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What happened when we had a scientist look at L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘science’ of life in the womb

[L. Ron Hubbard in 1950]

Our readers know that we enjoy bringing you L. Ron Hubbard in his own words from time to time in order to get a better understanding of what Scientology is really all about.

Often, it’s enough to see and hear Hubbard’s words on their own. But since Hubbard claimed to be an authority on science, we thought it might also help to bring in an actual, you know, scientist to look at Hubbard’s claims. (And this isn’t the first time. We had a lot of fun asking famous biologist PZ Myers about a particularly bizarre Hubbard book.)

Today we’re looking at a very early lecture Hubbard gave in the wake of his big success publishing the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Hubbard put out that book on May 9, 1950, and we’ve gone to the effort of blogging it from cover to cover in a previous series.

In Dianetics, Hubbard was largely preoccupied with bizarre ideas about your time in the womb, and what sorts of traumatic memories you might have picked up there. Later, after Dianetics crashed in popularity and Hubbard went bankrupt, in 1952 he regrouped with something he called “Scientology” which supplanted a womb-obsession with the idea of picking up traumatic memories in past lives, going back millions or billions of years.

But on August 31, 1950, just a few months after Dianetics had been published, Hubbard was in Los Angeles still giving lectures related to it, and he explained his ideas about fetal development and traumatic memories.


Unfortunately, we don’t have audio for this lecture, but we do have a transcript. And so we decided to bring in an expert to help us read it.

Our expert, who asked not to be identified, has a BS in Microbiology, an MBA, an MS in Virology and a Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology, and their work today is directly related to embryology. So, let’s see how they reacted to Hubbard’s 1950 lecture on life in the womb — we’ll refer to them as “Doc.”

Hubbard: The field of Medical Dianetics covers Preventive Dianetics to a large extent. All a doctor has to do to work Medical Dianetics is to keep silence around unconscious people, and emergency cases when they come in should have immediate attention with Dianetics. First Aid Dianetics should be applied so that shock won’t register. This field is tremendously large and well integrated, but Medical Dianetics also includes, of course, the field of embryology. What you most need to know at this moment is something about embryology. First there is a germ cell in the male. This cell divides several times, and each division is a separate entity. There are eight of these generations, but only the last one becomes a sperm.

Doc: Fewer than eight steps, but not worth arguing given he was working with 1950 data.

Hubbard: These are the generations which create a sperm from the central plasm that goes through a central germ cell. The sperm differs from other cells in this respect: It has no cytoplasm and cannot simply by dividing create itself again.

Doc: True, sperm cells do not divide. False, they do have cytoplasm which contains all the organelles, proteins, etc. needed for the spem to generate the energy to “swim” to the ovum. The cell just before the sperm could. It created a sperm. Humans are diploid creatures; that means we have two copies of every gene (23 pairs of chromosomes). One copy comes from our mother, the other copy comes from our father. That means that each parent has to produce a specialized cell that has only one copy of each gene, a haploid cell called an egg or a sperm. The egg and sperm unite to form a genetically new offspring. In men, that specialized haploid reproductive cell is called a sperm and the process of creating a sperm cell from its precursors is called spermatocytogenesis.

Hubbard: Now, in order for that sperm to go on with the life cycle, it has to contact an ovum. The ovum is ejected from an ovary and the ovum itself rolls down the Fallopian tube, right or left side. There are little hairs, you might say, that pick it up and boost it along. The sperm can contact this ovum, and usually does, fairly high up, and then the little feelers roll it down. It has normally been fertilized in the process of rolling down, and it finally plants itself somewhere in the womb.

Doc: This is simplified, but correct.

Hubbard: Usually the child will sooner or later occupy a position in the center. However this may be, it is only important to you that the child, as he hangs in there in the first stages, has his back toward the mouth of the womb. So, the preponderance of sharp instruments and so forth thrown into the cervix generally enter the child’s back.

Doc: What the hell did they do to pregnant women in the 1950s? Have parties where they played pin the tail on the fetus? Who throws sharp instruments into a cervix? My wife and I never tried poking our fetal children with sharp instruments, so I guess our three boys really missed out. Maybe this explains why Miscavige behaves the way he does.

