I am a scientist, a human embryologist. I have spent a career in a "publish or perish" profession using a great deal of that time writing grants, hoping to get some funded to keep a research program going, as well as teaching, mostly medical students. But in 1989 I came to the conclusion that the science of Human Embryology was being rewritten according to political correctness. It was then that I decided to try to correct the revisions.
Abortion, partial birth abortion, in-vitro fertilization, human fetal research, human embryo research, cloning and stem cell research are all core issues of Human Embryology. Yet, in all of the Supreme Court cases since 1973 and at all of the Congressional hearings on these issues, no human embryologist has been called as a witness and no reference to Human Embryology has ever been made. Further, among the NIH Human Embryo Research Advisory Panel, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, and President Bush's Council on Bioethics, no human embryologist was appointed as a member, nor called as a witness.
Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the Roe v. Wade decision: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins." Blackmun smeared the distinction between the biological (or embryological) meaning with the legal meaning, and conflated the two into his declaration. His inference was that he was talking about biological life without specifically stating so.
From this source followed a science of Human Embryology that has been parsed and perverted, revised and redefined, changed and corrupted. In fact, the transcripts of President Bush's Council on Bioethics clearly show how extreme the adulteration of the science of Human Embryology has become.
The media have especially ignored Human Embryology in their many articles on the core issues. The media have preferentially published a distortion of this science while totally ignoring the many references available for factual information. The impact of this on public policy has been staggering.
Every one of the core issues identified above is ultimately distilled down to the question of "When Does Human Life Begin?"
The answer is there in the textbooks of Human Embryology, that "human life" begins at fertilization, or conception, which is the same as fertilization. It has always been there, at least for 100 years. Yet this simple fact, without referencing Human Embryology, has been parsed and corrupted into questioning whether life even exists at that time, and to redefining "conception" to mean "implantation," just to give two examples.
Every human embryologist, worldwide, states that the life of the new individual human being begins at fertilization (conception). Yet, never does one see in the media, nor in the Councils identified above, such a reference, even though it is there in virtually every textbook. We exist as a continuum of human life, which begins at fertilization and continues until death, whenever that may be.
Every Human Embryology textbook, and every human embryologist, not only identifies the continuum of human life, but describes it in detail; which is to say: At any point in time, during the continuum of life, there exists a whole, integrated human being! This is because over time, from the one-celled embryo to a 100-year-old senior, all of the characteristics of life change, albeit at different rates at different times: size, form, content, function, appearance, etc. Actually, the terminology of Human Embryology is important only in the taxonomic sense. It enables human embryologists to talk to one another. This terminology does not compromise nor change the continuum of human life.
Some falsely claim that "marker events" occur during development that change the moral value of the embryonic human being. But so-called "marker events" occur all throughout life. To devalue the human being by such a false declaration is strictly arbitrary and not based on any science.
The continuum of human life was understood in generic terms even by the ancients. This is why it is dogma in Human Embryology that the fetus is a second patient, and why that dogma is an imperative in clinical medicine.
Today, we know, because of observations of the damage done by environmental insults such as drugs and alcohol, that the embryo is also a second patient. What follows is a compendium of 30 years worth of disregard of the science of Human Embryology. We hope that this review of a small sampling of abuses will prompt the media to finally avail themselves of what has always been there, what any human embryologist, medical library or medical bookstore provides: the scientific facts of the science of Human Embryology.
The modern-day assault on Human Embryology began in 1973 in the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade written by Justice Harry Blackmun. He wrote: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins." He referred to the "disciplines of medicine, philosophy and theology" as being "unable to arrive at any consensus." It appeared he was talking about biological life; then he said the following: "There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live birth. This was the belief of the Stoics." This was as if to say that science had not progressed since 300 B.C.
Clearly, Blackmun conflated biological life with philosophical life, even though biological life per se was never referenced in his decision. He also conflated the inferred biological life with medical life and with theological life. ... ...
HE: ... ... In the Roe case there was NO examination of "biological life." Indeed, the Court errantly inferred biological life by invoking "medical life." The two can be very different.
