Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Scientists Create Life (well, they're trying)

Biologists are trying to create a functioning cell by adding DNA and appropriate proteins, enzymes, metabolites into synthetic cell membranes. They're putting their faith in a reductionist view that life is a meta-property that emerges from the right combination of starting materials.

I have considerable respect for the scientific acumen of Jack Stozak and some of the other scientists working on this. It might even work in some limited way, though I'm skeptical.

Note, too, that they starting with very sophisticated preassembled molecules. The synthetic cell membranes spontaneously assemble because of the properties of the lipids involved. But everything else -- DNA, enzymes, ATP, etc -- are themselves complex molecules.

So if it works at all it proves that you know some minimal set of components needed, and under very careful conditions you can simulate "life." Things work as they are designed to work.

Reminds me of this joke:

One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.
The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."
God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!"
But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."
The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"

No comments: