Another Reason I Find Science Deeper and More Inspiring than Religion

Ok, this article, Biologists on the Verge of Creating New Form of Life, is a couple weeks old — but damn, it is really cool stuff…

From its opening line, “A team of biologists and chemists is closing in on bringing non-living matter to life,” I’m already feeling a little sense of elation and wonder… my eyes are opening a little wider, my posture straightens…

It seems that a reasearch team, led by molecular biologist Jack Szostak at Harvard, has built “protocells” that are unlike any cells here on earth. They have constructed these new types of cells (which are far more primitive than those of modern living organisms) and are coaxing them to replicate.

The replication isn’t wholly autonomous, so it’s not quite artificial life yet, but it is as close as anyone has ever come to turning chemicals into biological organisms.

Should they get the new cells to self-replicate, they will set them off on their evolutionary way and watch what happens. The team is hoping to gain information about possible ways life got started here on earth. Their cells may not be “the” way, but they hope to show that it is “a” way…

We’re now pretty much convinced that growth and division could occur under perfectly reasonable prebiotic conditions in a way that is not some artificial laboratory construction.

Alternate theories abound, and as the team already realizes, even if they succeed, it may not have been the way life got started here… either way, it they manage to create new and autonomous life from non-living matter, it will show once more how much we have yet to learn about matter and the fascinating directions that science can take us…


7 Responses

  1. it doesn’t exicte me at all…in fact, it seems to me, that all that would do is cheapen life…

  2. what inspires me is science’s ability to probe the depths of what is possible, its ability to understand matter and energy in such fine detail that it can create new life… it gives me hope that we can solve many of the worlds’ problems, and that we can untangle many of the mysterious that surround us…

    I compare such depth of knowledge and understanding to the religious perspective, the perspective that urges one to give up inquiry, to just have faith, to look at words in a book and think those are all the answers one needs… and to somehow trust those answers are unwaveringly correct with nothing more than “because I say so”…

    I’m curious, why do you feel it would “cheapen” life?

  3. if they find a way to create life, we will begin to lose our uniqueness in reproduction.

    it seems like everything else, if their is an easier way, it becomes more accessible, more accessible means it will be less special. less special makes it more expendable.

    as if our world isn’t currupt enough, we will only cheapen life more. life is already cheap, in death penalty, abortion, wars, i can only imagine how much moreso when we begin to “create” life.

  4. this is a good point, overall, life is cheap if the death of it doesn’t affect us personally. that goes for any life, human, animal, plant….but it’s not the only point. like the two sided coin (or whichever cliche you choose) selective love of life is the greatest proof of our emotions. if we cared about all life equally our passion would be spread thin. at least that is my opinion, i don’t agree with John Donne’s famous quote about the bell tolling.

  5. A couple of points. First, our uniqueness in reproduction, isn’t so unique. Birds do it, bees do it…you know the rest of the rhyme. Second, the excitement here is that while for ages masses of humanity have believed that we are descended from two people, one of whom was created from the other’s rib, and it was all wiped out save for some animals and a guy who could build a boat, we are actually now on the cusp of understanding the ground conditions for life. Sure, maybe we are killing Santa Klaus, but it isn’t necessarily Blade Runner yet. Having a grounded scientific understanding as opposed to an understanding based on myth and un-reason, is no less awesome, unique or wondrous, and I think in most cases preferred. Jimmy needs to know that the monster in the corner of his room, is in fact a shadow, if he is ever to “grow up.” And while down the road we may be able to churn out replicants, look for the nearer term solutions this may bring. Organ replacement, etc. We can all look down the road and paint a worst case scenario of life cheapening clones replacing real people, but the same trick can be played, and has been played just as well, with religious explanations.

  6. Creators of science fiction have been wrestling with these issues in the last few decades, often quite interestingly. What do we value when death is a minor inconvenience? How does society change when life is no longer precious and scarce, but instead abundant and “cheap”?

    Some folks seem to think that life being cheap is a good thing, not a bad thing. In the same way that any resource is better cheap than expensive, such as food or shelter or energy.

    If life is cheap, they seem to say, then more people can have more of it.

    Science fiction – handbooks for living in the world that’s just around the corner. Ignore it at your peril! 🙂

  7. “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom.”

    An interesting quote by Albert Einstein

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