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The Impact Of Synthetic Life On Theism


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There's still some debate if this really counts as an example of synthetic life being created, but if scientists are able to create new life, what sort of impact do you think it'll have on theism? Would the creation of life render the argument for a divine creator redudant and disprove the existence of a sentient supernatural god? Will it undermine traditional theological beliefs like creation ex nihilo and the teleological argument? Will such an experiment disprove religion or will it open religion to more progress pantheistic beliefs? Do you think Christianity will be able to survive without God as a supernatural concept? Do you think the Catholic church is right and this is coming too close to playing God or is the Catholic church simply concerned because of the theological implication caused by the creation of synthetic life? Is there ever a time where scientists should not be "playing God" if they're not using it for destructive purposes? http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/science/article/812465--synthesized-dna-is-used-to-make-artificially-created-cell-researchers-report?bn=1

 

WASHINGTON—U.S. scientists announced a bold step Thursday in the enduring quest to create artificial life: They have produced a living cell powered by manmade DNA.

 

While such work can invoke images of Frankenstein-like scientific tinkering, it also is exciting hopes that it could eventually lead to new fuels, better ways to clean polluted water, faster vaccine production and more.

 

Is it really an artificial life form?

 

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.

 

But genome-mapping pioneer J. Craig Venter said his team’s project paves the way for the ultimate, much harder goal: designing organisms that work differently from the way nature intended for a wide range of uses. Already he’s working with ExxonMobil in hopes of turning algae into fuel.

 

“This is the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” Venter told reporters.

 

And the report, being published Friday in the journal Science, is triggering excitement in this growing field of synthetic biology.

 

“It’s been a long time coming, and it was worth the wait,” said Dr. George Church, a Harvard Medical School genetics professor. “It’s a milestone that has potential practical applications.”

 

Scientists for years have moved single genes and even large chunks of DNA from one species to another. At his J. Craig Venter Institute Venter’s team aimed to go further. A few years ago, the researchers transplanted an entire natural genome — the genetic code — of one bacterium into another and watched it take over, turning a goat germ into a cattle germ.

 

Next, the researchers built from scratch another, smaller bacterium’s genome, using off-the-shelf laboratory-made DNA fragments.

 

Friday’s report combines those two achievements to test a big question: Could synthetic DNA really take over and drive a living cell? Somehow, it did.

 

“This is transforming life totally from one species into another by changing the software,” said Venter, using a computer analogy to explain the DNA’s role.

 

The researchers picked two species of a simple germ named Mycoplasma. First, they chemically synthesized the genome of M. mycoides, that goat germ, which with 1.1 million “letters” of DNA was twice as large as the germ genome they’d previously built.

 

Then they transplanted it into a living cell from a different Mycoplasma species, albeit a fairly close cousin.

 

At first, nothing happened. The team scrambled to find out why, creating a genetic version of a computer proofreading program to spell-check the DNA fragments they had pieced together. They found that a typo in the genetic code was rendering the manmade DNA inactive, delaying the project three months to find and restore that bit.

 

“It shows you how accurate it has to be, one letter out of a million,” Venter said.

 

That fixed, the transplant worked. The recipient cell started out with synthetic DNA and its original cytoplasm, but the new genome “booted up” that cell to start producing only proteins that normally would be found in the copied goat germ. The researchers had tagged the synthetic DNA to be able to tell it apart, and checked as the modified cell reproduced to confirm that new cells really looked and behaved like M. mycoides.

 

“All elements in the cells after some amount of time can be traced to this initial artificial DNA. That’s a great accomplishment,” said biological engineer Ron Weiss of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Even while praising the accomplishment — “biomolecular engineering of the highest order,” declared David Deamer of the University of California, Santa Cruz — many specialists say the work has not yet crossed the line of truly creating new life from scratch.

 

It is partially synthetic, some said, because Venter’s team had to stick the manmade genetic code inside a living cell from a related species. That cell was more than just a container; it also contained its own cytoplasm — the liquid part.

 

In other words, the synthetic part was “running on the ‘hardware’ of the modern cell,” University of Southern Denmark physics professor Steen Rasmussen wrote in the journal Nature, which on Thursday released essays of both praise and caution from eight leaders in the field.

 

The environmental group Friends of the Earth said the new work took “genetic engineering to an extreme new level” and urged that Venter stop until government regulations are put in place to protect against these kind of engineered microbes escaping into the environment.

 

Venter said he removed 14 genes thought to make the germ dangerous to goats before doing the work, and had briefed government officials about the work over the course of several years — acknowledging that someone potentially could use this emerging field for harm instead of good.

 

But MIT’s Weiss said it would be far easier to use existing technologies to make bioweapons: “There’s a big gap between science fiction and what your imagination can do and the reality in research labs.”

