Artificial Life
Posted: 24 May 2010 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Craig Venter and his colleagues have done it! They have manufactured DNA from scratch and made a self-replicating life form.

http://www.jcvi.org/cms/press/press-releases/full-text/article/first-self-replicating-synthetic-bacterial-cell-constructed-by-j-craig-venter-institute-researcher

Dr. Hutchison of the JCVI said, “To me the most remarkable thing about our synthetic cell is that its genome was designed in the computer and brought to life through chemical synthesis, without using any pieces of natural DNA. This involved developing many new and useful methods along the way. We have assembled an amazing group of scientists that have made this possible.”

At this stage the goals of the institute are to design and manufacture bacteria for bio-fuels, vaccines, medicines, food products and clean water. This is a very significant milestone with regard to humanity’s ability to shape the environment around us. Obviously, there are implications far beyond these goals. If scientists can design a single-celled organism in a computer and manipulate the raw materials (Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine) to build the DNA, it is only a matter of time until scientists can create multi-cellular organisms from scratch. Nature has been doing this for billions of years.

I for one think this is a very significant breakthrough and a good thing. I recognize of course, that there are some serious ethical, philosophical and religious implications.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Interesting, but, It’s not a huge deal.  Craig Venter is simply a scientific PT Barnum and promotes himself brilliantly.

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Posted: 03 June 2010 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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ih8harvard - 28 May 2010 11:17 PM

Interesting, but, It’s not a huge deal.  Craig Venter is simply a scientific PT Barnum and promotes himself brilliantly.

Can you be more specific? What has Venter done to give you that impression? Or, if you prefer, we could debate the work rather than the man.

In it’s worst possible light, the Venter Institute has demonstrated that humans can not only read the code of life, we can write it. With regard to the religious implications, it is significant to me that in order to make the assembled DNA function as it was supposed to, it was not necessary for the scientists to add some invisible, supernatural, life force. We are indeed, obtaining mastery over life itself at a fundamental level common to all life as we know it.. As a result of Venter’s work, it doesn’t appear that we will also have to come up with some formula to make souls.

[ Edited: 03 June 2010 03:16 PM by Sapien]
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Posted: 03 June 2010 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Sapien - 03 June 2010 07:12 PM
ih8harvard - 28 May 2010 11:17 PM

Interesting, but, It’s not a huge deal.  Craig Venter is simply a scientific PT Barnum and promotes himself brilliantly.

Can you be more specific? What has Venter done to give you that impression? Or, if you prefer, we could debate the work rather than the man.

In it’s worst possible light, the Venter Institute has demonstrated that humans can not only read the code of life, we can write it. With regard to the religious implications, it is significant to me that in order to make the assembled DNA function as it was supposed to, it was not necessary for the scientists to add some invisible, supernatural, life force. We are indeed, obtaining mastery over life itself at a fundamental level common to all life as we know it.. As a result of Venter’s work, it doesn’t appear that we will also have to come up with some formula to make souls.

I can be more specific. They claimed to have created a new/novel life form and claimed that this is a major breakthrough.  But all they really did was scale up processes that we’ve already been capable of for a while.  They did not design genes that had not previously existed.  Instead, they identified genes that already existed and then they chemically synthesized them into a genome (rather than cutting and pasting them as most people do now).  There is nothing all that novel about what they did.  People have chemically synthesized genes before.  They simply scaled up the process to chemically synthesize a genome rather than genes. This is an example of Venter preying on the scientific ignorance of a sensationalist press for the purpose of self-promotion.  He was glad to have the press reporting that ‘scientists have finally created artificial life in the laboratory’, but in reality it isn’t much different from what scientists have already been doing, except for the scale involved.  I think this is another example of the disconnect between what scientists find to be groundbreaking versus what the public perceives as groundbreaking, and I think Venter is being shamelessly irresponsible in choosing to self-promote and exacerbate the problem.  That’s my take.

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