What Human Embryo?
Funniest Mental Gymnastics from Medicine and Research


It is not just in the context of sexual human reproduction that the false scientific term "pre-embryo" has caused such havoc. It has now been transferred to the current debates on asexual human reproduction and other types of human genetic engineering - especially those on human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research.

A. Weissman and the "pre-embryo"

Nothing exemplifies this continuing march of the "pre-embryo" and its "substitutes" more that the following statement by Irving Weissman, where he explicitly invokes the false scientific term "pre-embryo" over and over again in order to define what he calls the process of human "non-reproductive cloning":

"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."31 (emphases added)

Clearly the "pre-embryo" argument was not lost on Weissman. His references to "individual" and to "identical twins" in his definition of "non-reproductive human cloning" is also a real finger-print, marking his efforts as literally grounded on the unfortunate "pre-embryo" work of McCormick and Grobstein. But if the science used to ground the "pre-embryo" - or any of its "substitutes" - is false science, then the term itself is scientifically invalid and should never be used or accepted. Yet in order to mine the living cloned human being's "stem cells", he must reduce it to just a "pre-embryo" with a "reduced moral status" so he can kill it. Otherwise such unethical research would be highly unacceptable.

B. When cloning is not cloning

But it gets worse. Watch how Weissman literally redefines the process of human cloning by using "pre-embryo substitutes". Now cloning isn't cloning if it is performed for the purpose or goal of research, i.e., to eventually derived human embryonic "stem cells" from cloned human beings. Rather, it is just "stem cell research", since all that is there are "cells":

"Human reproductive cloning would involve the deliberate production of born humans by implantation into the uterus of prepared subjects a blastocyst produced by nuclear transfer from a pre-defined donor. ... human reproductive cloning is medically dangerous and should be legally banned, but nuclear transplantation to produce human pluripotent stem cell lines is sufficiently important that it should not be banned, and should be the subject of a broad debate."32 (emphases added)

So now human cloning is not human cloning if the goal is to use the cloned human beings for research. It is just "nuclear transplantation to produce stem cells" - i.e., "stem cell research". Yet most people don't realize that mixed into those "stem cells" derived from human embryos reproduced sexually through IVF are also those derived asexually through human cloning! On the other hand, human cloning is still human cloning if the goal is to produce born humans - and note the term "born". They are very careful to include that term. That is, if the cloned human beings are not intended to be born, then they would not be performing human reproductive cloning through 9 months while the cloned human being is developing in vivo. They would still just be performing "nuclear transplantation for stem cell research". Feminists of the world beware!

Note too that both human cloning, and its use to derive "stem cells" from cloned human embryos for "stem cell research", are already legal in the State of California.33 Those laws passed in 2002 and 2001 respectively. The current pending Proposition 71 advocated by the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative34 so enthusiastically endorsed and supported by Weissman et al simply allows the state to pay for such research. Prominent on the website for this California "initiative" are links to the National Institutes of Health's authoritative website for "stem cells".35 Here one can find the same deconstructed "science" in the Senate testimony of then-Director Harold Varmus, in which he defines the immediate product of human reproduction as just "totipotent stem cells" - and no human being or human organism is there until the entity is implanted and attains adulthood!36

Not surprisingly, the National Academy of Sciences' two recent reports on human cloning and on human embryonic stem cell research reached the same convoluted conclusions, with Weissman as the chairman of both NAS committees:

"The goal of stem cell research using the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technique must be sharply contrasted with the goal 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."37 (emphases added)

The application of somatic cell nuclear transfer, or nuclear transplantation, offers an alternative route to obtaining stem cells that could be used for transplantation therapies with a minimal risk of transplant rejection. This procedure - sometimes called therapeutic cloning, research cloning, or non-reproductive cloning, and referred here as nuclear transplantation to produce stem cells - (p. 29) ... The preparation of embryonic stem cells by nuclear transplantation differs from reproductive cloning in that nothing is implanted in a uterus. (p. 31) ... The process of obtaining embryonic stem cells through nuclear transplantation does not involve the placement of an embryo in a uterus, and it cannot produce a new individual.38 (emphases added)

But West, Weissman and the NIH (Varmus) are hardly alone in this ruse. 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.39 (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?"40 (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.

Note too that for researchers like Weissman and other to take the skin cell of a sick adult human patient who is suffering from possible genetic diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. - and then to clone that sick patient's skin cell, is to purposefully reproduce disabled human embryos, allow them to grow to the blastocyst stage of development, and then kill them for their stem cells for other disabled human beings' "therapies". If it is acceptable to clone and then kill young disabled human beings, then why wouldn't it be just as acceptable to kill older disabled human beings? Remember, in the "delayed personhood" arguments, even adult disabled human beings are not "persons", thus could be substituted for "persons" in destructive experimental research.


