Recently I participated in a DNA test to discover my genetic heritage. It is such an amazing thing to have within the very structure of my being signs of what has gone on before I ever existed!
Even today, science tells us, the decisions we make in life, e.g. whom we marry, and even the more subjective things that occur to us, e.g. tragedies we face or mistakes we make, are encoded into our genetic structure for investigation years and even centuries from now.
Encoded in my DNA was the fact that I was about 75% Greco-Italian. The DNA of Greeks and Italians of the South are so close as to make them indistinguishable; but it is the other 25% that I found surprising. The other fourth of my DNA reveals connections to the Caucasus (Armenia etc.) Arabia (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria) and European Jewry. The amazing thing was that, perhaps centuries ago, a number of distinct ethnic strains came together; I am the results of processes of integration that I had no idea existed.
In addition, scientists who study the human genome tell us that when something happens in my life of a major character (a success, a failure, a tragedy, an accomplishment) that it registers on my DNA structure. Therefore, as science gets better at reading what is in my genes, they will find a wealth of ethnic, medical, and psychological data that combines to influence my natural habits and predilections in ways that are pre-conscious and certainly unconscious.
Hand in hand with the given content of this inherent and implicit being within me, is the real effects of a freedom that I can exercise which can even contradict what my genetic history would seem to predict. Within the given time I have on the Earth, I am free to make my contribution to the unfolding of my being; and this will have its effects on coming generations in my family (if, of course, I had pursued the married state rather than the celibate priesthood!).
While I can see the effects of thousands of years of genetic history on my being today, and while I am free to contribute what I choose to be in my concrete history, all of this is part of the providence of God in my life. He has directed my genetic history and he inspires my present contributions to who I co-create with Him as the person that I am today.
The truth that I am driving at is that I am, and by extension humanity is, much greater than the material reductionists of today would have it; and that this process starts immediately at the moment of my conception when the genetic process encoded in my mother unites with that of my father to create a whole new being that is different from both my parents. In addition, this process is guided by the hand of God who writes the future in the biology of my being. I have within me the creation of the universe and the future of the world. I was not just a zygote or fetus in the womb: I was an evolving work of God.
The moral, social and political consequences of this personal anthropology are enormous, for the issue of Abortion is not going to go away until we decide as a nation to select a moment in the process at which we believe that a new human being is evolving and that that developing being needs the protection of law as a developing American citizen. When this moment is will have to be debated: conception, the existence of brain waves, the feeling of pain, and a heartbeat? After that decision, Abortion would be legal before that moment and illegal after that moment. Right now it is birth and even that is not absolute since a baby slated to be killed in partial birth abortion and surviving the procedure can legally be left on a table to starve to death!
It would be clear from this essay that the Church’s position that this human moment should be conception is the only scientifically respectable position since the genetic structure of the new individual is not that of the father and not that of the mother. A new person is being formed and he or she needs to be protected by not only moral consensus but by the law.