At the time of Roe, 1973, the Justices had only to cursorily glance at Patten's Human Embryology text (1968, p. 43, see appendix) to read: "The process of fertilization marks the initiation of the life of the new individual."
In the Webster case, adjudicated in October 1988, an amicus curiae brief of 167 distinguished scientists and physicians, including 11 Nobel Laureates, wrote in their summary of argument: "There is no scientific consensus that a human life begins at conception, at a given stage of fetal development, or at birth!"
In the oral arguments, Attorney Frank Susman, arguing for 20 abortion clinics, declared that "the basic question whether [the fetus] is a human life, or whether human life begins at conception, is not something that is verifiable as a fact ... only by reliance upon faith." Justice Scalia replied: "I agree with you entirely" -- then referred to the fetus as: "this thing that we don't know what it is."
HE: It must be noted that of the 167 "scientists", NONE was a human embryologist.
Again, no human embryologist testified. Among the 167 were several biologists. How they could agree with the brief is beyond comprehension. There is consensus among virtually all human embryologists, worldwide. Every contemporary textbook of Human Embryology states that "the life of the new individual human being begins at fertilization" (see appendix). (Also, see Human Development Hoax (1997), C. W. Kischer and D. N. Irving, pp. 9-10).
I sent a letter to Justice Scalia explaining the basic Human Embryology. I received no reply.
In Stenberg v. Carhart, the Nebraska partial birth abortion case adjudicated in June 2000, no less than five Justices used the phrase "potential human life" in their written opinion.
The Court also validated the phrase "potential human life" in Roe v. Wade. This phrase has been used as though certified in virtually all of the 15 or so abortion cases adjudicated by the Supreme Court since the Roe decision. ... ...
HE: No human embryologist has ever, nor would ever, use the word "potential" describing "human life" or even "life." In fact, "potential" human life does not exist. ... ... The concept of "potential human life" was previously applied in the 1930's in Nazi Germany and accounted for the extermination of 6 million Jews, and 10 million others, including the mentally and physically impaired.
Ernest Van Den Haag (now deceased), a political analyst, wrote an article for National Review in 1989 entitled: "Is There a Middle Ground?" [51:29-31]. The errors about Human Embryology are too numerous to mention. However, he does admit: "Life begins at conception. This makes sense." Then he contradicts himself and states: "The embryo is prehuman" and compared "the embryo of a human to the larval stage of a butterfly!"
HE: This article prompted me to write a rebuttal, which I sent to National Review. It was rejected. My manuscript, "In Defense of Human Development", was finally published by The Linacre Quarterly nearly three years and 18 rejections later. This effort is documented in our book, The Human Development Hoax: Time to Tell the Truth! This book is co-authored by myself and Dr. Dianne Irving. Specifically, the fate of this article is contained within the article in the book, entitled, "Quid Sit Veritas" (see appendix).
In the April 22, 1990, issue of Parade magazine, Carl Sagan (now deceased) and his wife Ann Druyan wrote in "The Question of Abortion" a number of errors relative to Human Embryology. They inferred the human embryo developed gills and "resembled a pig." The effect of their article, and errors, was to diminish, or outright cancel, the humanity of the human embryo. Their conclusion was that the human embryo did not become human until approximately 30 days from term.
HE: I immediately called the managing editor and asked if they would publish a rebuttal. He said no. I wrote a letter to the editor of Parade about the article by Sagan, but they did not publish it. In fact, on August 19, 1990, Parade published one page of highly selected letters to the editor about Sagan's article, most of which praised the article for being "factual."
Such, of course, was not the case. None of the letters referred to the facts of Human Embryology.
What Sagan and Druyan did was to invoke the Basic Biogenetic Law, formulated in 1868, which wrongfully stated that the human embryo telescoped in its development the adult features of lesser vertebrate species, for example, gills and a tail (see Human Development Hoax, pp. 17-18, appendix). This "Law" was the basis for testimony by actress Mary Tyler Moore before a Congressional hearing claiming, "The human embryo is no more than a fish!"
The truth is the human embryo never produces gills and its resemblance to a "pig" simply reflects a SIMILAR pattern of development among ALL vertebrates. Every embryo is species specific.
