Of nothingness, DNA and embryonic life – Patrick Pullicino

At the centre of every strongly held anti-life (pro-choice) belief is a desensitisation to the wonder of not only life, but also of being, and even of existence. I would, for a moment, like to try to put the wonder of our simple existence into some perspective.

There is a hierarchy of existence on earth. At its pinnacle is human life with our ability to love, think rationally and distinguish good and evil – the supreme gifts.

Below us are mammals and other animals that have many of our animal characteristics and have DNA that maintains their species-specific continuity over time and generations.

Plant life is yet a further step below, with DNA but without the complex brain that movement and animal interaction requires.

Below this, inanimate objects or chemicals are not alive but they too have existence and a function in the world.

At the lowest end of this scale is the vacuum of space. It has no discernible things within it but it is not ‘nothingness’ as it is still part of the cosmos and is able to transmit light and electromagnetic waves.

So this brings us to nothingness. It is difficult to conceive of nothingness as it is outside of our experience. It is insightful to try to do this, however, as although individual human beings are made up of chemicals, our existence as individuals literally was ‘nothingness’ before we were conceived. We did not even exist as empty space.

This puts human conception in an entirely different light. Human embryos, however short-lived, are individuals that never previously existed. They are unique. Yes their DNA gives them the blueprint for their growth but that DNA is not necessarily unique, as identical twins have the same DNA.

It is not the DNA that gives individuality, it is our spiritual soul that is the core of our existence and of our individuality. Our body and DNA are just the ‘earthen vessel’ that holds our unique, created existence.

Individual human life when seen in the perspective of nothingness is all the more wonderful. Who but God can create out of nothingness? So every human conception, whether lasting an hour or a day or a hundred years, is in this deep perspective, a miracle.

Does the fact that many embryos die before birth devalue either human life or individuality or the preciousness of each and every embryo? No! How can it?

The practice of IVF and surrogacy has desensitised us to the astounding miracle of conception, set against the backdrop of the nothingness we came out of. And in-vitro fertilisation is not and could never be ‘creation’. 


I have previously called for the setting up of Malta as a centre for prenatal foetal medicine and intrauterine surgery


When a species becomes extinct, it has returned to the void out of which  it was created . Creation from that void of nothingness is true creation that only God can perform.

It is not only illogical but arrogant in the extreme to state that because many embryos die when they are still a few cells, therefore all embryos do not deserve protection.

Who are we to ask why God created these individuals? Maybe the majority of us die at an early stage to protect us from being contaminated by the errors and evils of the world that engulf us.

Rather than devaluing all embryonic life on the basis of the high loss of early embryos, we should cherish and protect embryonic life even more and pursue research to help reduce this early embryonic loss of human life.

It is wonderful that in Malta abortion is illegal. However, we cannot accept this bare legal minimum and must engender a wonder and respect of preborn life in society. 

I have previously called for the setting up of Malta as a centre for prenatal foetal medicine and intrauterine surgery.

As the only country in Europe that does not allow abortion, Malta could set up a prenatal medical centre with full surgical capabilities and take referrals from the rest of Europe and rapidly become a European and world leader in this area.

Patrick Pullicino, Catholic priest in London and retired NHS neurologist


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