All this to say one thing: Life doesn’t just happen, it has to be MADE. DUH!

Scientists Build First Man-Made Genome; Synthetic Life Comes Next

By Alexis Madrigal Email 01.24.08 | 11:00 AM

Biologist J. Craig Venter poses at his home in Alexandria, Virginia.
Matt Houston/AP

Scientists have built the first synthetic genome by stringing together 147 pages of letters representing the building blocks of DNA.

The researchers used yeast to stitch together four long strands of DNA into the genome of a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium. They said it’s more than an order of magnitude longer than any previous synthetic DNA creation. Leading synthetic biologists said with the new work, published Thursday in the journal Science, the first synthetic life could be just months away — if it hasn’t been created already.

“We consider this the second in our three-step process to create the first synthetic organism,” said J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute where scientists performed the study, on Thursday during a teleconference. “What remains now that we have this complete synthetic chromosome … is to boot this up in a cell.”

With the new ability to sequence a genome, scientists can begin to custom-design organisms, essentially creating biological robots that can produce from scratch chemicals humans can use. Biofuels like ethanol, for example.

“The J. Craig Venter Institute will be able to take a file stored on a computer and using synthetic chemistry, turn that information into life,” said Chris Voigt, a University of California at San Francisco synthetic biologist. “I would be shocked if it doesn’t come out in six months. I think they’ve done it.”

The technique is basically a reverse of the Human Genome Project, which translated DNA into the letters A, C, T and G, which represent the body’s building blocks: the nucleotides adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. Synthetic biologists’ ambitious goal is to arrange those letters to create never-before-seen organisms that will do their bidding.

The first phase of Venter’s three-step process, which he published last year, involved transplanting and “booting up” the genome of one species of bacterium into another. The remaining step is to combine the first two steps, then insert the new synthetic genome into a standard bacterium. Scientists said they expect the announcement of man-made life this year.

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19 thoughts on “All this to say one thing: Life doesn’t just happen, it has to be MADE. DUH!

  1. what is your point? this is not an attempt at abiogenesis, this is an attempt at something that’s never been doe before

  2. Thanks for stopping by ophlam. But the point is a simple one. As you examine what it takes to simply create a synthetic life-form out of existing materials – how truly impossible spontaneous generation must be. The odds, the magnitude of the concept, rules it out as reasonable.

    Blessings: Reid

  3. but those scientists aren’t trying to create a form of life to rival early life.

    do you really find it so easy to just say “well since we have to make it like this in 2009, that means it never could have happened spontaneously”? I mean, 50 years ago we knew a tiny fraction of what we do now about genetics and DNA and this and look where we already are?
    how can you come to that conclusion so early

    plus what they are doing is not creating a synthetic version of early life – if they were maybe you’d have an argument.

  4. Actually, creating a “synthetic organism” or synthetic life if you will (I would fail to see too much difference) is the term they used for their own work in the article.

    Now, am I being too easily dismissive? I don’t think so. We have never been given even the slightest scientific reason for theorizing something coming to be out of nothing – ever. So in that sense, no, I don’t think that’s dismissive. Give some example – and then we can talk. Given none, it seems pretty sketchy.

  5. Ok so then this article is irrelevant to your topic, because this article is about a synthetic version of life, when you’re discussing abiogenesis.

    So far we don’t have a lot of working theories on abiogenesis. we’ve shown how amino acids can be created out of the base chemicals, we’ve got protobionts and a number of other things. it’s a work in progress (as all science is)
    does that mean that life cannot come from nothing? no it doesn’t. lack of evidence isn’t evidence that it can’t exist, it’s just a lack of evidence.

    christians have been using the same argument for different ideas as long as science has been around, but then scientists get evidence. why are you jumping to conclusions?

  6. I would argue that they are indeed related. Those working in the field of synthetic life are looking to unlock the “secrets” of how life began, in order to manipulate it further – and most likely for good ends (at least in their own minds – attacking disease, etc.)