The Bunker: Ah, we should probably explain. Hubbard had a bizarre fixation on the idea — based on no actual evidence — that practically every woman attempts abortion multiple times during a pregnancy, including shoving sharp objects inside of her. In Dianetics, he makes repeated references to fetuses being stabbed and then carrying a memory of it into adulthood. Also, he believed that many or most of your traumatic memories from the womb happened because of rough sex between mom and dad while mom was pregnant. He actually talks in the book about the fetus being pummeled by dad’s penis during sex. Knocked “unconscious” by that rough sex, the fetus then “heard” things mom and dad shouted, and those words left engrams that are “restimulated” later in life. So, for example, when a fetus was knocked out, someone said the word “aspirin” around pregnant mom, and the fetus absorbed it. And forty years later, the adult then continues to have problems with a rash, because the fetus heard “ass-burn” and so that gets repeatedly restimulated as a rash. This is the level of genius we’re talking about.

Hubbard: This is a very rapid review of this information. If you want to know more, you can look it up in a medical text on embryology and you will find many fascinating and wonderful things, such as the fact that in the sixth week the embryo is one-sixth of an inch long. That might be of interest that something one-sixth of an inch can record an engram. But these things are microscopic.

Doc: An unfertilized ovum is big enough to see without a microscope, as is a fetus that is one sixth of an inch long (at six weeks, the average embryo is closer to one fourth inch long). Not essential to the argument, but it shows that Hubbard did not know or understand the details.

Hubbard: So, there is this sequence. A cell has this strange characteristic: Cell A, for instance, is hurt. It divides and becomes cell A’. Cell A’ has the same personal identity as cell A. It knows about that hurt and can register on that basis. Cell A’ divides and cell A” now has the same personal identity as cell A’ and cell A, and it knows all about this injury and will react to it and contains it. And so it goes, all the way along the line. Every cell, in subdividing, translates what this previous cell has known. A cell then, by division, can retain its personal identity down an unlimited number of generations. The memory in that cell is interrupted, evidently, by death alone.


Doc: The concept that a cell has memory as we define memory – a recollection of a past event – is not provable. It does make for good movies, like Assassin’s Creed. What is proven is that the genetic information in our genes is passed on from cell to cell, although there are mutations possible at each cell division and each new human is a relatively unique recombination of the genes of his or her parents. If a cell is injured by poking it with a sharp needle (see above), that injury will not alter the genetic code of the cell and will therefore not be transmitted to the progeny of that cell. If the injury alters the cell, such as irradiation induced mutations in the DNA sequence, that gets passed on but it is not a “memory,” it is a mutation and most mutations like that result in the death of the cell. In adults, emotional trauma does not alter and is not reflected in the genetic code.

Hubbard: Therefore, we have the phenomena, and biological experiments can be made confirming these things. Korzybski has quite a bit of data on this.

Doc: He’s referring to Alfred Korzybski. Korzybski corresponded with a real scientist named George Ellett Coghill (1872-1941) who was President of the American Association of Anatomists, was on the faculty of the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philedelphia, and studied zoology, embryology, histology, and anatomy. Coghill did the studies where he used a human hair attached to a wood splinter to tickle salamander embryos at different stages of development and observed the responses. See reference Kozybski: A Biography by Bruce Kodish, I think 2001. Korzybski wrote Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics in 1933 and was the founder of the Institute of General Semantics.

Hubbard: It is very interesting material. Also, there is the sentience of a cell and its apparent rationality.

Doc: There is no evidence whatever that cells are sentient or act rationally. They do interact with their environment and respond to it, but this is not a directed, thought out response. It is an automated response involving a very complex web of cell signaling cascades.

Hubbard: Actually, all a cell knows is that it must avoid pain and gain pleasure.

Doc: Individual cells do not have pleasure or pain receptors. Pleasure and pain require specialized neural cells and do not become these sensations until processed as such in the brain.

Hubbard: Out of that, with the cell as a basic building block, human beings, wildcats and Sequoia trees get made. There are eight generations of cells in the male prior to the sperm. Then there is the ovum which may be there some days before it is fertilized. Any injury belonging to any one of these eight generations in the male cells will be recorded finally in the sperm. What is recorded in the sperm will be recorded in the sperm/ovum, which becomes the zygote. What is recorded in the zygote is recorded in the embryo. What is recorded in the embryo is recorded in the fetus. What is recorded in the fetus is recorded in the infant is recorded in the man. Here you have a chain of information which is coming straight forward and it goes forward on an A=A=A=A basis. What cell A knows becomes the knowledge of its immediate descendent and so on along the scale until it pervades the whole organism. This is not standard bank material. This is not gained through the perceptics. This is recorded right by the cells. They have their own central nervous system, as do the zygote and embryo.

