Fertile ideas with bald concepts

Jon Turney asserts in his review (THES, May 12) that he has at least one sentence which is non-contentious as it is based on "an incontrovertible biological fact". Perhaps he is optimistic. A new individual does not begin when "a sperm and an egg unite at the moment of conception". It probably begins when individuation is initiated at gastrulation, some two weeks later in humans. The "moment of conception" is not a clear term either.

Perhaps he means the "moment" of fertilisation. But fertilisation is an extended process, and covers many events. These are baldly described as the sperm and egg uniting. I note with interest that he teaches science communication.

JOHN C. McLACHLAN

School of biological and medical sciences

University of St Andrews

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

  • Elly Walton illustration (16 July 2015)

Whether in jest or not, sexist language shows an insensitivity to gender issues at odds with academic values, argues Dorothy Bishop

  • Tony Little, Eton College headmaster, 2007

Tony Little points to ‘increasing gap’ between teaching standards at sixth form and university

  • Tourists in rubber rings and flippers ready for snorkeling class

Dress to impress if you want students in your corner, claims US study

  • gold on scales

£246 million is big money but it is probably much less than the hit the research budget would take if the REF did not exist, says Paul Jump