. Although growth is very marked prenatally and during the first two decades postnatally, it continues throughout life.24 (emphases added)

This is the real science, as distinct from the fairy tale science.

D. The"Pre-Embryo" Ruse

There has been no greater harbinger of the current decay of the scientific, medical, and legal professions than their persistence in the legislative propagation of the fake scientific term "pre-embryo" and its multitudinous "substitutes".25

The purpose is obvious: to reduce the "moral status" of these new living human beings. If there is no live human embryo there, but rather just a "pre-embryo", then its use in destructive research and other projects is thereby "scientifically" justified -- although it must be killed with "respect", of course.

But scientifically there is no such thing as a "pre-embryo",26 and the term has been formally rejected by the international nomenclature committee on human embryology for years now. As Swiss human embryologist Ronan O'Rahilly, explains:

(1) [I]t 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 introduced in 1986 'largely for public policy reasons' (Biggers). ... Just as postnatal age begins at birth, prenatal age begins at fertilization."27 (emphases added)

Among the various causes of chaos in the British Authority's legal documents28 is precisely that they ground such official policies on the now scientifically discredited and rejected myth of the "pre-embryo" -- openly and publicly admitted by them from the beginning to be an arbitrary term having absolutely no correspondence with the scientific facts.29 This ruse was also noted by Sexton:

"During the 1980s in Britain, the public and Parliament debated whether or not to set limits on in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). One of the issues concerned scientific research on (non-cloned) human embryos left over from IVF procedures ... . Laboratory embryo research was initially rejected by both special interest groups and many ordinary people alike. Embryo research proponents countered by beginning to refer to the embryo during its first two weeks of existence after fertilisation as a 'pre-embryo'. This new terminology, contends sociologist Michael Mulkay: 'was intended . . . to convey to lay people that the potential subjects of laboratory experiment were not even proper human embryos . . . Many of those active within the world of science . . . regarded the introduction of this ostensibly technical term into the public debate as an attempt to hide what were really moral and political judgments behind an illusion of scientific objectivity'. ... The illusion triumphed. 'At the beginning of the debate, most parliamentary speakers insisted that such research was immoral because it involved experimental manipulation of defenseless human individuals. By the end of the debate, most speakers maintained that experimental activity in this field was legitimate because it was, and would continue to be, confined to a minute collection of cells called the 'pre-embryo' which preceded the emergence of the human individual.' ... Thus under the British 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, research can be carried out on human embryos in the laboratory for up to 14 days, after which they must be destroyed."30 (emphases added)

Thus contrary to formal knowledge of the correct objective scientific facts well-known for over a hundred years, for the current British laws and regulations there is no "embryo" of any kind there, under any circumstances, sexually or a-sexually reproduced, until 14-days or later! Human embryos before 14-days are not human embryos -- in Great Britain! They are "pre-embryos", which in turn are just "balls of cells", and therefore can be used in destructive experimentation. In major U.S. documents there is often no embryo there at all through 8 weeks -- in vivo or in vitro.31 That is, given that the "embryonic period" of human development extends from fertilization/cloning through 8 weeks, that leaves the door wide open for extensive "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning research. Even the recently passed laws on human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research in the State of California were grounded in a specially commissioned "white paper" heavily influenced by physician Irving Weissman in which the term "pre-embryo" is used dozens of times throughout.32

E. The "Pre-embryo Substitute" Ruse

Even though some persist in using the fake term "pre-embryo" itself, most have resorted to using "pre-embryo substitutes", by simply using the same or similar erroneous "science" that grounds the "pre-embryo" so that the final "scientific" facts convince the public that "whatever" is there is something far less than a human being, something far less than a human "person". Sometimes they even fool themselves! This ruse too has been, and continues to be, successful in ever-expanding venues.

1. "Pre-embryo substitutes" in human sexual reproduction

For example, one could make the earliest human embryo and fetus linguistically and conceptually disappear by resorting to what is called "the biogenetic law" -- or "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" -- as is done in the recent Canadian CIHR Stem Cell Guidelines that are now regulating the recent Canadian law on cloning and artificial reproduction (Bill C-6).33 That is, there is no human being present until some "time" later during fetal development. Before that time there is only an "entity" in utero (!) that is gradually moving through the evolution of all of the species that historically preceded the evolution of the human species -- a sort of "intermediate entity". Indeed, if a human being were only gradually evolving, so too a human "person". But once again O'Rahilly reminds us that this decadent old "theory" has been formally rejected and dismissed by the international scientific community decades ago:

