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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part II: The Seed of Woman

Chapter 18

The Seed Of The Woman And The Seed Of The Man

 
I will put enmity between thee (Satan)
and the woman,
between thy seed
and her seed;
it shall bruise thy head.
(Genesis 3:15)


    When Darwin formulated his theory of Natural Selection, it seemed obvious to him, and he easily persuaded many of his contemporaries, that any living thing which acquired a particular advantage over its competitors during its life time, would automatically pass that benefit on to its young by inheritance. Thus by a process akin to compound interest, the gains of each new generation were added to those of the last and linear progress in the development of higher and higher forms of life was guaranteed.
     Any such supposed advantage accruing to an individual as the result of life experience is generally referred to as an Acquired Characteristic. For example, the man who becomes a blacksmith and develops tremendous arm and shoulder muscles would automatically endow his children with a superior physique, even though he himself may have been something of a weakling as a child. One of the strongest advocates of the inheritance of such acquired characteristics was the French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck (17441829).
    The fact seemed obvious and essential if any progress was to be made in improving the species of animals of particular value to man,

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and superficially there seemed to be a great deal of evidence in support of it. Darwin was confident that he had the mechanism he needed to make his hypothesis workable even when applied to human society. But towards the end of the last century it was becoming increasingly apparent that Lamarck was mistaken, that acquired characteristics are either not inherited at all or so rarely that the assumed linear progress of life through geological ages could not be attributed to the operation of any such mechanism.
    Moreover, it quickly became obvious that there were many examples in human history of "mutilations" persistently practiced by men upon their fellows for centuries which nevertheless were not inherited. Chinese girls, from time immemorial, had their feet tightly bound because it was felt that small feet added to a woman's beauty, yet Chinese babies were still born with normal feet
(187)
    One of the most famous experiments of this nature in which an attempt was made to demonstrate whether mutilation of the parents could lead to defective offspring, was carried out by August Weismann (18341914), Professor of Biology at the University of Freiburg and Breisgau, whose chief interest was in Embryology. Weismann cut off the tails of hundreds of rats, generation after generation, but never succeeded in getting any baby rats born without tails. Some witty individual with a literary background and inspired by Shakespeare observed, "There is a divinity doth shape their ends, rough hew them though we may!"
    Weismann's conclusion, based almost entirely upon reflection rather than on experiment, was that every body carried within itself in some kind of concentrated form a deposit of hereditary substance which he termed "the germ plasm."
(188) This was the reservoir of specialized material out of which the elements of the next generation would be derived. He believed that unless external influences broke through the defenses surrounding this reservoir of germ plasm, there would be no transmission of any characters acquired during the life time of the parent. Such characters affected only the body of the parent and not his or her germ plasm. If such characters acquired during life did show up in the offspring, it must be presumed that somehow the influence of these characters had penetrated the defenses and reached the germ plasm. He even went so far as to hypothesize that the germ plasm was particulate in nature, the particles each in some way being carriers of an inheritable factor. He knew nothing about genes at the time, a fact which makes his insight all the more remarkable.
    Commenting on this apparent resistance to change which is built into all living things, Sir Julian Huxley, in 1938, said,
(189)

Can the hereditary constitution be permanently changed by the environment? It is clear that theoretically it should be possible to

187. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 19).
188. Weismann, August, Essays Upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems, translated by E. B. Poulton, S. Schonland and A. E. Shipley, Oxford University Press, 1889, vol.1, p.419ff.
189. Huxley, Sir Julian, "Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics" in Essays in Popular Science, Penguin, 1938, p.36, 37.

     pg 2 of 29      

induce such changes. The hereditary constitution is seen to be something material which only our lack of knowledge prevents us from defining chemically; and as such it must be possible for us to alter it. The remarkable fact, however, is its stubbornness in resistance to alteration.
     Sixty-nine generations of flies bred in the dark and yet no alteration in their eyes or their instincts with regard to light. Ninety generations in an attempt to raise their resistance to heat by acclimatization and selection without results. Indefinite time spent by dandelions in the lowlands not preventing their immediately reacting to mountain conditions by changing size and form and proportion and vice versa on replanting from mountain to plain. . . .
    In spite of all the work that has been done, we have only established the very definite certainty that to a great many apparently outward influences the germ plasm is quite unresponsive.

    Professor Raymond Pearl of Johns Hopkins University, after outlining experiments which involved the controlled breeding of over 300 generations of one species of fly, concluded: (190)

     [This is] perhaps the longest bit of controlled breeding ever carried out with the result in each successive generation carefully observed and precisely recorded. Allowing 30 years as a round figure for the average duration of a human generation, the time equivalent in human reproduction of this experiment would be of the order of 9000 years . . . considerably longer than the total span of man's even dimly recorded history.

     The objective of this experiment was, of course, to see whether it would be possible in any way to influence the germ plasm by various manipulations of the environment. Raymond Pearl summed up the situation by saying, "the demonstration of the inherent stability of the genic mechanism of heredity that this experiment has given is extremely impressive." (190)
    Now the explanation for this negative conclusion is owing to a large extent to the work of Weismann. Quite early in his professional career as an embryologist, he began to find that he could no longer continue his research in developmental physiology due to failing eyesight which seriously restricted his use of a microscope. As a result, he turned to the theoretical aspects of his subject with remarkably beneficial consequences in terms of our subsequent understanding of the earliest stages in the development of the fertilized ovum. His basic conclusions have since been "substantiated to a surprising degree by the work in genetics in succeeding years," as Robert Briggs and Thomas King have observed.
(191)
    The fertilization of the ovum by a spermatozoon initiates a process of development in which the seed begins to multiply until a certain number of cells are formed, all of which appear to share the constitution

190. Pearl, Raymond, "Biology and Human Trends," Smithsonian Institute Report for 1935, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., Publication #3364, Washington, 1936, p.331.
191. See in Notes at the end of this chapter (page 20)

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and totipotency * of the ovum itself. Then, for reasons which are only just now beginning to be understood, further division of some of these cells is accompanied by a change in their constitution which may be due to their reduced size or their orientation with respect to the rest of the cells, or to chemical alteration, or to internal re-organization related to the time lapsed since the process of cleavage began. (192) It has been proposed by Christian P. Raven that the cytoplasm has begun to develop a complicated spatial structure due to a re-orientation of its contents as it ages or due to some genuinely new structures arising as a result of chemical reactions taking place in the egg. At any rate, the various parts of the egg, which were all alike before, now begin to show differences in chemical composition. (193) Weismann rightly surmised that some such change signalled the beginning of the emergence of body cells, the rest of the original cells meanwhile preserving their character specifically as germ cells. Thus the germ cells give rise to the germ cells or seed of the next generation: while the body cells give rise to the organs of reproduction which will house them and see to their ultimate fertilization, as well as to the body of which these organs form a part. The body cells merely serve as the arena in which this reproductive process is brought to maturity. Thus is carried forward the germ plasm from generation to generation in an unbroken chain. The body cells are built out of, and by, the germ cells or germ plasm; the germ plasm is not built out of the body. It was this basic hypothesis which was perhaps Weismann's most important contribution. It is commonly termed "the continuity of the germ plasm".
     The following diagram (Fig. 7) may help to show what is really involved here, underscoring the rather humbling fact that the body is


Fig. 7. Seed gives rise to Seed.

 

* Totipotency: the ability of a cell to multiply into a whole organism.
192. See Note at the end of this chapter (page 20).
193. Raven, Christian P., An Outline of Developmental Physiology, translated by L. de Ruiter, New York, McGraw Hill, 1954, p.62.

