Did Dr Craig Venter Create A Synthetic Life Form?

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.”

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “Did Dr Craig Venter Create A Synthetic Life Form?

  1. First things first, Michael.

    We have four simple, outstanding questions:

    (1) Blog readership numbers

    (2) Your qualifications to discuss any scientific subject, in response to the challenge to Olorin.

    (3) A substantive review of Signature in the Cell, promised for August 2009.

    (4) outstanding question from Upson Downes on mitochondrial Eve

    When, Michael ? When are you finally going to try and answer these very straightforward questions ?

  2. Did J. Craig Venter produce Life with a capital “L”? Or just life with a small “l”? Or maybe ife with no “l” at all.

    Creationists have a need to place everything in a category. Maybe it comes from the biblical “kinds.” Maybe it comes from having to cleave good from evil,[1] orthodoxy from apostasy, absolute moral right from an equally absolute moral wrong. Or human from non-human fossils, with no transitions allowed.

    In point of fact, Venter’s feat is a technological step along the way toward a goal that has not even been clearly defined as yet. As with qll science, anyone who thinks he knows where this will end up has been smoking a rope.

    There is no scientific breakthrough here—we now know how to do something we didn’t know how to do previously. Venter hijacked the cell’s cytoplasm, and the genome is one that already existed.

    There is an old story about a scientist boasting to God that he has created life. When challenged, the scientist scoops up a handful of dirt into a petri dish. “Oh no you don’t!” God thundered. “Go make your own dirt!” What is the step at which we have created life?

    Several centuries ago, the theory of vitalism held that certain chemicals could only be synthesized inside living cells. These were called “organic” chemicals. Then Friedrich Wohler synthesized urea in vitro, and vitalism lost its vitality. This was considered a kind of “creation of life” at the time—1828.

    Times change.

    ===========
    [1] As Mammy Yokum used to say “Good is better than evil, because it’s nicer.”

  3. Michael seems of two minds about the possibility of “creating life.”

    On the one hand, when man has found out how to imitate a complex feature of living organisms, this somehow proves that it was God, not inanimate nature, that created life in the first place. So Michael is in favor.

    On the other hand, if man can understand how to create life, then this denigrates the power of God to perform miracles that we cannot. So Michael is opposed.

    What a quandary. Creationists must always be certain of everything. There is no room for ambiguity or doubt.

  4. You know what? — As a Christian, I have no problem with a natural cause for life.

    It would in no way indicate that God didn’t create the natural laws in the beginning which ultimately lead to the first living cell.

    Even if this experiment is not what science writters are presenting it as, it really doesn’t mean there is no natural explanation for life.

  5. krissmith777, you get it! You understand! Christians need not fear science!

    Michael Gazzaniga wrote a book on the neural bases for morality a few years ago. Here’s a relevant quote:

    To some, the possibility that great religious figures might have been influenced by epileptic experiences negates the reality of the religious beliefs that resulted from them. Yet to others the resulting revelations are “no less expressive of truth than Dostoevsky’s novels or Van Gogh’s paintings….”

    [S]ome would argue that this is merely the way in which a spiritual God interacts with us mortal beings.

    The Ethical Brain (p. 159)

    In fact, Gazzaniga concludes his book with this plea:

    It appears that that all of us share the same mortal networks and systems, and we all respond in similar ways to similar issues. The only thing different, then, is not our behavior but our theories about why we respond the way we do. It seems to me that understanding that our theories are the source of all our conflicts would go a long way in helping people with different belief systems to get along.

    Id. (p.162)

  6. krissmith777, I should explain that Dostoevsky and Van Gogh suffered from temporal-lobe epilepsy.

  7. Michael, you have some delectable subjects to choose from the latest issue of Science (28 May). What shall it be?

    “Royal Society Fellows Question Body’s Climate Change Statements” — The British public wearies of climate-change warnings. Advisory board warnings may have been oversimplified

    “Hints of Greater Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry Challenge Theorists” — physicists have difficulty explaining matter-antimatter asymmetry result.

    “Cutting a Controversy Down to Size” — Famous scientist gets trashed again.

    “Comment on the Paleobiology and Classification of Ardipithecus ramidus” — Ardi may not be in direct line of ancestry after all. (Hop on this one, Michael! Scientists in puzzlement yet again! Ardi may have been your great grand uncle, not your great grandfather.)

