The announcement came tonight of the creation of an artificial life form.
The official announcement, at least. When I went looking for links, I gather this has been known for a few months, but I had somehow missed it.
Craig Ventner, who was at the heart of the human genome project, has created a synthetic chromosome based on a bacterium which has been pared down to what is essential for life.
(stop to breathe, while you ponder that phrase)
The synthetic chromosome is then implanted in a live cell, at which point it becomes, in effect, a new life form. There is a much fuller (and more reliable) description here if you want it.
And I find I don’t know what to think. One part of me simply has to acknowledge the skill of this and rejoice in the complexity of the human mind. Another part of me screams, ‘no, we mustn’t do this.’
What frightens me most is that there are so few people in the world who can think sensibly about both the science and the morality (not to mention the theology) of it.
How can we decide what is right when we do not begin to understand the consequences of our actions? Is there a basic taboo in place (human beings have no place creating life forms) or is this too part of freedom God gives us?
I cannot make sense of it. So I will take refuge in poetry instead:
And where do I go
from here? I have looked in
through the windows of their glass
laboratories and seen them plotting
the future, and have put a cross
there at the bottom
of the working out of their problems to
prove to them that they were wrong.
R. S. Thomas
from The Echoes Return Slow