Kornblihtt's fake abortion "testimony" in Argentina; Why did he really "testify"?

Dianne N. Irving
copyright July 20, 2018
Reproduced with Permission

_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]

I. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to examine the legitimacy of the recent testimony of Argentine "scientist" Alberto Kornblihtt against the current law prohibiting abortion in Argentina at a public hearing.1 In that testimony Kornblihtt makes quite a few scientific, philosophical, legal and logical blunders, and it is hoped that the Argentine Parliament (as well as Argentina's citizens) will take note of them as it considers the decriminalization of abortion in August.

For example, as noted in Kornblihtt's own article about his testimony as published in Nature (copied in full at the end), he argues that "critical thinking" and "clear definitions" should be used in the science concerning abortion. Yet in his "testimony" before the public hearings in Argentina he proffers to them what he claims are such "critical" and "clear" biological definitions, but admits that he doesn't even know when an embryo or fetus becomes a human being! Basic science, he states, "has a role in how people think through their views" -- and he cites the recent vote in Ireland that enabled the Irish to reject their traditional abortion law. (He fails to mention that the challenges to that traditional abortion law used false "scientific" claims about human embryology, or the extensive influence of George Soros)2. But if Kornblihtt doesn't even know the basic biological science of when sexually reproduced human beings normally begin to exist, how can he provide any "critical" or "clear" biological definitions to his audience? He can't.

Indeed, while it is true that basic science has a role in how people think through their views, hopefully the accurate basic science is used; otherwise people's thinking and "views" will be based on scientific fraud and lead to unsound, illogical and even dangerous "views". So do Kornblihtt's "critical" and "clear" scientific definitions hold up under even the most basic scientific scrutiny -- and are they even logical? The overwhelming answer is "NO", and that is quite obvious to anyone who reads his article in Nature carefully. So why, then, is Kornblihtt really making such false biological and illogical claims? And is he himself a major cause of such "entrenched, polarized discussions" for the purpose of skewing people's "views" in order to advance his own long-pursued experimental research agenda?

It should be noted, after all, that Kornblihtt is a molecular biologist -- not a human embryologist. So why would anyone even regard his "human embryology" claims as objective scientific fact when he has no academic credentials -- advanced or otherwise -- in the scientific field of human embryology? And it should especially be noted that his own career and livelihood in research directly involves the use of living human embryos and human fetuses -- often procured through abortions -- in destructive experimental research.3 Perhaps the real reason he is giving such a false "testimony" in Argentina, then, is to make sure that Argentina decriminalizes abortion so that he and his consorts in Argentina will thereby be legally protected by such legislation and thus have unencumbered access to all those living human embryos and human fetuses to be used in his own destructive experimental research?

II. The Accurate Scientific Facts of Human Embryology

Before turning to Kirnblihtt's own testimony, the accurate scientific facts of when sexually reproduced human beings normally begin to exist in vivo should be acknowledged.

Towards the end of his article, Kornblitt admits that " ... but I could not define a precise point in a gradual process when an embryo becomes a human ... ." Yet all he would have had to do, and virtually anyone out there can do -- including members of the Argentine Parliament -- is consult genuine human embryology textbooks, go to the library and look it up, or go online to learn from the Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development.4 Wishful thinking is not scientific fact.

A. The Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development

It has been known internationally for over 100 years that a new sexually reproduced human being begins to exist at fertilization (Wilhelm His, 3 volumes, Human Embryology, 1885). And by 1942 the Carnegie Stages of Human Embryonic Development were formally instituted by a government body, developed by an international committee on human embryology consisting of 20-23 Ph.D.'s in human embryology from around the world (FIPAT)5, and updated every year since then to the present. Can't get more objective than that! FIPAT also formally rejected the fake term "pre-embryo" several years ago as "unscientific" and "misleading",6 and documented that Stage 1a of the Carnegie Stages is when the new sexually reproduced human being normally begins to exist at "first contact" of the sperm and the "egg" in the woman's fallopian tube (not in her uterus or "womb"!): http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage01.pdf. Note also that specifically human being proteins and enzymes are immediately produced at "first contact" at the beginning of the process of fertilization; sperms and "eggs" cannot produce specifically human proteins and enzymes, only sperm and "egg" proteins and enzymes.7

