Quotes of the day

posted at 10:47 pm on May 20, 2010 by Allahpundit

Dr. Venter calls the result a “synthetic cell” and is presenting the research as a landmark achievement that will open the way to creating useful microbes from scratch to make products like vaccines and biofuels. At a press conference Thursday, Dr. Venter described the converted cell as “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

“This is a philosophical advance as much as a technical advance,” he said, suggesting that the “synthetic cell” raised new questions about the nature of life…

Some other scientists said that aside from assembling a large piece of DNA, Dr. Venter has not broken new ground. “To my mind Craig has somewhat overplayed the importance of this,” said David Baltimore, a geneticist at Caltech. He described the result as “a technical tour de force,” a matter of scale rather than a scientific breakthrough.

“He has not created life, only mimicked it,” Dr. Baltimore said.

Professor Julian Savulescu, from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said the potential of this science was “in the far future, but real and significant”.

“But the risks are also unparalleled,” he continued. “We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.

“These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable. The challenge is to eat the fruit without the worm.”

One of the biggest problems is that scientists are still searching for the specific genetic code to produce cheap drugs, biofuel and other products.

“We can write anything we want,” said Arnold. “The problem is that we don’t know what to write.”


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Comment pages: 1 2

“He has not created life, only mimicked it,” Dr. Baltimore said.

Amen. Tell me when they create life without using DNA. Painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa is not creating NEW art, merely modifying the art that already exists.

But it does show evidence of the INTELLIGENT DESIGN that they are modifying. If the way to modify it is to use a computer, I wonder who wrote the original code?

barnone on May 21, 2010 at 10:59 AM

Maybe I’m missing something but he didn’t CREATE life … he took an existing living cell, injected it with the designed DNA, and the cell accepted it and started replicating.

He essentially modified an existing cell.

Maybe it’s just splitting hairs with definitions though.

I think this technology is very dangerous. Even if you look at the potential positives, it reeks of hubris and can potentially destroy entire ecosystems, alter balances and through unintended consequences do much more harm than people think.

AlexB on May 21, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Technically speaking, what they did was copy the DNA of an existing microbe synthetically. From what I’ve read of it so far, I’m not even certain they can write anything they want; they just don’t need the cell structures to copy an existing DNA strand.

Voyager on May 21, 2010 at 1:25 PM

Soooo, it takes 60 yrs for brilliant scientists feverishly working in perfect lab environments to create an imitation of a life form, but they say that the first life happened accidentally.

itsnotaboutme on May 21, 2010 at 12:21 AM

Well yeah, but you forgot the “vast amounts of time.” If you just throw in billions and billions of years, I’m sure anything is possible


tom on May 21, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Comment pages: 1 2