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Synthia

So has Craig Ventor finally made the first steps into artificial life?

I don’t know because I only understand a bit of molecular biology and stuff.

But this looks like it’s going to be fun…

Of course, the usual suspects have crawled out of their yurts to raise Cain over geniis out of bottles, Pandora’s box, and playing God. Message to the Greenoluddomoralists – can you please, please for the love of all that is (un)holy invest in a new set of cliches.

If there is one thing that depresses me more than the anti-progress mob it’s the “carful nowers…” I saw some twonk on the BBC calling for “more government control” (worked for the economy eh?) and “broad-based committees”…

Look, Craig Venter does not cackle maniacally in a Bavarian Schloss surrounded by sparking Tesla coils and with an Igor cowering in the corner. He’s got his own research institute in California and it is his independence from the bioethicists and regulators and quangos that is the reason he has achieved things such as supercharging the human genome program. Ultimately these people do not understand science in two ways. The first is that they don’t understand the actual basic sciences and the second is they don’t understand the way science works. They are exactly the sort of people who if they thought something looked “promising” they’d set-up ever multiplying “steering groups” and nothing would get done. Can you imagine if the tribe had convened a mass debate when young Ugg started banging rocks together? We’d still be in cave which of course for some of these people is a feature and not a bug.

I mean they are still diligently blocking a lot of research on stem cells and the deployment (within the EU at least) of GM crops to keep the likes of the Prince of Wales happy.

Anyway, if anyone can get us to the bright sunlit uplands of a biotechnical future it’s Venter. Let’s hope Venter is onto something here and let’s hope they don’t stop him.

PS One final anti-science cliche – they’re meddling in things they don’t understand! Well, of course. That’s how you get to understand them!

14 Comments

  1. DeNihilist says:

    Thinking it would be kinda apropo, if some scientists GM’d a tree or a grass or some such, that used more CO2 for its’ bodily functions, and “saved” the world from AGW….

  2. NickM says:

    Something along those lines is one of Venter’s plans. Yank in the CO2 to his artifical micobes, add water and some form of energy – sunlight – and the little blighters shit 4 star.

  3. Chuckles says:

    Close Nick, but not quite there. I think ‘Eats Immigrants and Pisses Petrol’ might have more traction in some quarters?

  4. djb says:

    ‘PS One final anti-science cliche – they’re meddling in things they don’t understand! Well, of course. That’s how you get to understand them! ‘

    From the looks of what they’ve achieved, it seems that they understand what they’re meddling with pretty damn well in reality.

  5. NickM says:

    Chuckles, the Daily Mail has a stormer on it.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1279988/Artificial-life-created-Craig-Venter–wipe-humanity.html

    It makes Dr Venter sound like he’s in a fucking volcano somewhere trying to build his MiniMe.

    They even have a sort of cut-out-and-keep “how to”.

    Right so that’s my weekend sorted and by Monday my invincible army of Amazon ninjas will be unleashed.

    Mad! You call me mad!

  6. JohnRS says:

    …you can guess the rest.

    Well done, Craig!!

  7. CIngram says:

    I’ve wondered for a while whether it was theoretically possible to synthesize DNA- it’s just a very complex molecule, after all- and what it would do if you did make it. Now we know, it does what it’s supposed to do, and Venter (pbuh) definitely didn’t put a ghost in the machine.

    This is going to be great fun.

  8. Stonyground says:

    Prince Charles is a very useful resourse. Whatever it is that he believes to be true is more or less guaranteed to be false and vice versa. In a sane world he would be walking around with a pointy stick picking up litter.

  9. DeNihilist says:

    Quote from Michael Hanlon, Mail Science Editor

    {So is Synthia, Venter’s tentative name for his new critter, alive? It is certainly not the result of Darwinian evolution, one of the (many) definitions of life. It is more ‘alive’ than any virus but it is the product of Man, not of evolution.}

    So man is the product of evolution (nature), yet what we produce (this bacterium) is some how outside of nature. Jeez, I wish these people would quit being so fucking arrogant!

    If I “create” a ham and cheese sandwich, then that too is outside of nature?

    Fuck-off!

  10. DeNihilist says:

    Actually, now the ham-n-cheese is inside of me!

    :)

    yummm

  11. NickM says:

    Denihilist,
    From what I’ve heard of your culinary skills it might not be outside of nature but crtainly contra it!

    Seriously – the Mail science editor sounds like a thicky at a sixth-form debating society.

    Stony,
    That is assuming you trust him with a pointed stick. I wouldn’t trust him to shovel shit from one place to another.

  12. CountingCats says:

    From the Mail article:
    it is possible to imagine a synthetic microbe going on the rampage, perhaps wiping out all the world’s crop plants or even humanity itself.

    Well, I can imagine Catherine Zeta Jones crawling into my bed late Saturday night and keeping me awake for many an hour, but it ain’t likely to happen.

  13. Lynne says:

    Wait until Hollywood gets wind of this. Next year’s “blockbuster” will feature giant mutated synthetic bacteria eating New York. No doubt the poor critters will curl up and die from indigestion…

    As for Charlie Jugears, I remember him banging on about his fear that nano technology will transform everything to grey goo. Not unlike the substance found between those fuck off listening flaps of his…

  14. NickM says:

    Cats, if you are happy with Michael’s sloppy seconds knock yerself out. My invincible army of Amazonian Ninjas will look surprisingly like Kristanna Loken.

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