The Carnegie Stages also clarify the two "periods" of continuous development of the preborn human being: the embryonic period (from the beginning of the process of fertilization through 8 weeks of development), and the fetal period (from the beginning of 9 weeks post-fertilization until birth). These are the universally documented and agreed upon objective empirical FACTS of when sexually reproduced human beings normally begin to exist and then develop along an uninterrupted continuum until birth -- these are not simply mental CONCEPTS that could be either true or false and that may or may not reflect the real facts outside the mind of the thinker.

B. Additional sources of accurate scientific facts of human embryology

Other exceptionally good accurate scientific resources for human embryology can be found in the work of Brooke Stanton and her team at Contend Projects. All of the Contend Projects videos are grounded in the accurate objective scientific facts of human embryology, and are short, so cute, and quite appropriate even for grade school and high school students -- and should be included in all school curricula. Maybe even the school curricula throughout Argentina should require them! For more information on these Contend Project videos, visit their website at: https://contendproject.org/, or contact Brooke Westerlund Stanton, at: Brookewesterlundstanton@gmail.com, or at bstanton@contendprojects.org.

The videos can be found on Facebook and on YouTube:



See also any of the following:

Looks like Kornblihtt has a lot of homework to do.

III. All "Delayed Personhood" Claims Are Philosophically and Legally Indefensible and Illogical

In his arguments, Kornblihtt attempts to appeal to the now-defunct "personhood" claim. That is, there is no "person" present until after birth -- and thus no legal rights until after birth. But a legal definition does not necessarily have to reflect the objective scientific facts. A classic example is the fake scientific term "pre-embryo", which was formally rejected by the international nomenclature on human embryology years ago, but which still remains in various regulations and laws in various countries (and thus such legal definitions of "person" in those laws are based on false science).8

Definitions used in laws are also created by politicians and lawyers -- not scientists -- and often arbitrary. Consider the now-abandoned efforts of the non-human animal "personhood" lobby to legally define such animals as "persons" with legal rights.9 Legal definitions are also "exclusionary", that is, must be strictly interpreted. Thus, if a law or regulation defines "bears" as "black", then that must leave out of legal consideration all bears that are white or brown (and thus they may be killed, etc. -- a favorite ploy of lobbyists). So if a law or regulation states that human beings are "persons" only after they are born, then such a law or regulation would not legally prohibit the killing of any human beings before they are born -- and thus they could be used in destructive scientific research experiments.

However, such laws and arguments merely reflect the philosophical "delayed personhood" ruse, which claims that first there may be a human being present at fertilization, but that human being is not a human "person" yet until sometime later in development or birth. Such "delays" in "personhood" arguments have long been refuted, and often suffer from an academically indefensible "mind/body" split. And any similar legal definition of "person" necessarily suffers from the same refutations.

Although my original field was as a bench research biochemist at NIH, my own doctoral dissertation in philosophy analyzed over 20 such "delayed personhood" claims (Georgetown University 1991, 390 pages, Scientific and Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of the Early Human Embryo).10 No theology was used; only science, philosophy and logic. In virtually all such claims for "delayed personhood", none of them used the accurate scientific facts of human embryology, none of their "philosophical" claims could be academically defended (including massive "mind/body splits"), and in none of them did their conclusions follow logically from their premises. Quite a shock!

Simply consider this: if there is no "person" there until "sentience" (the ability to feel pain and/or pleasure), then all adult human beings with with neuropathy or who are paraplegic would also not be "persons" (and thus could be killed). Or if there is no "person" there until the active expression of "rational attributes" (make rational choices, relate to the world around one, etc.), then even adult human beings who are comatose, the mentally ill and retarded, drunks and drug addicts, etc., are also not "persons" (and thus could be killed). Such 'delayed personhood" arguments gained popularity for a while, but eventually could not be successfully defended and were thus dropped. All one has to do is Google such terms to find access to this long but fairly recent history. Kornblihtt's efforts, in fact, are a little late in coming!

