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Even if we can create life, should we?

Say we could create life, should we? Would it be wrong to? Where would we go with this technology? Should we wait for regulations? Are there regulations?

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    Sep 10 2011: I don't know about "should". Do we need to? Maybe. Will we? Almost certainly. There will be (shudder) military applications. So you can be pretty sure there are already people messing around with it.

    Another obvious application is food.This might be a good thing. Right now the food industry subjects animals to horrific treatment. Personally, I cannot bear to eat animal products because of what's done to them. But if creatures could be made-to-order without any sentience whatsoever then maybe it'd be okay. They'd also be made easier to manage, resistant to infection, hugely productive and highly efficient. I doubt they could be as efficient a source of food as plants, but perhaps they could be bred to metabolize recycled cardboard or something.

    Some pets (such as goldfish, if memory serves) have already been customized via genetic engineering. That's not really "creating" life, but I consider it ethically equivalent. Actually, I rather feel bad for all the purebred pets that suffer from various ailments because of inbreeding. All that pain so we can amuse ourselves! Sometimes our species sucks.
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    Sep 9 2011: Yes, we should!

    I would like to see chimera's, unicorns and dragons!
    And new flowers and other life forms...
    And plants that grow into houses.
    And heart-valves that come from an ooze

    Ok, my fantasy is running wild now. The possibilities are endless!
    (Imagine by age 10 you can design your own kind of pet!)
    • Sep 10 2011: And that, is a very scary thing. what if one of those escaped? ecological havoc. with the ability to play god, mistakes become disastrous. we know this in politics as: absolute power corrupts
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        Sep 11 2011: Sure thing, there are dangers of any technology...
        When we start introducing new species in the ecology, we will see some havoc, some caution is needed.
        Though it is through playing (experimenting) and making errors that we learn.

        If one escapes I hope the procreation is somewhat limited. (we can give a special molecule they need to suvive, that cannot be found in nature for example)
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          Sep 12 2011: I think that before we really start considering this kind of science we need to put our eggs in separate baskets if you get my drift. in 100 years we will have already began colonizing our solar system. My suggestion is that we conduct experiments like this on different rocks, not on mother earth. That way if something were to go wrong it wouldn't effect the whole human race. Also there's an issue that we have already dealt with. Moving certain animals from one part of the globe has already caused the ecosystem in different areas major problems. If we genetically create a creature that has amazing abilities to thrive it could threaten our very existence.
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    Sep 12 2011: Gus, I think we're making it wrong already 40 million and 30 million times every year (Hans Rosling's data) in abortions and unwanted pregnancies.

    Or 50,000 times every day with children alone over 20,000, every single day! for causes that we have the power to prevent.
  • Sep 12 2011: The Wohler issue is that it was believed that organic molecules could only be produced by other chemical reactions which possessed some sort of magical properties. Wohler went outside this interaction of biomolecules passing off some sort of occult influence on other molecules by bringing together inorganic molecules into inorganic glassware and the necessary synthetic reactions took place anyway.

    But ultimately, it is true that we CANNOT gather up all knowledge about everything, we CANNOT perceive every influence that exists - we must always assume that there might be something we overlooked - and our limited minds CANNOT assemble everything knowable. But given these great and serious limitations, I do reject the claim that we therefore cannot know anything. We can nevertheless approach the truth about the world, life, reality, in a series of ever more accurate approximations. It was once generally thought that the Earth was flat. Through observation, we know it is not. It was thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Through observation we know that it is not. It was once thought that life could only be created by some supernatural power. We are close to demonstrating that it is not. Further off, but still on the horizon, possibilities exist that we may be able to understand the architecture of reality on a deeper and more accurate level. There will be surprises, paradigm shifts, revelations, corrections. What person who loves the life of the mind doesn't look forward to that? But I believe we CAN learn more and more about "Life, the Universe and Everything". Looking forward to it! B -)-
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    Sep 12 2011: See if we create a living thing it will evolve and as we make it ultimately resembles us as most of the time. As they pay way for evolution it starts thinking and again it starts questioning us and their existence again the cycle so its preferred not to..
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      Sep 13 2011: I agree with you. This is really a serious matter. It's like a knife. We can use it to cook and also to kill. But if we are able to do that, we should become ready for it.

      Maybe today's people would want self-replicating and quick evolving weapons of selfish segregation. With today's technology we are already harming current biological life. Now imagine what we could do with the advance of robots and non carbon life.