Recapitulation, the So-Called Biogenetic Law. The theory that successive stages of individual development (ontogeny) correspond with ({recapitulate") successive adult ancestors in the line of evolutionary descent (phylogeny) became popular in the nineteenth century as the so-called biogenetic law. This theory of recapitulation, however, has had a "regrettable influence on the progress of embryology" (G. de Beer). ... According to the "laws" of von Baer, general characters (e.g., brain, notochord) appear in development earlier than special characters (e.g., limbs, hair). Furthermore, during its development an animal departs more and more from the form of other animals. Indeed, the early stages in the development of an animal are not like the adult stages of other forms but resemble only the early stages of those animals. The pharyngeal clefts of vertebrate embryos, for example, are neither gills nor slits. Although a fish elaborates this region into gill slits, in reptiles, birds, and mammals it is converted into such structures as the tonsils and the thymus.34 (emphases added)

Similarly, one could claim in one part of an article that the human being begins at fertilization, and in another part state that the embryo does not begin until sometime after three weeks. Voila -- a "pre-embryo" before 3 weeks -- without using the term "pre-embryo".35

Or take the formal testimony of then-Director of NIH Harold Varmus36 before a U.S. Senate sub-committee "investigating" human embryonic stem cell research, in which he claimed that the immediate product of fertilization is just a group of "totipotent stem cells" (rather than an embryo, a single-cell organism, a human being). Sounds fascinatingly similar to Weissman's "theory" (below) which is the "scientific" basis for the contentious California Stem Cell Research Initiative (Proposition 71) about to be voted on. Again -- the embryo, the organism, the human being vanish! The only things there are "cells". Indeed, Varmus authoritatively assured the U.S. Senate that there was no human being present unless "it" were implanted and allowed to develop to the adult stage (reminiscent of bioethicist Peter Singer's definition of a human "person" only in terms of adult psychological functioning.)!37 This "science" was further perpetuated in the ensuing.38 If no human being is there, then no human being is killed -- thus no violations of human dignity or laws, no guilt, no law suits, no problems. And no "informed consent"!

Or one can actually use the term "embryo", but define that term itself as just a "cell" or a "ball of cells" -- again, no whole human organism there. As Michael West, President and CEO, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., put it in one of his several formal testimonies before Congress:

"The fertilization of the egg cell by a sperm leads to a single cell called the "zygote". From this first cell, multiple rounds of cell division over the first week result in a microscopic ball of cells with very unusual properties. This early embryo, called the "preimplantation embryo", has not implanted in the uterus to begin a pregnancy ... Should the embryo implant in the uterus, the embryo, at approximately 14 days post fertilization will form what is called the primitive streak, this is the first definition that these "seed cells will form an individual human being ... ."39 (emphases added)

Note the interesting variation here on the "pre-embryo" by West. He does use the term "embryo", but it is just a "ball of cells" -- not an "organism" or a human being yet! Then we are "taught" that: "Seed cells will form ... . " What? There is no human embryology textbook that refers to the totipotent cells of the human blastocyst as "seeds" or as "seed cells". None. And these "seed cells" will form an "individual human being"? The objective scientific fact is that the human being who is always simultaneously a human individual was already formed back at the beginning of fertilization.40 There is no "will form" about it. Already done! How is it that these "experts" don't know their basic Human Embryology 101?

Many of these very same "pre-embryo" substitutes used for years in the issues concerning the sexual reproduction of human beings are now being modified and put back into use in the current debates concerning the asexual reproduction of human beings -- often by the same people and the same organizations.

2. "Pre-embryo substitutes" in human asexual reproduction

As in the debates involving sexually reproduced human beings, the same use of "pre-embryo substitutes" now prevails in the human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research "debates". For example, it is claimed that cloning by "nuclear transplantation" results in a cloned human being only if the intention is to implant it and bring it to full term. But that would mean that there is no embryo or fetus there in vivo during the 9 months of gestation if birth is not intended. Feminists might want to think about that one for a moment.

Take, for example, the latest attempt by ISSCR President Zon:

The head of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) recently urged embryonic research supporters to get the media to stop using the term "cloning" to describe the creation of the human embryos for research. ISSCR President Leonard Zon wrote in a memo, "The negative connotation of the commercial term 'therapeutic cloning,' make[s] a change in terminology necessary. Nuclear transfer should be used instead of 'therapeutic cloning.' If we use these terms consistently, the public, journals, newspapers and magazines will follow our lead and use adequate terminology," Zon added. Zon also said that the term "cloning" does not accurately describe the artificial creation of human embryos for research.41 (emphases added)

David Stevens, M.D., Director of the Christian Medical Association, takes issue with Zon's ludicrous remarks:

"A number of researchers have been trying to leverage public funds by obscuring the fact that they want to clone human embryos to get embryonic stem cells," Stevens said."When scientists want to do something the public abhors, they simply change the terminology. They either deploy a euphemism or use technical jargon that nobody understands," Dr. Stevens explained. Stevens said that media and scientists worldwide understand that Dolly the sheep was a cloned mammal, even though the technical term for the cloning process is nuclear transfer -- the euphemism Zon favors."