IV. Examining Kornblihtt's Claims

It should be noted that none of the scientific refutations that follow contra Kornblihtt involve any theological, subjective or ideological opinions. Rather, they are based on long-known internationally recognized objective empirical scientific facts, as noted above. Further, Kornblihtt's "claims" about "personhood" cannot be academically defended philosophically, and the same errors long-identified with "delayed personhood" philosophically can likewise apply to any legal concept of "personhood". Finally, Kornblihtt's arguments fail even the most cursory requirements of logic.

For example, Kornblihtt argues that "an embryo is made of living cells, but so are placentas, sperm and eggs." One would think that even a molecular biologist would know the difference between mere cells that are part of a larger organism and an organism itself! But apparently Kornblihtt doesn't. The empirical scientific fact is that an embryo is a human being, a whole human organism, even at the single-cell stage (Carnegie Stage 1). It is an organism that is only 1-cell big at that point in time, but continues to develop itself into a multi-celled organism. However, placentas, sperm and eggs are mere cells that are only parts of larger organisms -- not organisms themselves. It is also an empirical scientific fact that sperm have only half of the DNA of a human being; "eggs" have only half of the DNA of a human being. Only a human being has the full DNA required of a human organism. So Kornblihtt's "science" is erroneous, and thus his analogy is logically reduced to comparing apples with oranges.

His "legal" example is that a "person" can be declared dead even when his or her heart stops beating or brain activity ceases; but that would mean that even adult human beings who are on life support or who are comatose -- or, as Mersenne blasted Descartes' definition of "person" centuries ago -- even all of us, including Kornblihtt -- are not "persons" while we are sleeping!

In short, Kornblihtt's arguments are scientifically, philosophically and logically in error, and if pushed legally could even lead to the legal killing of adult human beings. It is critical for people to realize this last point -- not only that Kornblihtt's "science" is erroneous, but also that his appeal to such a legal concept of "person" would also be subject to similar philosophical "mind/body" splits (and similar philosophical defects) in which the "mind" can never be connected to the body, and suffers the logical consequences such an erroneous concept of "person" would mean for even adult human beings.

The science of human embryology is based on objective empirical facts. "Personhood" is simply a concept, not an empirical fact. And concepts must be able to match or correspond with the empirical facts. If a concept of "person" does not match the empirical facts, then it is an erroneous concept and should be rejected. If a concept of "person" does match the empirical facts, then it is a legitimate concept. The only legitimate concept of "person" that matches the empirical facts is that a "person" begins to exist immediately when the human being begins to exist -- at Carnegie Stage 1a, at "first contact" of the sperm with the "egg". That human being is realistically an actuality with the potential to simply grow and develop bigger and more complex along his or her continuous development from embryo to fetus to birth. The powers to feel or think are present; they simply haven't been activated yet. Sperms and "eggs" and organs have no such powers and can never singly develop into a human being.

But Kornblihtt continues with his argument that "the fertilization of an egg by a sperm is a necessary but not sufficient condition to produce a baby." Embryos, he states, can only develop to maturity within a woman's womb, but so far no one has created a placental mammal entirely outside a uterus, embryos depend on placental exchange, and thus, he claims, an embryo "is almost like an organ of the mother" (emphasis added). He adds that 'without the right to terminate pregnancy, women are essentially placed in bondage to their embryos." So, Kornblihtt admits that he doesn't know scientifically when a sexually reproduced human being begins to exist, and now claims that the embryo is ALMOST like an organ of the mother! "Almost" destroys his own argument!