    “Beige Can Be Slimming” — Prostaglandins promote the development of thermogenic beige fat in mice. An entire article on a biological subject that does not mention evolution at all!

    But do not look over your shoulder from “Beige Can Be Slimming” to “The Origin of TH2 Responses’ OR “Prion Strain Mutation and Selection” OR “Prion Strain Mutation and Selection” (paleoclimate) or “Horizontal Gene Transfer by the Parasitic Plant Striga hermonthica” (evolution of a crop parasite) or “Prion Strain Mutation Determined by Prion Protein Conformational Compatibility and Primary Structure” in the same issue.

    Yes, several topics to select, but so many others to avoid….

  8. Your God doesn’t exist but you knew this since Darwin. There has always been problems in the Bible that you couldn’t explain away. Before this there was The Miller-Urey experiments which build all monomers of life: amino acids, nucleotides (G, A, C, T). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life. It is just a matter of time before someone find a polmerase substitute that was naturally in the environment at the time. Then you can findly show life came from lifely chemicals of earily atmosphere. And I’m going one to do it because I have good idea what polymerase was. Let’s face it your God said created man from dust of ground and not from the air or comets that make him a liar. These prophets lied to you about creation and they lying to about power of blood Jesus that’s why none of can over their sins. Listen this God wants to hold every word that imperfect man carelessly speaks but we can’t hold this perfect God to the promises he wrote of? He says he love mankind and willing die for them but he not willing go the full 9 yards to choose them to believe. What is easier to die or to predestine but so much for his love. Paul says that other going hell to show his mercy to those going heaven. That like if a doctor struggled to make cure only show that they should grateful by kill other who had the disease. We have knock on heaven door and found no God at the beginning http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo&feature=related you God is nothing but Quantum Theory which is not God.

  9. SKM,

    You say, “There has always been problems in the Bible that you couldn’t explain away. Before this there was The Miller-Urey experiments which build all monomers of life: amino acids, nucleotides…”Here is something about that experiment that you overlooked or may not known about…

    “Miller is famed for the results of experiments on amino acid formation in a jar filled with methane, hydrogen and ammonia—his version of the primordial soup. However, his estimates of atmospheric composition were eventually considered inaccurate. The experiment became regarded as a general rather than useful example of how the first organic molecules may have assembled.”Wired Science.

    The the Miller–Urey experiment failed evolutionary expectations. It didn’t create any life, nowhere near it even in a controlled setting! The complexity of chemical evolution grows while the knowledge of it remains at square one! Not sure what the rant about forgiveness of sins came from out of this topic. What promises do you feel that God didn’t come through? Imperfect man is held accountable for crimes committed on earth, why do you believe God can’t hold man accountable? It’s interesting how you say God is “Quantum Theory” which has various different interpretations but no one accepted interpretation and then go on to say that’s not God at all. True, the theory is not God for many reasons, one being it cannot create anything, it merely describes particular behaviors which they believe happen with energy and matter. But like I said before, it needs energy and matter to be created first in order to to be used as an explanation. There is an old saying that is summed up this way, “nothing comes from nothingness, but something comes from someone.”

  10. Michael,

    The the Miller–Urey experiment failed evolutionary expectations. It didn’t create any life, nowhere near it even in a controlled setting!

    Two problems here:

    1. This is not evolution. Origin of life and evolution are two separate theories.

    2. Miller was not trying to make life. He was testing to see if amino acids necessary for life would form, and they did. Therefore the experiment was a success. — He was not trying to create life at all.

  11. —- Also Michael, it says nothing to the validity of the experiment that it was in a controled setting. It was meant to recreate the original conditions in which life would have formed. — The conditions (in the lab) would have naturally existed at some point.

    Even though the conditions Miller thought turned out to be somewhat different, — experiments done in the conditions that are more accurately reconstruct the primitive conditions STILL produced SIMILAR results that Miller’s experiment had turned out…. Hence, Miller’s experiment still holds weight.

  12. SKM

    Your God doesn’t exist but you knew this since Darwin.

    IT is true that Michael’s God does not exist. His definition of God is someone whi created us directly as we are now. We know that is true, and therefore his God is dead…

    Now, did Darwin kill God himself? No, not at all. Darwin himself disagreed with that view. He simply falsified views about God.

    There has always been problems in the Bible that you couldn’t explain away.

