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Maternity Hospital: A Metaphor for Human Fertilization

September 16 @ 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT


Maternity Hospital: An Metaphor for human fertilization from gametogenesis through implantation

A presentation by Phil Youngblood, PH.D


I remember a video the teacher showed in biology class back when I was in secondary school in the 1960s in which an army of wiggly sperm swam at high speed in some kind of race, through the bends and divisions of cavernous tunnels, seeming to know the way, until the vast majority of them surprised and attacked a defenseless egg cell. I was surprised to find this same video on YouTube the other month (albeit with freshened graphics and a hint in the narration of what else might be going on).


What goes on during human fertilization has proved difficult to study because of bioethics, namely the possibility of endangering a pregnancy. What scientists have discovered however has led to a paradigm shift away from this male-dominated view of fertilization, at least among the scientifically literate population. Yet, talking about how the human body works from about the lungs down to the knees is still not something you do in ‘polite’ company in many cultures, even among educated people, and not even among intimate partners in more misogynistic cultures. So, like so many subjects about which our first and last factual exposure to them occurred when we were teenagers, old-fashioned and incorrect views about human fertilization persist in the general population, at least until something goes wrong ‘down there.’


‘Maternity Hospital’ is a way that I have devised to discuss the fascinating details of human fertilization without the use of graphic illustrations or descriptions. In fact, the video about the sperm racing to attack the egg is as close to resembling what the physical environment looks like as I will get. The rest of the explanation is through use of metaphors about an environment that most of us have experienced sometime in our lives, in-person or in media, that of what happens in various rooms in a hospital and interactions among people with different roles within those rooms. A hospital run entirely by woman, by the way.

Come join me to discover how much you know, or have not yet learned, about the intricate and fascinating way in which gametes are created, how they meet, and how the egg is made ready to create a new human. NOTE: Gametogenesis will be covered lightly as a separate presentation following this one will go into the details of that initial part of the human fertilization process. 


September 16
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM PDT




Phil Youngblood

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