Artificial Life in Biology?

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Some media outlets are claiming that researchers have taken a step toward showing how life could arise from nonlife.

The headlines are pretty spectacular: “Scientists create ‘alien’ life form with artificial genetic code,”1 and the facts are truly impressive. Through years of careful experimentation, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have made a breakthrough in genetic engineering. Researchers, led by chemist Floyd Romesberg, have designed a bacterium with genetic material that includes an added pair of DNA “letters,” or bases, that are not naturally found.2

This research represents a leap forward in our understanding of the basic building block of life. It is a good example of how understanding God’s creation helps us exercise dominion over it, as God intended. And this advance promises to yield exciting applications to medicine and other fields.

Inevitably, some observers are claiming that the researchers have also taken a step toward showing how life could arise from nonlife. In reality, though, the suggestion that chance processes could mimic highly intelligent scientists is a stretch. By applying their considerable intelligence over many years, Dr. Romesberg’s team has accomplished something marvelous that no unguided natural processes could ever do over any span of time.

Amazing as this breakthrough is, the Scripps researchers still did not create new DNA from nothing. Instead, they inserted artificially formed bases into existing DNA and found a way to “fool” an existing cell into accepting that DNA.

This clever engineering, by definition, involved human intelligence, and could never have occurred naturally. Moreover, no new genetic information was added to the bacterium, as evolution requires to turn one life form into another.

The New York Times extrapolated the Scripps team’s findings to an even higher level: “The work also gives some support to the concept that life can exist elsewhere in the universe using genetics different from those on Earth.” Whether on earth or elsewhere in the universe, the idea of life evolving from nonliving elements through natural processes will never overcome the truth of Genesis 1, or the tried and tested biological law that life comes from life.

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October – December 2014

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Footnotes

  1. http://www.cnet.com/news/scientists-create-alien-lifeform-with-artificial-genetic-code/
  2. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507132129.htm

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