The inventors call it the world's first synthetic cell, although this
initial step is more a re-creation of existing life — changing one simple
type of bacterium into another — than a built-from-scratch kind. The result
is what they call a “synthetic cell,” though only its genome is artificial,
or synthetic. We have improved on nature to create versions of genes and
proteins that do not exist in the wild.
And, recently, we have begun to build genomes in the laboratory. The first
to be made, eight years ago, was poliovirus. Then it became possible to make
synthetic copies of existing bacterial genomes. Now, with the results
published last week, we can begin to manufacture genomes for bacteria that
do not exist in nature.
The difficulties, however, remain great. Last week’s announcement, while an
enormous and complex technical achievement, was a baby step toward designer
life, not a giant leap. The resulting bacterium is little different from a
bacterium that already exists. The principle difference is that its DNA
carries some “watermarks” — special sequences — that identify it as having
been made, not evolved.
Mr. Thomas (not even a Ph.D.?) misses the point. This is not creating life
"for the first time." The results give us the huge advantage if creation of
NEW life from existing life.
----- Original Message -----
From: "praesto12" <Praesto12@...>
Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2010 8:08 PM
Subject: Re: [Death To Religion] Re: Abiogenesis (was: Creation so-called
'Scientists')Godwin is wrong.
Have Scientists Created a Synthetic Cell?
by Brian Thomas, M.S. *
Scientists claim they have successfully created "synthetic life" for the
first time. In a 15-year project, a team led by genomics pioneer Craig
Venter synthesized DNA from inanimate chemicals. Headlines through several
news agencies announced they had created a living cell, but what exactly did
these researchers accomplish?
In their study published in Science, the researchers of the J. Craig Venter
Institute used machines to synthesize DNA, which they then inserted into
already living cells. However, the particular DNA sequence they manufactured
was an exact copy--except for precisely-placed "watermark" alterations--of
pre-existing DNA from a living strain of bacteria that had been selected for
its ability to be cloned and reinserted into a bacterium.
The researchers went through plenty of bacterial strains to find one with
DNA that could undergo the transfer and cloning processes. After that, it
was a matter of artificially synthesizing DNA to exactly match the strain
that they knew would work. Even after this, it didn't initially succeed. An
error had crept into their synthesized DNA, and "success was thwarted for
many weeks by a single base pair deletion in the essential gene dnaA."1
This illustrates the high level of specification that had been built into
these bacterial genomes in the first place.2 In order for their endeavor to
succeed, the researchers had to conform their DNA sequence, in all the
critical places, to that of the bacteria's. In their words, "this project
was critically dependent on the accuracy of these [original bacterial]
DNA is a very long two-stranded molecule composed of four repeating
chemicals, like beads on a string, called bases. The base on one strand
pairs with a particular base on the opposite strand, forming a base pair.
Many genomes have millions or billions of base pairs, but the genome of the
tiny bacteria that these researchers copied was only 582,970 DNA base pairs
They sequenced every base, transferring the data to a computer. They then
synthesized new DNA to precisely match the sequence. Due to limitations of
the DNA synthesizer, they had to start by manufacturing over 1,000
individual lengths, each with approximately 1,080 base pairs. This included
extra DNA required for splicing the lengths together. The synthesized genome
was then transferred to yeast, which can accurately copy long sequences of
DNA and have enzymes that maintain DNA integrity. Finally, the researchers
transferred the laboratory-synthesized, yeast-cloned DNA into a living
bacterium that had its own DNA removed. The resulting cells grew and
multiplied successfully in the lab.
So, after millions of dollars and untold man-hours, pre-existing information
was copied from cells into computers, and then placed back into living cells
by purposefully manipulating both man-made and cellular machine systems. The
resulting cell was therefore not wholly synthetic--only its DNA. But other
than four added watermark sequences that served to verify the results, even
that DNA was an exact copy of an already functioning bacterial genome.
