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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.

Zygote vs. Gamete

Someone who says this might think a zygote is just an egg cell with a sperm cell inside. Eggs aren’t morally valuable, and sperm aren’t morally valuable, so why should the combination be? In reality, a zygote is just one cell, not two cells. During fertilization, the sperm and egg break down and cease to exist! The sperm’s tail disintegrates. The sperm and egg’s nuclear membranes dissolve. The genetic material of the sperm and the genetic material of the egg fuse to create a totally new and unique set of genetic material. Neither sperm nor eggs contain a complete set of human chromosomes — they are both “haploid”. A “diploid” zygote, on the other hand, does have a full set of 46 human chromosomes.

The zygote is a brand new human organism. You can trace your history back to when you were a child, and further back to when you were an infant, and even further back to when you were a fetus, and all the way back to when you were a zygote. But the story stops there! It doesn’t even make sense to try to identify you before that point, because the egg and sperm you came from each was missing some of your DNA. You were once a zygote, but you were never an egg and you were never a sperm.

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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.Our hero: I wish it were easier for women to decide when they have kids. But after fertilization a unique human is already present with DNA that won’t be repeated in a later pregnancy. Abortion determines which kids are born, not when kids are born.Person 1: The beginning of personhood should be an instant. Fertilization is a process that takes hours. Person 2 (our hero): I agree. I’m just saying personhood begins sometime in that interval. Similarly, marriage begins with a wedding.Person 1: It’s just a blob of tissue. Person 2 (our hero): I’m not sure I understand. I agree a fetus is made of tissue, 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?
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