I’ve been reading about the newly manmade bacteria — it’s referred to as “Artificial Life” — Okay, it’s not really, in it’s entirety, “totally” artificial — they basically sort of cut-and-pasted parts of the genome, sucked out the original genome and replaced it with the spliced-together “software” genome into a host cell, and voila! – new bacteria that replicates itself! (link to article)
I’m all for the advancement of science and this research, but along with the “good” that can come from these advancements, there is the “bad” that can come from these efforts.
Dr. Venter, the researcher, tries to assure us that this new field has been extensively reviewed “…all the way up to the level of the White House…”. I remain unconvinced of the safety of such research, as well as the ethical implications. (And when there is a dollar to made, greed leads people to turn a blind eye, and therein lies a danger.)
Someone, somewhere, somehow will use the fruits of this research and development for selfish, maybe nefarious, gain with possibly deleterious effects on our environment and ourselves. There is no way to know the long-term effects of unleashing a created bacterium into the environment, whether intentionally or accidentally. No doubt there will be mutations that the creation creates to sustain itself if that happens. Who knows where this tinkering will lead. We don’t. We can’t. We don’t have that prophetic ability to account for every natural detail. That’s God’s business.
Do I think we should ban, halt this research? Of course not. Whether this type of research is legislated into oblivion matters not as it would covertly continue anyway, and other researchers elsewhere will continue the efforts.
However, just as we try to limit and control nuclear weaponry today, we might be on the verge of setting the stage for a biological armageddon that we may come to discover we are unable to limit and control. That’s what happens when we play around with trying to tweak the natural systems. That is the risk we take. That is the risk we have always taken.
Ultimately, if we end up offing ourselves as a result of this research, all is not lost. Nature will just go back into the kitchen and brew up another primordial soup. She has eternity to resolve these matters. We have only lifetimes.