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almost incidental, being merely the housing for the seed; whereas the seed is the only truly continuing element.
     Generation after generation, bodies die and return to the dust, but the seed continues in an unbroken line reaching, in fact, uncorrupted in the woman from Adam to Mary and of course it still continues to perpetuate itself.
    The simplest way of explaining how physical death has passed upon all men through man is to assume that in natural generation the corruption which finally overwhelms the bodies of men and women alike is introduced to the ovum via the male seed but does not actually take effect until the stage of embryonic development has been reached at which these differentiated body cells have begun to form. The mortogenic factor has apparently had no influence upon the germ plasm of the woman but only upon the germ plasm of the man. By contrast, it does have its deadly influence upon the differentiating body cells of BOTH the male and female embryo once the body cells begin to form by diverging in their constitution from the germ plasm. In short, the germ plasm of the male, and the bodies of both males and females, are mortalized. But the germ plasm of the female remains immortal.
    That such a mechanism might be responsible for changes in cells subsequently derived from the germ plasm was suggested by Weismann. In 1881 he wrote:
(194)

    It may be objected that cells of which the ancestors possessed the power of living forever could not become potentially mortal either suddenly or gradually, for such a change would contradict the supposition which attributes immortality to their ancestors and to the products of their division. This argument is valid, but it only applies so long as the descendants retain their original constitution. As soon as the two products of fission of a potentially immortal cell acquire different constitutions by unequal fission, another possibility arises. It is conceivable that one of the products of fission might preserve the physical constitution necessary for immortality, but not the other [my emphasis]

     Weismann certainly did not have in view the context presently under discussion, but his perceptive mind led him to a conclusion which is very relevant to the issue. We have a situation in which two lines of cells, both with the potential of immortality, are housed in the bodies of two people (Adam and Eve) who subsequently surrender the immortality of their bodies. The immediate cause of this loss of immortality is a poison which is fatal to all body cells. The same poison also proves fatal to the male spermatozoa which will later be generated out of this germ plasm. Unlike the oocytes in the female which are already formed at the time of birth, spermatozoa are

194. Weismann, August, "Upon the Eternal Duration of Life" in Essays Upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems, translated by E. B. Poulton, S. Schonland and A. E. Shipley, Oxford University Press, 1889, vol.1, p.139.

     pg.5 of 29     

manufactured throughout the adult life of the male. They are apparently susceptible to the influence of body cells, especially those of the tissues which generate them.
    When any attempt is made artificially to promote self-replication and further development of a single spermatozoon, the results are negative. The sperm are not viable for more than a few days unless fused with the ovum. But when the female ovum is treated suitably (at least in the animal world below man), it may develop into a mature organism. It is capable, therefore, of replicating itself indefinitely, even in the absence of fusion with a spermatozoon. When this is observed in nature it is referred to as parthenogenesis, meaning essentially virgin conception leading to virgin birth. The fact of parthenogenesis is clearly established for the female seed:
(195) the same cannot be said to have been observed for the male seed.
    The ovum is, in fact, a unicellular organism. And by virtue of its ability to replicate itself indefinitely under appropriate conditions, it must be assumed to have retained the same kind of physical immortality which other unicellular organisms (like amoeba or paramecia, for example) still enjoy. By contrast, although the individual spermatozoon has all the appearance of a highly active and extremely complex unicellular organism, it does not have the power to replicate itself, and therefore does not enjoy a like physical immortality. It does not behave like a unicellular organism.
    Sometimes it is argued that the proportion of cytoplasm surrounding the nucleus of the male spermatozoon is too small to supply it with the energy reservoir necessary to enable it to replicate itself. As a consequence, the nucleus cannot survive for more than 2436 hours or so, unless it is fused with the ovum: it simply runs out of energy. The female seed has several thousand times
(196) as much food available to supply the energy for cleavage because it is so much larger, though the nucleus itself is no larger than in the male seed. To test whether this is true, the male nucleus has been experimentally transferred by microsurgery into an enucleated ovum in order to supply it with adequate energy. (197) The results, however, have been disappointing. The spermatozoon nucleus still cannot perpetuate itself beyond a few divisions. It is thus apparent that there is a profound difference in the constitution of these two seeds in respect to their potential immortality. Both will, or course, die if not housed appropriately according to their nature, but whereas the mammalian ovum can with surprising ease be made to divide and multiply (198) and grow into a whole animal (though always a female) (199), the male spermatozoon cannot.
     Whatever the nature of the defect in the male seed brought about by the entrance of the poison, it is almost certainly the channel by

195. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 21).
196. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 22)
197. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 22).
198. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 23).
199. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 24).

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which the mortogenic factor is introduced into the ovum at the time of conception, even though the effect itself is not felt in the presumptive organism until the multiplying cells begin the process of differentiation for the express purpose of forming body cells. (200)
     Now Weismann set forth this theory of the "continuity of the germ plasm" in the following way (Fig. 8):

 


Fig. 8. Each seed gives rise to nother seed and to the body which houses it.

 

     With remarkably few modifications, his conclusions have stood the test of time. (201) His thinking triggered the somewhat facetious remark which is often made to freshmen students when they are first introduced to these concepts: "The hen is merely the egg's way of laying another egg." The thought is a depressing one if man himself is viewed merely as a plaything of Nature, a by-product of a process bent upon a blind course of species improvement without respect to the worth of the individual. For the individual becomes simply one stage in an entirely impersonal process. As Kenneth Walker put it rather effectively: (202)

     All that the somatic cells, which form the main bulk of man's body are really called upon to do is to provide a refuge in which the immortal cells . . . can find temporary lodging and sustenance. It is a little bit discouraging to our self esteem to be looked upon as merely useful wallets for conveying the valuable germ plasm down the ages.

     It is, then, a simple fact that the body does not generate the ova (in which case the ova would inevitably have become heir to the defect of the body) but the ovum generates the body. As Professor A. S. Pearse put it, "through a series of divisions a germ cell gives rise to a body or soma and to new germ cells. The latter, and not the body, give rise to the next generation." (203) It appears that this mechanism is by no means limited to human generation. It is a phenomenon of very wide occurrence in sexually reproductive organisms below man. Alfred Huettner describes this process as it occurs in the roundworm: (204)

200. B. Bacetti and B. A. Afzelius, in their definitive study of the sperm cell [op. cit., ref. #122], have remarked specifically upon the very high percentage of defective sperm. See further on this Note #217 at the end of this chapter (page 27).
201. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 24).
202. Walker, Kenneth, Meaning and Purpose, London, Penguin, 1950, p.63.
203. Pearse, A. S., General Zoology, New York, Henry Holt, 1930, p.379.
204. Huettner, Alfred F., Fundamentals of Comparative Embryology of the Vertebrates, New York, Macmillan, revised edition, 1968, p.6,7.

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     In certain forms, as for example in Ascaris, the single primordial germ cell is set aside in the second cleavage of the ovum, and while this cell continues to divide it does so at a retarded rate. The other cells keep on cleaving at their usual rate and eventually form the body or soma of the animal, while the retarded germ cells become enclosed in the body to develop the gonads. . . . It is the function of these somatic cells to carry the germ plasm and nourish and protect it. The somatoplasm has to die some time and revert to the inorganic world. The germ plasm, however, is protected by and parasitic on the somatoplasm and is immortal so long as, during the life of the individual, one or a number of cells from the germ plasm (the gonad) with the total number of determinants is liberated and becomes activated by fertilization or by parthenogenesis and develops again into germ plasm (gonad) and somatoplasm (body) in the next generation and so ad infinitum.

     Sir Charles Sherrington has a beautiful free-flowing passage describing this situation. Coming as it does from a man whose life was spent largely in medical research and whose reputation was international, his words so eloquently expressed are doubly worth pondering. Nor has recent research required their modification since they were penned. As applied to human beings his statement is still correct. He wrote: (205)

     In its earliest stages the embryo's cells are not notably different one from another. Later . . . they become so in spite of being by descent all members of one family. . . .
     To this there seems at first sight one exception, one cell-type which, out of all the myriads, alone remains its original self and does not specialize. It retains the old original nature of the ancestral cell. Its sisters and their progeny pass on through chains of metamorphoses to form a world of different shapes and activities. But this one persists still unmodified and true to its own primitive forebear. . . .
     All its sisters with their flights into far-fetched specializations, including the brain with its mysteries of mind, are powerless to produce again a germ such as they sprang from. From no one of them all, let them be ever so human, can any fertilization produce their like again in the shape of man or human child. . . .
     From the old ancestral cell one narrow derivative line of descendants, nested in the rest of the immense collateral progeny, retains its original germinal and general nature: and this, even, has to ripen. Significantly enough, it then sets itself free from all the others. And so on from generation to generation.