    True, the Bible has errors and contradictions, though this does not itself mean that it is not divinely inspired. Divine inspiration and inerrancy are not one and the same….Besides, the Bible itself admits it has flaws, so Inerrancy is actually an un-biblical doctrine.

    Let’s face it your God said created man from dust of ground and not from the air or comets that make him a liar.

    Ultimately, life did come from the earth, so there is really nothing wrong with saying man came from the dust of the earth, as all life did at some point.

    These prophets lied to you about creation and they lying to about power of blood Jesus that’s why none of can over their sins.

    This comment here makes me wonder if you even read the Bible. The prophets rarely, if ever, even talked about Creation…. And the Creation story in the Bible is poetic, rather than an actual literal account writen in Hebrew paralism. Even Hebrew linguists agree. It’s written in “block logic,” meaning it is not even intended to be chronological:

    Link: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/23_genesis_1.html

    Whether the Bible lies about Jesus’ ability to save, that is nothing more than a value claim on your own judgement, not a statement of fact.

  13. Wow what reactions! The genesis acount of is so bibical evident that it is to be litteral that is why the sabbeth day was on 7th, its why manorah had 7 flames, its why there are 7 churches (i.e. gatherings), and it is tied in with sabbeth rest in Jesus giving it NT approval of 7th day accuracy. The Bible never admits to inaccuracy as well as it shouldn’t because that is self-defeating. It clear from 1 Jn 4-5 chapter that overcoming sins is mark of genuine christianity (after all it’s what God wants from believers). And overcoming sins is promise “If the Son shell set you free you will be free indeed”. But how is it that an All-powerful God Who has the power from sacrifice Jesus can not free them from sins? I try to overcome sins by blood of Jesus for for over 25 years. One day I successed for 3.5 years even in my dreams. But I finally found out that I nearly became permitately impotent. So I did not recieve celibacy from God but temporary impotency because God broke His promise to me payed for in Blood. I fear bad luck to tell you what I ment by “There has always been problems in the Bible that you couldn’t explain away”. That one think God has going for Him; giving people “Bad Luck”. It the one thing can’t explain. I tell myself that thought not coming sins cause my bad luck and that was wrong. But you religious types always throw in the towel; so quick to give up. For instance you don’t have to argue the point about the age of the universe because genesis glaus over that time since is no day or night mentioned. Measurable time in days and night starts with separation darkness & light (i.e. when sun became nuclear causing solar wind to blow away the stellar disc). You never make competing theories since Darwin even to make theory is easy for instance: one can say that evolution occur in dust of ground on cellular level then God moved it together when He form bodies. You’re so caught up with biological life when should recognize that what is important is inteligent life. But evolution clear contradict scripture. I did not give up so easily like you have, I made counter theories until God broke Him promises to me. You have the fossil record which you can not explain away. And a big bang that starts from nothing through Quantum Theory. What Quantum Theory says is that energy and momentum are not true constants but just near constants. Virtual matter comes into existence in accordance with Heisenberg Uncertainity Principle delta(p)delta(x) > or = h /2pi http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/UncertaintyPrinciple.html
    In essence matter is being created and desrtoy right now. What a Quantum Genesis Theory was say is when appy this the universe you infinite delta(p) with a zero
    delta(x) that’s indeterminate form. It interesting that indeterminate forms make up all of calculus. So I have a God who lies to me and that if I obey Him I hurt myself contrasted to an explanation (checkout godisimaginary.com.

  14. SKM,

    The genesis acount of is so bibical evident that it is to be litteral that is why the sabbeth day was on 7th, its why manorah had 7 flames, its why there are 7 churches (i.e. gatherings),

    The number seven is the number of strength, and therefore is symbolic. That’s why it was used. And again, your position that Genesis is to be read litteraly is a contradiction of Hebrew linguists. And you have not debunked the supporting link I gave, so what I say stands.

    Btw, it’s “Sabbath,” not “sabbeth.”

    The Bible never admits to inaccuracy as well as it shouldn’t because that is self-defeating.

    Yes it does admit to being faulty. For example, Hebrews 8:7 says that the first covenant (given at Mount Sinai) was faulty. That is an admission that there are faulty passages in the Bible in and of itself. If the Bible has faulty passages (which it admits to) then it admits to being errant. Therefore the Bible itself does not support inerrancy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s