Words matter. The terminology we employ not only reflects our values but helps to define them. Language is particularly important in bioethical debates, in which dehumanizing verbiage can distance us from our fellow human beings.
When embryonic stem-cell research was in the news, we were told constantly by scientists and the media that an early embryo was “just a ball of cells” that didn’t even “look human.” We even heard that human life had no actual beginning, since we had all evolved from bacteria floating in a primordial sea.
But the fact that a young organism does not yet look as it will at maturity doesn’t make it a non-organism. When we were early embryos, we each were the same organism that we are now. And a human embryo is far more than a bunch of cells.