This journal published and promoted an article by Clifford Grobstein (now deceased), a frog embryologist, who invented the terms, "preembryo" and "individuation" [External Human Fertilization (1979), 240:57-67]. Grobstein admitted he coined the term "preembryo" in order to change (reduce) the moral status of the embryo. He declared the first two weeks post-fertilization to be the "preembryo," which he also called a "preperson."
His justification for this was based on a false assumption that this early embryo could divide into two or more individuals. So, at the 14-day period, post fertilization, he claimed no division could occur and thus he declared this time as the onset of "individuation." Grobstein applied this concept to all early human embryos. This term, "preembryo", has been interpreted, speciously, as identifying the embryo as non-human and even non-living.
HE: NO human embryologist accepts or uses the terms "preembryo" or "individuation." In fact, recently in 2001, after a petition by yours truly, the Nomenclature Committee of The American Association of Anatomists unanimously rejected those terms, including "preembryonic," for inclusion in the official lexicon of anatomical terminology, Terminologia Embryologica.
Further, the terms do not appear in any textbook of Human Embryology. In their textbook, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 5th edition, Moore and Persaud did use the terms "preembryo" and "preembryonic." However, upon requests by yours truly, they appropriately removed the terms in their 6th printing of the 5th edition, and they do not appear in their 6th edition (1998). Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, in their 1st and 2nd editions (1992 and 2001, respectively), not only do not use the term, but in footnotes (pages 55 and 88, respectively) describe the term "preembryo" as "inaccurate and ill-defined" (see appendix).
I wrote Dr. Grobstein three times with critical analyses of his descriptions of the "preembryo", and his justifications thereof, but he never replied [see Human Development Hoax for analyses of Grobstein's claims].
The term "individuation," invented by Grobstein, was used in his 1979 article to justify his claim that the "individual" was not determined until 14 days post-fertilization. His concept was that if the individual (meaning one person, not two or three, etc.) was not present, then the human being, per se, was not present. The parsing of this term "individuation" has had a fascinating evolutionary history. If the "individual" is not there, then the "person" is not there; then, neither the "human being" nor even "human life" is there! Faulty logic as it is, this concept has been embraced up to the present day as justification for killing early human beings.
The truth from Human Embryology is as follows: 1. Identical twins, also called monozygotic twins, arise from the splitting of the early embryo, some splitting occurring at the two-cell stage or four-cell stage, and others through splitting of the inner cell mass (ICM) in a five to six day blastocyst, most of them before the eighth day post-fertilization, but not all. This phenomenon of splitting occurs in only 0.22% of all live births. Therefore, the question that is reasonable to ask is: what about the other 99.78% of human embryos? Are they determined for singleness at fertilization? 2. In fact, division of the inner cell mass does occur at and beyond 14 days post-conception, but it usually results in an incomplete division and in early death. Those born alive are parasitic twins, or conjoined twins (Siamese twins). See appendix of Human Embryology textbooks.
Richard A. McCormick, S.J. (now deceased) authored an article in the March 1991 issue of this journal, entitled: "Who or What is The Preembryo?" He had embraced Grobstein's false concepts.
HE: I submitted a rebuttal manuscript to Renie Schapiro, editor, based on factual Human Embryology. It was rejected without reviews. I called Schapiro and requested she obtain reviews. She said she would. When I again received a rejection, she included only one review, which was only two sentences, one indicating two typos, and the other saying I was "fossilized."
The above-cited Panel, commissioned by President Clinton in 1993, was charged with determining the moral values involved in human embryo research. Their final report, issued on September 27, 1994, embraced the concept of the "preembryo" and declared it "does not have the same moral status as infants and children, because of the absence of 'individuation'." However, the Panel recommended no federal funding for somatic cell nuclear transfer for the purpose of obtaining stem cells from early embryonic human clones.
HE: NO member of this Panel was a human embryologist.
On October 19, 1994, I sent a letter to Director Harold Varmus of NIH citing the revisions of Human Embryology, the fact there had been no human embryologist on the Panel, and the total disregard for Human Embryology, including no witness as a human embryologist and no listing of any sources of Human Embryology. I received no reply.