Doc: Neither cells nor zygotes have a central nervous system. That begins to develop at about seven weeks after gestation in humans. The brain does not begin to differentiate until 12-16 weeks after gestation, based on observations of changes in tissue complexity over time.

Hubbard: In the work of Hooker, he states that an embryo 5 weeks of age, when stroked on the back by a hair, straightened and genuflected into the original position in one-half of one second.

Doc: As stated above, this was Coghill’s work. Hubbard could be referring to Robert Hooke, an English natural philosopher who lived from 1635 to 1703 and built some early microscopes in the 1660s which he used to examine fossils and was a proponent of evolution. He was also a physicist, studying behavior of light, gases and gravity. Or, he could be referring to Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, a British botanist and explorer who lived from 1817 to 1911 and was Charles Darwin’s closest friend. Like Darwin, he went on several expeditions where he observed and collected plants and animals. He became a director of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Neither man studied embryology, so this statement is incorrect. I do not have access to Coghill’s observations, so I do not know if he observed a straightening and genuflecting. Genuflecting is a human behavior and Coghill did his work on salamanders. It appears from the next paragraph in this lecture that LRH is inferring a muscular response to an externally applied physical stimulus (poking an embryo with a hair). Even an inert substance will bend in response to a directed physical force. Not knowing the actual data, I cannot determine if a stimulus-response effect was observed. Such a response would be unlikely in early stage embryos because they don’t have a musculo-skeletal system.

Hubbard: In other words, there is stimulus-response reaction not only in the cells, which can be tested, but also in the embryo. In order to have such a stimulus-response coordinating all the muscles, there certainly must be a muscular and nervous latch-up. Back in 1935-36 I did not know that a cell recorded. I had to synthesize the information. That has been true of a lot of things in Dianetics.

Doc: By “synthesize” I think he means he made it up.

Hubbard: Then I would look around for evidence. If I had examined the field of evidence, it was so enormously broad that I would have had to have lived eight or nine hundred years to have covered it. So the best way to cover the whole thing was just to synthesize what was right, and then test it out to find if it was right and then look around to see if anybody had checked it. This is a rapid method of study in which you depend on the body of knowledge to check you, rather than depending on the body of knowledge to tell you what to think—a very vast difference. It is an inductive approach rather than deductive. Probably the sloppiest method of thinking in the world is deduction. Scientific deduction has been responsible for a great deal of halt in the field of science.

Doc: Compare the technology of this century to last century (or even this decade to last decade) and the difference shows you the validity of scientific reasoning and how far forward science has come.

Hubbard: The proposition of finding cause, examining effect, and then looking around rapidly into the world to find out if that effect is confirmed, will get you more information, tested and accurate, in less time than all the deductions down through the years. You could take 50 million monkeys and put them over 50 million test tubes, and have them get 50 million data, and by the time you finished up you would have 50 million data. But a datum is only as valid as it has been evaluated, and is only as valuable as it is related to other data. There is the inductive versus deductive approach

Doc: I don’t really know what he’s trying to say here. I think he just wants to say he is a genius.

Hubbard: In the field of biology, some splendid work has gone on over the last 25 years, and as soon as the Handbook was published, this alerted practically every biologist in the country who had contacted the subject, and I received an avalanche of data confirming it! So, the ovum pops out of the ovary and goes into the Fallopian tube, and the sperm comes up. It takes a pretty good navigator to be able to navigate this far. The alkalinity concentrations in the area of the cervix, of course, are very important in guiding the sperm, but it is like a salmon going upstream. He can measure the currents and temperatures, and that is evidently how he knows it is his own stream.

Doc: There are a lot of factors that guide and help activate sperm cells. These are chemical signals that are different from the mechanism of guidance used by a salmon, but the general effect is the same.

Hubbard: In such a way, a sperm seems to pilot itself along this course. It is an extremely long distance for a sperm. After all, it is microscopic. He goes a very long way—from the testes, down the urethra, into the vagina, up through the cervix, clear up into one of these tubes. Of course it is all on a gunshot principle. It has been said that to guarantee fertility in a man there would have to be 381 million sperms per cc. That is a lot of sperm, but, of all these sperm, some of them get through by a natural selection process. The ovum’s first moment of pain is sometimes when it moves out of the ovary; also, the tentacles grabbing it down the line are sometimes painful to it. Occasionally you can run that out as an engram. It has been found in a few people.