And the issue is not what conditions are needed to produce a fully formed "baby" is, but rather what the unborn human being is, and if it is not a human being then can it be aborted. As noted above, in sexual reproduction the fertilization of an egg by a sperm results in the reproduction of a new existing human being/organism -- whether or not it is allowed to continue to develop before birth. It is a fait accompli right then and there at "first contact"! And in no stretch of the imagination can it be scientifically accurate to claim that the developing embryo within his/her mother is simply an organ of the mother! That embryo is an already existing organism, an existing human being, not a mere organ of anyone. Embryos and fetuses don't even have the same DNA as that of the mother. Indeed, such a "right" to kill living human embryos or fetuses places them in bondage to the women.

At the end of his "testimony", Kornblihtt finally admits that he "could not define a precise point in a gradual process when an embryo becomes a human", but is "convinced of the value of science to explain how facts can influence beliefs." But if his own "science" is so overwhelmingly erroneous, how convincing is his "testimony", and is he also simply trying to "influence beliefs" by his mis-information? Only time will tell. Hopefully the Argentine Parliament will understandably reject Kornblihtt's and similar "testimonies" and vote down any attempt to decriminalize their current abortion law -- and that the citizens of Argentina will support them.

V. Conclusion:

As ole Aristotle noted centuries ago, "A small error in the beginning leads to a multitude of errors at the end"11! Even just a cursory analysis of Kornblihtt's "testimony" for decriminalizing Argentina's current abort law demonstrates multiple scientific, philosophical, legal and logical errors in the beginning, thus surely leading to a myriad of errors in the end. Hopefully Facebook and other social media will also pass on the accurate scientific facts of human embryology, why Kornblihtt's "testimony" is so erroneous, and the dangerous consequences to even the adult citizens of Argentina that could result from it if it were translated into law.

UNFORTUNATELY, far from resulting in "critical thinking and clear definitions", Kornblihtt's testimony merely adds to the "polarization" of the abortion discussions. And thus one does have to wonder why he is so obviously trying to polarize the discussions -- to benefit his own experimental research agendas by promoting laws that would give him legally sanctioned access to all those living Argentine human embryos and fetuses resulting from abortions -- or even to those reproduced in vitro in IVF and ART research laboratories and "infertility" clinics?

But Soros and Humpty Dumpty, at least, must be very proud of him.

July 19, 2018
Nature, Vol 559, p. 303
[emphases added]

A personal take on events
Why I testified in the Argentina abortion debate
Critical thinking and clear definitions still have value in entrenched, polarized discussions, says biologist
Alberto Kornblihtt.

Alberto Kornblihtt is a molecular biologist at Argentina's National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) and at the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences, University of Buenos Aires.e-mail: ark@fbmc.fcen.uba.ar

Last month, I testified in public hearings leading up to the Argentinian Parliament's 23-hour session on the decriminalization of abortion, a topic few would have expected to come to the floor even a year ago. Hundreds of thousands of people massed in the streets outside calling for abortion to be legalized. They celebrated on 14 June when the Chamber of Deputies voted narrowly in favour of abortion rights.

It is a debate roiling in other countries as well, and my experience shows that basic science has a role in how people think through their views. Radio and television stations in Argentina reproduced my speech. The video of my talk was shared more than 2.7 million times on Facebook in Argentina. It spread to Spain and Brazil, where someone added Portuguese subtitles.

Argentina is the birthplace of Pope Francis. Support for the Catholic Church is written into the constitution, and abortion is illegal except for cases of rape and threats to a woman's life or for health reasons. Even if the legislation stalls in the more-conservative Senate next August, the deputies' vote represents a cultural shift, similar to that seen in May's vote in Ireland, also a Catholic country.

In public hearings before Parliament's vote, more than 700 citizens were given 7 minutes apiece to present arguments for and against decriminalization. I was invited to speak in the last session on 31 May. Numerous social activists and doctors, including the minister of health - one of the few cabinet members in favour of legalization - had focused on the public-health problem of clandestine abortions, a cause of maternal deaths.