It is time to stop a moment and take a hard look at what those like West and Weissman are scientifically claiming - i.e., that the immediate product of human reproduction - whether sexual or asexual - is just a "cell" but not an "organism"; that the 5-7 day human blastocyst is just a "ball of cells" and not an "organism". But there is a critical difference between an "organism" and its constituent "cells". Even common on-line web 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."41 ... "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."42

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. In more mature multi-cellular organisms, each of the cells that comprise it are only "parts" of that whole being. An organism, such as the single-cell human zygote, is inherently capable of its growth and reproduction as a being; a cell can only multiply more cells, not more beings.

O'Rahilly addresses "human organisms", their distinction from just "cells", and their growth and development 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."43 (emphases added)

Note again that even in sexual reproduction the resulting human being is "genetically distinct". The same is true, of course, in asexual reproduction. And it is precisely because the immediate product is an organism that the nomenclature committee for human embryology 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"44 (emphases added)

Rather, the single-cell human organism - the human being, human embryo, human individual, human zygote - simply then proceeds to grow and develop bigger and bigger.

This is the real science, not the fairy tale science.


But there is more at stake. Note that not just SCNT but all forms of human cloning can be used for pure "research", for patient "therapies", and for "reproductive" purposes -- e.g., for "infertility treatments". However, by camouflaging the term "cloning" with technical-sounding "substitutes", one would be hard-pressed to realize that some "infertility treatments" actually involve human cloning.45

For example, in the published study below the human oocytes from infertility patients in private IVF clinics were cloned using "nuclear transfer". Since the transfer was not done using a "somatic" cell, it is not properly defined as "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT), but rather as "germ line cell nuclear transfer" (GLCNT). Both somatic cells and germ line cells (e.g., oocytes) are diploid, therefore nuclear transfer (cloning) can be accomplished using either type of cell. The "product" of this cloning process is referred to below as a "reconstructed oocyte", and it is "activated". That means that upon activation a new genetically unique living human being -- a single-cell human embryo --has been asexually reproduced by means of human cloning using the GLCNT technique.

The term "reconstructed oocyte" is simply a euphemism, or "pre-embryo substitute", for the single-cell human organism formed by cloning. It is not just an "oocyte" any more. It is a single-cell zygote, a human being. Just as Strachan and Read noted (above) that "an adult nucleus had been reprogrammed to become totipotent once more, just like the genetic material in the fertilized oocyte from which the donor cell had ultimately developed" when describing the Dolly experiment, so too here. A single diploid cell - an oocyte - has become a new single-cell human being by means of nuclear transfer. I question if the "informed consent" forms explained this scientific fact so that these women undergoing "infertility treatments" understood clearly and unambiguously that their own diploid oocytes had been used to asexually reproduce their own cloned children:

Fertil Steril. 2003 Mar;79 Suppl 1:677-81
"Microfilament disruption is required for enucleation and nuclear transfer in germinal vesicle but not metaphase II human oocytes".
[Tesarik J, Martinez F, Rienzi L, Ubaldi F, Iacobelli M, Mendoza C, Greco E. (Spain)] OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the usefulness of microfilament disruption before enucleation and nuclear transfer in human oocytes at different stages of maturation. DESIGN: Prospective experimental study.

SETTING: Private clinics. PATIENT(S): Infertile couples undergoing assisted reproduction attempts. INTERVENTION(S): Oocyte enucleation and nuclear transfer, activation of reconstructed oocytes. CONCLUSION(S): Microfilament disruption before enucleation is required for germinal vesicle oocytes but not for metaphase II oocytes.46 (emphases added)

Indeed infertility researchers are eager to use any and all cloning techniques for infertility "therapies", but worry that these practices might be too controversial. Thus they attempt to narrow the definition of "cloning" to just SCNT, allowing the other cloning techniques to slip under the radar. If, for example, a bill to ban human cloning defined it only in terms of SCNT, then all other human cloning techniques would not be affected by that bill, and IVF clinics could still perform such cloning as "infertility treatments". As admitted recently by Dr. Jamie Grifo, a leading infertility researcher at New York University:

"Infertility researchers take pains to define cloning in the narrowest terms, as a process that would use the nucleus from a single mature cell and place it in a woman's egg from which the nucleus had been removed - then jolting that hybrid cell to life with electricity. No sperm need be involved, so the baby's genetic material would all come from just one person. While many infertility specialists recoil at the prospect of such 'solo' cloning, there are critical aspects of the process that could help infertile couples. A number of infertility programs across the country are working on treatments that might be called 'near-cloning'.47 (emphases added)

According to the above narrow "definition" of cloning, the transfer of nuclei from oocytes of infertile women patients to produce a "reconstructed oocyte" in the study above is not cloning! Indeed, the word "cloning" is never used in describing the study.

Thus as Weissman et al redefine some SCNT as just "stem cell research", many infertility researchers redefine other cloning techniques as just "infertility treatments" involving "near-cloning"! We are clearly talking about "reproductive cloning" here, not just "infertility treatments" -- yet another example of how human cloning is being recycled back into standard medical practice as just "infertility treatments". But who's to know?


