Artificial Life Synthetic Biology

Artificial Life

I just ran across an Associated Press news article in my files. The headline reads, “Scientists Believe Artificial Life Will Be Possible in 3 to 10 Years.” The article is dated August 20, 2007.

The report deals with a new scientific discipline known as synthetic biology. The goal is to create life in the laboratory. Two of the pioneers in this field are Jack Szostak and Craig Venter. Szostak’s team has taken the bottom-up approach to build artificial life-forms. They seek to assemble the biomolecular building blocks step-by-step until they have a living cell. Venter’s team takes the top-down approach. They try to re-engineer existing life-forms by changing the DNA to create novel forms of life. Both teams have made progress over the last ten years, but neither has achieved the ultimate goal.

The AP article says there are three major hurdles to creating artificial life. First, you need a container or cell membrane. It serves as a protective wall to keep the materials required for life inside while keeping the harmful molecules out. Living cells must have that. Secondly, you need a genetic system that controls all of the cell functions. This system has to allow the cell to mutate in response to the environment and, very importantly, to reproduce. The third essential is a system of metabolism. The cell must be able to take raw materials from the environment and convert them into energy to power the cell.

Those three hurdles are still challenging the scientists. In time, scientists may jump the barriers and create fully-synthetic artificial life. In doing so, what will they have proven? Will they have shown that life arises spontaneously from non-life? No. They will have proven that great intelligence under carefully controlled conditions can turn non-living matter into life-forms. They will have shown that life is not an accident, but the creation of an intelligent being. That is what the Bible has said for thousands of years.

Even when those scientists manage to create a living cell, they will NOT have created it from nothing. They will be using the materials (and intelligence) that God has given us. It reminds me of the old story about a scientist who challenged God, saying that is was no big deal to create a man from the dust of the ground. God said, “Go ahead and do it.” The scientist grabbed up a handful of dust, and God interrupted him, saying, “Wait a minute! Make your own dust.”

–Roland Earnst © 2017