Before you freak out about scientists creating artificial life....

Start with this easy-to-read article on Wired. Pay close attention to how hard it was, and how impossible it'll be to go much further in any direction for years--years which allow for all sorts of insane legislation.

In particular, stop at this line:

It’s an impressive trick, no doubt, but replicating a natural genome with a little panache is also the limit of our present design capabilities.

As a scientist, I'm absolutely thrilled by this development. Until it can be used to synthesize some end product (energy producing cyanobacteria being the big hope right now) I have very low expectations from it...but I can dream of a future where we can deliver targeted gene therapies using synthesized genomes. Of course, they'll never be completely artificial: think of matte paintings and photomanipulations, which are their own works of art but are also compelled to draw from sources in the real world.

People easily forget: while scientists do want to explore every open avenue, the biggest drive--and the only way to get funding--is to prove their research can be used to benefit human health.

The worst part is expecting scientists to do what they've always done and fail to control the public presentation of their research. What the mainstream media has to say is more often than not incorrect, misguided, and so sensationalist it's a wonder they don't get in trouble for libel.

1 comment:

Grace said...

I totally agree. People need to be more objective and take the time to understand things before they freak out. Personally, I think it would be cool if scientists could engineer some sort of algae or bacteria that could be used to create a bio fuel that would work in the current automobile fleet.