In 1996 President Clinton appointed the NBAC to resolve the ethics of issues relative to human embryo research, i.e., cloning, stem cell research, etc., virtually the same issues considered by the 1993 NIH Panel.
This Commission recommended human embryo cloning and the use of such clones up to 14 days postnuclear transfer, for stem cell research. However, a directive by President Clinton ordered that NIH would use no federal funds for human cloning. The Commission also recommended the use of "spare embryos," those frozen and preserved by IVF clinics, again, for the acquisition of so-called stem cells for stem cell research.
Again, these recommendations were based on the specious concept that the early embryo was not a "human person" or a "human being."
NIH Director Harold Varmus wrote a statement supporting the NBAC deliberations on using early human embryos for cloning and stem cell research. In his statement, Varmus makes profound contradictory statements claiming that: 1. The cells acquired for research would be "pluripotent" cells, whereas, later in the statement he identifies them as "totipotent" cells, and 2. "a statutory prohibition on human embryo research does not apply because human pluripotent cells are not embryos."
HE: Varmus entered into a confusion of terms. "Totipotent" cells are embryonic cells that are presumed, and shown to be -- in the case of amphibians, mice and humans -- able to form a complete new individual. "Pluripotent" cells do not do this. They have changed -- differentiated -- to the point of eventually producing specific cells and tissues, but not the whole organism. ... ...
Varmus used twisted logic. If he could convince himself, and others, that only "pluripotent" cells would be used for stem cell research, then, presumably, there would be no culpability of destroying human life. So, Varmus claimed only "pluripotent" cells would be used.
The problem with that is, in the discourse of stem cell research it is declared that embryonic cells from the human embryo would be obtained from the "inner cell mass" (ICM) of the "blastocyst" (early) human embryo. Proponents for human embryonic stem cell research (HESCR) call these "master cells." But at least some of the cells from the "inner cell mass" are definitely "totipotent." Varmus was referring to the early embryo, the blastocyst and its ICM, when he said, "only pluripotent cells" would be used. It is well known in Human Embryology that the "inner cell mass" divides to form identical twins. Again, pluripotent cells do not do this.
Further, obtaining those cells kills the human embryo ... ....
I sent Director Varmus a letter explaining the basics of Human Embryology and opposing the recommendations on that basis. I received no reply.
Bill O'Reilly, the host of the above named news program, three times between July 2000 and April 2001 stated: "No one knows when human life begins."
HE: I wrote to Bill O'Reilly three times via his program produced, Mary Bennis, in protest of his statement, citing the facts of Human Embryology. Three times Mary Bennis called me long distance, assuring me each time that she would see to it that Bill O'Reilly would see my letters. O'Reilly never responded to me, nor did he mention any statement of mine on his program.
On July 16, 2001, Human Events published my article entitled: "Why Hatch Is Wrong On Human Life." It was an answer to the claim by Senator Orrin Hatch that the human embryo is not a human life until implanted in the uterus. The meaning of Hatch was to render fair game the frozen embryos in IVF clinics, known as "spare" embryos, (perhaps 100,000 of them) for stem cell research, which he has subsequently endorsed. It would also validate "cloned" human embryos, which he has also endorsed for "therapeutic" stem cell research.
HE: One of the basic reasons why Hatch is wrong is stated in the opening sentence of Bruce Carlson's textbook, Human Embryology and Developmental Biology [1994 edition -- see appendix], which states: "Human pregnancy begins with the fusion of the egg and the sperm." This is because the concern of Human Embryology is with the embryo, whether it is in the fallopian tube, uterus, ectopically or in a Petri dish.
This article cited the continuum of human life, a fact to which every human embryologist subscribes. The phenomenon, not a concept but a reality, states the following:
From the first moment of fertilization, human development is a fait accompli, under conditions which we have come to understand and embrace as NORMAL. This continuum proceeds until death, whenever that may be. At any time during this continuum there exists a whole integrated human being. That is because throughout life ALL of the characteristics of life change, albeit at different rates at different times: size, form, content, function, appearance, etc. The single-celled embryo is the scientific equivalent of a 100 year-old senior. One of the reasons is because the single-celled embryo, and all times ages in between to the 100-year-old senior, ARE DOING EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO SURVIVE, AND SURVIVAL IS THE OBJECTIVE OF LIFE!
