About: the beginning of a human life

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Guysanto
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About: the beginning of a human life

Post by Guysanto » Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:12 pm

At what point did we begin our lives as human? The nanosecond a man's spermatozoid gets cozy inside the shell of a woman's egg, the moment we are taken from or pushed out of the uterus, or any time in between?

By the way, my spell checker suggests other choices for the word "spermatozoid": spermatozoa, spermatozoon, spermatophyte, spermaceti, spermatocyte, spermatophore. What the ....? I know that the word "spermatozoid" is correct, but I don't know the others. Would a biologist or other scientist on the list shed some light on all those sperm derivatives? The word "spermaceti" in particular sounds like spaghetti, I hope there is no connection.

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Post by jafrikayiti » Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:21 pm

Guy,

You are trying to see the ant's teetees. But as warned by our ancestor's wisdom, this requires a lot of patience my brother.

To attempt an answer to your question :"At what point did we begin our lives as human?", I would say it is all about "stages of life".

For us human beings, we know of the stages spent in the mother's womb and outside of it on this earth and many of us enjoy speculating about "what whether there are other stages even before the womb, and after the tomb". But, the most honest among us admit the wisdom of our African ancestors who say "mwen konnen m pa konnen" (I know that I do not know).

So, if some catterpillars do become butterflies and we human beings are blessed with the opportunity to observe such amazing transformation with our very own eyes, it is permissible to dream that beyond the miracle of Embryo - becoming Human Child, there are other more amazing transformations that lay beyond the capacity of our human eye.

Why Have I not answered your question after all these words?

Because, i can't.

Jaf

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Post by Guysanto » Fri Jan 04, 2008 10:21 pm

I know that there are a couple of biologists on the list, at the very least. Please let us know the meaning of the technical terms in my post above.

Jaf, speaking of "amazing transformations", don't you think that "reincarnation" might be one of them?

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Post by Shelony » Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:54 pm

[quote]By the way, my spell checker suggests other choices for the word "spermatozoid": spermatozoa, spermatozoon, spermatophyte, spermaceti, spermatocyte, spermatophore. What the ....? I know that the word "spermatozoid" is correct, but I don't know the others. Would a biologist or other scientist on the list shed some light on all those sperm derivatives? The word "spermaceti" in particular sounds like spaghetti, I hope there is no connection.
[/quote]

All those terms are related to sperm. I'll will address them (bold) and some other new term (underlined). Some of them are the names given to the male germ cells at different stages of the process of spermatogenesis. In the male sexual organ, there are the primordial germ cells which are called spermatogonia (singular spermatigonium). Those cells divide by mitosis to keep up the supply. Some of the daughther cells will undergo some changes (differentiation) to become a primary spermatocyte. A primary spermatocyte has the same amount of DNA as a spermatogonium or any cell in the body. They are said to be diploid (2n). When a primary spermatocyte divide by meiosis I, it gives rise to 2 secondary spermatocytes which are haploid (n). Secondary spermatocytes divide by meiosis II to give rise to spermatids. Spermatids mature to become the mature spermatozoa (singular spermatozoon).

Thus a spermatozoon is a mature sperm and is "the same" as spermatozoid. I don't know if different languages (FR. vs ENG) have different preferences in word usages, I have never heard of or read the word spermatozoid in american classroom or textbook. They always use spermatozoon. A dictionary even says that the word spermatozoid is for botany. But that is the word I used in Haiti. Also, another dictionary defines it as the international scientific term for sperm.

Spermatozoa is the plurial for spermatozoon. Spermatocytes, spermatids and spermatogonium (a) are name given to the precursors at different stages of formation. (-Cyte stands for cell).

Spermatophore litterally means "sperm carrier". It is a packaging system used by some insect to enclose their sperms. In some cases, the male just drop the spermatophore on the ground and the female will pick it up and use it to fertilize herself.

Spermatophyte litterally means "sperm plants". Any plant in the group called spermatophyta is a spermatophyte. Spermatophyta includes all plants that produce seeds.

Spermaceti: litterally "sperm whale; according to the America Heritage Dictionnary, it is a waxy substance taken from the head of the sperm whale and used to make candles, ointments and cosmetics.

If I missed something or made any mistake, I hope someone will correct me promptly enough to prevent me from misleading any one.

N.B. Except for spermaceti and spermatophyte, a general biology or cell biology textbook can be consulted for further info on any of the other terms.

Shelony

Also I'll give my two cents on the subject of the thread itself soon.

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Post by Guysanto » Sun Jan 06, 2008 11:32 am

Shelony, thank you for the biology lesson. I commend you too for your spirit in tackling this issue, on science and bioethics grounds (yet to come) that most feel too intimidated to discuss. Bioethics has flourished during the 20th century [test-tube babies, organ transplants, euthanasia, fertilization techniques including deliberate selection/rejection of spermatozoa and ova (incl. fertilized ones), the morning-after pill, cloning (what will we make of the first human clones when they arrive?), inter-species DNA exchanges (to create new or enhanced higher forms of life or new types of drugs), et al.] In the 21st century, man's creative abilities will simply explode (and perhaps, out of control). One thing that frightens me is that most people are unwilling to discuss even the basics of bioethics, on which the future of humanity rests. Are we, in essence, human ostriches, keeping our heads in the sand when we sense imminent danger [do ostriches do that really?]

Anyway, boys and girls in Madame Shelony's class, here are the terms we have learned today, that may relate to our discussion of the beginning of human life:

spermatogenesis
spermatogonium (pl. spermatogonia)
primary spermatocyte
secondary spermatocyte
spermatid
spermatozoid or spermatozoon (pl. spermatozoa)

Now, who's willing to match the following terms (which I have just learned, in anticipation of Madame's next class), with the list above:

ovigenesis
ovigerm
ovogonium (pl. ovogonia)
ovocyte
ovule or ovum (pl. ova),
et al.

Madame is waiting.

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Post by Shelony » Tue Jan 08, 2008 12:59 pm

[quote]At what point did we begin our lives as human? The nanosecond a man's spermatozoid gets cozy inside the shell of a woman's egg, the moment we are taken from or pushed out of the uterus, or any time in between? [/quote]

Starting to think about this question, I realize how impossible it is to provide a simple answer. In order to know when life begins for a human being, one needs to know what is it, human life and one can't define human life without defining life itself. Biology (bios-logos) unfortunately studies living things but not life itself. In trying to come up with a definition for life the biologist only ends up characterizing life. We recognize life when we see it because of all the characteristics of a living thing but what is it that makes life life?

Now accepting the fact that I can't define life or human life, I can console myself with the idea that I can differentiate a living thing (human or not) from a non living thing. I do not think any one will refute the fact that a newborn baby from the human species has human life or is human being. But to go back to the original question that Guy posed above, when did such life begin? Did it happen at the moment of the birth? sometimes during pregnancy? During the 9 months of pregnancy, there is a short period where the little being is called an embryo (all the parts are being formed) followed by a long period where he/she is called a foetus and then there is the action of given birth to a being who looks like you and I but just much smaller than us and totally dependent on us?

Since I have to go, I will say that life starts before all these stages and will come back later to make my point.

Shelony

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Post by Shelony » Wed Jan 23, 2008 6:22 pm

When does human life begin?

During human embryogenesis, there is a short period of time (very early) when the developing being looks similar to a reptile or a bird embryo (we are all chordates). But the genetic program is different and soon will be easily distinguishable from those other species. One will develop into a fully functional human being and the others will not. Is the early embryo that looks like reptile less human than a more developed one that is less human than a foetus that is less human than a newborn? Then, that would imply that a baby is less of a human than an older child who is less of a human than an adult (I use the human instead of human life because I do not think that anyone will argue against all these having life) . After all, a baby or a child is not a fully developed individual. Is there a progression in human life? Or is human life such a thing that we can measure and know exactly when it enters the developing being? Can we draw a line parallel to the developmental line and have human life on one side and pre-human life on the other side?

I say all this to show that however one approaches this subject, there will never be a definite answer that is acceptable to all. Any answer will be influenced by personal feeling, knowledge, beliefs, experience. That is why I in my previous post, I said I believe human life begins before all these stages. I believe could be easily replaced by I know because in this particular case, they are the same to me but those who listen to me will ask me different kinds of proofs depending on whether I use one word or the other.

My personal belief, based on my experience as human, my belief in the Bible, my knowledge ,although limited, in science (particularly Biology), my state as a mother of a young boy, my history as someone who lost an early pregnancy, my status as a member of a large family and my love for a husband who was born from a 40+ YO mother, is that human life is precious and eternal. Life come from life but not from inert or dead things. To make it simple, two live human beings produce one human egg and one human sperm which meet and make another human being. Unless the sperm and the egg are alive at the time they touch each other, there will be no human life. Those haploid cells need not only be alive but they need to have human infos to make human.

Now the issues (for me) are what is acceptable to do with human life? All the ethical issues that arise recently with advancement in science and technology (cloning, selection, IVF, all those that Guy mentioned above) and others that existed even long time ago (abortion and others) can be addressed (discussed) without having to make an embryo or a foetus less human than a fully formed baby or an adult. Again, they are ethical issues, and therefore, there could be no universally acceptable answer.

Shelony

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Post by Guysanto » Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:46 pm

Shelony, I need to get back to this thread but so far I cannot find the time. I just want to commend you for expressing your views, and courageously so.

Gelin_

Post by Gelin_ » Fri Feb 15, 2008 10:06 pm

I believe human life starts the very moment the two living haploid cells fuse. That fusion forms the first diploid cell which is alive and contains the complete genome of the baby who will be born. The debate about this issue exists only because of its implications.

gelin

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