    Your pointing out that “we’ve shown how amino acids can be created out of the base chemicals” speaks to my point exactly. That it takes intelligent manipulation to produce these things – they do not spontaneously occur. That was my original point, and it remains so.

    Now, does that absolutely prove that life can come from nothing? I would say that in the observable universe, the unbroken observation of all science to date has never provided any proof to the contrary, and that experiments like the one cited tend to reinforce that notion. It is not reasonable to postulate something from nothing.

    It is true that we have not even begun to scratch the surface of discovery in so much of our universe, or even our earth or ourselves for that matter. But based upon what we DO know and HAVE observed, we have no credible reason for postulating life coming from nothing. This is certainly not an observable or testable phenomena – and all tests and observations point to the contrary. It is not a conclusion jumped to for instance to say that human life as we know it requires both sperm and ovum to be introduced, and that human life begins no other way. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

  7. “we have no credible reason for postulating life coming from nothing.”

    but we’ve got evidence of every aspect of evolution forwards apart from abiogenesis because of the nature of it there wouldn’t be remains.

    “That it takes intelligent manipulation to produce these things – they do not spontaneously occur.”

    do you know the experiment? it was set up to replicate the conditions of a pre-life earth and amino acids were created.

    “Now, does that absolutely prove that life can come from nothing? I would say that in the observable universe, the unbroken observation of all science to date has never provided any proof to the contrary, and that experiments like the one cited tend to reinforce that notion. It is not reasonable to postulate something from nothing.”

    so what are you going to say when we do find a route for it to have happened? just like everything in science

    and plus, if we’re talking about abiogenesis vs a biblical genesis, there is so much less proof that life was created by God, because every single action we used to attribute to God has been proven by science to be completely natural. so by that it would make so much more sense to attribute abiogenesis to nature than invoke God

  8. We have all sorts of clear evidence regarding micro-evolution within species. For sure. We have zero actual evidence of macro-evolution or true transition from one species to another. The baptized Hindusim of macro-evolutionary theory just plain lacks the billions of transitional forms we would expect to verify that particular theory. No doubt, much of this simply runs back to the fact that Darwin’s understanding of life on the cellular level just wasn’t sophisticated enough yet to appreciate the stunning complexity of life on that level. No foul – just a theory based on too little knowledge. It continued propagation however I find more problematic. That being said, we simply do not have anywhere in nature or the observable universe a single example of spontaneous life.

    Now, as to the experiment in the article – it was not an attempt to replicate the origin of life. These are simply trying to create a life from FROM existing materials. Which, is my point. One does not try to create life out of nothing – because it is universally known one cannot create life out of nothing. No one even tries, because it defies both science and logic.

    In terms of rejecting Theo-genesis as at the root of all – I think Michael Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity goes a long way toward making such a more credible theory than something out of nothing.

    Beyond that however, I would say you already know God is there, and that he is responsible for what is. I fully understand the desire to not be morally responsible to a Creator God. I fully understand the desires in my own heart to not want to surrender the right of supremacy over my own soul to the One who made me. I get the deep longing to keep God out of the picture so I can live my life my own way and answer to no one. I do understand those. But none of them negates the reality that deep down, we all know the truth and are trying to deny it. Deep down, there is no other explanation for love, morality, purpose and being that even comes close to the Biblical model. A model that to me – does in fact satisfy all of the criteria for explaining life as it is.

  9. “We have zero actual evidence of macro-evolution or true transition from one species to another” scientists have done it in a lab. the reason we don’t have what you’d consider evidence is because it’s a very slow process.

    but we do have thousands of transitional fossils. no we don’t have them all, nor should we expect to have them all, but we certainly have enough to show that life through descent and natural selection occurs.

    “One does not try to create life out of nothing – because it is universally known one cannot create life out of nothing”

    what does that statement mean? create life from nothing? no-one is claiming that has ever occured. we are saying we believe, through reactions self replicating “organisms” were formed. did you look at the protobiont link I posted?

