Craig Venter is the scientific bad arse of our time. My cool’o’meter goes of the chart when I think about this topic.
Fairly recently (I’m slightly out of date with this one so I apologise), Venter and his team created the first synthetic gene in the lab. This is the next step on his quest to create the first synthetic life form or meat machine, as I like to say.
Up until now the longest synthetic DNA chain consisted of 32,000 base pairs, this has changed with Venter’s DNA chain reaching 583,000 base pairs. This is still a long way short of a fully operating organism, which in the case of bacteria is about 10 million base pairs in their DNA, but it is definitely a step in the right direction and the numbers of base pairs will only increase as time goes on.
Venter has been asked what these organisms, if made, could be used for. He mentioned that they could be used for a multitude of things because they could be specifically coded for particular jobs just like a computer program! One notable function is the creation of a new bio-fuel but the applications are basically endless. I won’t go into the more nefarious uses for this technology, such as biological warfare.
As you can probably understand, these studies and achievements are fairly controversial. Taking fire from mainly religious voices accusing Venter of playing “god”. On the other hand it may (but probably won’t) silence a few of the more outspoken creation and ID proponents out there, such as Kent Hovind who went on record on an internet radio station saying that he would believe evolution if a synthetic life form was created in the lab. That being said, its more probable that creation/ID proponents will use this to support their claims, stating that it only proves that life can be created.
Even with these unavoidable obstacles this is going to be a good thing for our species. We will just have to wait and see what happens with this and hope that these fringe studies don’t get slammed anytime soon.
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