Tuesday, May 26, 2009

tweaking the definition of human, biological life

In the Journal of Perinatal Medicine, Erik Hauzman and Zoltan Papp look to tweak the standard definition by defining biological life as conception given “biparental origin of the chromosome set”.

From the abstract:

Conception sometimes results in products that are not capable of developing into an embryo and fetus....We elucidate the generation of these abnormal growths and provide explanations as to why they cannot be regarded as human individuals or human beings. We argue that it is not the number of chromosomes that is required for a given form of human life to become a human being but rather the biparental origin of the chromosome set.

Click here for a set of textbook definitions of biological life.


At May 26, 2009 at 2:49 PM , Blogger Janet P said...

I couldn't access the full article so I'm not sure what exactly the researchers are referring to when they use the term "oocyte activation".
If "oocyte activation" means test tube fertilization, then what they are saying is that because the zygote or "product" (to quote) is not capable of developing properly beyond this very first human life stage, that is is therefore not human? Is that right?
If so - Completely inane.

Is humanity based on the ability of human beings to further "develop" (eg - baby into toddler, etc.)
They should take a minute to think about what "it" is the "Product" of.
Is this really rocket science?

As your link pointed out, human life is defined as of biparental (human mother and father) origin and the resulting a genetically complete (chromosomally speaking)and distinct being (human- if it has human parents)

At May 26, 2009 at 4:34 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

The key distinction seemed to be entities that have chromosomes but are not "living"-- as in certain kinds of cysts. We had good friends in our former ABF class who thought they were pregnant, but it turned out to be one of those cysts. It even had hair and teeth-- and the body thought it was a baby...

At May 26, 2009 at 9:57 PM , Blogger Janet P said...

"Cysts" are "living". For that matter, so are flowers and trees. The question is: Is the entity "human"?

From what you've said there was a human mom and dad - so that part is covered.
I'm also assuming an "egg was fertilized" - a zygote was created.
Thus it meets the requirements of the textbook definitions you posted and so should be considered a human being.

It could possibly be that the zygote had some genetic mutation (plus or minus a chromosome, maybe?) that caused it to develop awry. If that's the case, it still meets the biological definition of a human being.
The ability to develop "normally" is not considered a criteria scientifically when "typing" organisms in a particular genus or species.


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