    I don’t think God is there. I used to be a christian and rejected God when I realised the bible has a tiny amount of evidence to back it up, no-where near enough to base a faith on. I also reject God because of who he is in the OT. even if he exists (which I don’t believe he does) I would not worship him, even if that means an eternity of suffering.

    irreducibly complexity has been shown time and time again to fail, every time someone gives some irreducibly theory sciences shows how it isn’t.
    and invoking God is never ever ever the more credible theory because it demands the most incredible leap of faith based on no evidence possible.

  10. evolution explains love, morals just as well as the bible might and also doesn’t limit them either. and purpose in life is something someone gives to themselves

  11. I could be wrong but it seems to me like your understanding of evolution comes all from an anti-evolution perspective, like you haven’t really tried to learn about it to understand it better, just so you could attack it better

  12. Agreed, Reid. I don’t know if you have a science background, but I did physics at university and you seem to have a got a better grasp of this stuff! Darwinism, in some form, has been around at least since the ancient Greek philosophers, hasn’t it? Needs no brains, surely. Just an atheistic or deist mindset. And THAT reasoning starts with ‘ME IS WHAT ME IS, THEREFORE…’ Wrong reference point. Get’s everything back to front…You can get modification within species in response to environment over time. Just limited by the pool of information available. You can’t put in what’s not there. People might then say, yes, but you can increase order at the expense of energy. So? Can you order what’s not yet there to be ordered, and from where comes the ever- increasing capacity to positively answer to this ordering? I always thought the 2nd law of thermodynamics really spoke on this. It’s one thing to say ‘no it doesn’t because of the energy input from the sun taking it the other way’. It’s another entirely when the thing presumably holds true outside of that so-called ‘closed system’, too…I have a tub of amino acids in the kitchen. It’s never gonna form itself into a steak, though, given enough zapping. Even less a living, breathing cow.

  13. I’m not a scientist, and I don’t play one on TV. In fact, I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. I do have a couple of scientists who attend this church. They literally laugh at the macro-evolutionary model. They know the gaping, unfillable holes. And they peer into the glories of God in creation every day.

    That being said – What I HAVE investigated on my own, hasn’t impressed me in this regard. I love the work done in discovery. I cringe at the hypothesizing done from a framework which as a presupposition rules God out from the get go. Its a stacked deck. No matter what proof anyone brings forward – the presupposition that God cannot be there, makes it impossible to interpret the data so as to see the God who is there.

  14. Evolution in of itself says nothing of God, just that the system doesn’t rely on God for any aspect of it. And a number of scientists don’t believe evolution. Unsurprisingly the overwhelming majority do… So what’s the point of your story of your christian scientists friends having a problem with evolution, especially when they have a vested interest in it being wrong.

  15. ophalm – here’s your theory stated as truth. Somehow, you know the motives of my scientist friends, and make your pronouncement. How do you know their vested interest isn’t simply in the truth? That you can state with certainty that evolution “doesn’t rely on God for any aspect of it” seems a tad disingenuous. How do you know that? Let’s give the benefit of some doubt for your case. Let’s posit (the unproven) macro-evolutionary model works. On what scientific basis do you claim God has no part in it? You see, your view isn’t scientific – it is a “religious” as my own.

  16. I don’t know their vested interest isn’t the truth, but a few people denying something that multitudes do doesn’t make me think anything other than that some people disagree. I don’t think evolution is 100% absolutely it, but I don’t see anything else coming anywhere near close.

    the reason I mention it doesn’t require God (and I’m talked evolution here, not abiogenesis) is because every mechanism that is involved doesn’t require God. God could be in it for all I know, but evolution doesn’t claim he’s in there, we can’t test if he is in there, and he’s not required for it to work. therefore when discussing evolution I talk about it as if he is not in there.

    what would it take to “prove” macro-evolution?(btw, I think the distinction between macro and micro evolution is primarily created by creationists when they were forced to believe via blatent evidence in what you call micro-evolution)

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