Monday, July 12, 2010

Presidential Commission on Synthetic Biology


There have been an significant two days meeting on synthetic biology in Washington D.C. that seem to have been missed by many. Summers Johnson of blog.bioethics.net blogs about it here and here. She notes

Perhaps the only real substantive ethics discussion came from AJOB Neuroscience's own Paul Wolpe who provided an overview on religious perspectives related to synthetic biology as well as four examples of synthetic biology.

Some of his statements were somewhat surprising. Wolpe stated that religious communities are relatively unconcerned about synthetic biology. I have no reason to doubt this claim, but it is certainly surprising.

I wonder why this curious silence from the religious communities.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

Thank you for highlighting this.

I can't help but began to sense that the combination of (1) human's unquenchable thirst for new knowledge about nature and (2) human's irresistable urge to technologically engage the nature with new knowledge in manipulating it for certain ends is making me pessimistic over the future and the survival of the human race.

In the end, it possibly not asteroid or some great natural calamity that annihilate us, but our own selves. This certainly helps to put a new perspective on the meaning of the "fruit of knowledge of good and evil" in the book of Genesis.

Could it be that human's unquenchable thirst to learn and to engage the nature, as an attempt to transcend ourselves, within our own limited knowledge of the implication of these attempts is the very same attempt that we should not transcend?

No answer to this question too, I suppose, like all those questions posed by Paul Wolpe. God knows what we are doing on ourselves.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Sze Seng,

That is certainly true. Our technological advances has always been far ahead of our wisdom. That has always been one facet of my understanding of the "fruit of the knowledge of good and evil" in Genesis.

We have possess the power to wipe ourselves out since the 1940s. What is impressive is not that we can wipe ourselves out but that we have not done so! So there appear that we do possess some wisdom after all.

Synthetic biology is the first step in the new era of biotechnological age. Again, we will need wisdom in this. Hence I am very surprised that the Christian community ignored it totally.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

Your observation that we possess the technology to wipe ourselves out since the 1940s makes me think further.

That bombing technology is obvious and the reason why we are still around probably due to the advantage that only certain parties possess that technology. Imagine the Japanese, the Nazi, and the Russian possess the same technology.

What we have now and will have in the future will be more subtle. It comes in apocalytic promises of life transformation; enhancing human physical fitness if not fixing the already existing ailments. The synthetic life reminds me of Bio Hazzard/Resident Evil or worse.

I remember reading somewhere that there was a Reformed group that engages with synthetic biology (if I am not wrong it's through a link from your blog too). But didn't thought that it deals much with it. Part of it probably is because syn bio is still in its very initial stage.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Sze Zeng said...

Indeed it's through a link in your blog: http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20100524_1.htm

11:30 AM  
Blogger Sze Zeng said...

Hi Alex,

Check out Ted Peters' thoughts about Syn Bio: http://journalofcosmology.com/ArtificialLife108.html

6:16 PM  

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