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Deep within each sperm cell is a fully formed, miniaturized individual called a homunculus. These microscopic "little men" simply need time to gestate until they grow large enough to be born. This is the basis of preformationism, which has risen to prominence in the 19th century.

Using alchemical sciences, an individual is able to grow these humans without the use of a second parent, creating their own children from scratch. By discovering this secret to creating life, human beings can make God irrelevant and take his place as their own supreme beings.

The human male produces millions of sperm in a single day. I plan to use my own cells to create an army of homunculi, which I will then use to conquer the world. Due to this method, I have created millions of my own "children" who are subservient to my will. There have been a few hiccups, however.

These sexless humanoids have grown to be grotesque representations of humanity, being completely deformed in appearance. They contain exaggerated features, such as elongated arms, overly-large lips, giant hands, etc. Being unfully formed humans, they also lack a large degree of organs that people normally have. This should make them far weaker than humans and unable to survive for a significant degree of time. Instead, they are stronger and more resilient than normal. However, their physical forms are biologically immortal, and possess a remarkably strong healing factor that makes them difficult to kill.

How can this be explained?

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    $\begingroup$ In the 19th century preformism was already completely out of fashion, killed by the development of (relatively speaking) modern embriology (= epigenesis). Its days of glory were in the 18th century. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 9 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ Just posted an answer, but wanted to add a comment: there's some loose ends in this world. You say make God irrelevant then go on to say they're sexless and deformed. You say you're able to create millions of your own "children" to take over the world - but can't anyone do that? So everyone would just create millions of homunculi. Seems more like an apocalyptic scenario than a way to make yourself world dictator. In any case, it's a cool idea that I answered below; just wanted to point out some plot holes in this comment :) $\endgroup$ – cegfault Oct 9 at 13:18
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Regeneration

Cellular regeneration does occur in humans, both naturally and induced. The homunculi simply have a strong regeneration capacity; normally this is crippled (but not eliminated) when the sperm cell merges with an egg, which is why we humans can regenerate some, but not all organs.

The homunculi, however, were never "distorted" by the egg; they were extracted from the sperm cell and induced into growing into their own living beings. This is a two-edged sword: the capacity for rapid regeneration was retained, but the "structure" of humanity came from the egg, not the sperm. In fact, this would help explain why most sperm are "funny-looking" (deformed):

The usual cutoff for strict morphology is 4%, which means that 95% of your sperm can be funny looking, and you’d still be considered to have normal morphology. That should give you an idea of how oddly shaped most sperm are in the typical male.

In other words, the homunculi are of course deformed - because they never received the structural integrity which comes from merging with an egg. And of course they are stronger - because they never lost their capacity for rapid regeneration!

This pseudo-immortality is, therefore, something like Cell from Dragonball Z, who can survive and regenerate if there is a single cell of his left.

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Let us confer with the MasterMind of Mars, Ras Thavas, and consider the benefits of polyploids for an endeavor such as yours.

Synthetic Men of Mars

Ras Thavas led us to an enormous room where we beheld such a spectacle as probably never had been enacted elsewhere in the entire universe. In the center of the room was a huge tank about four feet high from which were emerging hideous monstrosities almost beyond the powers of human imagination to conceive; and surrounding the tank were a great number of hormad warriors with their officers, rushing upon the terrible creatures, overpowering and binding them, or destroying them if they were too malformed to function successfully as fighting men. At least fifty per centum of them had to be thus destroyed—fearful caricatures of life that were neither beast nor man. One was only a great mass of living flesh with an eye somewhere and a single hand. Another had developed with its arms and legs transposed, so that when it walked it was upside down with its head between its legs. The features of many were grotesquely misplaced. Noses, ears, eyes, mouths might be scattered indiscriminately anywhere over the surfaces of torso or limbs. These were all destroyed; only those were preserved which had two arms and legs and the facial features of which were somewhere upon the head. The nose might be under an ear and the mouth above the eyes, but if they could function appearance was of no importance.

Ras Thavas viewed them with evident pride. "What do you think of them?" he asked The Warlord.