Doc: Ovums do not have the cellular infrastructure to feel pain. Their movement is similar to how a white blood cell rolls along a blood vessel. It is an interplay between receptors on the ovum and external structures on the epithelial cells that line the Fallopian tubes. There are no tentacles that reach out and grab the ovum. I don’t know what LRH is talking about in these next few paragraphs, but it isn’t science.

Hubbard: Probably 20 percent of the cases you run will have something occurring before the sperm. This is the generative sequence. Let’s divide this down to the nomenclature of the sperm sequence, the ovum sequence and conception. The sperm and ovum finally merge, and occasionally another engram occurs at that moment. So, for an erasure, you normally take the sperm sequence from the moment of ejaculation forward, and if it starts to hang up you will find material earlier. Then you take the ovum sequence and see if you can find the moment the ovum broke forth from the ovary. (You don’t have to suggest it. Say, “Is there an earlier moment of pain?” and work the person back to it.) And then you get fertilization, which is occasionally an engram. Over 50 percent of the time these things don’t have any pain in them at all. Maybe they have a yawn. Sometimes the sperm gets tired and you have tiredness as one of the characteristics of the engram. Chronic weariness can be caused by either this sequence or birth. Of course, later on, Mama can say a lot about being tired, but there is actually weariness present in this and birth. There is mitosis as the zygote separates. Sixty hours after fertilization, it was found by a recent series of experiments, the zygote consisted of just two cells.

Doc: It takes about 30 hours for a newly fertilized ovum to divide into two embryonic cells (excluding the polar body, which is not part of the embryo). At this rate, at about 60 hours the embryo would transition to four cells. So LRH could be correct that the embryo has two cells at 60 hours.

Hubbard: The splitting which occurs in mitosis is sometimes painful…

Doc: There is no pain from cell division. We adults have cells dividing all the time. We do not sense it, yet alone feel pain.

Hubbard: … and sometimes you even get a case that has pain every time it splits. It is only necessary to pick up the first few divisions in order for all the rest of them to come off as a chain. The zygote is round, and pressure on it is perforce an overall somatic. It specializes in overall somatics. There are no selective somatics at this point. Don’t ever be fooled by somebody telling you that he is running a basic area engram which makes his arm hurt. He hasn’t got an arm in the basic area. He won’t have an arm until after the first missed period. There are overall somatics until after the first missed period. However, I have found a sperm running his nose into something and getting a pain which registers with the human being as something on the top of the head. That is interesting data. Also, a sperm, when it bangs into the wall of the ovum sometimes hits head-on, and you get a localized somatic. But that is the only one.

Doc: Here, LRH is claiming that a sperm bangs into the ovum and feels pain. There is no scientific evidence to support that. Sperm do not have the structures necessary to sense pain or record it.

The Bunker: Not only is he claiming that the sperm feels pain, but that Hubbard’s counseling techniques will enable the adult to “remember” those incidents of pain and trauma as sperm, egg, or zygote. It’s truly ludicrous.

Hubbard: Hallucination sometimes takes place during the sperm and ovum sequences. This is unmistakable. It is something on the order of “Here I am and ten thousand angels are coming down, and there’s someone sitting over here playing a harp.” That is a sperm dream…

Doc: Now he’s saying that sperm dream and hallucinate? Really?

Hubbard: …and you shouldn’t run that sperm dream as a hallucination. There is an actual engram there. So, try to reduce it down to the actual engram of conception. The sperm could be cat-eyed. You are liable to find a little bit of visio in this which is not to be classified as a level of hallucination, because it may be that following the course of alkalinity gives the illusion to the sperm that it sees. Of course, there is no light and it can’t really see, but when your preclear says this, don’t accuse him of dub-in. Never invalidate a preclear’s data. That he occasionally thinks he is looking at something is standard for the sperm and ovum sequence.

Doc: This is brilliant because it says anyone who is not clear, such as actual scientists, cannot see or understand this process, giving believers a way to deny independent examination that refutes these claims.

