Tower of Babel and the Quest to Create Life

It was pretty big in the news this past week about how scientists have been able, for the first time, to create an entirely artificial genome (a complete set of genetic information including the DNA) and placed it inside a bacteria which had its natural genome stripped out – basically forming a “new” kind of bacteria!

In this Yahoo News article it says:

“After he announced the creation of the first organism with a fully synthetic genome last Thursday, Craig Venter, founder of the genomics research institute that bears his name, went on to talk about how this breakthrough will benefit industries like pharmaceuticals, energy and materials.

In his explanation of the methods used to create the synthetic bacterium, Venter highlighted an important use for synthetic organisms: research. Like living test tubes, bacteria created by scientists could serve as controlled platforms for experiments by reducing the complexity that obscures the workings of many biological systems.

This work could lead to staggering findings in two major ways. First, cells with synthetic genomes could allow scientists to essentially snip out the complexities of living cells leaving only the simpler parts. This would give researchers a better way to untangle the enormously complicated interactions that occur in natural cells, and could help unravel the secrets of baffling diseases like cancer.

Second, while cells with synthetic genomes couldn’t be used to recreate extinct creatures, they could be used to create organisms that have the genes of extinct organisms, possibly even those of Earth’s earliest life forms. This could lead to a better understanding of the very nature of life and how life began, scientists say.”

It just struck me rather hard after hearing this last Sunday’s Old Testament reading from the book of Genesis, that this sounds almost to be exactly the kind of thinking that was going on as the people were building the tower of Babel. Their only concern was that they would “make a name for themselves”, i.e. they would attempt to usurp the place of God in their lives.

Actually, the reality is that scientists still can’t “create” life. The bacteria is already there. Life is already there. They are just modifying it – albeit radically!

Although there is the excuse of good intentions, you have to wonder about the other goals blatantly stated: to disprove God and to “prove” the chance creation of life – and tailoring it to our own specifications. In these efforts, are we not “playing God?” I wonder what God is muttering under his breath as he watches from heaven above. It can’t be good! Please Lord, come quickly!

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