The Corner

Re: Newsflash: The Sky Is Not a Crystal Dome

Derb, I normally follow my habit of deferring to you in all matters scientific and mathematical, since in those fields I am unarmed, and it’s a little embarrassing for me to have to hide behind the white lab coat of somebody else and let them take a swing. But at the Fortnightly, we did post the views of Jim Collins (along with a link to others on both sides of this question), a prof of biomedical engineering at BU:

The microorganism reported by the Venter team is synthetic in the sense that its DNA is synthesized, not in that a new life form has been created. Its genome is a stitched-together copy of the DNA of an organism that exists in nature, with a few small tweaks thrown in….

Frankly, scientists do not know enough about biology to create life.

Now, I admit Collins says it better than I could, since I couldn’t say it at all. And I’m happy to grant that it is, as you say, a “real scientific achievement,” but the claim being made by many, if not also by you, is that this is more than another scientific achievement, and that “logic-splitting” aside, this qualifies as “creating life.” Is that true? As to the pesky “invisible spirits,” the point at which they intervene is, I admit, hard to detect.

Denis Boyles — Dennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...

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