Today it has just been announced that artificial life has been created and has been reproduced more than a billion times, sparking moral controversy:
Scientists have created artificial life. In a world-first, Craig Venter, a maverick biologist and billionaire entrepreneur, has made a designer microbe from scratch.
The creation of the new life form, nicknamed ‘Synthia’, paves the way for the way for customised bugs that could revolutionise healthcare and fuel production.
In future, bacterial ‘factories’ capable of pumping out vast quantities of vital medicines or producing clean fuels could be designed to order.
Synthetic biology could also be harnessed to create environmentally-friendly bugs, capable of mopping up carbon dioxide or toxic waste.
Dr Venter, a cowboy boot-wearing Vietnam War veteran known for his showman tendencies, proclaimed: ‘We are entering a new era where we’re limited mostly by our imaginations.’
‘limited by our imaginations’, yes, yes this species has proven that already with these eco surrogates and magic medicine to help retards control themselves from throwing poo at mental institute staff. Now man has the potential to, not only engineer viruses and plagues, but life itself. Amazing, let’s see what a couple of rich corporate oligarchs can do with this little nugget, those who want to socially engineer a money making utopia where they can control everything and tickle with the economy because they own everything anyway, so let’s see, what could happen with this then?
There are fears that the technology, detailed in the journal Science could be abused to create the ultimate biological weapon.
Or that one mistake in a lab could lead to millions being wiped out by a plague, in scenes reminiscent of the Will Smith film I Am Legend.
Dr Venter, who was instrumental in the sequencing of the human genome, had previously succeeded transplanting one bug’s genome – its entire cache of DNA – into another bacterium, effectively changing its species.
He said: ‘We have ended up with the first synthetic cell powered and controlled totally by a synthetic chromosome and made from four bottles of chemicals.
‘It is pretty stunning when you just replace the DNA software in a cell and the cell instantly starts reading that new software and starts making a whole new set of proteins and within a short while all the characteristics of the first species disappear and a new species emerges.
‘Scientists’ understanding of biology falls far short of their technical capabilities. We have already learnt to our cost the risks that gap brings, for the environment, animal welfare and human health.
Professor Julian Savulescu, an Oxford University ethicist, said: ‘Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny.
‘He is not merely copying life artificially or modifying it radically by genetic engineering. He is going towards the role of God: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally.’
Now we’re just that tiniest bit even closer to killing off the majority of our population, awesome. Some exotic consequences to our environment however, means that it is not such a brilliant idea. Given the growth of technology, our skills toward genetic engineering will only increase (unless the IQ of humanity permanently falls beneath 120) therefore having the potential to threaten and even completely overrun the biosphere.
Just remember how our ecosystem’s biodiversity has been almost completely destroyed by meagre little things as worms, rodents, squirrels and even insects, some insects can destroy entire forests. So if something biologically engineered is like a germ from another planet that is able and managed to tap into the genome - the consequences could be devastating, or very interesting, and are unknowable to modern man, it will only add more threats, and more competition to any organism alive causing natural selection as we know it to be poisoned yet again.
Things such as cyanobacteria are the basic building block of our ecosystem, if their genome was under threat by a similar but foreign bacteria, it could completely poison the atmosphere by converting it into an alien gas. The fact that we have cyanobacteria and not some of the thousands of other strand of bacteria means that our planet may have potentially given birth to ecosystems completely different in composition to ours.
But regardless of the consequences, possessed humanity continues to open pandora’s boxes and xboxes,we will find modern day humanity even more obsolete. Rapid changes can and will occur with the consequences of radical technology fiddling with biology and ecosystems – forget using it for ‘soaking up CO2′, we have trees for that, forget using it for magic ‘medicine’, whenever we overun a natural function we drown in excess of its ‘positive’ effect, we drown in people who really shoulden’t be alive and push the hierarchy of organization further inward on itself.
Although it isn’t just about whether a technology is ethical really, although restricting development will increase the lifespan of certain civilizations dramatically; the main problem is who gets to use them.