I focused instead on confusion between the concept of an embryo and a legal person - in many countries, a status acquired only after a live birth. I argued that some terms used in value-based arguments do not make much sense in biology. For example, an embryo is made of living cells, but so are placentas, sperm and eggs. And a person can be declared dead when his or her heart stops beating or brain activity ceases, even though cells in the body remain alive for a substantial amount of time afterwards. So it does not follow that everything with live human cells is a human.

I also explained that the fertilization of an egg by a sperm is a necessary but not sufficient condition to produce a baby. We are placental mammals: embryos can only develop to maturity within a woman's womb. So far, no one has created a placental mammal entirely outside a uterus. Furthermore, a developing embryo depends on placental exchange. Oxygen and food move from the expectant mother's bloodstream into the placenta and then to the embryo. Carbon dioxide and toxic molecules move from the embryo into the placenta and then into the mother's bloodstream.

Therefore, I said that in my view, an embryo is almost like an organ of the mother: its cells depend on her bloodstream to receive nutrients and remove wastes. I also said that without the right to terminate pregnancy, women are essentially placed in bondage to their embryos.

To my surprise, many legislators, even those of the government party whose scientific and economic policies I have criticized, cheered my words. At least ten deputies from both ends of the political spectrum quoted me in the final stretch of the debate.

I received dozens of e-mails from people I did not know. One woman wrote to me to say that a highlight of the debate for her was appreciating how a legal exception for rape already supports the idea that there is a conceptual difference between an embryo and a fully formed human. Only if an embryo were not a person could one resulting from rape have fewer rights than one resulting from consensual intercourse.

Of course, not everybody was happy. Some postings online called me a liar for neglecting the fact that the fertilized egg has the complete genetic information of a human, which, for them, is sufficient to consider the embryo as human life and abortion as murder.

I understand that basic biological arguments are, rightly, only one part of how people form their views and how policymakers come to decisions. I also cannot ignore the fact that my values match my arguments. Even before I learned about cells, I perceived a difference between a person and what was inside the womb of a pregnant woman, and reasoned that the continuation of pregnancy was not an equivalent good to the life and health of the mother.

People who are not trained in science want certainties. Yet I tried not to hide information or overstate. I could explain with some certainty that an embryo is not the same as a fully formed human, but I could not define a precise point in a gradual process when an embryo becomes a human - although perhaps the most dramatic change occurs at birth, when the baby stops being dependent on the placenta and starts to breathe through its lungs and feed through its mouth.

There is pressure to value science only for its potential to produce goods and services. I am convinced of the value of science to explain how facts can influence beliefs. Thus I aim to engage people in ways that encourage informed opinion and critical thinking - including about doubts and uncertainties. That, more than any practical application, is science's most powerful tool for making decisions related to everyday life. The response to my testimony corroborates this view.


1 Alberto Kornblihtt, "Why I testified in the Argentina abortion debate: Critical thinking and clear definitions still have value in entrenched, polarized discussions, says biologist", Nature (2018), Vol. 559, p. 303. [Back]

2 See, e.g., "George Soros caught 'illegally' funding Irish pro-choice group", at: https://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/george-soros-caught-illegally-funding-irish-pro-choice-group.; also, "Standards commission explains why George Soros' donation to fund Amnesty abortion campaign was illegal", at: http://www.thejournal.ie/george-soros-banned-3748738-Dec2017/. Soros is known to negatively influence such legislation by means of "dark money". By"dark money" is meant that Soros gives funds to organization A, who then gives it to organization B, then to C, then to D, then to E -- so that E's funding source cannot be identified as Soros! See, e.g., "How Soros "Rents" Evangelicals to Push Social Justice; George Soros disguises his cash through a chain of various foundations, before he gives it to Southern Baptist and other evangelical institutions", at: http://pulpitandpen.org/2018/04/20/watch-amazing-video-soros-rents-evangelicals-push-social-justice/. [Back]

3 Kornblihtt is a microbiologist -- not a human embryologist; most of his research involves the use of human embryos and human fetuses. See multiple articles at: https://www.google.com/search?biw=1038&bih=547&ei=UwdQW6roFOHVjwSO7q2ABw&q=alberto+kornblihtt+embryo+research&oq=alberto+kornblihtt+embryo+research&gs_l=psy-ab.12...93193.101781.0.105068.; See also: https://www.google.com/search?q=alberto+kornblihtt+fetal+research&ei=XghQW4fsLZ7ljwSo1bDoBA&start=10&sa=N&biw=1038&bih=547 [Back]

4 The URLs for the Carnegie Stages changed a couple of years ago. For a listing of the new URLs, see Irving, "Caution Again: Need to Use Newer URL's for Carnegie Stages for Issues Concerning the Early Human Embryo " (Jan. 1, 2015), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_226new.url.html. E.g., Carnegie Stage 1a is found at: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage01.pdf; the Carnegie Chart showing all 23 stages is at: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/developmental_stages_in_human_embryoes.pdf; a listing of all 23 stages of human embryonic development with extensive documentation and URLs for each stage is at: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/index.cfm?p=collections.hdac.anatomy.index; the history of the development of the Carnegie Stages and the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology is found at: https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/carnegie-institution-washington-department-embryology. [Back]

5 See PIPAT, International Federal of Associations of Anatomists, at: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/. [Back]

6 See FIPAT, Federative International Programme for Anatomican Terminology, Terminologica Embryologica, at: http://fipat.library.dal.ca/TE2/. [Back]

7 See extensive scientific documentation of this in endnote 10 below. [Back]

8 The 1984 Warnock Report was based on the fake McCormick/Grobstein "pre-embryo" (aka, "14-days post-fertilization), and still operative today; see the following: Warnock Report 1984, at: http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/Warnock_Report_of_the_Committee_of_Inquiry_into_Human_Fertilisation_and_Embryology_1984.pdf. See another copy of the original report at: https://web.archive.org/web/20150501005945/http://www.hfea.gov.uk/docs/Warnock_Report_of_the_Committee_of_Inquiry_into_Human_Fertilisation_and_Embryology_1984.pdf. Here is a contemporary criticism of the 1984 Warnock Report: Melanie McDonagh, "Lisa Jardine and Mary Warnock - Britain's answer to Machiavelli", at: http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/melanie-mcdonagh/2013/10/lisa-jardine-and-mary-warnock-britains-answer-to-machiavelli/. See extensive refutations of this and similar pseudo-scientific claims about the early human embryo in articles by human embryologist C. Ward Kischer, Ph.D., who taught human embryology for 35 years at the University of Tucson, Arizona, many of which are listed at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writer.php. Most of those articles listed were previously published in academic sources. [Back]

9 See extensive history of recent attempts to legalize "non-human personhood", at: https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=SmtTW_bYDdKe_Qbi7J-gCw&q=non+human+personhood&oq=%22personhood%22+%22no&gs_l=psy-ab.1.3.0i22i30k1l3j0i22i10i30k1j0i22i30k1l6.4734.14102.0.20338. [Back]

10 See my summary of my doctoral dissertation in "Philosophical and scientific expertise: An evaluation of the arguments on 'personhood'", Linacre Quarterly (February 1993), 60:1:18-46, at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_04person1.html. See also Irving, "Updated References for Accurate 'Language' Re 'Human Being'/'Human Person'/'Personhood'" (Feb. 2, 2015), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_227updatedreferences.html; also, "Tangled Webs and History: Bioethics, Hastings Center, Eugenics, Gates, GMO's, Transhumanism" (Oct. 14, 2014), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_225tangledwebsandhistory.html; also, "Planned Parenthood's Website 'Glossary' - Fake Science, Phobias, and Sexually Obsessive Definitions" (June 26, 2016), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_233plannedparenthoodglossary.html [Back]

11 Paraphrasing Aristotle in his De Coelo, 1.5.271b, pp. 9-10. [Back]