Gold Mass Lecture describes science behind sperm-egg fusion and identical twinning

Author: Deanna Csomo Ferrell

A neurobiologist during the 2023 Gold Mass Lecture at the University of Notre Dame in November broke down one  argument that some use about when life begins—that the phenomenon of identical twins is counter to the science of human life’s beginnings at sperm-egg fusion. 

Using research, analogies, videos, and logic, Maureen Condic, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, described that immediately after the sperm fuses with an egg, the structure changes from separate cells to one that immediately starts to create an embryo, even if it may eventually split into two.

“I would argue that the timing of the twinning matters,” Condic told the audience of more than 120 people in Jordan Hall of Science on November 15. “So if you start with something that’s unambiguously a human person, twinning after the nature of the human entity has been clearly established does not call into question the identity of the original human being.”

Her one-hour Charles Edison Lecture, “Identical Twinning Untangled: How science resolves the question of the beginning of life” followed a Gold Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. The Gold Mass for scientists and engineers follows in the tradition of special Masses for members of different professions. Gold is the color associated with the patron saint of scientists, St. Albert the Great.

The Gold Mass and Lecture were sponsored by the College of Science, the College of Engineering, the McGrath Institute for Church Life, and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.


Originally published by Deanna Csomo Ferrell at on November 27, 2023.