    It is therefore clear that these germ cells constitute a very slender thread in the continuity of immortality, for the initial cell (the fertilized ovum) retains its own identity for between two and five doublings (depending upon the species) before differentiated cells begin to appear which can no longer be considered as part of the original germ plasm. These few pure germ cells will continue to replicate themselves

205. Sherrington, Sir Charles, Man on His Nature, Cambridge, 1950, p.94, 95.

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in isolation, though at a much slower rate, but for a short interval of time the stream of immortality is entrusted to a tiny handful of cells.
     The expert in these matters will not need elaboration of this circumstance but the layman may find it helpful, in visualizing how the ovum provides for its own continuity, to have the following summary statement.
      The sperm penetrates the ovum and shortly thereafter the ovum begins to divide into two cells, then each of these divide again and we have four cells. Shortly, there are eight and then sixteen, and so it grows into a ball of cells called a morula. A fluid-filled hollow develops and the whole growing mass assumes the form of a kind of thin-shelled ball like an orange peel without the orange inside. This is the blastocyst stage. The blastocyst then collapses on itself, looking rather like an air-filled ball with a small hole in it that has been stepped on and stays that way. In time, various parts of the structure begin to develop differently and the foundations for the reproductive system begin to emerge in what is called the genital ridge, which is approximately where the rubber ball indented and tended to close up the fold. Meanwhile, the germ cells have kept themselves apart in one place, multiplying slowly. Once the blood vessels and a kind of circulation system is in operation, these germ cells which have still retained their integrity migrate via the vascular system by a form of amoeboid motion towards the area of the genital ridge. When the gonads finally form in this area, they are invaded by the germ cells which then take up residence there. The gonads themselves now begin to develop as testes or ovaries, depending more or less on the chromosomal sex of the original germ cells.
     It will be remembered that the presence of the X or Y chromosome determines whether the medulla or the cortex of the gonads will grow at the expense of the alternative and therefore whether testes or ovaries will form. These glands, once the decision is made as to which they shall become, begin to secrete hormones which act upon the maturing fetus to cause the appropriate internal reproductive organs to form, and later the appropriate external genitalia. By full term, the female fetus has its internal reproductive organs (ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, etc.) all essentially complete and supplied with a full quota of oocytes which, one by one, will later mature and be released as fully prepared ova throughout the whole fertile period of the woman's life.
      If one wanted to think in purely biological terms, one might now convert a previous popular observation to read, "the woman is merely the ovum's way of creating another ovum." This is so because the seed of the woman perpetuates itself in a very special way as we shall see in the next chapter.

     pg.9 of 29     


     Now various figures are given for the number of "pure" germ cells (from 16 to 32) after which further cleavage results in the appearance of the first somatic cells. (206) Of Ascaris megalocephala, Alfred Kuhn says that the first somatic cells appear at the fourth cleavage when there are 16 cells present. The experimental evidence is sometimes contradictory but it suggests a basic pattern: the differentiation of mortal cells from immortal cells is made very early in development. (207)
      Thus the germ cells do not continue their uninterrupted development for very long. They soon throw off differential cells which signal the development of body tissues. But at the same time they preserve themselves as a reservoir of germ plasm throughout the life of the organism.
      The subsequent history of the developing germ plasm in the female is, however, different from that of the male germ plasm. As J. Money and A. A. Ehrhardt observe:
(208)

     At birth the normal pair of ovaries is said to have between 300,000 and 400,000 ova, of which approximately 300 to 400 will eventually go through the process of ovulation. The billions of sperm produced by the testes are not all present at birth as ova are believed to be, but are produced new throughout life.

     Now this basic fact of the continuity of the germ plasm has been set forth diagrammatically in a number of ways by various authorities since Weismann's time. In a paper entitled, "The Third Stage in Genetics," Donald Michie has the following figure showing in a simplified way two opposing views of the fate of the germ plasm from generation to generation. (209) I have modified his drawing slightly in order to make its meaning more self-evident to those who find diagrams difficult.


Fig. 9. Two opposing views of the fate of the seed as it passes from generation to gneration.


206. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 25).
207. Kuhn, Alfred, Lectures in Developmental Physiology, translated by Roger Milkman, New York, Springer-Verlag, 1971, p.481.
208. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 25).
209. Michie, Donald, "The Third Stage in Genetics", in A Century of Darwin, edited by S. A. Barnett, London, Heineman, 1958, p.57.

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     In Fig. 9 (a) the germ seed gives rise to a body which then gives rise to a germ seed. The latter then gives rise to a second generation body which in turn generates a second generation seed. And so the process goes on indefinitely. The important thing is that in this view the body really is giving rise to the seed. It is a view which was commonly held until the time of Weismann. In Fig. 9 (b) the situation is really quite different, for the initial germ seed gives rise to the next germ seed and to a body, the germ seed and the body thus generated being almost independent entities. This is not quite true and to this extent the diagram is unsatisfactory except in so far as it tends to point up the two different concepts very nicely. It is not quite true in so far as the seed is dependent upon the body to house it.
     A more truly representative diagram is that which Sir Alister Hardy presents in his This Living Stream, re-drawn as Fig.10.
(210) In this view the initial germ seed gives rise both to the seed of the next generation and to the body. The seed is shown after migration into the body that is to house it.

 

210. Hardy, Sir Alister, This Living Stream, London, Collins, 1965, p.76.

     pg.11 of 29     


     The next figure is re-drawn from an article written by Fischberg and Blackler based strictly on experimental observation. (211) The initial germ plasm multiplies to the 8 cell stage by which time one or two cells have been partially isolated and are shown as solid dots. These cells, in the next stage, double and become effectively isolated. In due time these isolated cells become the gonad germ cells in the mature organism (in the Gall midge).

    It may help, finally, to bring this series of figures "home," as it were, by re-drawing an illustration from Fritz Kahn in his Man in Structure and Function, in which the same basic pattern of continuity is transferred to the human context. (212)

     Fritz Kahn published his book about 35 years ago and it might be thought that it would now be seriously out of date. In his discussion of this diagram, however, the facts remain essentially as he has described them. His work is still a very useful textbook, and the illustrations are both imaginative and effective for the communication of what is highly complex. He explains his diagram as follows: 

211. Fischberg, M. and A. W. Blackler, "How Cells Specialize," Scientific American, Sept., 1961, p.134.
212. Kahn, Fritz, Man in Structure and Function, New York, Knopf, 1960, vol.2, p.704, 705.

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     The life of man begins at the moment when the paternal sperm cell unites with the maternal egg to form the egg-sperm cell that is the conceptus (a). Through the union of the two chemically different cells an otherwise unknown vital energy is developed. The egg-sperm cell divides rapidly into 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and finally into millions and billions of cells, thus giving rise to man. Not all the cells participate in the development of the body, however. Of the first four cells, one is retarded in its growth (b). This quarter of the body which is laid aside during the first hours of human development forms the sex cells (c), and in its totality the sex gland (d). Each of the four primordial cells possesses a certain supply of energy like a charged storage battery. The three body cells use up this energy during youth: with this energy they build up and develop the body (e). Their growth energy lasts for about twenty years. Then growth ceases. As long as the body cells grow, they inhibit the energy of the sex gland. After this inhibitory influence has been removed, the sex gland begins to produce cells (f). . . .  During youth the body cells multiply while the sex cells rest. At the time of maturity the sex cells multiply and the body cells rest. . . .
     Because of the division of the body into body and sex cells, man is not a unitary organism, but rather a kind of double creature, consisting of himself and his sex cells. . . .  The sex cells do not belong to us (as individuals) but rather to the entire species. . . .  The sex cells are the truly immortal element in us, as Plato already sensed when he wrote, "The mortal creature harbors an immortal element. . . ."

     It may be difficult to believe that any line of mortal creatures could convey from generation to generation a continuing stream of immortal cells without ultimately corrupting them. But evidently this really is what takes place. C. E. McClung tells us: (213)

     A germ cell of one individual generation . . . becomes detached and forms a complete organism of the next generation. By some insulating device [emphasis ACC] the germinal elements within the gonad do not participate in the somatic processes, but merely perpetuate themselves. [But] on being freed from this inhibition [the insulating device] they are freed from the limited role of mere germ cells and may perform through their descendants all somatic activities.


     But by nature, and if not experimentally interfered with, these germ cells are, as V. H. Mottram put it, "the only physically immortal things" in our bodies. (214)
     Again, I would modify this statement slightly by noting that it is really the sex cells in the female line that are "the only physically immortal things." The statement does, however, show how widely it is recognized that at the very root of our individual existence there is an immortal constituent, the seed of the woman.
     Weismann, almost a century ago, in an essay published originally

213. McClung, C. E., quoted by Susanne Langer, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 1967, vol.1, p.408, footnote.
214. Mottram, V. H., The Physical Basis of Personality, London, Penguin, 1949, p.25.