Despite the headlines, the scientists did not create a bacterial cell from
scratch. Instead, they "refer to such a cell controlled by a genome
assembled from chemically synthesized pieces of DNA as a 'synthetic cell',
even though the cytoplasm of the recipient cell is not synthetic."1 But the
cytoplasm has the machines required for all necessary cellular tasks like
carrying sugars, copying DNA, taking out trash, converting energy,
regulating production speeds, manufacturing proteins, communicating with the
environment, and so on. None of that was artificially synthesized.
In what may be an attempt to add gravitas to this research, Venter told the
Financial Times, "We have passed through a critical psychological barrier."3
Surely, this is a reference to ideas about the creation of life being the
sole domain of God. But there are reasons why it would be an overstatement
to say that this synthesized DNA represents some kind of "divine"
First, there is no biblical mandate that precludes mankind from attempting
to build bacteria. Second, since bacteria do not breathe, they do not
possess the "breath of life" that the Creator built into certain animals.
So, like plants, bacteria do not have a soul or "life principle" and can be
considered just very highly organized matter.4
Thus, even if scientists can eventually create an entire self-replicating
cell--including every working part--from scratch, they still will not have
"passed through a critical psychological barrier," because they will only
have succeeded in adding fantastic amounts of organization to previously
existing matter. Such an organism would not have "life" in the same sense
that humans do. Souls are not matter, yet they mysteriously reside in
Overall, this research could serve at least two good purposes. The
biotechniques that these scientists pioneered could improve medical
technology. Also, by encountering the specificity with which these bacterial
cells are constructed, investigators can get a closer appreciation for the
engineering genius of their real Architect. In light of what the Lord Jesus
accomplished in creating whole, reproducing cells without a reference
template, what little these researchers achieved nevertheless "was
complicated and required many quality control steps."1 How much more control
was therefore required to have invented the whole cell in the first place,
and how much more plain can the evidence for a Creator be?5
If anything, this research verifies that His handiwork is wondrous. If a
team of brilliant scientists only succeeded in copying information from a
germ to a computer and back to a germ, then the Originator of that
information must be far more brilliant.
1. Gibson, D. G. et al. Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a
Chemically Synthesized Genome. Science. Published online May 20, 2010.
2. See also: Thomas, B. Bacteria Study Shoots Down 'Simple Cell'
Assumptions.ICR News. Posted on icr.org January 4, 2010, accessed May 25,
3. Cookson, C. Scientists create a living organism. Financial Times. Posted
on ft.com May 20, 2010, accessed May 20, 2010.
4. Criswell, D. C. 2009. Origin of Life. Dallas, TX: Institute for Creation
Research, 13-15. See also Morris, J. 1991. Are Plants Alive? Acts & Facts.
5. Guliuzza, R. J. Natural Selection Is Not "Nature's Design Process." Acts
& Facts. 39 (4): 10-12.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
From: Richard Godwin <meta@...>
Sent: Sun, May 30, 2010 10:56:33 PM
Subject: Re: [Death To Religion] Re: Abiogenesis (was: Creation so-called
I meant to give the source articles describing Venter's discovery:
A step to artificial life: Manmade DNA powers cell
By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, Ap Medical Writer
Thu May 20, 7:54 pm ET
Scientists announced a bold step Thursday in the enduring quest to create
artificial life. They've produced a living cell powered by manmade DNA. The
inventors call it the world's first synthetic cell, although this initial
step is more a re-creation of existing life — changing one simple type of
bacterium into another — than a built-from-scratch kind.
Scientists report first cell made with artificial genes
May 20, 2010
Courtesy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and
World Science staff
Scientists say they have developed the first cell controlled by an
Although it’s a near-copy of a natural genome, the researchers say their
method can be used to better understand the basic machinery driving life,
and to engineer bacteria for tasks such as fuel production or environmental
..The research group, at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md.,
was already credited with chemically producing a bacterial genome, and with
transplanting the genome of one bacterium to another. In the latest work,
reported in the May 21 issue of the research journal Science, the team
combined both methods. The result is what they call a “synthetic cell,”
though only its genome is artificial, or synthetic.
“This is the first synthetic cell... we call it synthetic because the cell
is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with four bottles of
chemicals on a chemical synthesizer, starting with information in a
computer,” said J. Craig Venter, president of the institute and leader of
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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