Not only have the embryo, the human being, the human person, and cloning techniques disappeared; not only have disabled human beings who have been purposefully reproduced and then killed disappeared; not only have cloned human embryos and fetuses in utero before birth, and female patients in infertility clinics at risk of "reproductive" cloning disappeared - one can also simply do away with the whole caboodle and label it all just "biotech inventions". This was recently accomplished by the biotech industry itself in response to a Congressional amendment48 to prohibit the patenting of "human organisms":

This provision is objectionable for the following reasons: ... Since the language does not define "human organism" it could preclude patenting of many biotechnology inventions. ... The language is vague, overly broad and would jeopardize many human-derived biotechnology inventions. Among the biotech inventions that would be placed in jeopardy are stem cells and stem cell production methods, all cell and tissue therapy products and methods, including methods of making replacement tissue and organs, methods for therapeutic cloning, gene patents, transgenic animals capable of making human proteins, methods for inducing production of an exogenous protein by humans (such as gene therapy), and claims involving the in situ or in vivo formation of an active ingredient. These inventions often lead to important new products. ... The language "encompassing a human organism" creates uncertainty about the PTO's definition of a "human organism."49

Any tinkering with their biological starting points - human organisms (human embryos and fetuses) - would clearly be a disaster. And note the long list of procedures, methods, processes (including human cloning and other human genetic engineering methods) and "products" (including cloned and bioengineered human embryos) now lumped together and euphemistically redefined by them collectively as just "biotech inventions" that would also be threatened. What a whopper of a "pre-embryo substitute" that one is! What enormous weight the definition of "human organism" now bears!


One final example of how far the use of the "pre-embryo" and its "substitutes" has gone can be found right here "in River City". The following is a recent memo posted by a major Boston health care organization to its investigators who might be involved in the use of "non-federally funded" human embryonic stem cell research (hESC). The "pre-embryo substitute" is right up-front:

If you wish/plan to derive hESC via somatic cell nuclear transfer:

Thus in this memo "human embryonic stem cells" derived from cloned human embryos are simply slipped into the generic category of "human embryonic stem cell research" (pace Weissman et al). Obviously investigators are legally allowed to do such human cloning (aka "nuclear transfer") as long as federal funds are not used. In fact, this health care organization "partners" with Harvard University, which recently applied for permission to clone human beings.51 Unfortunately the "IRB's" will most likely approve such human cloning protocols.52 And these are the same federally-initiated IRB's that are required to use the following false scientific definitions as those stated in the current federal OHRP regulations53 for the use of human subjects in research:

§46.202 Definitions:
(c) Fetus means the product of conception from implantation until delivery.
(f) Pregnancy encompasses the period of time from implantation until delivery.

Of course, these "scientific definitions" are grossly in error. The "fetus" does not begin its development until the beginning of the 9th week post fertilization/cloning; and normal "pregnancy" begins in the fallopian tube of the woman immediately at fertilization.54 Thus these OHRP federal regulations do not cover or apply to any human embryos as "human subjects" - whether sexually or asexually reproduced, in vivo or in vitro - through 8 weeks of development. The entire "embryonic period" has disappeared! I'd call that a free-for-all, and yet one more whopper of a "pre-embryo substitute".


Such is merely a very small sampling of the fate of the McCormick and Grobstein "pre-embryo" over the last 30 years. Now, instead of human embryos, human individuals, human persons, human beings, human organisms, human cloning and other human genetic engineering, we now have only "pre-embryos" or their "substitutes", "cells", "infertility treatments", "bio-tech inventions", and "human embryonic stem cell research". Some "mental gymnastics" those are! But at what cost?

The cost is high. From one "small error in the beginning", we now have not just a justification for early abortions, the use of abortifacients, embryo pre-selection, etc., but also human cloning in all its forms under multiple guises - or "pre-embryo substitutes". Ethical and legal "informed consent" is completely precluded, as is the ability to form a truly correct conscience - not to mention the destruction of several related fields of science and the importation of such nonsense into the daily practice of medicine.

But it is even worse than that. As Josef Pieper55 has wisely noted, "The place of authentic reality is taken over by a fictitious reality; my perception is indeed still directed toward an object, but now it is a pseudo-reality, deceptively appearing as being real, so much so that it becomes almost impossible any more to discern the truth." This is precisely what bothered Plato with his own contemporary Sophists. What makes the sophists so dangerous, said Plato, is that they "fabricate a fictitious reality." That the real world in which we all live can be taken over by pseudo-realities whose fictitious nature threatens to become unnoticed is truly a depressing thought. And yet this Platonic nightmare possesses an alarming contemporary relevance, for the general public is being reduced to a state where people are not only unable to find out about the truth, but also become unable even to search for it.

Now, others might think this is all very funny - just "mental gymnastics", "gobbledygooks", or "fairy tales". But it isn't. It is now reality. The way I see it is best summed up by the progenitor of French philosopher Derrida - Lewis Carroll:

"When _I_ use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you CAN make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty," which is to be master -- that's all." [Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll [Charles Dodgson]

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