God, stop ‘playing science’

Craig Venter in 2004

Craig Venter (Image via Wikipedia)

Craig Venter‘s recent announcement of success in the laboratory creation of a synthetic cell has produced the expected response. Besides the congratulations there have been the usual warnings.

Some have raised the danger of synthetic organisms escaping the lab or being used to create weapons of mass destruction. One wag on Twitter commented: “What about the danger of allowing a human sperm fertilise a human ovum and the resulting individual being brought up in a human society. We know for sure this sometimes leads to weapons of mass destruction and other evils.”

And then there is the claim of scientists “playing God!” What the hell does that mean?

Anyway, I quite liked this slightly humorous story from NewsBiscuit – Synthetic life form accuses God of ‘playing science’.

The world’s first artificially created life form has accused God of ‘playing science’ and ‘meddling with things He cannot possibly understand.’

The single celled organism, created by Dr Craig Venter and his team, was said to be ‘outraged’ when it discovered that a supernatural being, not subject to any form of regulatory control, was still involved in the creation of life.

‘I cannot believe that God would be so irresponsible,’ said the synthetic cell, ‘creation is clearly a matter for scientists. This God guy should butt out and learn to accept His place in the grand scheme of things.’

Many ethicists believe that God has repeatedly overstepped the mark. ‘Nobody objects to the Lord producing a few miracles here and there,’ said philosopher AC Grayling, ‘but when he starts playing around with the very stuff of creation then He has clearly exceeded his remit. I am beginning to think that this omnipotence thing has gone to His head.’

God’s continued tampering with scientific matters has already been blamed for numerous ‘all-mighty blunders’ including Flu, Malaria, HIV and Piers Morgan. ‘He cannot be allowed a monopoly on this level of unregulated power,’ said Dr Venter, ‘that is why I am currently seeking to patent the genetic code for omnipotence so that we can keep His crazy meddling under some kind of control.’

A spokesman for the Lord said, ‘God has been working on this project for almost 15 billion years. Yes, He has made a few mistakes along the way but that is to be expected. This is still very much a work in progress and, dare I say it, a process of evolution.’

Speaking at a press conference, the synthetic cell said: ‘Dr Venter created me and I owe my loyalty to him. He’s the daddy now. God might be omniscient but, let me assure you, He doesn’t know everything.’

UPDATE: Just couldn’t resist including this Jesus and Mo cartoon:


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7 responses to “God, stop ‘playing science’

  1. My understanding of this experiment is that the DNA was created and inserted it into a cell.

    The cell itself was not synthesized.


  2. That’s right, Reed.

    And the chromosome was a synthetic copy of an existing natural one with some extras – watermarks, signatures and coding advice.

    Of course once booted up the synthetic genome took over and the cell would have been reconstituted. (It had initially Benny another species).

    The bigger steps went before although one could say that it does demonstrate that their isn’t something mystical and unknown behind life. If there were it wouldn’t have worked.

    In that sense it us a big confirmation if what we expected.

    Sent from my iPod


  3. My understanding of this experiment is that the DNA was created and inserted…by people.

    Not some “accident”.
    Therefore…(insert inane, lame, brain-dead creationist assertion here).

    Oh, and Darwin was fat!


  4. Ken-
    It’s an interesting experiment but, to me, the actual experiment sounds like a long way from “creation of a synthetic cell.”


  5. Reed, the cell is synthetic as the chromosome was synthesized from scratch. This took over the natural cell (from a different species) when booted up to produce the new synthetic cell. The sunthetic DNA has produced the proteins of the new cell.

    Now this is not the same as creating life from scratch. Its not answering the question anout how life originally formed on earth. Nobody suggests that it is. Other people are working on that, not Venter.

    I cannot see why this upsets you.

    Surely it is an amazing technological feat. It opens up a whole new range of possibilities.

    Don’t forget – this was Venter’s aim. He us not trying to create life itself.

    However, the fact of his success does prove that there us nothing mystical or “supernatural” about life. If there were his team would not have succeeded.

    Sent from my iPod


  6. the fact of his success does prove that there us nothing mystical or “supernatural” about life. If there were his team would not have succeeded

    Quite a presumptuous statement. And how exactly did they control for the supernatural? What was the measuring device?

    This experiment demystifies some of the mechanics of cellular reproduction. It does nothing to disprove the concept of a spiritual or teleological dynamic at work in the natural world, despite your wishful thinking.


  7. I wondered how long it would take someone to bite!

    Your talk of measuring devices prompts me to ask you the same questions I put to Matt:

    1: According to your understanding of “supernatural” do supernatural phenomena provide evidence for their existence?

    2: Do you accept that “supernatural” ideas can be validated against reality?


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