Oh no, I was biologist-splained!


Getting into an argument on Reddit might be worse than arguing on Twitter. Some day I’ll learn.

Anyway, here was someone trying to claim that sperm aren’t alive, and that human life begins at conception.

When I agreed with the second quote and also pointed out that that 95% number is a made-up statistic, I got this insightful comment.

Well human life certainly does begin at conception…

You’re not a biologist, btw.

No one argues that a human zygote is something other than a human zygote. Unfortunately, I engaged with the clown claiming I’m not a biologist, and pointed out that those are also human sperm and human oocytes.

They were having none of that.

The question I always ask people who raise the claim that human life begins at conception…are human zygotes not the product of the fusion of human gametes? I

Yes… That’s what we call fertilization. Before conception the egg isn’t fertilized and only contains half of a human’s dna and only 23 chromosomes…

Human reproductive cells aren’t whole human organisms/human beings like a zygote is.

In biology, the zygote is called the cell of life because it usually is the first cell of a new organism. (since it’s basically a fertilized ovum.)

gametes are just the haploid stage of the human life cycle.

Yes… they are reproductive cells. Ofc, they’re haploid… Lol.

Are you sure you’re a biologist ’cause you sure don’t sound like one. Lmao.

I think I just got biologist-splained.

I also think they tripped over themselves. The whole argument rests on how we define what whole human organisms/human beings are. I agree that a sperm cell isn’t a human being. Neither is a zygote, or a blastula, or a gastrula, and neither is a fetus with an undeveloped nervous system and non-functional lungs and an inability to survive without its placenta. “Human” is a modifier used to designate the ancestry of a cell, and is not synonymous with “human being.”

But what do I know? I’m not a biologist!

Comments

  1. says

    Um…hasn’t that wanker heard of these things called “spermicides?” They’re a real form of contraceptive. They work by killing sperm cells — that’s what the word “spermicide” means, it’s not a word I just made up. So if sperm cells can be killed, it’s only because they’re ALIVE. QED (that’s Latin for DUH).

  2. mordred says

    Reminds me of the holocaust denier I had the bad idea to argue with about the exact meaning of “Vergasung”, which he claimed did not mean killing someone with gas. Of course, unlike him I never had college lessons in German (not that he was capable of writing even a simple sentence in the language). I just happen to be German.

  3. consciousness razor says

    Instead of “life” or “organism” or what have you, it’s more relevant morally and politically to think about what a “person” is. When for instance someone is a living organism but happens to be in a persistent vegetative state, the right thing to say seems to be that the person is gone. They don’t exist anymore. Their body still exists (or whatever parts of it that remain together, in the case of amputees, etc.). It’s still functioning in some ways (but not others) that are important for a living thing. It’s still “human” and contains human DNA. But this is a wide array of topics and none of them are interchangeable. The things which made them the person they used to be are gone, and that matters to us. It generally matters a whole lot more than these other things people conjure up and get themselves confused about.

    I take it that these are our concepts to invent, and we can pretty much mold them into any shape we want. So, it’s not a contradiction to say the person doesn’t exist anymore, and the body of that person does. (It’s also still “human,” “living,” and so forth.) It may feel intuitively wrong or sound weird or be hard to stomach or whatever, but it’s not a real logical problem as some might believe.

    And when you listen to the important values and concerns that “pro-life” folks are trying to articulate, those don’t have much of anything to do with “life” as such, nor are they about DNA, heartbeats, breathing, or just any old random stuff someone might associate with being alive. It’s all about how one should act toward another person. Of course, they’re also generally pretty terrible about how they treat other people, but that’s another story.

    It’s all just so misguided in so many ways…. It would be nice if some philosophy were taught to everyone in high school: logic, ethics, politics, epistemology, that sort of thing, just so people are at least a little bit familiarized with some of the basics. I bet it would help a lot.

  4. says

    …it’s more relevant morally and politically to think about what a “person” is.

    I agree. And we can start by agreeing that an organism/entity/whatever/thing cannot be considered a person as long as it’s inside another person.

  5. Owlmirror says

    Wait!
    Wait!
    Wait!

    If sperm cells aren’t alive, then they’re dead — but they still move . . . so they must be UNdead!

    Spermatogenesis is ZOMBIEGENESIS . . . !!!!!

    Real fast wriggling zombies!

    Oh, and I guess so is oogenesis. I mean, that’s just logic.

  6. answersingenitals says

    How would that person describe parthenogenetic beings, like many species of lizards (and, of course, Jesus)?

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    In biology, the zygote is called the cell of life…

    ^ Citation needed ^

    I searched on “the cell of life” and all the top links are for a work of fiction with that title.

    I searched on “the cell of life” + zygote and the only result on Google is this blog posting by PZ.

    another biologist

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    @OP
    @4

    I agree that a sperm cell isn’t a human being.

    I agree with consciousness razor, whether a sperm cell, or a cancer cell, or Terri Schiavo, or what have you is a “human being”, the question is personhood. Personhood is not at all a scientific question, it is a social and legal question.
    And no matter what someone’s opinion on the personhood of a zygote or fetus is, the personhood of the pregnant person needs to be recognized.