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under the title Uber die Ewigheit des Lebens, i.e., "Upon the Eternal Duration of Life," wrote (as we have already notedin chapter 1), "The immortality of the unicellular organism has passed over only to the ova or spermatozoa, the other [cells] must die, and since the body of the individual is chiefly composed of them, it must die also." Again, I would only modify Weismann's statement by excluding the spermatozoa.
     So the seed of the woman dies with the woman because it is thus robbed of its home, even as seeds die month by month if not fertilized by the sperm, being rejected from the female body and to all intents and purposes killed in the process. In any case they do not die because it is their nature to do so or because they have limited energy. It is, as we have seen, remarkably easy in animals to trigger the seed into mitotic activity and thus to perpetuate itself indefinitely. Once so stimulated, the ovum will under appropriate conditions go on to full term in a viable form. There is considerable controversy, on the other hand, as to whether parthenogenesis in this sense has ever occurred in a woman, though there have been a number of claims made by unwed mothers with respect to the birth of supposedly fatherless daughters.
(215)


     Now all this has a direct bearing upon the present theme. Having been endowed with immortality, Adam and Eve acquired mortality. And, which is significant from a physiological point of view, their offspring inherited this acquired character. We have here therefore a clear case of something which actually happened that, until comparatively recent times, was ruled out as an impossibility. It has been the traditional wisdom among geneticists for about a hundred years that acquired characters are not inherited. Yet here was an acquired character that "passed upon all men" (Romans 5:12). It seems rather strange to me that no Christian biologist has given much thought to the matter. Indeed, it has taken a man actually opposed to the Christian view to note this unusual circumstance. Sir Gavin de Beer, an outstanding evolutionist in England, when reviewing the book Mankind Evolving by Theodosius Dobzhansky, makes this remark:
(216)

     One wonders if Pauline theologians realize that the doctrine of original sin involves the inheritance of an acquired character, for only genes can be inherited and, by the nature of the case, neither Adam nor Eve when they first appeared on the scene possessed the character they are alleged to have transmitted to all their descendants.

     To all their descendants, save ONE! And here, if Sir Gavin had taken the thought seriously, is a further great truth which might have provoked him to think even more deeply upon the subject. For it is

215. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 26).
216. de Beer, Sir Gavin, reviewing Theodosius Dobzhansky, Mankind Evolving in Scientific American, Sept., 1962, p.268.

     pg.14 of 29     

evident that the acquired character of Eden was indeed transmitted and must therefore have ultimately reached the germ plasm. The only mechanism which will satisfy all the conditions thus laid down in Scripture is one which assumes that the transmission was effected via the male seed only. Luther and Calvin and now Barth have all recognized this fact. De Beer's comment is therefore not entirely correct.
     Now each spermatozoon is a single-celled organism of highly complex structure and form. It is not only the smallest cell in the body but quite possibly also the most complicated in its organization. In its head-piece, it has a nucleus containing the genes, suspended in a pool of surrounding cytoplasm containing a number of minute structures of various kinds called organelles (i.e., tiny organs), the whole being sheathed in a membrane like a soft shell, and provided with a quite complex tail portion by which a high degree of motility is achieved. Fig.13 gives a good idea of its complexity.

 

     It is now believed that within the cytoplasm and among the minute particles which are suspended in it, there are certain carriers of hereditary

     pg.15 of 29     

material which have been termed plasmagenes. (217) These cytoplasmic "genes" are distinct from the nuclear genes which hitherto have been assumed the sole carriers of heredity, and they appear to be (unlike the nuclear genes) susceptible to influences outside the cell. Since there is constant interaction between the nucleus and the cytoplasm of each cell it is possible for environmental influences, by this route, to reach the hereditary material and effect modifications in all subsequent generations. It is possible that the fact of the continuous production of mature spermatozoa throughout the adult fertile life of the male may expose them to such influences in a way that the ova are not.
    In the male the primordial germ cells are present from the very beginning (as in the female embryo) but the complex free-living organism which is the mature spermatozoon (short-lived though it is) is continuously being manufactured from puberty and throughout adult life by extensive modification of the germ plasm cells.
(218) And these mature spermatozoa are produced in the hundreds of millions. This fact may account for the greater accessibility of these cells to influences from the body which manufactures and houses them. And the fact that the spermatozoon actually penetrates into and becomes absorbed in and fused with the ovum makes it a potential pathway into the ova for male body cell influences.
    Thus although the woman may have been the first to introduce the fatal poison into her body cells, she did not by that act poison her own seed, but the poison of death does enter through the male seed into the seed of the woman by the fusion of the two. By such a mechanism the poison in Adam's body may have reached his seed, and via the cytoplasm of the seed the poison is by fusion with the female seed passed on to the embryo.


     Now the substance of what we have been discussing in this chapter may be stated as follows. As we trace the history of biological theory with respect to the mechanism of inheritance, we find Lamarck arguing that any animal which responded to the challenges of the environment by developing structures or instincts or chemical responses which gain for it an advantage in the struggle to survive, was in a position to further the chances of survival of its descendants by passing these gains on by inheritance. The key doctrine here was that acquired characters were inherited. It seemed self-evident and necessary that this should be so in view of the apparent progress of life, and it very reasonably accounted for the steady improvement in the breeding of animals of particular interest to man. It only remained therefore to unravel the mechanism whereby acquired characters were transmitted. 

217. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page 27)
218. Hancock, J. L., "The Sperm Cell," Science Journal June, 1970, p.32.

     pg.16 of 29     


     It soon became apparent that this obvious "fact" was not true after all. Acquired characters did not seem to be inherited, or if they were, the mechanism was certainly not a simple one. Once this was acknowledged, all kinds of every day illustrations sprang to mind and made the older Lamarckian view seem patently absurd: mutilated parents do not bear mutilated offspring daughters of Chinese mothers whose feet had been bound from childhood bore normal daughters, circumcised fathers did not beget circumcised sons, the blacksmith could have as many puny infants as anyone else. A new law was therefore announced: "Acquired characters are not inherited." And all biologists accepted this new law at its face value.
      A few biologists with Christian convictions were disturbed by the new "law" because they could see that real problems were created in our understanding of the events which occurred in Eden. Mortality was acquired by man, yet it was inherited. To quote Romans 5:12 again, "Death entered . . . and passed upon all men." This was an essential aspect of the Fall of man and his need for redemption. Was the Bible in error?
    By the prodigious labours and elegant methods of research of a number of geneticists and microbiologists, the mechanism is now becoming clear. This research begins to show that there are certain conditions under which an acquired character can, after all, be inherited not via the nuclear genes but by something analogous to them in the surrounding cytoplasm termed plasmagenes. The resistance to change in the germ plasm is due to the fact that it is not derived from the body cells cells which are responsive to changes during life. It was this fact that made it so difficult to see how the germ cells could be influenced by what happens to the parents. It is the plasmagenes that respond to influences, not the germ plasm.
    But it now appears that although the male germ cells, like the ova, are derived from the germ cells of the parent body and not from the body cells, these male germ cells are susceptible to the subsequent influence of the body cells in a way that the female germ cells are not. The end result is that by this roundabout way some acquired characters, whether hurtful or harmless, seem to be inheritable in mammals through the male seed. The pathway is from body cells to male germ cell cytoplasm, and from the male germ cell cytoplasm to the female seed by fusion at the time of fertilization. And thence these modifications appear in body cells of the resulting offspring both male and female. And these steps are repeated generation after generation so long as the seed of the woman is fertilized by the seed of the man.
     But if the seed of the woman could be activated without fertilization by the seed of man, it must be supposed that the result would be the emergence of an individual escaping the mortogenic factor  

     pg.17 of 29     


which Adam bequeathed via his seed to all subsequent generations. Such an offspring would recover in his person the original physical immortality with which Adam was endowed at his creation.

     In short, to summarize a long and complex chapter, it may be said that the seed of the woman is the only remnant that has retained the original immortality possessed by our first parents. By contrast, the seed of man and the body cells of both the man and the woman have been mortalized. Furthermore, even the seed of the woman is fatally poisoned by fusion with the male seed.
   However, this poison affects only that portion of the woman's seed which will develop into body cells: the remainder of her seed continues to form the immortal stream of germ plasm. Only if an ovum from this germ plasm reservoir can be fertilized by some means not natural to man can a body with the original endowment of potential immortality be recovered again.