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There's still some debate if this really counts as an example of synthetic life being created, but if scientists are able to create new life, what sort of impact do you think it'll have on theism? Would the creation of life render the argument for a divine creator redudant and disprove the existence of a sentient supernatural god? Will it undermine traditional theological beliefs like creation ex nihilo and the teleological argument? Will such an experiment disprove religion or will it open religion to more progress pantheistic beliefs? Do you think Christianity will be able to survive without God as a supernatural concept? Do you think the Catholic church is right and this is coming too close to playing God or is the Catholic church simply concerned because of the theological implication caused by the creation of synthetic life? Is there ever a time where scientists should not be "playing God" if they're not using it for destructive purposes? http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/science/article/812465--synthesized-dna-is-used-to-make-artificially-created-cell-researchers-report?bn=1

 

I think Christianity is surviving right now without supernatural theism, in many manifestations of liberal and progressive Christian thought. However, wherever Christianity leaves behind its overtly theistic foundations, it is shedding what has been its most identifiable characteristic throughout the centuries. Many people will say Christianity without its traditional notions of God is not Christian at all, but then the question of 'what makes a Christian' comes in. Ultimately if it identifies 'organically' with the Christian tradition, then it is Christianity. I choose 'organic' as the adjective because it connotes deep, multifaceted connection, not existing independently from the whole.

 

That said, I don't think this example demonstrates man-made life. I tend to think that we are not totally sure yet what even constitutes life, though I would not say it is in principle an insurmountable obstacle from a purely quantitative, reductionist standpoint. Were we actually able to create life, I think theism would still be alive as a worldview. If evolution hasn't dissuaded the formulation of theistic evolution, I don't see why man-made creation of life would squelch theism. Biological life isn't the only big question that people use God to explain.

 

It would almost definitely shatter the intelligent design/creationist movement, however.

 

When it comes to the experiments themselves, I am very wary of them. Life on earth has evolved for billions of years into a state of overarching symbiosis. You can call it 'playing God', you can call it hubris, call it what you want - but I don't think we should be trying to manipulate biology on a fundamental level. We can't even figure out how to stop an oil leak, let alone take into account the trillions of factors that interplay in the biosphere.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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(snip)

 

When it comes to the experiments themselves, I am very wary of them. Life on earth has evolved for billions of years into a state of overarching symbiosis. You can call it 'playing God', you can call it hubris, call it what you want - but I don't think we should be trying to manipulate biology on a fundamental level. We can't even figure out how to stop an oil leak, let alone take into account the trillions of factors that interplay in the biosphere.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

 

 

I tend to agree. Even the current chapter of the Tao Chapter 39 we are studying speaks of what happens when we mess with the natural order of things. It is not, to me, necessarily a religious issue but more a common sense issue for all of mankind regardless of any religious affiliations. As far as your question on the catholic church i personally make no judgement of their motive or reasons for their position but i am not at odds with their position.

 

Just my own view,

Joseph

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That said, I don't think this example demonstrates man-made life. I tend to think that we are not totally sure yet what even constitutes life, though I would not say it is in principle an insurmountable obstacle from a purely quantitative, reductionist standpoint.

Are you a Robert Rosen fan by any chance, Mike?
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Are you a Robert Rosen fan by any chance, Mike?

 

No, I'm not familiar with him. I take it he argues something similar? Philosophically I happen to think that there are some qualities that in principle science cannot capture by reduction or pure theorizing. The prime example of this is consciousness. I think that there can be no theory of consciousness as such. Even if we were to one day create artificial intelligence, we would not be able to do it based on some kind of deductive theoretical approach. It would have to be some kind of accident. We may be able to reduce the brain to functional parts to neurons to organelles to molecules, but that information doesn't disclose any understanding of conscious experience as such. Therefore, we can describe life in terms of reductionism and with great success, but it is clear to me that reductionism does not exhaust reality.

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WASHINGTON—U.S. scientists announced a bold step Thursday in the enduring quest to create artificial life: They have produced a living cell powered by manmade DNA.

 

DNA is the hereditary material in humans and other organism. Almost every cell in our bodies has the same DNA. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases. The order or sequences of these four bases similar to a computer code determine the information for building or repairing an organism. It like making many words with the same four letters. An important property of DNA is that it can replicate, or make copies of itself.

 

Personally, I am happy we have cracked the code and I hope we apply it to our benefit. Some scientist think that everything is made up of energy. E=MC2. Mass times light squared. Mass describes the physical things around us. Newton developed the law of conservation where energy is not created or destroyed; only transferred from place to place. In physics energy equivalence is the concept that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. In relativity, all of the energy that moves along with an object adds up to the total mass of the body and in relativity, removing energy is removing mass. Many are realizing that mass is constantly changing to energy and energy to mass.

 

As a Christian I find that identifying elementary concepts, understanding them, and studying their interactions with Christianity will turn out to be the key to illuminating Christians on a deeper level leading them to a greater understanding of themselves, their bodies, God and the entire universe.

 

Some Christian philosophies have a lack of total explanation and have lost the power to bring about the original experience of oneness, God and creation. Many Christian teachings have become superstitions and an impediment on the road to spiritual development. I feel the world that intersects science and Christianity can clear this up so God will cease to be an object and become an actual experience. I think that is why we are Progressive Christians.

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