“Playing God” is a meaningless, dangerous cliché

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“Playing God” is a meaningless, dangerous cliché

Science's prime mover, Craig Venter

Venter: synthetic life's prime mover

I offer this humble suggestion for Craig Venter. The next time he is asked if he is “playing God,” he might want to ask the questioner what they mean. Venter has just made headlines worldwide for the astonishing feat of creating a microorganism with a wholly synthetic, designed genome. It’s the first ever replicating organism since life on Earth began that has a genome not derived primarily from one or more parent organisms. It is in a sense the first artificial life form.

One could quibble about that, arguing for example that this synthetic bacterium, as described in the journal Science, is not really an original design but more like a slightly simplified and modified copy of a Volkswagen Golf constructed from homemade, scratch-built replica parts, instead of rolling off the Volkswagen assembly line. But that would be churlish: the technical accomplishment is stunning.

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  1. May 27, 2010


    The guts of the problem is that we want to control life on our own, without reference to the God who (in some sense) created this world. “Striving to replace God” is not an idea introduced by James Whale; it first began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1).

  2. October 22, 2013


    When we bring science and religion together, it creates a lot of controversy, and it’s hard to find the median in any issue where the two collide.

    The overall of Religion’s opinion on today’s use of Biotechnology would be that, it’s immoral. “Who are you to go ‘playing God’? It’s against His wishes to mess with the natural autonomy of human beings.”
    Science on the other hand would say, “It’s for the betterment of humanity. We will be able to be exactly who we want to be and modify ourselves to a desirable state.”
    I certainly do not mean to put words in the mouths of those parties belonging to science or religion; this is just what I’ve taken from those expressing opinions from a religious and scientific P.O.V.

    My personal opinion on the topic of biotechnology is that we have to slow down. We’re ignorant, with only a vague idea of the outcomes, not to mention disasters that could take place in the long run. For goodness sake, we can’t even get our planet right. We’re failing miserably to preserve mother nature – that has been so generous in sustaining our own lives. I don’t we shouldn’t be experimenting with our natural genetic material with means to create a desirable human being. It’s a complete act of selfishness when we have much more crucial issues to prioritize

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Philip Ball

Philip Ball
Philip Ball is a science writer 

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