     pg.18 of 29     


NOTES 

187. (See page 2) Many of the examples of acquired characters that seem to have become inheritable which are now being discussed by such men as Waddington, seem to me of dubious value because they could be viewed equally well as preadaptations. This is true of the thickening of the soles of the feet in the human fetus. It was noted by Darwin and elaborated upon subsequently by R. Semon [Arch. mikr. Anat., vol.82,1913, p.164ff.], and it has since been discussed by C. H. Waddington in an article entitled "The Evolution of Adaptations" [Endeavour, 12 July, 1953, p.136]. Among evolutionists, it is customary to point to this phenomenon as having resulted from the bipedal locomotion of man which has had the effect of toughening the soles of his feet, an advantageous acquired character which is then inherited after millennia of use. The human fetus now therefore is born already prepared for walking, in this respect, according to this view.
     Waddington refers to a similar situation in connection with the ostrich. This bird has two conveniently located callosities on its breast which bear the brunt of friction and pressure when the bird squats on the ground. According to Waddington, these callosities have become inherited and they are therefore found to be already formed during foetal development ["Experiments in Acquired Characteristics," Scientific American, Dec., 1953, p.92f.]. However, this particular case is not as straightforward as Waddington makes it appear, for as Sir Gavin de Beer has pointed out, the ostrich is born with other similar callosities which it cannot make use of at all [Embryos and Ancestors, Oxford University Press, 1951, p.87]. It could therefore be argued that we have here a case of the accidental development of callosities due possibly to some gene mutation, two only of which callosities happen to be of some use to the animal.
     A somewhat analogous situation has been observed in man in the form of so-called squatting facets of the Indians of Punjab. These Indians easily assume a restful squatting position which the European finds difficult, because of a modification of the bone structure of the tibia. No such modification is ever found among chair-users, according to Wood Jones [quoted by Kenneth Walker, Meaning and Purpose, London, Penguin, 1951, p.154], but the Punjabis are born with them. Is this, then, an acquired character that has become inheritable or is it merely that they have made use of a chance modification once they discovered its advantages?
     Such proposed examples of inherited acquired characters have, it seems to me, doubtful validity. On the other hand, there is much experimental evidence on the genuine inheritance of acquired characters in many forms of life from the simplest to the more complex which seem most easily to be accounted for by assuming that they are inherited cytoplasmicly rather than via the nuclear genes. Some further observations on this point will be found in a later reference, #217.
     One of the most eloquent supporters in recent times of what may be called Neo-Lamarckism was the English naturalist, Professor F. Wood Jones. In his Trends of Life, he has a whole chapter titled, "The Inheritance of Adaptations," which is well worth examining [London, Arnold, 1953]. And in the same year, Dr. Carlos Monge reported an impressive example of what seems clearly to be a case of an acquired character being inherited in man. Monge found that Andean highlanders had developed considerably larger chests, presumably a compensation for the rarefied atmosphere in which they live. The interesting thing is that many of their descendants who came down and have now lived along the sea-coast for many generations, still have the same large deep chests and broad shoulders of the highlanders. If this were simply a superficial response of the highlanders to the need for an increased lung capacity, one would expect it to disappear quickly in their lowland descendants. That it has not done so, seems to indicate that the character became inheritable ["Biological Basis of Human Behaviour" in Anthropology Today, edited by A. L. Kroeber, Chicago University Press, 1953, p.127ff.]. Why this lung enlargement should become heritable but not the blacksmith's muscular build, is hard to say. The mechanism is obviously not a simple one.

     pg.19 of 29     


191. (See page 3) Briggs, Robert and Thomas King, "Nucleoplasmic Interactions in Eggs and Embryos" in The Cell: Biochemistry, Physiology, and Morphology, edited by J. Brachet and A. E. Mirsky, New York, Academic Press, vol.1, 1959, p.539.
     There is some evidence that some of the body cells retain the full potential of the germ cells. Writing in Science under the heading "Some Characteristics of a Continuously Propagating Cell Derived from Monkey Heart Tissue," J. E. Salk and Elsie N. Wood report that it has been possible by the right techniques to isolate heart tissue cells and induce them to go on multiplying indefinitely [Science, vol.126, 1967, p.1338]. The phenomenon suggests that some of the potential for immortality which is characteristic of germ cells may have been retained even by the body cells which have differentiated some distance from the originating germ plasm.
     Recently MD of Canada reported that Dr. John Gurdon and his co-workers at Oxford had grown fully mature and fertile frogs from single body cells extracted from the intestinal lining of other frogs. With his present technique more than 30% of the intestinal cells could be made to grow at least to the tadpole stage [vol.10, no.3, 1969, p.53]. Neither lines of proliferating cells were human. It must surely be assumed that the fall of man has made his body cells unlike all other animal cells.

192. (See page 4) In a manner of speaking, Weismann was both right and wrong in assuming that differentiating cells lose the totipotency of the initiating ovum to the extent that such cells are no longer individually capable of giving rise to a whole animal but only to specific organs and tissues. In plants, of course, the cells in a slip taken from almost any part of the plant are capable of reproducing the whole organism, roots and all. But experiments have now shown that complex animal forms may also be reproduced by highly refined techniques from cells which have long since differentiated into specific tissues and have lost their identity as germ plasm.
     The technique involves extracting the nuclei from tissue cells and transferring them to enucleated cells of germ plasm origin. Such reconstructed cells are evidently capable of initiating the process of cell cleavage and division and proceeding normally through embryological and foetal development to maturity. It no longer seems likely, therefore, that cell differentiation is due to the loss of gene material in the nucleus during earlier stages of cell division but rather to changes in the cytoplasm; although Briggs and King were able to demonstrate that nuclei of cells taken from tissue which has formed later in foetal development less frequently retain their totipotency than do nuclei of cells derived from tissue formed earlier in the developing embryo. It therefore seems likely that even the nucleus may change slightly with time, although it is fairly certain now that the major change occurring within the cell relates to the chemistry or organization or structure of the cytoplasm as successive cell divisions occur. The differentiated cytoplasm interacts with the nucleus and this in turn leads to the emergence of new directions for cell development along specific lines towards the growth of tissues and organs which form the body or housing for the original germ plasm.
     Professor Bernard D. Davis, Harvard Medical School, stated: "We now know that all the differentiated somatic cells of an animal (those of muscle, skin, and the like) contain in their nuclei the same complete set of genes. Every somatic cell contains all the genetic information required for copying the whole organism. In different cells, different sub-sets of genes are acting while the remainder are inactive. Accordingly, if it should become possible to reverse the regulatory mechanism responsible for this differentiation, any cell could be used to start the embryo. Though differentiation is completely reversible in the cells of plants (as in the transfer of cuttings), it is ordinarily quite irreversible in the cells of the higher animals. The stability, however, depends on the interaction of the nucleus with the surrounding cytoplasm. . . ." ["Prospects for Genetic Intervention in Man," Science, vol.170, 1970, p.1280,1281].

     pg.20 of 29     


     Cell differentiation is therefore mainly the result of modifications of the cytoplasm rather than the nucleus. A. C. Enders and S. J. Schlafke, in a Ciba Foundation Symposium, observe that the cytoplasm of cells, even by the time the blastocyst has formed, is clearly different from the cytoplasm of the ovum. "During the late cleavage stages and the blastocyst stage, the structure of the cytoplasm alters a great deal in most species. Characteristically, there is a diminution and re-organization of the cytoplasmic inclusions. . ." ["The Fine Structure of the Blastocyst: Some Comparative Studies" in Pre-implantation Stages of Pregnancy, edited by G. E. W. Wolstenholme and M. O'Connor, London, Churchill, 1965, p.45, 47]. Alfred Kuhn puts the matter this way: "It is certain that the nuclei of some tissues need not forfeit some of their talents to reach a certain stage: rather they can replace the egg nucleus, and their derivatives can satisfy all the demands of the developmental steps which the various cells must pass through" [Lectures in Developmental Physiology, translated by Roger Milkman, New York, Springer-Verlag, 1971, p.488]. It seems, therefore, that the cell nuclei retain their totipotency to a far greater extent than the cytoplasm. In the natural order of things, cells do fairly quickly become differentiated and lose their totipotency except perhaps in plants. While most of the cells to which the totipotent ovum gives rise soon become differentiated cytoplasmicly for the development of body cells, not all of them do. A few remain for the perpetuation of the germ cell line. It is these few that form the thread of continuity from generation to generation.
     The following readily accessible articles dealing with this subject are useful: J. B. Gurdon, "Transplanted Nuclei and Cell Differentiation," Scientific American, Dec., 1968, pp.24-35; C. H. Waddington, "How Do Cells Differentiate?", Scientific American, Sept., 1953, pp.108114; Michail Fischberg and A. W. Blackler, "How Cells Specialize," Scientific American, Sept.,1961, pp.124140; Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King, "Changes in the Nuclei of Differentiating Endoderm Cells as Revealed by Nuclear Transplantation," Journal of Morphology, vol.100, no.2, 1957, pp.269311; Lewis Wolpert, "Developing Cells Know Their Place," New Scientist, 14 May, 1970, p.322f.

