Have They Never Heard Of Human Embryology?

C. Ward Kischer
Reproduced with Permission

The science of Human Embryology has been around for more than 100 years. It embodies profound principles: 1. when human life begins; 2. the continuum of human life; 3. the origin of stem cells; 4. how cells build tissues; 5. how tissues form the human body; 6. pregnancy, and 7. birth defects. Yet, for the last 40 years, those writing about those principles, have been lawyers, clergy, social workers and developmental biologists. They arbitrarily have modified those principles to validate contemporary social issues. Virtually none of them have referenced any textbooks or articles on Human Embryology. Unfortunately, most of them have behaved like carnival barkers.


In 1973, in the Supreme Court case of Roe vs. Wade, a watershed was reached between the law and common sense. More than that, the law deliberately ignored the record of at least 100 years of scientific facts.. In Harry Blackmun's majority opinion, he stated that the beginning of human life could not be determined.. Since that time this nonsense has been seized upon to generate many false statements, half - truths and outright lies. For example, a letter to the editor in the Arizona Daily Star illustrates the 'Alice in Wonderland' thinking relative to this issue. The author was a Mr. Jim Gressinger, a retired newspaper publisher. He objected to a previous letter writer who referred to a human embryo and fetus as "unborn babies". He said: "They are not. Such destructive beliefs are supported by faith, not scientific evidence or logic." Let's try to put Mr. Gressinger's thinking, and all those who think like him, into a proper perspective: from the first moment of conception [fertilization], the continuum of life is invoked. From that moment until death, whenever that may occur, any given moment in that continuum represents a whole, integrated human life. That is because throughout that continuum, all of the characteristics of life: form, function, appearance, content, size, are changing, albeit at different rates at different times. So, the designations of embryo, fetus, newborn, juvenile, adolescent, adult, senior, aged, etc. are useful terms in a sociological sense within that continuum. Otherwise, the continuum speaks for itself. What follows is a short list of some of the more prominent public players who have distorted the science of Human Embryology and caused immeasurable harm to the public discourse of "human life".

Justice Harry Blackmun

Justice Blackmun [now deceased] wrote the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade, in 1973, and said: "The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. ....If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the amendment.... The Constitution does not define "person" in so many words. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment contains three references to "person". The first, in defining "citizens", speaks of "persons born or naturalized in The United States". ....None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application." While it is true that prenatal development is not mentioned per se, common sense says the term "born" must have a complete implication of what went before. Without that history you cannot be "born". When Blackmun dismisses any prenatal suggestion, he is parsing the word "born". Blackmun had to destroy the fact of "life" before being "born". Thus, he manufactured one of the great deceptions of history. He then wrote: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." He bypassed the one science which deals specifically with when Life begins: Human Embryology.

Clifford Grobstein

Clifford Grobstein, Ph.D. [now deceased], wrote an article published In Scientific American, in 1979, entitled: "External Human Fertilization". In this article he introduced the term "preembryo" He claimed that the Individual did not occur until at least 14 days after fertilization. He also claimed that until that time the embryo was a "preperson". His reasoning was faulty. Grobstein was a frog embryologist and drew his conclusions from a series of manipulative experiments on amphibians. The term "preembryo" was quickly seized upon by a number of different groups and individuals and used to question when the new, individual human life really began. No human embryologist has certified the term "preembryo", and the Committee on International Nomenclature for the Anatomical Sciences, which includes Human Embryology, refuses to recognize it.

Richard McCormick, S.J.

Shortly after Grobstein's invention of the "preembryo", support came from an unlikely source. Richard McCormick, a Jesuit Priest, [now deceased] wrote an article entitled: "Who or what is the preembryo? It was published in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal [1991]. McCormick relied heavily on Grobstein's book: "Science and The Unborn" 1988], in which different "individualities" are discussed, the number of which are justified by faulty reasoning and assumptions made about Human Embryology which simply are not true. For example, "functional" individuality is defined by the beating of a simple two-chambered heart. That is completely arbitrary. Contractions occur prior to the first detectable "beat". Could functional individuality occur when the first potential cardiac cell migrates to the presumptive heart area? I think so. It is significant that in his article McCormick did not reference a single Human Embryology text, nor article written by a human embryologist.

Leon Kass

In 2001 the National Bioethics Advisory Commission [NBAC] was abolished and President Bush formed a council on bioethics [President's 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. Professor Leon Kass was appointed as Chairman with 17 members overall on the Commission. The first five monthly meetings dealt with the general subject of human cloning as related to stem cell research. As in all other Commissions and Panels appointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush, NO human embryologist was appointed as a member, nor was ever called as a witness before the Commission or Panel. I wrote to Chairman Kass, and to President Bush before the Commission was seated specifically requesting that a human embryologist be appointed as a member of the Commission. I received a reply after the first request to Chairman Kass that he would consider it. That request was not granted. Several requests were subsequently made, but no reply was ever received. It should be noted that John Gearhart, stem cell biologist, was called as a witness. During his testimony he identified himself as a human embryologist. He is not. A letter was sent to Kass complaining about Gearhart, but there was no reply. Peter Lawler, political science professor at Berry College in Georgia, and member of the President's Council, states the following: "Kass himself claimed that we couldn't be certain on the basis of science alone, about the human status of the embryo".

