Human Exceptionalism

When Is an a Human Embryo Not Really an Embryo?

When it is politically expedient to pretend that it isn’t yet human life:

There is long discussion happening at a previous post (click here to check it out), that has evolved into a discussion, among other matters, of whether a one-week old human embryo, often called a blastocyst, is really an embryo. Also, whether there is such a thing as a pre-embryo, that is an entity created either through fertilization or SCNT that, somehow, is not yet a truly living human organism.

Due to length, I am starting a new thread about this here: A pre-embryo is a contraction for the term pre-implantation embryo–meaning it is an embryo that has not yet developed to the point that it has developed a placenta and attached to a uterus. The term does not mean that it is not actually yet an embryo, a form of non life that comes before the embryo comes into being.

Hence, Human Embryology and Teratology, an embryology textbook, in the name of scientific accuracy, places the term “pre-embryo” under the categorization, “Undesirable Term in Human Embryology,” further asserting that “embryo” is the accurate and hence, “preferable term.” They write further:

The term “pre-embryo” is not used here [in their book] for the following reasons: (1) it is ill-defined; (2) it is inaccurate…(3) it is unjustified because the accepted meaning of the world embryo includes all of the first 8 weeks; (4) it is equivocal because it may convey the erroneous idea that a new human organism is formed at only some considerable time after fertilization; and (5) it was introduced in 1986 “largely for public policy reasons.” (My emphasis.)

Princeton biologist Lee Silver admits that the term pre-embryo is political. A pro-cloner and transhumanist, Silver wrote in his book Remaking Eden:

I’ll let you in on a secret. The term pre-embryo has been embraced wholeheartedly…for reasons that are political, not scientific. [My emphasis.] The new term is used to provide the illusion that there is something profoundly different between what we nonmedical biologists still call a six-day old embryo [the blastocyst] and what we and everyone else call a sixteen-day old embryo [an embryo that has begun to develop differentiated tissues]. The term pre-embryo is useful in the political arena–where decisions are made about whether to allow early embryo (now called pre-embryo) experimentation–as well as in the confines of a doctor’s office, where it can be used to allay moral concerns that might be expressed by IVF patients. “Don’t worry,” a doctor might say, “It’s only pre-embryos that we’re manipulating and freezing. They won’t turn into real human embryos until after we’ve put them back in your body.”

Redefining terms and blurring scientific distinctions to win a political debate is corrosive of science. Indeed, I am not alone in worrying that so-called advocates of “science,” are devolving their beloved field into a mere special interest willing to use all of the spin, deception, obfuscation, and myth-making tools of the trade in order to obtain their desired political ends. And that’s truly anti-science.

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