195. (See page 6) Parthenogenesis is so well established for so many species that it scarcely needs the reinforcement of this note. However, for those who may not be aware of how widely it has been demonstrated below man, the following brief comment may be useful. Few proven cases of mammalian parthenogenesis in nature have ever been clearly established, though as we have already seen (ref. #175: see end Notes of Chapter 17) it has been observed for lizards and is common enough among insects and some fish. To the list of insects in which parthenogenesis occurs naturally, B. I. Balinsky adds aphids, phyllopods, and rotifers at certain times of the year, and of course bees in which the fertilized egg produces a female and the unfertilized egg develops into a male [An Introduction to Embryology, Toronto, Saunders, 1970, 3rd edition, p.126].
     The situation is very different in the laboratory where experiment has shown that a very wide range of animal forms can be induced to propagate parthenogenetically. According to Albert Tyler, "Extensive investigations have shown that in practically all the main groups of animals, normal development can be obtained by artificial activation of eggs" ["Artificial Parthenogenesis," Biology Reviews, Cambridge University, vol.16, 1941, p.292f.]. Reports include such species as silkworms, caterpillars, sea urchins, star fish, frogs, fish

     pg.21 of 29     


(including carp), lizards, birds and rabbits. In 1896 R. Hertwig found that sea urchin eggs could be activated by chloroform or strychnine! ["Ueber die Entwicklung des ubefruchteten Seeigeleies," Festschr. fur gegenbauer, Leipzig, 1896]. H. Spurway reports experimental parthenogenesis in the guppy, Lebistes reticulatus ["Spontaneous Parthenogenesis in a Fish," Nature, vol.171, 1953, p.437]. In the case of rabbit ova cultivated in vitro, Dr. Chambly in France almost fifty years ago was probably the first to demonstrate that mammals can give birth to viable offspring parthenogenetically [see Gregory Pincus, "Fertilization in Mammals," Scientific American, Mar.,1951, p.47]. There is some evidence of man-induced parthenogenesis in sheep, though I am not sure how dependable this is [Arthur Koestler, Beyond Reductionism, London, Hutchinson, 1969, p.199].

196. (See page 6) "A human egg is a spherical cell . . . which is one of the largest cells in the body, and when placed against a dark background it is just visible to the naked eye. . . .  The large size of the egg cell is due mainly to deposits of yolk in the cytoplasm. . . . In contrast to the egg, the sperm is the smallest cell in the body. . . .  The volume of an egg cell is about 85,000 times that of a sperm" [Ursula Mittwoch, Genetics of Sex Differentiation, New York, Academic Press, 1973, p.84, 85].

197. (See page 6) It is established that an ovum can be activated without fertilization by the spermatozoon, and in certain cases will go on to full development of a mature female animal, complete with a functioning reproductive system which thus provides the initiating ovum with a mechanism for continuing itself indefinitely. To this extent, the ovum is self-sufficient. The sperm does not appear to be so, under natural conditions.
     It was at one time supposed that the limitations imposed upon the spermatozoon was entirely due to lack of energy because of the small amount of cytoplasm surrounding the nucleus. It simply starved before reaching sufficient maturity to extract food from its environment. By reducing its food requirements, at very low temperatures for example, its life can be greatly extended, and certainly in warm-blooded animals the temperature of sperm is quite critical to its survival, and unless the testes descend to the scrotum free from the deep body temperature, they are not viable. Excessive use of hot baths in Japan reduced male fertility.
     However, there appears to be some other factor limiting sperm life. George Conner observed. "If an ovum is cut into two pieces, one of which has no nucleus, and the latter is then entered by a sperm, it too will divide and become an embryo, though admittedly not as often as in the case of the unfertilized ovum" [The Hormones in Human Reproduction, New York, Atheneum, 1963, p.19]. This kind of highly sophisticated manipulation of cells in the laboratory is very different from anything that occurs in Nature whereas the variety of treatments that can lead to parthenogenesis of the ovum is so diverse that at least some of them must probably occur under natural conditions.
     Dorthea Rudnick, in her article on Embryology in the1960 edition of the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology [vol. IV, p.573], after pointing out that the sperm itself is by no means essential for the activation of the egg, suggests that the mature egg must be thought of as a system containing all the potential factors for development and the sperm essentially as a trigger that sets off the mechanism. It is, of course, also the source of the paternal set of chromosomes. But it seems clear that it is not at all the same

     pg.22 of 29     


kind of self-contained unicellular organism capable of independent existence that the ovum is. Under natural conditions, by itself it will die, whereas the ovum, left alone, is in no necessity of doing so provided only that it is given a suitable environment and an appropriate though remarkably non-specific stimulation to activate it. If the ovum can thus survive by itself, it can hardly be argued that the sperm contains any absolutely essential component for its activation, since apparently the ovum can be activated without it.

198. (See page 6) The ovum can be activated and developed into a fully mature organism by an amazingly diverse range of stimuli. According to Albert Tyler, "It is clear that there is very little specificity in regard to activating agents. Thus eggs of the sea urchin can be activated by such diverse agents as puncture, heat, cold, ultra-violet radiation, radium emanation, acids, bases, isotonic salt solutions, hypertonic and hypotonic solutions, fat solvents and some alkaloids. This contrasts with the high degree of specificity in fertilization (in nature)" ["Artificial Parthenogenesis," Biology Reviews, Cambridge Univiversity, vol.16, 1941, p.318].
     To these non-specific stimuli have since been added others, including electric shock. The carp eggs mentioned above (ref.#195, page 21) were actually activated by human saliva. Professor Christian P. Raven of the University of Utrecht has added to this growing list of activators such physical treatment as illumination, induction shock and osmotic pressure as well as chemical agents such as urea and saponin [An Outline of Developmental Physiology, translated by L. de Ruiter, New York, McGraw Hill, 1954, p.20].
     I do not know whether I am reading too much into the evidence, but I think it worth noting that Balinsky observed that most of the agents used are of such a nature that they probably damage the ovum to a greater or lesser degree, and if applied too vigorously they cause the death of the cell. He then adds, "It is reasonable to suppose, then, that activation of the egg involves some kind of sub-lethal damage to the egg cytoplasm" [An Introduction to Embryology, Toronto, Saunders, 1970, p.127]. Possibly the human sperm fertilizes (and so activates) the ovum but at the same time introduces some type of damage to the cytoplasm which is not merely sub-lethal but lethal. One need only hypothesize that this lethal effect becomes operative only after the original single cell (the ovum) has divided several times into a number of proportionally smaller cells, the proportion of cytoplasm to nucleus accordingly being reduced and presumably modified. It is known that with successive divisions there is a progressive change in the amount of cytoplasm as well as in its internal organization and its chemistry. The nucleus meanwhile retains its original size and constitution. Raven remarks: "The local concentration of certain substances will initiate chemical reactions which previously were unable, or almost unable, to take place because of the dilution of the reagents or because of the presence of inhibiting substances" [An Outline of Developmental Physiology, translated by L. de Ruiter, New York, McGraw Hill, 1954, p.63]. Transferred to the present context, this observation could very nicely point the way to the actual mechanism whereby some contribution from the cytoplasm of the sperm cell finally becomes lethal in its effect on the growing organism.
     A perceptive reader may discern the importance of the finding of the non-specificity of the activating agent. I think the introduction of the word activate is significant in the present context because it would be such an appropriate word to apply to the "overshadowing" by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). The preparation of the perfect body that was to be animated for the Lord Himself was truly a miracle in that a male child was born. But the stage was clearly already designed for just such a tremendous event, when the event is viewed in its physiological context. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that some creative power must still have been at work to supply the Y chromosome in order that a man child might be born, not a female child as would otherwise have been the case.

      pg.23 of 29      


199. (See page 6) Where birds are concerned, parthenogenesis is always found to result in males. This is because, for some unknown reason, the sex determining roles of the X and Y chromosomes have been reversed. Thus M. W. Olsen and S. J. Marsden, in reporting on "Natural Parthenogenesis in Turkey Eggs," note that in spite of the fact that there had been no male contribution, all the parthenogenetic embryos carried the diploid chromosome number and all the eggs which reached a sufficient stage of maturity to allow for sex determination were found to be male. Seventy-nine turkey hens were involved in this experiment. Males were rigidly excluded. During the eight week period in question, 2537 eggs were laid, of which 568 showed parthenogenetic development. Forty-nine of these differentiated to the extent that blood vessels were clearly visible. In 27 embryos were identifiable on gross examination. Four of these allowed sex to be determined. All were male [Science, vol.120, 1954, p.545].
     Interestingly, Origen (c.185c.254) in his Contra Celsius [1,37] mentions that in his time, vultures were reputed to raise parthenogenetic young.

