And God Created … Artificial Life Created By Man?
Many people by now have seen the news reports saying that scientists have “created life.” This research has been reported in several major science publications such as Nature and Science. Let us examine what this scientific advance really is, what it means, and if man is playing God.
The report, as given by the Reuters Health and Science editor, Maggie Fox, says this, “Scientists working to make a synthetic life form reported a major step forward Thursday, saying they had created an artificial genome and used it to bring a hollowed-out bacterium back to life.”
The first thing to realize is that the scientists DID NOT create a life form or a new cell from raw materials. They took a small bacterial cell called Mycoplasm capricolum, which had its DNA removed and then inserted other DNA that was synthetically produced from the pattern of a close relative type of bacteria. The amazing thing was that the synthetically produced DNA activated the cell into a reproducing bacterial cell. The lead researcher, genome pioneer Craig Venter, said this, “This is the first synthetic cell that's been made.” He added, “This is the first self-replicating species that we have had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”
Of course, evolutionary scientists will make great claims concerning this advance. Here is one such claim: “Venter's achievement would seem to extinguish the argument that life requires a special force or power to exist. In my view, this makes it one of the most important scientific achievements in the history of mankind,” bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania wrote in a commentary in the journal Nature.
Well, all of these claims are a great deal of overstatement! What they did was to examine the pattern of DNA that God placed in the bacteria. They then put the raw material that God had created in the right arrangement and put it into a hollowed out cell, which still had the machinery that God created it with and got the cell to begin carrying on normal functions. This really is a very big advance in biological understanding of God’s creation! However, it is a FAR CRY from creating an artificial life form!
As Maggie Fox says in the article, “Other members of his research team said later they had taken only ‘baby steps’ toward the goal of starting with a digital file and custom-making an organism.” Other scientists agree. Jim Collins, a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University said, “Frankly, scientists do not know enough about biology to create life.” Collins wrote in Nature, “The work reported by Venter and his colleagues is an important advance in our ability to re-engineer organisms; it does not represent the making of new life from scratch.” (Emphasis mine)
Again, Maggie Fox said, “The inventors call it the world's first synthetic cell, although this initial step is more a re-creation of existing life — changing one simple type of bacterium into another — than a built-from-scratch kind.”
While given to wild over-exaggeration, what these scientists have done is unique and could be an important step for scientists to use God’s creation to help mankind. Venter hopes that this could be the beginning of humans’ ability to make bacteria to produce fuel, to use in making better vaccines, or to design algae that can vacuum up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There is also the very real danger of its being used to produce biological weapons for the destruction of humans. However, it did not come cheap or quick. Maggie Fox says, “It took years to figure out how to make an artificial chromosome with artificial genetic sequences. The researchers, who have spent 15 years and $40 million so far, then had to figure out how to transfer this into another bacterium.”
So, we have made a very minor advance in understanding what God brought into existence in a spoken word and realizing how intelligent God MUST BE to do it with a word. The psalmist said it well in Psalms 33:8-9: “Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” AMEN! -Rt 1 Box 116A, Belington, WV 26250. firstname.lastname@example.org
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