This is evidenced by the presence of STEM CELLS designed to replace lost cells and repair damaged tissues, in short, to preserve life. There is even a mechanism built into our DNA to repair damaged DNA!
Is there a corresponding mechanism to be found in the early human embryo? ... ... There is. Between 24 to 48 hours after fertilization, the early embryo produced what is called "The Early Pregnancy Factor." This is an immunosuppressant. It prevents rejection of the foreign, new individual by the mother. This is survival!
Cells come and go, many die during adult life, but they also die, some en masse during development -- particularly nerve cells. Proteins, many in the form of enzymes, appear and disappear during life, in utero, and beyond. The functions of some organs dramatically change during development and during adult life. In fact, some organs disappear during adult life, the thymus being a case in point. These facts are indisputable. Senator Hatch did not respond to the article.
Scott Gilbert is a professor of Biology (not a human embryologist) at Swarthmore College. He has on his web site an article citing, "When Does Human Life Begin?" He gives seven different views and cites as his references Grobstein and McCormick, but NO human embryologist nor any source of Human Embryology.
HE: I wrote to Dr. Gilbert citing the facts of Human Embryology. He responded, but disregarded HUMAN embryology. When I responded that his embryology was not HUMAN embryology, he did not respond again.
Lee Silver, professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, authored an article published by The Washington Post on August 19, 2001, entitled, "Watch What You Are Calling An Embryo." He declared, as others have done, that the human embryo is not really a human life.
HE: I wrote a rebuttal to Silver's article, which was rejected by The Post. In fact, subsequently, a short letter to the editor to The Post was also rejected. Therefore, I sent the long article to Professor Silver. It is posted on the web site of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission (ABAC), entitled, "Let's Be Factual About The Human Embryo."
Professor Silver wrote a reply to me in which he made some outrageous claims, e.g.: He declared that Human Embryology was devoid of molecular biology, and that "embryo" and "life" have several meanings. He also claimed that, "All eutherian (placental) mammals undergo the same form of development before blastocyst formation"!!!
This is outrageous, especially coming from a molecular biologist. It is simply not true. He also means to invoke the Basic Biogenetic Law, a thoroughly discredited concept as outlined above.
By claiming that Human Embryology is really developmental biology, he in effect wipes out a 2,5000-year-old history of Human Embryology. And the claim that Human Embryology is devoid of molecular biology reveals that Silver has never read a textbook of Human Embryology -- all of which I stated in my reply to him. I received no further communication from him.
Howard Jones, Jr., representing the Jones Institute of Reproductive Medicine, authored an editorial in the above named journal, April 2002 [77:658-659] entitled, "What Is An Embryo?"
He cited "Marker Events" as validating the "preembryo", which reduced the "value" of the early human embryo and then indicated that "individuation" was the marker event, thereby justifying the acquisition of so-called stem cells for research.
He also cited another "marker event" the rare occasion of a "hydatidiform mole", suggesting that because this could form during development it invalidated the human quality of the early human embryo. The hydatidiform mole is not really a mole, but an exacerbation of placental villi (a genetic anomaly), while the embryo is either not present or dies an early death.
HE: The concept and term "individuation" has been discredited as above. As has also the term "preembryo."
His citing the case of the formation of a "hydatidiform mole" is a bit of a stretch. This very rare occurrence is due to the overplay of paternal chromosomes. The fact this anomaly does occur, although rarely, says NOTHING about those successful and normal human embryos.
So-called marker events can be said to occur throughout the continuum of life. For example, long bone growth begins during the fifth week of embryonic development. This growth ceases with closure of the "growth plates" on or about the 25th year of life. If Jones is consistent, this would mark an event that would change the value of the human being. Further, during adult life some organs disappear! The thymus is an example. Would not this be one of Jones' "marker events"? If Jones is to reject this as one of his "marker events", then he would be SELECTIVE AND ARBITRARY.
