Dr. Craig Venter shakes the heavens with synthetic life

From The Daily Bruin:

Venter If imitation is the highest form of flattery, what then are we to make of Dr. Craig Venter’s recent stab at God? La Jolla’s own mad scientist and crew might just give the Big Guy a run for his money, raising all sorts of moral crises, ethical dilemmas and plumbings of faith. Team Venter shook the scientific world last week with its announcement of the first successfully synthesized self-replicating bacterium. The bacterium in question – a chimeric copy of Mycoplasma mycoides, genomically synthesized and injected into a recipient cell – has a new nickname (Synthia) and an even louder reputation (the first synthetic life form). Like Mary Shelley’s pithy Prometheus, our Dr. Venterstein has done what was once the sole domain of the gods – that is, creating new life. A product of synthetic genomic engineering, Synthia is perhaps the first creature since Jesus to lack proper earthly parents.

The DNA she bears was not written by God or nature, but by our Craig and his cronies at the J. Craig Venter Institute, on a computer. Somewhere in her genome lie some James Joyce quotes and an e-mail address, coded in the language of life itself. Critics are quick to point out that the good doctor did not build Synthia from scratch. This explains the words of second-year behavioral neuroscience student Christian Frese, who dismissed it as little more than “putting a new operating system on your computer.” This, of course, is a feat even the CLICC Lab is all too capable of accomplishing; is the Venter lab any more deft? To be sure, our Craig did recycle 3 billion years’ worth of natural life, sculpting his Synthia after a pre-existing genome and molding it into a pre-existing cell. If not rivaling God, it certainly plagiarized.

More here.