By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC

I was reading a story this morning, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The term embryo is used in a scientifically accurate way! And it struck me, yet again, how the term embryo is used or not used depending on whether we are being spun to justify destroying or using nascent human life as an object or resource.

But to specifics: It now appears that scientists can predict the health of an embryo in the first five days. From the S.F. Chronicle:

Stanford researchers who studied and photographed human embryos for the first five days after fertilization say they have found a way to accurately predict which embryos will reach an important developmental milestone — and may be the most likely to lead to healthy pregnancies. The study of 242 frozen, one-cell embryos, which was published Sunday in the online journal Nature Biotechnology, is one of the first and best to capture on video the earliest stages of human development.

A one-celled embryo? That can’t be right! Why, it’s just a “fertilized egg,” or like a skin cell, or chopped liver. No actually, it is an embryo, known in science talk as a zygote. It’s not that hard to get the science right. You just have to stop spinning like a top.

But I keep hearing that claiming an embryo before implantation is an embryo isn’t science, it’s religion! Really? I guess a stem cell scientist at Stanford didn’t get the talking points:

Their findings could be significant for women trying to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization. Further studies need to be done, the scientists said, but they believe their research could allow specialists to determine only two or three days after fertilization which embryos are most likely to lead to successful pregnancies. That could eliminate the need to implant two or more embryos at once to increase the chance of a single birth. And it could allow specialists to implant sooner after fertilization, which most doctors believe leads to fewer complications and better chances of a pregnancy.

“If you can predict blastocyst stage, you can transfer fewer embryos earlier,” said Renee Reijo Pera, an author of the study and director of the Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Education at Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Pera for Pope! Oops, she’s a woman. Pera for Archbishop of Canterbury!

(Note: I am not arguing about the ethics of embryo selection here. We can deal with that issue another day. I am merely illustrating — yet again — that an embryo is an embryo from the start, and that politicized scientists who claim it begins some time after the start of a new human life are misstating the biology for a political purpose, and hence, corrupting science.)