Is it God or Satan?


The 24-member team worked for nearly 15 years and spent more than $30 million to synthesise a parasitic bacteria found in cattle and goats. Immediately, the dangers are evident. Is the Venter Institute playing god?

The more we progress, the less the likelihood of science and ethics having a happy relationship. Or, more correctly, we have to redefine established ideas or norms of behaviour with each scientific breakthrough.

There are no absolutes here but this does not mean that questions cannot and will not be raised. As they are being about the laboratory made life form made at the J Craig Venter Institute, owned by maverick scientist Craig Venter.

The 24-member team worked for nearly 15 years and spent more than $30 million to synthesise a parasitic bacteria found in cattle and goats, Mycoplasma mycoides, to create the M mycoides JCVI-syn1.0.

The purpose of this new creature is to eat up CO2 and bacteria to make bio-fuels, foods and new vaccines and clean up toxic waste. Immediately, the dangers are evident. Is the Venter Institute playing god?

Is this the end of civilisation as we know it? While the creation of Dolly, the cloned sheep did not lead to an invasion of the body-snatchers, the fears of bacteria being misused in chemical warfare are not just the stuff of C-grade Hollywood thrillers.

Already, we have to deal with genetically modified foods, cloning, stem cell research and even the Big Bang experiment at CERN, all of which in their own way tamper with the natural order of things and lead to fears of humans playing gods.

And yet, there can be no other way.What’s required now is intelligent debate and a measured drawing of lines for each new scientific endeavour and breakthrough. It is, for instance, more or less accepted that eugenics — or the genetically manipulated creation of perfect human beings — is to be shunned. If that can be taken as the absolute, we are still rewriting the rules when it comes to genetic research almost every day.

Rather than fall prey to our own fears, we have to assess each discovery on its own merit and try to foresee its long-term implications before we censure or call for bans. Human reality shows that once something has been done, it can no longer be hidden; it will find a way out.

Then the only way forward is to set rules and standards as well as some kind of mechanism that monitors the progress of scientific research. In some sense, much of what we have already done is tampering with nature, so we cannot cry ‘horror” because something has reached what appears at this point in time to be a threshold.

Perhaps, we have no option but to listen to our collective conscience and hope we choose the right path. Science cannot be stopped but it can certainly be controlled.

Copyright: arcticle: DNA India



Original article from: http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/editorial_is-it-god-or-satan_1386921



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