201. (See page 7) It is often said that Weismann's views have since been proven in error in certain important respects and that it is therefore unwise to quote him in the light of what we now know. This is unfortunate because the lucidity and insight with which he presented his ideas makes them a most suitable vehicle for communicating some very complex aspects of early embryological events and his contribution to our basic understanding has been tremendous in terms of the stimulus of his powers of description. He appears to have been in error in one of his conclusions, though the error has not otherwise damaged his general thesis regarding the continuity of the germ plasm. In one other matter he was mistaken but only in the sense that he visualized the wrong mechanism for the right results. Thus his questionable contributions are really limited to the two following points: (1) the role of the second polar body or cell which is cast out by the ovum in its earliest stages of preparation for the admission of the sperm and (2) the mechanism by which body cells are differentiated from germ cells, and the claim that only the germ plasm retains all the developmental capability of forming a new organism. [See his "Continuity of the Germ Plasm as the Foundation of a Theory of Heredity" in Essays Upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems, translated by E. B. Poulton, S. Schonland and A. E. Shipley, Oxford University Press, 1889, vol.1, p.214, 225].
     With respect to the role of this second polar body, this small cell is expelled from the ovum immediately prior to the penetration of the sperm, removing from the ovum half its chromosomes and thus reducing it to a haploid cell so that the contribution of the sperm nucleus will restore it as a normal diploid cell rather than overburdening it with supernumerary chromosomes. Weismann surmised that this polar cell probably removed the male component of the heretofore hermaphroditic ovum (no one knew anything at that time about the X and Y chromosomes) and thus opened the way for the sperm's contribution to enter unchallenged. It is not believed at present that this is so.
     Weismann believed that the ovum could conceivably be fertilized by this polar body rejoining the ovum, or possibly even before it had broken away and gained its independence. In any case, Weismann may not have committed himself altogether to the view that the nucleus of the ovum was hermaphroditic, but was merely stating that this was the opinion of some of his contemporaries. He had in mind C. S. Minot and F. N. Balfour in particular. The latter had said, "the function of forming polar cells has been acquired by the ovum for the express purpose of preventing parthenogenesis" [A Treatment of Comparative Embryology, London, Macmillan, 1880, vol.1, p.63].

     pg.24 of 29     

     With respect to his second point, we have already seen that the nuclei of some somatic cells, contrary to Weismann's surmise, do apparently contain the whole original complement of the germ cells, but in most animal species the cytoplasm of these somatic cells does not. There is therefore a real loss of potential in the cell as a whole. Thus Weismann was effectually correct, only he was wrong about the mechanism.
     Bernard D. Davis notes in this connection: "Every somatic cell contains all the genetic information required for copying the whole organism. In different cells different subsets of genes are active, while the remainder are inactive. Accordingly, if it should become possible to reverse the regulatory mechanism responsible for this differentiation, any cell could be used to start an embryo" ["Prospects for Genetic Intervention in Man," Science, vol.170, 1970, p.1280]. In some species body cells of some organs do seem to retain the potential of acting as germ cells for a new organism. In frogs, for example, it has been demonstrated that some body cells have retained the totipotency of the germ cells. To this extent therefore Weismann was mistaken in supposing that the nuclei of the germ cells lost some of their character in the formation of somatic cells. The nucleus of the germ cell loses nothing except the power to express itself fully, surrendering this totipotency in response to changes in cytoplasmic determinants. This cytoplasmic change has been termed 'chemodifferentiation.' As Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King conclude, the process of organogenesis appears to be due to the localized development "of certain cytoplasmic materials. . . .  The zygote nuclei play no specific role in this localization" ["Nucleoplasmic Interactions in Eggs and Embryos" in The Cell: Biochemistry, Physiology, and Morphology, edited by J. Brachet and A. E. Mirsky, New York, Academic Press, vol.1, 1959, p.540]. Thus the nucleus, whatever its potency per se, is evidently subservient to the cytoplasm and will generate what the cytoplasm allows.
     Balinsky points out that Weismann has been chiefly criticized for his observation that it is the "unequal fission of the nuclear material which introduces differentiation in developing tissues" [An Introduction to Embryology, Toronto, Saunders, 1970, p.139]. But one only need correct this to read "unequal fission of the cytoplasmic materials" instead of nuclear materials in order to make it a perfectly valid statement. In the circumstances, this is a small error and a remarkable tribute to Weismann's insight. His basic concept of the continuity of the germ plasm remains essentially unchallenged.

206. (See page 10) The number of cells which initially retain the full potential of the germ plasm at the moment when the first specialized cells begin to appear as body cells varies in different species, but thus far it appears that it is remarkably small. According to M. Fischberg and A. W. Blackler, the beginning of differentiation of cells in the gall midge, Mayetiola destructor, must be placed about the third division when there are only eight cells ["How Cells Specialize," Scientific American, Sept.,1961 p.134].

208. (See page 10) Money, John and A. A. Ehrdardt, Man and Woman, Boy and Girl, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972, p.37. The once active controversy as to neogenesis (the origination of oocytes de novo) in post-natal life seems to have been laid to rest by a general consensus of opinion that there is an unrenewable stock of oocytes at birth. On this point, see P. L. Krohn, "The Biology of Aging," Nature, 11 Jan.,1958, p.74; and Gregory Pincus, "Reproduction" in Annual Review of Physiology, vol.24, 1962, p.57. Ursula Mittwoch observes, "Cell division in human oogonia occurs only during foetal life. . . . At the time of birth the oogonia have already been transformed into primary oocytes" [Genetics of Sex Differentiation, New York, Academic Press, 1973, p.87].

     pg.25 of 29     

215. (See page 14) An editorial comment in the world renowned medical journal, Lancet, under the heading, "Parthenogenesis in Mammals?" has this observation: "The possibility that a woman might become pregnant without at least one spermatozoon having entered the uterus is not one which 'reasonable men' would likely entertain. Scientific opinion for several centuries has sided with the reasonable man; but today, biologists and cytogeneticists in particular would be less dogmatic in discussing such a possibility" [5 Nov. 1955, p.967].
     The writer then notes the number of species of animals in which parthenogenesis has been observed to have occurred in nature or under laboratory conditions, and asks, "In view of this, we may have to re-examine the justification for our belief that spontaneous parthenogenesis is rare in vertebrates and absent in mammals. If it were rare in mammals but occasionally present would it in fact be noticed?"
     Subsequently he observes further: "There are sound reasons which might lead biologists, if not to expect parthenogenesis occasionally in mammals, at least to look out for it." He suggests that "man is clearly the mammal in which parthenogenesis would be least likely to pass unnoticed." But I submit that this is a questionable assumption. I think it was Sir Peter Medawar, Director of the Medical Research Council in England, who said that the claim by an unwed mother of a fatherless child would not be believed, and in a married woman would not be noticed. I think he was correct, human nature being what it is. But the editorial comment does point out that immunological make-up of a parthenogenetic child would be such that "it could be recognized with absolute certainty" by appropriate medical techniques. The point is that being so born, such a daughter would theoretically share the genetic constitution of the mother completely, and it should be possible therefore to make a skin graft from the daughter back to the mother with complete success. There would be other possible tests of a like nature also.
     Subsequent correspondence stirred up enough interest in England at the time that an invitation went out publicly to any woman who believed she had given birth to a parthenogenetic daughter to submit to supervised medical examination along such lines. Later correspondence in Lancet of June 30 of the following year (1956) indicated that nineteen corespondents had presented themselves for examination.
     Dr. Helen Spurway, Lecturer in Biometry and Eugenics at University College, London, was invited to conduct these tests. And to make a long story short, of these nineteen pairs of mothers and daughters, eleven were eliminated after interview for various reasons, and blood tests eliminated another four. Of the remaining four, three were eliminated due to such factors as incompatible eye or hair colour, etc. This left only one mother-daughter pair as a genuine test case.
     A battery of tests were conducted between these two which, for the most part favoured the mother's claim. However, a skin graft from the daughter to the mother began to show signs of rejection after six weeks and was later easily wiped off with damp cotton wool. Spurway points out that the daughter would not be completely genetically identical with the mother, since during meiosis the ovum would have made a selection of only 50% of the original genes in the mother's body cells and the daughter could not therefore have a completely identical constitution. It is possible, as a consequence, that even this test may not be sufficiently valid by itself.

     pg.26 of 29     


     Spurway concluded, therefore, that "rigorous proof is impossible, though it remains true that all the evidence obtained from serological and special tests is consistent with what would be expected in a case of parthenogenesis." As she noted, the absence of any knowledge on the woman's part of such a possibility "adds to the probability of such a claim being well founded. This mother's claim must not only be considered seriously but it must also be admitted that we have been unable to disprove it."

