Monday, 24 May 2010

Science and Politics - The Creation of Synthetic Life

Yesterday the media had the splash headlines that a group lead by Craig Venter (of Human Genome fame) has successfully created the first synthetic living organism. This new life is also known as Synthia. There has already been a media response about the potential dangers and the need to think about the possible implications. The BBC coverage of the story is linked below:
Artificial Life Breakthrough
Susan Watt's Blog post

Ben Goldacre was less impressed
"This new Synthia lifeform business is slightly overstated, nice proof of concept and doubtless fidlly as f**k, but nothing amazingly new."

The US Government has made a response with President Obama sending a letter to request a Bioethical review of the matter.
Obama Letter to Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

This provoked some interesting Tweet responses:

"*Of course* Obama has to consult *faith communtities" about Synthia. What a ridiculous country the US has become. :<"

"Obama was doing so well until he mentioned faith communities. No point, we know they'll be up in arms about Synthia, the halfwit Luddites."

PS I just read the front pages of today's papers which have headlines like God2.0. The problem with Venter is he has a very large ego and he likes to create a big spectacle. I suspect that he will regret the God2.0 epithet as when Obama consults the faith communities it is not going to go down well and I would predict harsh legislation.

There is also this Guardian article on the atheistic background to the research:
Andrew Brown - Guardian CiF

Pharyngula has summarised the ill-informed responses in the media
Pharyngula's Blog

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