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Can scientists 'create' life yet?

  1. Dec 7, 2004 #1
    The statement was posed to me that, "After all this time, and with all this knowledge, scientists still cannot create life in a laboratory." This was followed with the usual, "Therefore, creationism is true."

    Do scientists have the ability to create 'life' of any kind? Are they working on it?
     
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  3. Dec 7, 2004 #2

    selfAdjoint

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    Scientist have created viruses, but they are not generally thought to be really alive. Craig Ventner's group is working on extracting the DNA from a bacterium and replacing it with artificial DNA, and thus producing a new bacterium. So far, that's the closest science has come to creating life.


    It's just a claim of ignorance that if scientists can't yet duplicate the complicated chemistry of life that therefore life requires a divine act to generate it. If you study what is really known about that chemistry you come away with a repect for how intricate it is, and a clear understanding that it is, at bottom, just chemistry.
     
  4. Dec 7, 2004 #3
    Not really, no. They can synthesize organic molecules, but they have yet to make them into something as simple as a bacterium.
     
  5. Dec 7, 2004 #4

    Janitor

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    How complex were the chemicals that they started with? I am curious. Did they literally synthesize nucleic acids 'from scratch,' for instance?
     
  6. Dec 8, 2004 #5
    After all this time scientists can't make a million dollar TV only cost $1. Therefore god exists.
     
  7. Dec 8, 2004 #6

    selfAdjoint

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    I believe they synthesized short lengths of nucleic acids ("oligonucleides") and used enzymes to hook them together.
     
  8. Dec 8, 2004 #7
    But they hadn't been able to make them work as they work in a cell. Besides, how would they be able to manipulate so many reactions simultaneously?
     
  9. Dec 8, 2004 #8

    Phobos

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    Sorry to get off topic, but I'll just point out the weak argument.

    First, that is kind of a God of the Gaps argument. "We don't understand X, therefore God created X." Before science, this included just about everything...like why the sun rises in the morning (thanks Apollo, Ra, etc.) So each time science figures something out, that God of the Gaps gets smaller.

    It's also a false dichotomy. "If X is false, then Y is true." No, there may be other options. You still need to prove Y.
     
  10. Dec 9, 2004 #9
    I read somewhere that scientist succefully assembled an amoeba from parts taken from several other amoebas, and it (the new amoeba) worked just like the originals..

    As for the argument that if we can't create life in the laboratory, then creationism is true - an elementary school student can't do calculus, but it doesn't mean it can't be done.
     
  11. Dec 9, 2004 #10

    matthyaouw

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    So they assume that if we can't replicate a few million/billion years worth of evolution in a matter of years, it can't be done... what odd logic.
     
  12. Dec 9, 2004 #11
    Science cannot create life. It can only produce. That is the nature of reality itself.
     
  13. Dec 9, 2004 #12

    selfAdjoint

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    Your authority for that pretty wild claim?
     
  14. Dec 9, 2004 #13

    Nereid

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    selfAdjoint: do you have some links about Ventner's work?

    Janitor: it doesn't really matter what they chose to start with; all the chemicals they used (AFAIK) as inputs are known to be capable of being made, from scratch. It's a bit like many drug manufacturing processes ... they take extracts of living things as inputs, rather than make them, because it's cheaper and faster.

    Drayakir: getting as far as artificial viruses is a pretty amazing result! Ventner's team is confident they can make a 'bacterium', which will, of course, be capable of 'living' independently of further manipulation. Just how this will be done, and when, ... let's read the links (or do our own Googling).

    matthyaouw: note that what Ventner et al are doing isn't (directly) related to how life may have begun (abiogenesis) ... IMHO, that's a much more challenging topic for scientists (and maybe no one alive today will see it solved).

    dekoi: if the Ventner team does make a successful bacterium, in what sense will they have not 'created' life?
     
  15. Dec 9, 2004 #14
    Well, yeah, I wish I could create viruses. But would it be able to do all the functions that a living bacterium could?
     
  16. Dec 9, 2004 #15

    Janitor

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    Given that even the most complex viruses in nature are simpler than a bacterium, I would say the answer to your question is "no."
     
  17. Dec 9, 2004 #16

    iansmith

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    It is not Ventner, I think it is Venter. It is the same guy that founded TIGR and privatized the human genome project.
     
  18. Dec 10, 2004 #17

    selfAdjoint

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  19. Dec 11, 2004 #18
    Synthetic Biology in "Nature"

    There is an interesting "news feature" from Nature on synthetic biology. It is: Starting from scratch by Phillip Ball. Nature 2004;431:624-6.
     
  20. Dec 12, 2004 #19

    honestrosewater

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  21. Dec 12, 2004 #20
    Science cannot create life. Its can alter/change life, but cannot create it.
     
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