Everyone who studied middle-school chemistry recognizes the prominent chart that hangs in classrooms and laboratories around the world: The Periodic Table of Elements contains the “ingredients” that make up the material universe and addresses the scientific question of what we are made of.
The fact that there is a popular chart that displays what the material universe is made of is powerful and illuminating. Even people who don’t consider themselves science types remember some of the more popular compounds, such as H2O.
The Periodic Table reminds us that even some of the most profound questions—such as what is the universe made of—have simple, well-established answers.
There is another internationally established scientific chart that accurately addresses an equally essential matter: the question of when the life of a human being begins.
When the physical material dimension of a human being—an individual member of the human species—normally begins via sexual reproduction is a fundamental, relevant, and important scientific fact that everyone should know. While the details that human embryologists study are complex, the upshot is remarkably simple and has been documented for decades in the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development and the Carnegie Chart.
Carnegie Stage 1a marks the beginning of a human life.
While understanding the Periodic Table may have few practical applications for the average person, knowing about the Carnegie Chart is relevant to everyone. This empowering information is the very starting point for making informed decisions about human reproduction, about a human embryo and a human fetus, on an individual level—and more broadly speaking in terms of public policies and laws.
Yet, unlike the Periodic Table of Elements, the Carnegie Stages are not being taught in secondary schools and the Carnegie Chart is not hanging on the wall in science classrooms throughout America. And so, unless you are fortunate enough to be a scientist, you have probably never even heard of the Carnegie Chart.
For more than 70 years the field of human embryology (the branch of biology that specializes in the beginning of life and early development) has documented when a human life begins in the Carnegie Chart. Human embryologists view the Carnegie Stages and Chart as physicists view the Periodic Table, it’s their gold standard.
The Carnegie Chart contains the 23 Stages of development of the early human being during the embryonic period, beginning at fertilization and through slightly more than 8 full weeks post-fertilization. The Chart is based on the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development—the accurate, objective, and empirical scientific facts of human embryology that were instituted in 1942 by the National Museum of Health and Medicine’s Human Developmental Anatomy Center (a secular government organization that is a part of the National Institutes of Health). The Carnegie Stages are verified annually by a global committee of experts (called FIPAT) and are required to be included in every genuine human embryology textbook worldwide.
Human embryologists know that in normal human sexual reproduction a new, whole, individual, living human being begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization (first contact between the plasma membrane of the sperm and the plasma membrane of the oocyte/”egg”), in a woman’s fallopian tube, and that the new human organism/human being is called a human embryo. This simple scientific fact is documented as Carnegie Stage 1a in the Carnegie Chart. (*The “zygote” is Stage 1c, by the way and is not when a human life starts).
When a human life begins is a fact that the scientific experts have known and documented for a very long time, and all of us should and can know too, because the Carnegie Stages and Chart are available to everyone, not just to human embryologists.
Brooke Stanton is the founder and CEO of Contend Projects.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard