May 20, 2010

What Hath Man Wrought?

Has Man created life? If so, what does this mean for mankind? Who is God? How will humans deal with this reality? Should we be surprised? How does this affect spirituality? "In the beginning, God..."

The WSJ story explains in more detail that Dr. Ventner and his team actually didn't create the bacterium cell from scratch, but replaced the complete genome of a bacterium with a genome they created resulting in a new species of the bacterium.

The Economist reports that scientists have 'created life.' If true, how should we deal with this revolution? The Economist story concludes...

"...Thoughtful observers of synthetic biology favour a different approach: openness. This avoids shutting out the good in a belated attempt to prevent the bad. Knowledge cannot be unlearned, so the best way to oppose the villains is to have lots of heroes on your side. Then, when a problem arises, an answer can be found quickly. If pathogens can be designed by laptop, vaccines can be, too. And, just as “open source” software lets white-hat computer nerds work against the black-hats, so open-source biology would encourage white-hat geneticists.

Regulation—and, especially, vigilance—will still be needed. Keeping an eye out for novel diseases is sensible even when such diseases are natural. Monitoring needs to be redoubled and co-ordinated. Then, whether natural or artificial, the full weight of synthetic biology can be brought to bear on the problem. Encourage the good to outwit the bad and, with luck, you keep Nemesis at bay."

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