Hubbard: Sometime after the first missed period we go into the embryo stage. Look up pictures of embryos and you will find some very interesting things. For instance, the mouth formation is such that if it were struck in some fashion, it would get a peculiar type of injury. The roof of the mouth is on the outside of the face…

Doc: He must be talking about late stage embryos here (where a mouth is observable), but the roof of the mouth is not on the outside of the face.

Hubbard: …a blow in that area would actually be against the outside of the face of the early fetus. But afterwards, by evolution, these cells go inside the mouth, so it is as though the person had been hit on the roof of his mouth. That is the somatic he will get. Or, he may be hit on the side of his head and get two eye somatics, because the eyes, at one stage, are over on the sides of the head. I have even found a hat pin going through both eyes.

Doc: I searched the medical literature database Pub Med and found zero references to experiments where embryos were attacked with hair pins; so no comment.

Hubbard: But how could one hat pin on one thrust go through two eyes simultaneously? This caused me a little bit of worry until I saw a picture of an embryo, and found there is nothing easier. We are interested in the fact that, upside down and with his back out, the child is very much exposed to anything that comes into the cervix during this short period.

Doc: No. A mucous plug prevents access through the cervix. Why is LRH fixated with sticking stuff up there?

Hubbard: That’s why we get these peculiar back somatics—they are very early AAs. This goes on into the time when Mama has discovered that she is pregnant, and we get the engram that says “I can’t tell, it’s too early to tell,” “You’ll have to come back and see me again,” “I don’t know whether it is or not,” “I really don’t believe that I am.” We are of course after the first missed period when Mama has suddenly found out that she has missed a beat. At this moment she generally says, “I am caught.” And she sometimes says, “I have got to be sick; if I could only be sick I would be all right,” which is a lovely engram, because it’s behind basic on a hypochondriac.

Doc: Hubbard is a douche bag.

Hubbard: Very often there is a vaginal discharge when a woman is pregnant and Mama, through a guilty conscience or reading something, may mistake this for venereal disease.

Doc: There actually is a vaginal discharge associated with pregnancy. Pregnancy causes changes in hormone production (lots more estrogen) which increases the normal vaginal discharge that consists of secretions (like mucous), old cells and vaginal bacteria. If there is a urinary tract or vaginal infection, it could change the consistancy of the discharge.

Hubbard: Then she goes around saying “Oh, I will never be able to face anybody again. I have just sunken lower and lower and lower. I’m old and I will never be any good again.” Then, perhaps, she has a big fight with Papa about it and she accuses him of going around with loose women, and we get this whole mass of engrams just out of this single misunderstanding. It is a pathetic thing, because we get syphilophobia, and that type of psychosis, from this incident which women don’t understand. Very often Papa doesn’t understand it either and he makes accusations, because the discharge is often quite heavy…

Doc: From the mind of a science fiction writer… After this point, the lecture leaves the realm of science far in the rear view mirror and has entered the realm of fantasy (perhaps psychoses). So, no comment.

The Bunker: Thank you for getting this far into it. In the lecture, Hubbard continues to repeat his notion that the zygote and embryo are subjected to traumatic events that will form lasting “engrams” in the adults. In the book, most of these traumatic events are the result of his parents’ rough sex.

Doc: Most every guy I know when he is about to be a father is afraid he will “hurt” the baby by having sex during pregnancy. No. Evolution has this one figured out. The fetus is way too far up there to be contacted and is well protected inside the womb. You can’t just “knock it out.” And as for prenatal memory, there are no neurologic structures in the fetus (until late stage) capable of recording, yet alone storing, any kind of external stimulus. So I would dispute the existence of engrams. However, there is anecdotal evidence that external stimuli such as speaking to your unborn child or playing music, may be received and may have an effect on development, much as any environmental change could elicit a response.

The Bunker: Again, thanks for your help, Doc. We only wish Scientologists bothered to take such a sobering look at Hubbard’s tall tales.


Orlando on the move

Yesterday, Rod Keller told us that Orlando is probably the next city that will get a Scientology ‘Ideal Org,’ and today we have a couple of photos taken by reader L. Wrong, who went by to see what the renovation effort looks like…



Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,037 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,640 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 183 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,246 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,020 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,794 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,140 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,634 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,674 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,386 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 912 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,001 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,141 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,461 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,436 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 792 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,094 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,200 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,603 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,475 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,057 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,562 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,806 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,915 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 26, 2018 at 07:00

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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
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GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
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Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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