217. (See page 16) C. L. Prosser observed: "Several types of non-genic inheritance and of indirect effects of environmental selection on the genotype are recognized. Cytoplasmic inheritance is being discovered in more and more groups of organisms, and cytoplasm is more readily influenced by environment than is the nucleus." ["The Origin After a Century: Prospects for the Future," American Scientist, vol.47, 1959, p.545]. He instances cytoplasmic particles which may be transmitted for example, the granules for the Kappa factor in paramecium or the plastidids of certain plants; also cytoplasmic factors are involved in the inheritance of serotypes in ciliates.
     In his small but challenging and lucidly written little book, Nucleo-Cytoplasmic Relations in MicroOrganisms [Oxford University Press, 1953], Boris Ephrussi underscored the fact that body cells can be made to "breed true for a practically indefinite time." We have seen this, of course, in connection with Alexis Carrel's chicken heart tissue [see Chapter 1]. We have already noted that Hayflick's apparently contradictory data may have been at fault through cultivation in an inadequate medium [see ref.#123, Part I, chapter 8]. Ephrussi therefore argues that since such cells have precisely the same nuclei that the originating fertilized ovum possessed, these lines of body cells ought to begin to revert to the undifferentiated ovum type of cell if the nucleus alone is providing the blueprint for their development. It has to be concluded, therefore, that these body cells do not revert because some other inheritable blueprint exists in the cell apart from the information in the nucleus. Such information must be contained in the cytoplasm. So muscle cells replicate as muscle cells, for example, because the cytoplasm is instructing them to do so and not because of guidance provided by the nucleus. That muscle cells do not replicate suddenly as some other kind of cell, forces us to believe that each kind of tissue is formed of cells with a unique cytoplasm. But this cytoplasm can be acted upon by the environment and changed in its constitution so that a given type of cell may begin to build a new type of tissue. This has a bearing, probably, on the phenomenon mentioned by Sir Peter Medawar in which a completely functioning ball and socket joint may form in an entirely exceptional location [The Art of the Soluble, London, Methuen, 1967, p.26].
     In view of the fidelity with which particular tissue cells will go on replicating themselves, Ephrussi says: "Here we have identical perpetuation, but in this case the inherited differences can hardly be ascribed to nuclear genes, for the different cell types which make up (the organism) are all derived from the egg cell by equational mitosis. They must therefore all possess the same genotype. . . .  The differential must have its seat in the cytoplasm" [op. cit., p.4].
     Ephrussi then proceeds to detail the work done with unicellular paramecia which multiply by conjugation, showing clearly that they can pass on certain modifications (in particular, a kind of mortogenic or "killer" factor) not via nuclear genes but via plasmagenes. As he says: "These studies confirm the view that the cytoplasm, like the genes, is endowed with genetic continuity. The genes are therefore no longer to be regarded as the sole cell-constituent endowed with this property" [p.6].

     pg.27 of 29     


     Ephrussi sums up his conclusions thus: "Considering that embryonic development results in a restriction (and some widening, too) in different cell lineages of the manifold potentialities originally carried by the egg, we may picture the process of differentiation as consisting, for example, in the segregation or sorting out, of an initially mixed population of cytoplasmic particles. Or we may suppose that the egg, to begin with, contains a mixed population of inactive particles, and that development consists in the activation by nuclear genes of different sorts of lineages" [p.100].
     If we assume the former, it is clear that some foreign substance entering the germ cell cytoplasm at some critical stage of its internal organization, could effect a change that in due time will rob it of its power of endless self replication will, in short, rob it of its potential immortality. This poison may have gained entry in the cytoplasm of the fertilizing spermatozoon. But there is also another possible route.
     B. Baccetti and B. A. Afzelius have recently published a work on the Biology of the Sperm Cell [See ref. #122 in Part I, chapter 8] which reflects the ever growing interest in the cytoplasm, by contrast with the preoccupation with the nucleus which has tended to prevail for some years. They speak of the mitochondria in the sperm cytoplasm which appear to have proteinaceous crystal inclusions that may account for as much as 50% or more of the sperm volume in some species. There is as yet no manifest function for these crystals except possibly as a source of nutrition for the fertilized ovum, somewhat analogous to the yolk granule.
     Since the sperm mitochondrion is small compared with the egg volume, and since normally only one sperm, or at the most a few spermatozoa penetrate the egg, the idea seems far-fetched. On the other hand, the spermatozoa that are not taken up by the fertilized ovum perish by the hundred million in the vicinity of it and their cumulative proteinaceous crystal may in the aggregate form a substantial reservoir of nutrient.
     We thus have here a situation where the quantity of sperm cytoplasm available to the growing ovum may be quite significant in its influence on the cytoplasm of the ovum, by absorption from its immediate environment. It may well play a significant role in its early stages of development, and it is these early stages of development the first four or five doublings of the zygote that the germ line cells are set aside and the body cells begin their differentiation.
     There is increasing evidence of the critical importance of the cytoplasm and of changes in its composition after successive cleavages, as soon as the embryo has reached the stage of development which witnesses the initiation of cell differentiation and the formation of body cells as opposed to the mere replication of germ plasm.
     A. I. Caplan and C. P. Ordahl have now proposed, as the result of a very elegant series of experiments, that, "The expression of those genes necessary . . . to give rise to diverse cell types is wholly dependent on exposure of cell nuclei to a small portion of egg cytoplasm. The general state of the cell and the activity of the cell's cytoplasm provide important signals for the developmental programs. . . .  The segregation of cytoplasm during cleavage establishes extranuclear environments that are determinants to the developing organism" ["Irreversible Gene Repression Model for Control of Development," Science, vol.120, 1978, p.120130].
     It is possible therefore that the poison may remain quiescent and effectively neutralized in the multiplying cells of the fertilized ovum until the cleavage has proceeded to the point of either eliminating a certain quantity of cytoplasm by reduction in cell size, or modifying certain cytoplasmic factors that had hitherto served as neutralizers. Thereafter, the progressive change in the composition of the cytoplasm subjects the cell increasingly to the original protoplasmic poison which renders all body cells mortal as a consequence.

     pg.28 of 29     


     Baccetti and Afzelius point out in their study that many human spermatozoa have bizarre shapes and these are probably the results of faults in the spermiogenesis. For each particular man a sperm sample will show many differently shaped, abnormal spermatozoa, the percentage of which is characteristic of that individual and apparently constant throughout the years. Moreover, a number of diseases such as the common cold can cause a temporary increase in the number of abnormal sperm cells. This demonstrates the fact that the sperm are susceptible to damage from their environment. The authors believe that in spite of the high incidence of defective or abnormal sperm, they actually have little consequence for fertilization itself unless the proportion of normal sperm is exceptionally low. For the defective sperm do not reach the ovum: or they fail to penetrate it. "The many defective spermatozoa are somehow prevented from attaining the fertilizing site" [The Biology of the Sperm Cell, Monographs in Developmental Biology, #10, Basel, Karger, 1976, p.19,158,160].
     Thus within the developing ovum in its initial stages, two lines of cells soon appear: germ cells and body cells. The determinant that brings about subsequent differentiation of body cells in accordance with their destiny as various organs and their loss of potency as germ cells, appears to reside in the cytoplasm. When the germ line cells are set aside, it is by a kind of quarantine which permits the body cells to be progressively differentiated by factors in their cytoplasm. The process of differentiation evidently exposes them to some mortogenic factor derived perhaps from their source of nourishment. At any rate there seems little doubt that the differentiating body cell lines are established and maintained by cytoplasmic determinants, because the nuclei in all the cells (germ and body alike) remain unchanged.
     That unicellular forms (amoeba for example) which are "by nature" immortal may be mortalized by a change in diet has been demonstrated repeatedly. And the mortalized amoeba are now altered in the composition of their cytoplasm, not in the composition of the nucleus. If mortalized amoeba cytoplasm is transferred to immortal amoeba, the latter become mortalized ["How Immortal Are Amoeba?", a note in Nature, vol.217, 1968, p.706, 707]. There therefore seem to be now in operation all the mechanisms we require, theoretically, to account for the situation that exists in the human species for whom physical death comes as an unnatural termination to life.
     It might be thought that if animals die and the process of fertilization is very similar, must we not then suppose that the same poison in their case is having the same effect via a similar route? Then do animals die for the same reason that man does . . . because they, too, have somehow been poisoned? The answer to this may, I think, lie in one of two directions. First, we do not know for certain that death is inevitable for animals, except as a result of "accident." It is statistically certain that every animal will die but it may not be inevitable biologically, as we have seen in Part I; and it is, in my view, certainly not a penalty. So that in the sense in which we speak of death as having "entered" (Romans 5:12) for man as a result of the Fall, we have no necessary reason to suppose that death as penalty has "entered" into the stream of animal life. The second point is that we do know that Adam and Eve were not subject to death at first. What we may only surmise about animals, namely, that they have a potential for physical immortality, we may know with considerable assurance about man from what we are told in Genesis. He was "killed" by ingesting a forbidden fruit. Thus for man we might expect to find, and I believe we should seriously look for, the mechanism whereby mortality as an acquired character has been transmitted. There is no particular reason to assume that such a mechanism exists among other living things: indeed, we know that for millions of living things such a mechanism does not exist, for they are truly potentially immortal.

     pg.29 of 29     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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