  9. KG says

    It would be nice if some philosophy were taught to everyone in high school: logic, ethics, politics, epistemology, that sort of thing, just so people are at least a little bit familiarized with some of the basics. I bet it would help a lot. – consciousness razor@4

    After reading your take on Ukraine, I’m not convinced it would.

  10. unclefrogy says

    the problem in trying to argue with the right-wing religious about much of anything is they are always making a legalistic faith based (as told to them) arguments that have little to do with actual testable claims about reality.
    their point of view is fine in principle and they can lead their own lives as they see fit as long as they also stay with the laws of society as a whole. The other problem is probably more important is they are not content to follow their beliefs and prey for those who do not share them but are intent on forcing everyone else to follow them too with the emphasis on force.
    I do not think it is coincidental that many support fascist authoritarian politics.

  11. consciousness razor says

    KG, you likewise haven’t convinced me that Putin is on the side of pacifism and diplomacy, an extraordinary claim if there ever was one. I think that “being on the same side” is a symmetric relationship. Since he’s clearly not on my side, I’m not on his. I already knew as much, of course, and your only response can be that you believe I’m lying about my strong preference for peace and diplomacy. Anyway, if you have something else which isn’t obviously bullshit, maybe you should try that instead.

  12. leerudolph says

    it’s more relevant morally and politically to think about what a “person” is.

    A kind of corporation, isn’t it?

  13. says

    The whole “but life begins at conception” thing gives me a headache. It is, ultimately, a religious argument; namely that there is such a thing as a “soul” and that it is somehow manifest at the moment of conception. There are no empirical data to support that position, therefore, it is simply an assertion, and one that arises from religious dogma. After that, it’s all special pleading.

    Equating a fertilized egg (or embryo, for that matter) with a person, is the heart of their argument (hence the whole “baby killing” thing). My counter is pretty simple: an embryo is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree or an egg is a chicken. If you ordered an egg salad sandwich at the lunch counter and were then served a chicken salad sandwich, you would rightly complain that they got your order wrong. If you contracted me to plant a dozen oak trees around your yard and I simply buried 12 acorns at the desired locations, you’d sue me for breach of contract. Note that their argument regarding a “potential human life” is easily trounced because an acorn is also a “potential oak tree”.

  14. says

    Putting a soul into a just-formed embryo is even dumber than putting a car buyer in the driver’s seat of his car before the seat is even installed in the car.

    Also, I think it’s pretty clear that ACTUAL persons have rights and personhood, and POTENTIAL persons have neither. At most, they certainly don’t have rights that abridge or supersede the rights of any actual person.

  15. lanir says

    @unclefrogy #11:

    I think it’s a little more complicated. I agree that there is some falling back on authority going on. But I also think there’s a sort of faith in emotions going on. Where they think their feelings are an indicator of truth. It’s not an uncommon thing to think for humans in general, but sometimes religious people are willing to lean heavily upon this. Since the indoctrination into most religions starts early, the initial reaction to things that are similar to what they grew up with will be positive while things they grew up hearing horror stories about will seem negative.

    Add another common human trait of being more confident you know a topic the less you actually know about it and you it seems like it explains a lot. This is how someone can, for example, be anti-abortion and anti-gay while sleeping soundly at night. Not only that, they’ll feel good about it. They can’t recognize that these are hateful positions because they get feels about babies and almost fully developed fetuses that look like babies while statistics about what really happens when abortion is denied don’t make them feel anything. They either don’t know any gay people or they think of the ones they do know as people, while anyone they don’t know who happen to be gay is still some manner of boogeyman. And it seems like it just goes on like that for all the issues they hold weird positions on.

  16. lochaber says

    I mean, I guess it can be an interesting exercise in philosophy or whatever, but as far as abortion rights, I don’t care when a fetus, zygote, etc. is “alive”.

    Simple bodily autonomy, in my opinion, makes all other arguments irrelevant. More clever people than I have pointed out that you can’t be forced to donate your organs, or even your blood, even after death, and even if you are the direct reason that someone else needs a replacement organ, blood, etc.

    And really, can someone have any rights, without a right to bodily autonomy?

  17. dangerousbeans says

    @lochaber
    i agree, but most of those opposing us don’t think there’s a right to bodily autonomy. especially for those of us who aren’t white cis straight men.

  18. lochaber says

    dangerousbeans@18>

    fuck’em, I don’t care what a fascist and or a bigot thinks.

    I’m about ready to go to war over this bullshit.

  19. unclefrogy says

    @16
    isn’t faith an emotion? my only point is that is an exercise in futility to try and argue facts with people of faith about anything that touches on their faith. All of their arguments are cherry picked to only include those elements that support their desired conclusions just as is done in a court of law. Not in any way as is practiced in science a true synthases of all the facts in order to arrive at truth. they already have truth in their faith everything else is wrong from the start. They get that way as we all do by learning. as you said.

    Since the indoctrination into most religions starts early, the initial reaction to things that are similar to what they grew up with will be positive while things they grew up hearing horror stories about will seem negative.