Michael Gazzaniga

Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Neuroscience at Dartmouth College, was a member of the President's Commission on Bioethics. He authored an article published by the New York Times on April 25th, 2002, entitled: "Zygotes and People Aren't Quite the Same." This article was written before the Council completed all of the meetings on cloning, before the final report, and before the final vote on the cloning issue was 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 the embryo is formed by fertilization or 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".

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly is an icon of Fox Cable News. He labels his program, The O'Reilly Factor, as "the no - spin zone". Yet, for many years, he has been responsible for the biggest spin ever perpetrated on his listening public. That spin is his labeling the human embryo and fetus as a "potential life". From 2001 to date he has been uncompromising in using that designation. As recently as 6 January, 2011, he said "calling the fetus a potential human being is a fact". The truth is that science reveals "facts". It is the search for truth. Labeling the embryo and fetus a "potential" life is arbitrary. It is not truth. It is not fact. This prompts others to declare any moment of life as "potential". O'Reilly's devotion to "potential" is derived from arrogance. He has been unresponsive to multiple attempts and efforts to educate him personally.

Cass Sunstein

Cass Sunstein was appointed a regulatory czar in the Obama administration - administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Sunnstein, when discussing human cloning, stated: the early human embryo is "just a handful of cells". He has also suggested that animals should have legal rights in court equal to those of humans.

South Korean Court

On May 27th, 2010, a South Korean Constitutional Court ruled that frozen human embryos are not living, and they may be experimented upon and destroyed at will. The Court claimed that before 14 days of development an embryo is not a human being. It said: "Although we acknowledge the basic rights of fetuses before birth, preembryos . . .. within which the primitive streak has not yet formed, cannot be regarded as human." The invention of Clifford Grobstein [preembryo] has enveloped world wide attention and endorsement. One wonders about the mind set of the Korean Justices just as the same could be asked about the U.S. Supreme Court. The members of the Court have clerks and staff who can search out most any kind of information. Have they never heard of Human Embryology?

Maureen L. Condic, Ph.D.

Maureen Condic, a neuroscientist at the Utah Medical School, has repeatedly declared the "zygote" as the beginning of new human life. She has been contacted many times and reminded of the Carnegie Stages, and that Stage 1a is that new beginning. However, she has refused to correct her misinformation. She authored a white paper published by The Westchester Institute for Ethics and The Human Person, October of 2008. The title was "When Does Human Life Begin: A Scientific Perspective." The Summary declares that "Resolving the question of when human life begins is critical for advancing a reasoned public policy debate over abortion and human embryo research. ...Based on universally accepted scientific criteria, a new cell, the human zygote, comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion, an event that occurs in less than a second." Dr. Condic is in error. The moment of sperm-egg fusion is Carnegie Stage 1a and is referred to as "The Penetrated Oocyte". Stage 2a is referred to as "The Ootid", and Stage 3a is referred to as the "Zygote", and occurs about 22 hours after first contact sperm with egg. Why Dr. Condic resolutely refuses to recognize these Stages, nor refuses to correct "less than a second" to 22 hours post first contact sperm-egg, I do not know. This is vitally important because many scientists are conducting illegal and unethical experiments on the human embryo within the first 22 hours, post-fertilization.

Barack Hussein Obama

One might wonder why the President of The United States is included in this list. There are several salient reasons. First, President Obama terminated and disbanded the President's Council on Bioethics. He has subsequently Established a new Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and appointed several members to it. There, still, are great issues to be resolved. The more profound one is: when does [human] life begin. This is central to the great bioethical issues, and was not resolved by Council members. One of the reasons why is that no human embryologist was appointed as a member nor called as a witness to the Council proceedings. The public was denied the one science which concerns itself with that question. Secondly, President Obama has concerned himself with the abortion issue, and that issue is integral in the science of Human Embryology, whether it be chemically or surgically induced, or threatened for natural reasons. After years of debate, the Department of Health and Human Services rewrote the Bush-era Conscience Clause, essentially rescinding most of the rules that protected the conscience of medical workers. No longer were medical workers able to object to providing abortifacients to patients, or performing in-vitro fertilization procedures for lesbians or single women. Thirdly, at a Pennsylvania rally in March, 2008 then Senator Obama told the assembled: "I've got two daughters, nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But, if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished [sic] with a baby." Punished with a baby! This man is befuddled with his "values and morals".


Since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision [1973], there has been a litany of mendacious commentaries in the mainstream media about the human embryo and fetus. Although the truth of Human Embryology, including when human life begins, has been available for at least 100 years Human Embryology has suffered marked revisionism from virtually every known profession, including medical doctors, who most likely have never been exposed to the subject. There are continuing attempts to compel the Supreme Court to reconsider not only Roe vs. Wade, but the effects of that misguided decision. The latest effort appears to be a writ of certiorari written by Clifford Stevens, President of The National Organization of Embryonic Law, and submitted to the Court this year [2011]. He informs the court that they should consider a new body of evidence referred to as Embryonic Law, partly derived from English Common Law. Although I believe this is meritorious, I also believe that the U.S. Supreme Court will never reverse Roe vs. Wade unless the Court recognizes the true and abiding source of the question of when human life begins, that of Human Embryology.