Opinion

Human identity

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In February, 1953, James Watson walked into a bar in England and declared that he and Francis Crick discovered the double helix DNA molecule.  Twenty years later in January 1973 the US Supreme Court declared that human abortion was legal.  Is there a relationship between these 2 events?  Perhaps there is.

Perhaps the first event should have prevented the second.   To be fair, it has taken a long time to get from the discovery of the double helix DNA molecule to the point of being able to read it.  That is, to be able to actually read the data on the segments of the strand.  As we’ve come to learn since that discovery over 60 years ago the DNA contains the complete description of any individual.

More and more is DNA evidence being used to solve crimes that have been committed years before.  Coincidently, DNA evidence has led to the release of prisoners simply because the DNA of the individual accused or imprisoned for a crime can be compared to the DNA evidence collected at the crime scene before DNA testing was available. If the two samples don’t match the conviction can be overturned.

We have come to realize that each individual has a unique DNA description that does not match any other individual.  It is a serial number much like the VIN (vehicle identification number) of your car.  It was assigned at manufacture.

From the first cell, when egg and sperm combine to make the very first cell, the DNA of the individual is created.  When that cell divides, the DNA is replicated exactly.  Every cell created after that has the exact same information in it, whether that cell becomes a specialty cell or not.  Any one cell has the complete set of plans in it to build the whole person.  The blueprint and building instructions are all there describing how to make that individual…what color eyes, hair, height, build, etc…and how to do it.

If an individual gets his VIN from the very first cell he is still the same person whether he is one cell old or 100 years old.  He goes through changes over that time period but his identity does not.  There are times when he can’t take care of himself and needs his mother’s help or our help… When he’s in his mother’s womb and can’t get his own nutrients, or when he’s been in an automobile accident and unconscious with a head injury.  Perhaps he has polio and can’t breathe without an iron lung.  Perhaps he had a stroke and, before his mind can retrain itself… which may take months, we need to push him around in a wheel chair and feed him with a spoon to keep him alive.  Our ability to exist without help should not be a criterion for whether we should be allowed to exist.

Sometimes we call taking someone else’s life murder.  Sometimes we call it justifiable homicide.  Perhaps we need to process each and every human abortion in court and determine whether it is a justifiable homicide or murder.   That determination is something we owe the individual victim whether he can hire an attorney for himself or not.

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