The Cuticle Cell Argument

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Many abortion opponents firmly believe that “all human life is special and valuable”, and base their opposition to abortion on that foundation. The cuticle cell argument has a two-fold purpose:
1: Show that abortion opponents don’t know what they are talking about.
2. Prove that abortion opponents are fundamentally mistaken, that the foundation of their opposition is invalid.

Doing those two things will help support the pro-choice stand that abortion should be legal because all anti-abortion arguments in this day-and-age are based on invalid foundations; there is no valid reason to make it illegal.

To begin, the first part of showing that abortion opponents don’t know what they are talking about is to examine the Question, “What is ‘human life’?” in detail.

Well, one of the key facts about ordinary average walking-about human life is that it mostly isn’t. Human, that is. 90% of the cells in the average human body are bacterial, not human. Many of those bacterial cells are “symbiotic” with us; we cannot survive healthily without them –some of them are a significant part of the body’s immune system, and others extract certain nutrients from food for us, for example. See how silly it is to claim that “all human life is special and valuable”, when it can’t even survive well without the assistance of 10 times as much nonhuman life –the lowest life-forms on Earth, at that?

Inside the womb, the amniotic sac and placenta shield an unborn human from bacteria, including the beneficial bacteria just mentioned, and so it is basically 100% a human entity (which is kind of humorous/ironic, because some folks who are only 10% human, per the preceding paragraph, try to claim the unborn are not human!). Since the “modus operandi” for survival of an unborn human is parasitic (though that does not suffice for it to actually be a parasite), it can, for its survival, take advantage of its mother’s body to do some important things (like have bacteria-processed nutrients in her bloodstream, available for stealing).

We can now imagine abortion opponents saying that if human life is special and valuable when it is only 10% human, then the 100% human-ness of the unborn must be ten times as special and valuable. But in actuality they still wouldn’t be knowing what they are talking about, all because of the lowly cuticle cell (and others, but human cuticle cells alone suffice just fine for this argument’s goals).

It is now relevant to discuss four different living cells.
First and second are the amoeba and paramecium. They are single-celled animals; each cell is a complete living organism. They are three-dimensional entities (a bit like tiny balloons), and the entire surface-area of each one’s body is an “interaction region” with the outside world. Both the amoeba and the paramecium belong to a class of organisms called “eukaryotes“. It should be noted that eukaryotes are significantly more-complex organisms than ordinary bacteria (which are called “prokaryotes“). There is a very wide variety of existing eukaryotes; for example, almost every living non-bacterial cell in a fish or a worm or a tree or a mollusc or an amphibian or a flower or a reptile or a bird or a mushroom or a mammal is a eukaryote cell. The amoeba and paramecium were both mentioned here simply as part of introducing the sheer variety of eukaroyte cells.

The third cell to discuss is the cuticle cell, which is, indeed, a eukaryote-type cell. In multi-celled organisms like mammals, flowers, etc, even though each eukaryote cell continues to have a surface area through which it interacts with things external to itself, these eukarote cells have evolved two distinctive and distinguishing characteristics, relative to single-celled eukaryote organisms like amoebas and paramecia. First, they specialize, and focus their energies on particular tasks. Cuticle cells are specialized cells. And second, the eukarote cells in multi-celled organisms are able to cooperate with each other to the degree that can be called “symbiotic”. (Note that that earlier-linked definition of symbiosis talks about “dissimilar” organisms. The degree of dissimilarity is not mentioned, but it should be obvious that a bone cell is dissimilar to a white blood cell, even if both cells have identical DNA in their cell-nuclei. Their specializations make them dissimilar!) We now must discuss some other things for a time, but will return to cuticle cells in due course.

The fourth cell is the zygote, which begins to exist when a sperm is acquired by an ovum, which in turn are cells so specialized they are not considered to be fully alive, and so deserve a bit of description before focusing on the zygote. A sperm cell is one of the smallest cells in the human body, basically just a batch of DNA with a propulsion system attached, while the ovum is by far the largest cell in the human body. It is mostly a huge blob of food, and because the surface areas of ordinary cells allow them to acquire/consume food, the food in the ovum is protected from random consumption by having a wall around the whole ovum, called the “zona pellucida“. The zona pellucida has to have some sort of entryway for a sperm, but that wall does not disappear after fertilization happens.

The resulting zygote, a true eukaryote cell, thus begins its existence trapped inside the zona pellucida, stuffed with a large supply of food. As a true eukaryote cell it has a physical interaction-surface, but since the entire cell is inside the zona pellucida, a zygote can’t interact with anything except the zona pellucida. In one sense that doesn’t matter very much, because of all the available food. A zygote doesn’t need any external resources to begin dividing, making more cells, each a copy of itself, and thereby become a “morula”.

In another sense, however, a zygote is helpless. Ovum-fertilization normally occurs inside a Fallopian Tube, a significant distance (for a cell) from the womb. How can it get there, while trapped inside the zona pellucida? The answer is that a Fallopian Tube is normally lined with “cilia”, tiny manipulative structures that can push the new human entity toward the womb. For the purpose of this document, that is an extremely important fact: Success Depends On Active External Help!

