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Our hero: Infants aren’t “constructed” from the outside. Instead, after fertilization, the zygote directs her own growth and development. A fetus grows a heart in more or less the same way an adult grows new skin.

Self-Directed Development

The fetus references her own DNA to develop its own organs. The mother provides things like food, water, and shelter. For more information about why this point is important, check out this essay by law professor Richard Stith.

First posted

Person 1: It’s just a clump of cells. Person 2 (our hero): I’m not sure I understand. I agree a fetus is made of cells, but so are you and I. Is your point maybe that a fetus seems like “raw human material” that still needs to be “assembled” before it’s a real human?Our hero: A human fetus displays the key characteristics of life, such as cellular reproduction, responding to stimuli, and converting food into energy. It’s debatable whether viruses are alive, but it seems pretty clear that a human fetus is biologically alive.Person 1: Why are zygotes more valuable than sperm? Person 2 (our hero): Good question! A zygote is a whole organism. When you were a zygote, you had the same DNA you have now. Before that, a sperm had just half your DNA.Person 1: Nobody cares when sperm or eggs die. Why care when a zygote dies? Person 2 (our hero): It’s true that they’re all tiny living cells, but unlike sperm and eggs, a zygote is a new entire organism, a member of the human species, with its own DNA.
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