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 First cell controlled by a synthetic genome
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 05/20/2010 :  18:06:37  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Pz has a very good and complete write up on this, so naturally, I went to Uncommon Descent for Dembski's take on it.
“First cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome”
William Dembski
Big news at Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics:

Summary: Link 1

Press Release: Link 2

The rhetoric is interesting. What they’ve done is stuck a synthetic genome inside a nonsynthetic cell. Nonetheless, they’ve slipped into talking of a “synthetic bacterial cell.” Indeed, one headline reads “The First Self-Replicating Synthetic Bacterial Cell.” This is hype.

If something is going to be called “synthetic,” shouldn’t the whole of it be synthesized and not merely a minuscule portion of it? Also, does such a cell knowably signal design and, if so, why wouldn’t cells untouched by Synthetic Genomics do the same, i.e., implicate design?

Suck it up, Billy; you missed again. What a pity you don't do science.






"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 05/20/2010 :  19:19:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If something is going to be called “synthetic,” shouldn’t the whole of it be synthesized and not merely a minuscule portion of it? Also, does such a sand-dune knowably signal design and, if so, why wouldn’t sand-dunes untouched by Synthetic dunomics do the same, i.e., implicate design?

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2010 :  03:47:50   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, it ain't abiogenesis and no one's claiming that it is. The rest is merely labeling, which is often inaccurate in the best of circumstances. The cell was stripped of it's genome and given a new, synthetic one. That is a tremendous, scientific achievement which defies such nit-picking.

Now we wait and see what dat ol' debble evolution does with it over it's generations. Evolution cannot be trusted to always do what we think it should.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2010 :  07:44:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by filthy

Pz has a very good and complete write up on this, so naturally, I went to Uncommon Descent for Dembski's take on it.
“First cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome”
William Dembski
Big news at Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics:

Summary: Link 1

Press Release: Link 2

The rhetoric is interesting. What they’ve done is stuck a synthetic genome inside a nonsynthetic cell. Nonetheless, they’ve slipped into talking of a “synthetic bacterial cell.” Indeed, one headline reads “The First Self-Replicating Synthetic Bacterial Cell.” This is hype.

If something is going to be called “synthetic,” shouldn’t the whole of it be synthesized and not merely a minuscule portion of it? Also, does such a cell knowably signal design and, if so, why wouldn’t cells untouched by Synthetic Genomics do the same, i.e., implicate design?

Suck it up, Billy; you missed again. What a pity you don't do science.








Bill could always use his explanatory filter and calcualte the CSI of the new cells versus the CSI of the old stuff. This would tell him for sure if these new cells were designed.

Oh, right... Bill can't use his explanatory filter for anything biological and he certainly doesn't do science.

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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astropin
SFN Regular

USA
970 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2010 :  08:38:56   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send astropin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Neat!

I would rather face a cold reality than delude myself with comforting fantasies.

You are free to believe what you want to believe and I am free to ridicule you for it.

Atheism:
The result of an unbiased and rational search for the truth.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/21/2010 :  12:46:18   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This first synthetic cell is really cool, but, like the first cell phone, it will begin to look like a hulking, dysfunctional brick once smaller, multifunctional generations begin to roll off the assembly line.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 05/22/2010 :  12:50:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I was fixing to go around to the usual suspects and enjoy the shrieking caterwauls of their denials, but PZ has done it for me, and his informed commentary is much better than mine could be.
First round of ill-informed objections to the first synthetic bacterium

Category: Creationism • Molecular Biology
Posted on: May 22, 2010 12:13 PM, by PZ Myers

I've been following the reaction to the synthesis of a new life form by the Venter lab with some interest and amusement. There have been a couple of common directions taken, and they're generally all wrong. This is not to say that there couldn't be valid concerns, but that the loudest complaining voices right now are the most ignorant.

Hysteria and fear-mongering
Pearl-clutching and fretting over the consequences is fairly common, with a representative example from The Daily Mail (Stridently stupid 'journalistic' outlet).