If the new human entity does not receive help reaching the womb (perhaps because the cilia are damaged), then an “ectopic pregnancy” can eventually occur, which usually threatens the life of the mother, and must be terminated to save her.

At about the same time the zona pellucida and its contents reach the womb, the mass of cells inside the wall become able to crack it open and escape. Usually all the cells escape and stay together to form a single “blastocyst”, but sometimes groups of cells break apart from the rest during the escape, yielding more than one separate blastocyst –and each one has a chance of forming a whole human body.

(Minor Intermission: All this next discussion about blastocysts is very relevant to The Cuticle Cell Argument, because of modern “stem cell research“, about which more will be presented later. For now, simply keep in mind that every single cell in a just-formed blastocyst is a “totipotent stem cell”. Intermission ends.)

Take a moment to think about the different situations of a single blastocyst versus multiple separate blastocysts. At the time the zona pellucida is cracked open, there is some particular total number of eukaryote-type cells inside it, each one essentially identical to the original zygote-cell, except smaller because not stuffed with food. After they escape the zona pellucida, there is the exact same number of cells, usually all in one blob, but sometimes (about 1 in 250 for identical twins, and rather less for identical triplets, quadruplets, etc) that total number of cells is divided among multiple blastocysts, and each might have a different numbers of cells, than the others have. Anyway, so long as each group has some critical minimum number of cells (possibly as few as four, since identical septuplets appear to be possible), it has the potential to ultimately yield a whole human body.

Now consider that word “potential”. To oppose abortion is one way of saying, “Potential must be fulfilled!” –AND saying, “Active External Help is mandatory!” (see above, plus more about this just below). Well, there are a significant number of potentials right here, at the blastocyst stage! We have the technology to capture an all-cells-in-one-normal-blastocyst, and divide it into 4 groups of cells, if we wanted to produce a set of identical quadruplets. Or 5 groups, if we wanted quintuplets. IF “Active External Help is mandatory!”, and IF “Potential must be fulfilled!”, then it Logically follows that such things must be done! If human life is as special and valuable as abortion opponents claim it is, shouldn’t they be insisting that every morula be captured, so that when its cells break out of the zona pellucida, as many human lives as possible can be made to begin existing separately? If abortion opponents don’t insist on doing that, then, Logically, their claims regarding the special-ness and value of human life are not so valid, after all!

When a blastocyst implants into a womb, it starts sending hormones into the woman’s body, to command it to help the implanted entity construct a placenta. The placenta is a joint body-organ. In other words, Active External Help is essential for a fully-functional placenta to exist. A drug such as RU-486 can abort the placenta-construction process, and even force the implanted human entity to detach (it will basically now die of starvation). Abortion opponents, of course, vehemently oppose any such drug: “Active External Help is mandatory!” –and so see again the preceding paragraph….

As an alternative to splitting blastocysts apart, we could do the equivalent of an opposite thing, and there is actually a good reason to do the opposite thing. In more detail, we could cut the zona pellucida, making it easy for the whole morula to escape as a single blastocyst. There would never be any identical twins, triplets, etc. NOR would there ever be any “conjoined twins“, which is what happens when an escaping morula first breaks apart into two blastocysts –which in turn partially recombine later. We could prevent a lot of human suffering (conjoined twins), by preventing identical twins from existing in the first place, simply by making it easy for a morula to escape the zona pellucida all-in-one-piece. But would abortion opponents oppose the idea, on the basis that human life is so special and valuable that identical twins must be allowed to exist? Then again see that other paragraph above, about deliberately making quadruplets and more!

There is one more significant thing that can happen at the blastocyst stage, and this involves “fraternal twins“, not identical twins. Two separate ovum-fertilizations eventually can lead to two separate blastocysts in the womb, which sometimes happen to combine (see above about conjoined twins). In this case, though, the combination is far more thorough; the result is usually called a “chimera“. But in all the years since human chimerism was discovered, and we figured out what had happened to cause it, abortion opponents have never started demanding that action be taken to prevent those oh-so-special-and-valuable individually-conceived human lives from merging at the blastocyst stage! So why should their valuation be believed, when they so clearly and hypocritically fail to act in accordance with their claims? OR, they simply don’t fully understand what they are talking about! Remember, if Active External Help was not mandatory (can be refused, such as by using RU-486), then abortion can be allowed!

There are only two more things to discuss in this part of the document. First is the Natural failure rate. Due to defective DNA, a zygote might fail to start dividing, or a morula might fail to crack open the zona pellucida, or a blastocyst might fail to implant into the womb, or a placenta might fail to be formed, or the next menstrual cycle might fail to be prevented, or a “hydatidiform mole” might start to form instead of a normal embryo, or some other thing might go wrong, up to and including “still births” and “anencepahic” babies that usually die shortly after birth. On the average, about two-thirds of all new-formed zygotes Naturally fail to ultimately yield a normal birth. When there is a successful normal birth, the most relevant fact for this document concerns the DNA –every eukaryote type of cell in that newborn human (including cuticle cells) has DNA proven to be non-fatally-defective.

