Dr. Craig Venter, a biologist at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville Maryland, who has been working on synthetic life for a decade, told The Times:
“It is our final triumph. This is the first synthetic cell. It’s the first time we have started with information in a computer, used four bottles of chemicals to write-up a million letters of DNA software, and actually got it to boot up in a living organism.
Though this is a baby step, it enables a change in philosophy, a change in thinking, a change in the tools we have. This cell we’ve made is not a miracle cell that’s useful for anything, it is a proof of concept. But the proof of concept was key, otherwise it is just speculation and science fiction. This takes us across that border, into a new world.”
Julian Savulescu, Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said:
“Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny. He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally. The potential is in the far future, but real and significant. But the risks are also unparalleled.”
Paul Freemont, of the Centre for Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, described the achievement as a “step change advance”. He said:
“The applications of this enabling technology are enormous.”
David King, of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert, called for a moratorium on similar research and Pat Mooney, of the ETC Group, which campaigns against biotechnology, said:
“This is a Pandora’s box moment. We’ll all have to deal with the fallout from this alarming experiment.”
No matter the varying opinions on this achievement, its clear man has taken another momentous step forward, bringing humans precariously close to the brink of possessing the power of creation. This will no doubt pose unique and potentially awesome implications for the future of mankind. Once crossed, it is a line that we cannot retreat back from simply because we worry about the potential for abuse of our abilities. Some might argue, God has created imperfect beings, why shouldn’t man be allowed the same freedom of experimentation?
Portions of this article excerpted from: Scientist Create Artificial Life In Laboratory, from The Times online