In collaboration with Dr. Richard Thorne, M.D., retired Ob & Gyn physician, we wrote a rebuttal to this editorial and called the editor of the Journal requesting publication of our article. The editor rejected it. He then said he would consider a letter to the editor. So we wrote such. But during the writing thereof, we were informed it must be limited to 250 words! An article of rebuttal to Jones appears on the ABAC web site entitled, "There is no such thing as the preembryo."
Michael Gazzaniga, professor of Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, authored an article published by the New York Times on April 25, 2002, entitled, "Zygotes And People Aren't Quite The Same." Gazzaniga is a member of The President's Council on Bioethics. This article, incidentally, was written before the Council completed all the meetings on cloning, before the final report thereto, and the final vote on the cloning issue, rendered on July 10, 2002.
Gazzaniga states that the "initiation of life" by cloning is "a matter of religion and ethics," not of biology (or human embryology). As others have done, he invokes the false concept of "individuation" as denying the identification of "human life" in the early human embryo, whether formed by fertilization or by cloning. He also refers to the early human embryo as a "clump of cells", and as "the size of a dot on [the letter] 'i'".
HE: The false notion of "individuation" has been discussed above.
A "clump of cells"? Each of us as adults is a relatively large clump of cells. His reference to the size of the dot on the letter "i" reveals a profound arrogance. Now, the "value" of the human embryo is reduced on the basis of SIZE! Does this mean that small people are less significant, or less human, than big people?
In 2001 the NBAC was abolished and President Bush formed a Council on bioethics to consider the ethics involved in such matters as cloning, stem cell research, and related issues, just as the NBAC had done. (NB: It is interesting to note that an entire meeting of two days in July 2002 was devoted to patenting issues of methods and procedures dealing with early human embryos.)
Professor Leon Kass was appointed as Chairman with 17 members overall on the Commission. The meetings, two days each month beginning in January, with March, May and August deleted, continued in September 2002 with a schedule extending into 2003.
The first five monthly meetings dealt with the general subject of human cloning as related to stem cell research.
HE: As in all other Commissions and Panels appointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush, NO Human Embryologist was appointed to this Commission, despite multiple appeals to President Bush and to Professor Kass.
A reading of the transcripts of the several proceedings shows extensive parsing and revision of the 150-year accepted terminology of Human Embryology. This includes the terms: "embryo", "life", "human being", "blastocyst", etc.
It must be pointed out again that the terminology in Human Embryology is important ONLY IN THE TAXONOMIC SENSE. It enables human embryologists to talk to one another. In some ways it is useful to some obstetricians and to some pediatricians. The reason the terminology lacks public importance is because of the CONTINUUM of human life.
I sent a letter to Chairman Kass critical of the revision of the terminology of Human Embryology and the fact that no human embryologist was appointed to the Council nor invited to testify (I had previously sent letters to President Bush and to Professor Kass requesting that a human embryologist be appointed). I also complained about the testimony of John Gearhart, stem cell biologist, in the context of his testimony in which he labeled himself as "a human embryologist." He is not.
Chairman Kass did not respond.
Below are listed the most used contemporary textbooks written about Human Embryology and by Human Embryologists:
1. O'Rahilly, Ronan, and Fabiola Muller, 2001. Human Embryology and Teratology. 2nd edition. Wiley-Liss, New York.
2. Moore, Keith L., and T. V. N. Persaud. 1998. The Developing Human. 6th edition. W. B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia.
3. Larsen, William T. 2001. Human Embryology. 3rd edition. Churchill Livingstone, New York.
4. Sadler, T. W. 1990. Langman's Medical Embryology. 6th edition. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore.
5. Carlson, Bruce M. 2001. Human Embryology and Developmental Biology. 2nd edition. Mosby, St. Louis.
In addition to the above is a valuable text, rich in consistency with the contemporary texts above, albeit lacking contemporary data:
6. Patten, Bradley M. 1968. Human Embryology, 3rd edition. McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York.
Another book referred to in the Compendium:
7. Kischer, C. Ward and Dianne N. Irving. 1997. The Human Development Hoax: Time To Tell The Truth! 2nd edition. [1st edition: Gold Leaf Press, Clinton Township, Michigan. 2nd. edition: self-published, Tucson, Arizona. Distributed by American Life League, Stafford, Virginia.]