Second is the birth event itself. An unborn human does not claw its way out of the womb! Active External Help is necessary for success!, and usually happens in the form of “labor“, but sometimes a “cesarean section” is done. In theory, and assuming Active External help was not mandatory, an abortion process could be perfectly possible at that late stage; the process would begin by using a “muscle relaxant drug” to stop labor-contractions. Eventually the placenta would detach from the womb, and the unborn human’s brain would shut down from lack of oxygen about 30 seconds afterward, and die from oxygen starvation, painlessly, in less than 10 minutes. Then the corpse could be chopped into pieces that could be removed much more easily than the normal all-at-once of birth. This paragraph exists to once more point out that opposing abortion is entirely equivalent to insisting that “Active External Help is mandatory, whenever unborn human life can benefit from it!”

And now we can return to the subject of cuticle cells. As previously indicated, every eukaryote type of cell in a human body, which descended from the original zygote (like cuticle cells), has essentially the same DNA code as that zygote (we are ignoring random mutations by such things as cosmic rays). There are only three major differences that concern us here, between a cuticle cell and that zygote. First is the fact that the zygote was walled-in by the zona pellucida. This is irrelevant because both the zygote and the cuticle cell have surface areas through which they could equally interact with outside stuff, provided that both had equal access to outside stuff. Second is the fact that the zygote is stuffed with food; this is irrelevant because if the food was outside the cell, and the zona pellucida wasn’t there, the zygote could still access and use the food, just like a cuticle cell normally accesses external food from the bloodstream.

The third difference is the one that is not irrelevant, but it is trivial. The DNA code in a living cell is equivalent to a computer program (“software“). There is a section of DNA code that tells a cell how to be a cuticle cell. And there is a different section of DNA code that tells a cell how to be a zygote. And of course there are lots of other sections of DNA code, suitable for liver cells, heart cells, brain cells, bone cells, and so on. ALL those cells in a human body have the complete set of DNA software, and so one of the key differences between them is, “Which block of DNA code is a cell processing?”.

Let us now imagine that a living cell is equivalent to a machine –which is actually not a huge stretch at all. However, we need to further imagine them as being the “transformer” type of machine popularized in children’s TV shows. That’s because when a stem cell processes DNA code telling it to become a muscle cell, it changes some of its physical characteristics from the stem-cell type. And if a different stem cell processes DNA code telling it to become, say, a white blood cell, then it changes a different set of physical characteristics in order to do that.

A crucial fact, however, is that modern stem-cell researchers have discovered that a cell can be told to once again start processing stem-cell DNA code, and when it actually is told to do that, the cell reverts its physical characteristics back to the characteristics of a stem cell. See why it is sensible to think of cells as equivalent to “transformer” machines? The long-term goal of stem-cell researchers is to figure out exactly how to tell a cell to change the DNA code it normally processes, from any one section to any other section. Converting ordinary cells like stomach cells into stem cells is just the beginning –we want to know how to convert muscle cells to kidney cells on demand, or fat cells into pancreas cells on demand, and more, to fix various health problems.

So let’s once again consider a cuticle cell and a zygote. If the zygote was told to start processing cuticle-cell DNA code, it would transform into a cuticle cell. If a cuticle cell was commanded to start processing zygote DNA code, it would transform into a zygote. (This particular command is why part of this document focused on the statement, “Active External Help is mandatory!“) The two cells are basically entirely equivalent to each other, except for the trivial difference of the section of DNA code that they normally process!

As a slightly simpler analogy than “transformer” machines, consider two ordinary/equivalent computers running the same Operating System, which comes with certain utility software built-in, like say a simple word processing application, or a simple graphic-image editor. If one of the computers is running the word processing app, and the other is running the image editing app, is one computer somehow better than the other, especially when either could easily run the other app?

The primary consequence of understanding the preceding is this: Since abortion opponents call a zygote “human life, special and valuable”, and since a cuticle cell is entirely equivalent to a zygote except for the DNA software it processes, then it logically follows that abortion opponents should be claiming that a cuticle cell is also “human life, special and valuable”! Indeed, the cuticle cell perhaps should be considered more special and valuable than a typical zygote, because as previously mentioned, a typical zygote Naturaly has fatally defective DNA about two-thirds of the time, while the cuticle cell is directly descended from a zygote that didn’t have fatally defective DNA!

Except for one thing. They don’t. In fact, instead of insisting that cuticle cells be given Active External Help to fulfill their potential, many abortion opponents routinely go to beauty salons to get manicures and/or pedicures, during which hundreds of cuticle cells at a time are arbitrarily killed, with no thought whatever given to their human-ness, specialness, or value.

And therefore this document’s goal has been achieved. It has been proved that (1) Abortion opponents don’t know what they are talking about, and (2) Abortion opponents are fundamentally mistaken in claiming all human life is special and valuable.

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