As if there weren’t already enough science breakthroughs going on in this world, scientists have finally developed the first ever synthetic artificial life by using synthetic DNA. The news is considered an scientific breakthrough for DNA studies and a “defining moment in the history of DNA biology and biotechnology.” Scientists claim to desire only the best possible outcome for this synthetic DNA research by designing bacterial cells to be used in the production of synthetic fuels and medicine. They even claim a synthetic DNA bacterial organism could be created to absorb greenhouse gases.
Synthetic DNA Artificial Life Defined
The scientific study or discipline of artificial life was first named in 1986 by an American computer scientist Christopher Langton. According to Langton, one type of artificial life actually tries to copy or imitate a biological process or organism. Artificial life is such a new field of study that the scientific, philosophical, spiritual, and social issues have not really been adequately addressed. It seems artificial life and DNA research is moving ahead faster than mankind can become become adjusted to the new science.
The scientific field of artificial life is basically in a place where it needs to get people up to speed and educate them to look past life as it is right now, and into an unseen future of life as it could be with synthetic DNA. I’m sure the artificial life scientists would contend that future world is a better world, or could be made better by the development of artificial life and synthetic DNA.
Synthetic DNA May Be Next Step to Immortality
It’s a theme and a quest of mankind from the earliest history of this planet-the quest for immortality, for eternal life. From Mary Shelley’s fictional “Frankenstein” to the latest hollywood motion picture or science fiction TV show, man has been on a quest to create life. But what are the moral and spiritual implications of a synthetic DNA breakthrough?
In reality, this new artificial life is not the sort of conventional life as we know it. Life that was created or evolved, depending on your particular belief system. It’s actually a set of manipulated synthetic DNA which is placed into what is called a “recipient cell,” from which the original DNA has been removed. The synthetic DNA acts as a sort of controlling program software inside the recipient cell. This synthetic DNA has total control over all functions of the cell. When the cell replicates, it follows the blueprint of the synthetic DNA and replicates identical DNA into the new replicated cell. In theory, this will allow scientists to create any sort of life form desired.
Critics of Synthetic DNA are Skeptical
Critics of the artificial life science say that releasing new organisms into the environment may do more harm than good. Some even go so far as to say that releasing a new synthetic organism into an area with the intention of cleaning up pollution, the new organisms might just be creating another sort of pollution. Because these organisms are new, no one is really sure how they will react or just what they might do. One critic even warns of this science being used to create biological super-weapons.
The philosophical and moral battles will continue as artificial life scientists forge ahead and mankind strives to keep up. regardless of whether mankind keeps up with the science of synthetic DNA and artificial life or not, this field of scientific study plans to forge ahead.
BBC; “‘Artificial Life’ breakthrough announced by scientists”
MIT Press Journals; Artificial Life
NNDB.com; Chris Langton