The production of your homunculi is a process that Ras Thavas would recognize. Each homunculus starts with the haploid genome of a sperm, and then duplicates its genome again and again, becoming massively polyploid. Polyploidy can lead to great increase in size and vitality as is seen in many cultivated fruits.

https://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/1l8yir/so_we_got_these_monster_strawberries_today/

polyploid mutant strawberries

Polyploidy leading to grotesque phenotypic differences does not usually occur in whole chordate organisms. But in nonreproductive cancer cells which parasitize the host, polyploidy can likewise produce size increase – and produce other characteristics including the sidestepping of genetic safeguards that produce cell senescence and mortality.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326188263_Polyploid_Giant_Cancer_Cells_PGCCs_The_Evil_Roots_of_Cancer

  1. WHAT ARE POLYPLOID GIANT CANCER CELLS (PGCCS)?

The size of PGCCs can vary significantly and be as large as 10 to 20 times as compared with that of regular diploid cells depending on the content of the DNA and the number of nuclei in the cells. Genetically, the DNA content in these giant cells needs to be equal (4C) or greater than tetraploid (> 4C). Depending on the tumor type or treatment, PGCCs can vary in numbers and generally increase with tumor stage, grade, and treatment [19]. Endoreplication provides an efficient strategy for growth and development from plants to mammals. If energy sources are limited or if cells are in rapid growth, increasing the cell volume and DNA content without division is more advantageous [20]. Similarly, PGCCs have a distinct advantage over regular cancer cells in dealing with stresses and reproduction [3-4, 6-7]. Increasing DNA content by endoreplication is a widely utilized effective mechanism to sustain the mass production of proteins and for high metabolic activity necessary for tumor growth.

Your homunculi are polyploid monsters which sidestep self-destruction via well-timed magical intervention. Despite this, half or more are patently unfit for your purposes (though potentially useful for others); fortunately these culls can be recycled for their raw materials in your growth vats. What you have remaining are extremely variable in appearance and ability due to their mutational burdens. Some may require artificial sustenance of one form or another to compensate for their inborn deficiencies. You have learned to recognize and meet these needs. Some might just need dietary additions of one sort or another, or a periodic return to the vat for renewal. Some you can sustain with mechanicomagical prostheses. Some might just have a very short life expectancy.

The phenotypes of these homunculi are greatly dependent on the genotype of their “father” – all mammal males can be used to produce homunculi of some sort, but the ability to produce useful homunculi will greatly vary from one male to the next. You are fortunate in that your own genetic code and idiosyncratic mutational burden confers a useful phenotype on your own homunculus “progeny”. Homunculi produced by another male might be very, very different - but still possibly useful.

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  • $\begingroup$ Although an interesting phenomenon, from what I recall polyploidy is mainly oberved in plants, not animals. I could be wrong, but that would require a published source to confirm I think. $\endgroup$ – Whitehot Oct 14 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Whitehot I don't think scientific rigour is the point here $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Oct 17 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @VaradMahashabde No, but it makes the story more believable. If OP wasn't interested in any scientific basis for their story, they would just use handwave magic $\endgroup$ – Whitehot Oct 17 at 17:15
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A lack of proper genetic regulation

Genetic regulation is one of the most important elements of complex lifeforms, from their prenatal development all the way through the lives, and is often the cause of death of many people nowadays. So if your alchemical growth messes with your homonculi's prenatal development, they will we be "born" misshapen and will most likely exhibit strange characteristics during their "lives". With enough research and a lot of trial and error, you could perfect your growth protocol to enhance or reduce any number of these.

They contain exaggerated features, such as elongated arms, overly-large lips, giant hands, etc. Being unfully formed humans, they also lack a large degree of organs that people normally have.

This would probably be harder to avoid than to just leave in.

they are stronger and more resilient than normal

In addition to an increase of muscle mass that can occur during development, if you switch off (or turn down) the part of their brains that limits how much strength their muscles are "allowed" to output, you've got yourself a pretty heavy hitter.

However, their physical forms are biologically immortal, and possess a remarkably strong healing factor that makes them difficult to kill.

This part will probably be trickier. By biologically immortal, I'm assuming you mean that they don't die of old age. This mainly means that they won't age beyond their "late twenties" in normal human age. This can be explained in large part by active telomerases, through any means you see fit. As for healing, an increased regenrative metabolism would allow them to heal severe wounds, but probably nothing inconceivable. So if you chop them half, they're probably not going to be able to stitch themselves back together without some magic thrown in. Regenerating limbs would also probably take a few days, if not close to a month, to grow back in full. Bones in particular will take a while to be as sturdy as regular adult bones.

