Synthetic Cells: Momentous Breakthrough or Ethical Morass?

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In the 1990's, J. Craig Venter beat a team of international scientists in deciphering the human genome. Last week, he announced a breakthrough in creating life in a laboratory, what he called "the first self-replicating species… whose parent is a computer." Has he really created new life or just modified existing life? In either case, there's already debate over the pros and cons of man-made organisms. Venter envisions vaccines, bio-fuels, even reversing global warming. Skeptics warn of medical accidents and biological weapons getting into the wrong hands. Does "synthetic biology" mean playing God? Would the benefits outweigh the risk of unintended consequences?




Warren Olney