"Are we now supposed to say Dolly the 'nuclear transfer' sheep? Did Dolly's cloning process simply create 'cells', or did it create a sheep embryo that was later born?"42 (emphases added)

Precisely! Cloning by means of "nuclear transplantation" is cloning -- regardless if the technique is performed to produce embryos for research or for implantation and subsequent birth. In either case the immediate "product" is a new living human embryo.

And note that when they admit that "nuclear transplantation is cloning -- "reproductive cloning" -- it is not just implantation that is in their definition. It is implantation and development through birth! Why such language is so helpful to researchers is succinctly articulated in a recent analysis by Americans to Ban Cloning: "As in the New Jersey bills, one is only guilty of 'human cloning' if one maintains the cloned human 'through' all stages including the newborn stage. This leaves open the prospect of exploiting cloned embryos, fetuses and even newborn infants for their stem cells".43 (emphases added)

Indeed, if one redefines the cloning process itself as just "stem cell research", then "therapeutic" cloning is not cloning, but rather just "stem cell research". The effect is similar: not only does the human embryo "disappear" by blending into the term "stem cells"; the activity of human cloning itself also "disappears", becoming just "stem cell research" instead. It is precisely this current deconstruction of the terms "research purposes" and "reproductive purposes" that puts several of the U.S. documents analyzed below at grave risk of being totally ineffective in protecting any human beings asexually reproduced for any purposes.

Observe this "disappearing act" in the words of leading cloning physician Irving Weissman:

"Stem cells, found in all human embryos at their earliest stages, are capable of turning into any cells the body needs for development. This gives them the potential for replacing diseased or defective cells in people. But creating them requires the destruction of a tiny ball of cells called a blastocyst, or pre-embryo, and many who believe that life begins at conception consider this the destruction of a human being. ... Weissman denies that the method researchers will use at Stanford, called 'somatic cell nuclear transfer technology,' is cloning. Many scientists make a distinction between this type of cloning, which is only intended to create stem cells, and reproductive cloning to create a new human being. 'We are unanimously against human reproductive cloning,' Weissman said."44 (emphases added)

Similarly, from the California Cloning Report recently shepherded through the California legislature by Weissman we witness the same thing, facilitated by the use of the fake term "pre-embryo":

"We define non-reproductive human cloning as the transfer of human cell nuclei into enucleated oocytes to produce human pre-embryos without implanting the preembryos to produce a human child. Such a process would likely be used to create early pre-embryos to be used as sources of embryonic stem cells. As set out below, we would limit the use of such pre-embryos to the period before the appearance in the pre-embryo of the so-called primitive streak, which occurs 14 to 18 days after the pre-embryo's creation. This developmental stage has also been termed the blastocyst or pre-embryo. ... Various committees, in the United States and elsewhere, that have studied embryo research have concluded that the appearance of the primitive streak marks an important step in the moral status of the pre-embryo, and hence, the ethical arguments concerning pre-embryo research. ... Before the appearance of the primitive streak, the pre-embryo is not necessarily one individual -- it could lead to identical twins."45 (emphases added)

Even the prestigious National Academy of Sciences makes the same claim in their report46 (chaired by Irving Weissman, who also chaired the commissioned "white paper" on human cloning for the State of California and who is orchestrating the highly contentious California Stem Cell Initiative -- Proposition 71-- in California):

"The goal ["purpose"] of stem cell research using the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technique must be sharply contrasted with the goal ["purpose"] of reproductive cloning, which, using a similar technique, aims to develop an embryo that is genetically identical with the donor of its genes and then implant that embryo in a woman's uterus and allow it to mature to birth."47 (emphases added)

Such an amazingly dishonest attempt to define away the technique of cloning by calling it just "stem cell research" has really caught on, as evidenced by the following "distinction" by researcher Bert Vogelstein:

"The goals of cloning -- to create a genetically identical copy of a biological entity is substantially different from that of making stem cells for regenerative medicine, although both may use the somatic cell nuclear transfer technique. The use of the term 'therapeutic cloning' for producing stem cells is misleading and blurs the distinction between the objectives of these two very different lines of investigation."48 (emphases added)

These and similar "distinctions" are distinctions without a real difference, because they blur the objective scientific fact that the "product" of such techniques is a new individual living single-cell cloned human being. Ontologically, the "purpose" for using such techniques, the intentions of the researchers, or the goals of the research are irrelevant. What is relevant is that the immediate "product" of these techniques -- the new genetically unique living asexually reproduced human being -- is what it is, and it is already there.

Next Page: 3. "Pre-embryo substitutes" in "fertility treatments"
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