Issues: if you develop homonculi with these properties, they will be incredibly prone to developping cancers. You could handwavium this problem away, say with a specific formula that just so happens to prevent that, or some serum that will repress the cancer cells in them or boost their immune system to beat them... The possibilities for that are endless, since it's handwavium territory. Realistically though, they probably wouldn't last more than a month without choking on their own tumors.

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Magic, and literally nothing else

Like you said in the question, preformationism was a belief held by scientists in the 19th century. But that was a grotesquely mistaken belief, and it fact the sperm is the less important half of the zygote. The female egg contains not only a set of 23 genes, but it also contains all the other components of the cell, including very important organelles like the mitochondria. In other words, even if you somehow got a 23-gene sperm to act like a zygote, it would die instantly, even it an artificial womb, because it has no structures within it.

So you'd need to now restructure how human sperm works, and have it somehow be a capable cell, (which in it of itself is a herculean feat) except now is when you run into a second problem - lack of DNA. Now, you specified sperm, which contains 23 genes. If you said you were using 46-gene somatic cells, you could (theoretically) just use clones. But you said sperm, which means we're starting out with 23 genes, and you need 46 for a human. Trying to grow a human with 23 is no go, so you could try duplicating them, except now you've managed to get an offspring with a 1.00 inbreeding coefficient, which is bad. As in, your description of them being grotesque is too mild for this, and they would probably die really fast, unless you (the donor) had near-perfect genetics.

Also, as a side point, you need to come up with the energy for an army that large to grow to maturity, and you've made no mention of a cloning factory on a rain-soaked water world, so I'm not sure how that stage of the process will work, but it's not as big of an issue as the rest of this, so I'll move on.

Now, for the final step:

These sexless humanoids have grown to be grotesque representations of humanity, being completely deformed in appearance. They contain exaggerated features, such as elongated arms, overly-large lips, giant hands, etc. Being unfully formed humans, they also lack a large degree of organs that people normally have. This should make them far weaker than humans and unable to survive for a significant degree of time. Instead, they are stronger and more resilient than normal. However, their physical forms are biologically immortal, and possess a remarkably strong healing factor that makes them difficult to kill.

So, we've established why these things are grotesque - a 1.00 inbreed coefficient will do that. Lacking organs also makes sense given that 1.00 inbreed. But here's what doesn't make sense - the fact that they ignore that. You can't ignore lacking a 'large degree of organs'. Missing a heart will kill you. Missing lungs will kill you. Missing a liver will kill you. Missing kidneys will kill you. Then there's the fact that they are 'biologically immortal'. Only a very specific type of jellyfish is biologically immortal, but it does that by reverting to it's polyp stage . And reverting to a polyp stage isn't something a human is capable of, because we don't have one - at best, it may be able to spawn an identical zygote, and that's just cloning. And, lastly, a 'healing factor' that makes something difficult to kill isn't something that will exist in a creature that can't manage to get all of its internal organs working. And even if it does exist, it shouldn't work at all.

Ultimately, you're trying to take the blueprints for a human, burn half of them at random, then try to build a better human out of them. Which is like taking the blueprints for, say, the Burj Kalifa burn half of it, and then mirror the parts you haven't burnt, and decide to try building something twice as tall. It's just not possible from a biological perspective. Mild handwavium won't let you get it either. The only way to do this is by just calling the whole process magic, and not go into the details.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe you meant chromosomes instead of genes - there's more than 23 genes in a sperm cell, that's for sure. But yes, the problem of mitochondria, other organelles and the instant 100% inbreeding coefficient would be lethal to any proto-organism grown from sperm cells. $\endgroup$ – Whitehot Oct 14 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ That's what I thought as well when reading the question, but I don't think OP is aiming for realistic biology $\endgroup$ – Varad Mahashabde Oct 17 at 16:29
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Your 'alchemical sciences'

The very chemical process that created this had the power to "change" the DNA, thus the power to destroy parts of it.


Further consideration, depending on your plot...

Remember, you were using chemicals to produce these beings, not genetic engineering. Had you combined DNA strands from multiple different cells to produce whole strands of DNA, you might not have had this specific problem. But, probably due to budget issues, your plan for world domination chose the less expensive rout.

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