But there are fears that the research, detailed in the journal Science, could be abused to create the ultimate biological weapon, or that one mistake in a lab could lead to millions being wiped out by a plague, in scenes reminiscent of the Will Smith film I Am Legend.
The article refers to that awful movie a couple of times. It's a little baffling; were they getting kickbacks from the movie producers or something?

The complaint is misplaced. What they've accomplished is to synthesize a copy of an existing organism, with a few non-adaptive markers added. It's no threat at all. We do have the potential to now modify that genome more extensively; the interesting scientific work will be to pare away genes and reduce it to a truly minimalist version, just to see how much is really essential, and the useful industrial work will be to engineer organisms with additional genes that produce proteins useful for us, but not necessarily for the mycoplasma. That's going to compromise the competitiveness of the organism in the natural environment. I'm not worried.

Maybe someday when organisms can be built in some psychopath's garage, then we should worry. But for now, this is an experiment that takes a lot of teamwork and money and experience to pull off.

Playing GOD!
That same Daily Mail article goes on and on about that cliche.

Pat Mooney, of the ETC group, a technology watchdog with a special interest in synthetic biology, said: 'This is a Pandora's box moment - like the splitting of the atom or the cloning of Dolly the sheep, we will all have to deal with the fall-out from this alarming experiment.'

Dr David King, of the Human Genetics Alert watchdog, said: 'What is really dangerous is these scientists' ambitions for total and unrestrained control over nature, which many people describe as 'playing God'.

'Scientists' understanding of biology falls far short of their technical capabilities. We have learned to our cost the risks that gap brings, for the environment, animal welfare and human health.'

Professor Julian Savulescu, an Oxford University ethicist, said: 'Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity's history, potentially peeking into its destiny.

'He is not merely copying life artificially or modifying it by genetic engineering. He is going towards the role of God: Creating artificial life that could never have existed.'
The Catholic church, perhaps unsurprisingly since they've been burned in the past by the conflict between science and religion, is taking a very cautious stance on the issues. They clearly don't quite know what to make of it, but are prepared to offer their services if any ethical concerns arise.

Vatican and Italian church officials were mostly cautious in their first reaction to the announcement from the United States that researchers had produced a living cell containing manmade DNA. They warned scientists of the ethical responsibility of scientific progress and said that the manner in which the innovation is applied in the future will be crucial.
Since it will be a long, long time before we can synthesize lubricious altar boys, however, I don't think there will be much call for Catholic advice on the ethics of synthetic biology. Just say no to irrelevant old perverts offering science advice. Besides, the church is also full of conservative fusspots who will spout tired stereotypes.

Another official with the Italian bishops' conference, Bishop Domenico Mogavero, expressed concern that scientists might be tempted to play God.

"Pretending to be God and parroting his power of creation is an enormous risk that can plunge men into a barbarity," Mogavero told newspaper La Stampa in an interview. Scientists "should never forget that there is only one creator: God."

"In the wrong hands, today's development can lead tomorrow to a devastating leap in the dark," said Mogavero, who heads the conference's legal affairs department.

There is no god. The only creators are chance and selection, and now Craig Venter.

The "playing God" noise is going to get even more tiresome, I'm sure. It's nonsense. If what they've done is playing God, then god is biochemistry and molecular biology and the natural processes of physics. We've all been playing god every time we cook, or paint, or knit, or write, or create. It's not a violation of the natural order, and it's simply doing what humans always do. Apparently, being human is the same thing as being god.

Oh, read on; this is getting be fun! All of the panic-mongers and anti-science whiners, religious and otherwise, are soon to be squealing about "usurping God's prerogative" or, failing that, accusing Ventner of frankinsteinion activities that should be left to the "natural world."

Break out the torches and the pitchforks!

I have not the faintest idea where this research might lead, and certainly the pulpit-pounding blatherskites and the panty-wetting nervous nellie's have even less.

Ignorance is not bliss. It is the dark apprehension of that which is not understood and therefore threatening. To be ignorant is to be afraid of monsters in the closet.




"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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