This is topic If everyone is freaked out about cloning, what about creating life from scratch? in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by Lyrhawn (Member # 7039) on :
Scientists believe we're 3 to 10 years away from artificial "wet life"

By "wet life" they mean a living cell, not something robotic.

So what do we think? This is "playing God" in a much more literal way than stem cell research or cloning. They're playing with the basic building blocks of life, heck, even creating new building blocks. This has the potential to solve a lot of the hurts of the world, without any real drawbacks. But perhaps the moral drawbacks from those who feel it is one will be too much to handle.

Personally I think this is great news. Such artificial bacteria sized creatures can be made to eat garbage, toxic waste, CO2, and be a game changing creator of cellulosic ethanol. It could also have untold benefits in the medical industry if they can create cells that attack certain cancers or other diseases.

I fear that evangelical groups will threaten this technology.
Posted by Nathan2006 (Member # 9387) on :
It's a horrible idea. They will soon evolve to an intellegence beyond ours and take over the world.
Posted by Juxtapose (Member # 8837) on :
At least it would be final proof that we aren't intelligently designed if we lose out to a life form that actually was.
Posted by Stan the man (Member # 6249) on :
I'm in agreement with Lyr on this one. I read an article about this a couple weeks back, and there were all sorts of comments similar to Nathan2006's. I think some people have been watching way too much hollywood sci-fi.

It's made in a lab, and therefore can be tested ... watched (better word) for a period of time until we can know as much as we can about what we created. An' if it doesn't work out ... we have weapons.

Edited to add: I mean weapons with which to kill it. Not as weapons to kill each other.
Posted by Qaz (Member # 10298) on :
I don't known that everyone is freaked about cloning, but the objection I heard to it was that it involved killing human embryos. This would not.

On the other hand it might get out of the test tube and eat us, which would suck.
Posted by pooka (Member # 5003) on :
Yeah, plastic eating microbes sound good, but what happens when they're done eating trash? As a neo-fundie, I guess I could say that it doesn't push the "destruction of human life" button, but it does push the "I look forward to mocking your ironic mass deaths" button. I mean, I don't have illusions that I'll be free from such a fate, if it comes.

In the meantime, I think it would be better to reduce, reuse and recycle rather than live profligately in hopes of the plastiphage.
Posted by Lyrhawn (Member # 7039) on :
No reason why we can't hope for both. Besides, bacteria will learn how to eat plastic one day. If we wait for it to happen naturally, it might take a few thousand years, but it'll happen.

Besides, we have decades of damage to undo. We should be focused on reducing the damage we do now, but that doesn't release us from fixing the problem we've already made.

I think they are working on programming in self destruct programs into the DNA of the bacteria. Either they will have a time limit before they die, or they will self destruct if there are any mutations, or whatever they come up with.

I think there's too much good to be done to close the door before we even see what's behind it.
Posted by Leonide (Member # 4157) on :
I've always wondered about the whole "bacteria will learn to eat plastic eventually" thing. Does anyone have a link to any articles where they talk about that possibility? I'm interested in the thought behind it.
Posted by fugu13 (Member # 2859) on :
Well, there's a bacteria that eats styrene (from styrofoam) and makes plastic, and a couple bacteria have evolved that eat nylon, so I don't see any reason why not.
Posted by The Reader (Member # 3636) on :
Microbes are known to evolve quickly. We are already dealing with "superbugs" that are resistant to current antibiotics.

Creatures that reproduce as fast as bacteria shouldn't take too long to adapt to eat synthetic material, at least on a biological timescale.

As for creating "wet" life, how are the researchers going to know when their subject has gone from a mass of non-living molecules to life? Don't complex chemicals like amino acids already reproduce in a very primitive way, and remain classified as non-living? Or do I not understand the scientific definition of the reproduction of life?

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