'Show Me Your Original Face Before You Were Born': The Convergence Of Public Fetuses And Sacred DNA

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History And Philosophy Of The Life Sciences


Embryology is an intensely visual field, and it has provided the public with images of human embryos and fetuses. The responses to these images can be extremely powerful and personal, and the images (as well as our reactions to them) are conditioned by social and political agendas. The image of the 'autonomous fetus' abstracts the fetus from the mother, the womb, and from all social contexts, thereby emphasizing 'individuality'. The image of 'sacred DNA' emphasizes DNA as the unmoved mover, the eidos, the soul of the human being. Since fertilization involves the forming of a new constellation of DNA in the zygote, the act of fertilization is being perceived as the secular and technical equivalent of ensoulment. This privileges fertilization above the other possible scientifically valued times when 'human life' begins.

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