    I take history in mind when ever religion has taken over all power a purge or inquisition is often included. I can think of no benevolent theocracy nor fascist government that ever existed.
    the nuances of understanding are fine and interesting but i no longer wish to engage in trying to argue with people who have that faith response it is pointless.

  20. says

    …is an exercise in futility to try and argue facts with people of faith about anything that touches on their faith.

    Agreed. My response to that lot is to simply disregard any claims based solely on personal belief or dogma.

  21. says

    @19

    “”fuck’em, I don’t care what a fascist and or a bigot thinks.”

    But it matters … a lot. Women are dying and having their lives ruined because of what they think.

    “I’m about ready to go to war over this bullshit.”

    WTF does this mean? Spell out actions that you will take.

  22. says

    “they certainly don’t have rights that abridge or supersede the rights of any actual person.”

    They do now … as defined by the legal system, which is what matters for people’s lives.

  23. says

    @10

    “After reading your take on Ukraine, I’m not convinced it would.”

    What a mindbogglingly stupid and dishonest assertion. Even if you were correct about consciousness razor, that would be no reason to think that such education across the board would not have a significant effect. I certainly wouldn’t judge the value of whatever educational curriculum you received solely on the fact that you’re a fucking cretin.

  24. says

    ” And we can start by agreeing that an organism/entity/whatever/thing cannot be considered a person as long as it’s inside another person.”

    So the characters in Fantastic Voyage weren’t people?

    This is the wrong argument.

  25. KG says

    Jim Balter@26,
    OK, I was being snarky@10. But consciousness razor is, supposedly, a trained philosopher, yet is able to simply ignore the obvious fact of Ukranian agency in deciding to resist the Russian invasion, because it doesn’t suit his ideology. Nor is he by any means unusual among trained philosophers in believing arrant nonsense and defending it with absurd factual claims and faulty reasoning. So why should we expect that:

    if some philosophy were taught to everyone in high school: logic, ethics, politics, epistemology, that sort of thing, just so people are at least a little bit familiarized with some of the basics.

    it would actually “help a lot” in reducing the amount of motivated reasoning and sheer blithering nonsense spewed online? Maybe you’d like to actually produce some evidence or argument that it would.

    you’re a fucking cretin.

    And you might do better to avoid this kind of ablist crap in future: cretinism.

  26. KG says

    KG, you likewise haven’t convinced me that Putin is on the side of pacifism and diplomacy, an extraordinary claim if there ever was one. I think that “being on the same side” is a symmetric relationship. – consciousness razor@11

    Yes, but “enabling, siding with” isn’t, you dishonest arsehole.

  27. KG says

    But further to my #29, Putin would certainly be delighted by any spread of pacifism either among the Ukranians, or in the countries that are supplying weapons to Ukraine – so in that sense, he very much is on the side of pacifism.

  28. consciousness razor says

    KG:

    But consciousness razor is, supposedly, a trained philosopher,

    Nope.

    That’s the main thing I needed to correct here. I doubt you’re willing to listen to the rest….

    Yes, but “enabling, siding with” isn’t

    I’m not siding with Russia, and it’s not siding with me. I’ve said repeatedly that its actions are fucked up and unjustified, called them bad guys, and so forth. You evidently just don’t want to acknowledge that there are people who think that and are not so enthusiastic that endless fucking militarism is once again the only approach that’s seriously considered by our ruling classes.

    It makes even less sense to say that I would be “enabling” Russia with some obscure blog comments, even if they were the kind of statements you’ve tried to put in my mouth. Anyway, this is all wildly off-topic for this thread, so maybe just give it a fucking rest.

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @12: You’ve certainly mentioned your “strong preference for peace and diplomacy”; a noble preference indeed.

    You’ve also mentioned your strong preference for the US staying out of what you see as essentially a European problem. You’ve also mentioned your strong belief that the US is largely to blame for the current war (perhaps only by implication; much wordage and links, supposedly exposing American perfidy as regards Ukraine). In fact, my impression is that most of your comments on the topic focus on the latter. And most of your comments hardly mention Ukraine, except as a sort of passive tool of US interests.

    Now, none of that says you “side with Putin”. In fact, you’ve said Putin is an awful person. But I suspect Putin would approve your message (even the ‘awful person’ part; I suspect Putin loves being called a badass).

    @31:

    endless fucking militarism is once again the only approach that’s seriously considered by our ruling classes.

    How do you know that? You believe there have been no sincere attempts at diplomacy? If there has been no progress made diplomatically, is that because “our ruling classes” don’t want it, or perhaps because Putin doesn’t want it?

    Anyway, this is all wildly off-topic for this thread, so maybe just give it a fucking rest.

    Hm, after you got your wildly OT comment in, you mean?

  30. DanDare says

    On arguing with intractable or incapable people.
    If there is an audience then take the time to use that conflict to appeal ti the audience.

  31. John Morales says

    CR @31:

    […] endless fucking militarism is once again the only approach that’s seriously considered by our ruling classes.

    Sanctions aren’t militarism. They’re economics.

    (A special economic operation!)

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