Scientists for many years have been working on building a synthetic form of life. On May 20, 2010, the NY times reported that researchers were able to synthesize a bacterial genome which was able to take over an existing cell. During a press conference, Dr. Venter stated, “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”
He also states, “Life is basically the result of an information process, a software process. Our genetic code is our software, and our cells are dynamically, constantly reading our genetic code, making new proteins, and the proteins make the other cellular components.”
The new technology is going to be used for products that include vaccines and biofuels. Liberals are very concerned because the likes of BP and Exxon will have this new technology which would make ‘synthetic life’ commercial. So what does all this mean for creationism? Does this prove life coming from dead chemicals or a new synthetic life form?
Let’s take a closer look on how this ‘synthetic’ life form was actually made. First of all, DNA was only created but in order for it to actually work, it required existing machinery which is encoded. DNA is rendered useless if there is no machinery to decode it. Second of all, the synthesizers also required some very complex starting materials, deoxyribonucleotides.
DNA sequence is considered to be like software, Paul Davies who is known for his anti-creationist stance states the following in 2002, “DNA is not a special life-giving molecule, but a genetic databank that transmits its information using a mathematical code. Most of the workings of the cell are best described, not in terms of material stuff—hardware—but as information, or software. Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.”
Dr. Venter also used proteins found in yeast to join large lengths of DNA. To sum all this up, Dr. Venter borrowed an already functional machinery, he used existing information from another cell to modify it, then synthesizing DNA with this information, joined the molecule despite having chemical and physical difficulties which required yeast to help.
The research though a great scientific feat unto itself is not a man-made genome that is technically artificial. Synthetic, involves designed from scratch, not copied from a natural genome. Keep in mind, the entire organism must be successfully produced from raw materials.
Not all in evolutionary circles were convinced about the hype even anti-creationist Geneticist Steve Jones said…
“The idea that this is “playing God” is just daft. What he has done in genetic terms would be analogous to taking an Apple Mac programme and making it work on a PC — and then saying you have created a computer. It’s not trivial, but it is utterly absurd the claims that are being made about it.”