      So, with the advancement of this technology, I hope we also advance our culture and become ready for it.
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        Sep 14 2011: absolutely we are still unable to solve a lot of crisis and some idiots wants to over populate ourselves I dunno what the hell in in their minds.. You can prove the might of your knowledge by doing something usefull please don't separate ourselves from nature.. what ever we do we still bleed red..
  • Sep 12 2011: However, panspermia is irrelevant to the first origin of organic life. It merely moves the problem of origin of life across the street. If aliens did interfere with our evolution, a la "2001", we still have the problem of the origin of the alien's own evolution. Nothing has been resolved at all. So whether or not aliens of some sort have tinkered with our evolution and culture is only a detail, it isn't a fundamental point.

    If you mean the theological aspect, it would not PROVE that man was not created by some supernatural power, only that the supernatural power wasn't NECESSARY. If you argue that some god or other had to create the first life to start the process, then how did that god or other get started? Actually, this question has already been resolved, when the chemist Wohler synthesized the first organic compounds which were previously considered only the products of living processes.
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      • Sep 12 2011: "Any theory of first origin moves the problem across the street and resolves nothing. What caused the big bang?"

        In the case of life, "first origin" can eventually be traced back to chemical processes on the early Earth, even if our current level of ignorance prevents us access to the details. If life similar in chemical structure to ours exists elsewhere, it probably first arose through similar chemistry. Panspermia is not impossible, but not necessary to explain terrestrial life.

        The Big Bang is one of the very few processes I'm willing to accept as having no origin. Along with Aristotle (not a very good reference, I know) I can accept the idea that the multiverse has ALWAYS been expanding with the ballooning out of new dimensions and "universes" - there was no origin because there was never a time when the universe did not exist. This is a hard concept for us to get our limited human minds around, but reality doesn't care.

        "The chemist Wohler was a living process. Still nothing has been resolved at all ;)."

        Prior to Wohler, the claim was made that biochemicals could only be made by living organisms. Wohler showed that this was not so. Now the claim is often made that life has similar magic properties. If we can set up a system that mimics conditions on the early Earth, which existed independently of us, and then stand back and watch them produce life, then the fact that we are alive is not relevant. That MAY happen in this century. The IDEAL situation would be to find a planet at this early stage and observe life appear without any interference from us. That would cinch the matter, but would take thousands of years.

        I am reminded that one of the gods of Mesopotamia was supposed to have created the first blacksmith's tongs - because you couldn't make a set of tongs without tongs to hold them while working on them.
  • Sep 11 2011: We cannot know if we CAN create life unless we DO it.

    If we do it, we will want to tinker with it to see if we can find clues to how it originated naturally and about what sorts of life might arise on other worlds.

    We will want to know HOW different life could be from us and still "work".

    Most of all, it would be a grand step in experimental theology. If we can create life, then it demonstrates that there does not have to be some supernatural power responsible for it.
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      Sep 12 2011: It could however go in reverse with another theory that man evolved to its current levels because of Alien genetic tampering. Or our planet could have been seeded by another civilization. It would simply prove that its possible. Not saying that's what happened, only that its possible.
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    Sep 11 2011: As mentioned a few times in the thread, it's less about 'should' - (because we will and have started to) - and more about what challenges are likely to arise, and are we prepared to meet them?

    20 ton potatoes are one thing, but a cross-species, horrifyingly contagious virus that sterilizes its hosts is another.

    Personally, I prefer the former... but one has reservations about whether all our creations will have a positive impact on the world.

    Perhaps, to start with, we could look to passing global regulations that stipulate absolute transparency with all GM projects? It's harder to make mistakes with the world watching, if a little slow.
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    Sep 10 2011: Yes and the regulations will exist once with necesity .
  • Sep 9 2011: The word life has many connotations. From a biological standpoint, life refers to any object that has functioning, self sustaining processes (such as growth, the ability to utilize and store the energy of chemical reactions, the ability to respond to stimuli). From an anthropocentric viewpoint, one of self-awareness and consciousness and the ability to construct universals (in Bertrand Russell's sense of the word, where it is employed to describe the relationship between perceived objects), the term life takes on a different meaning; the complexity of a human being with all of its astounding emergent properties (from consciousness, to an immune system, and the list goes on) eclipses that of the simplest form of life, unicellular organisms, but it, by definition, is still a form of life.
    It is important to point out that life has been 'created' in the field of biology for many years now; the DNA (the bearer of instructions that specifies the characteristics of daughter cells) of bacterial cells is often tampered with in experiments to alter the characteristics of future generations of cells, essentially creating a new state of life for this organism; cloned organisms would not exist if we had not created them.
    Only organisms that are self-aware can even begin to contemplate the ethics of their actions. As Mr. Fergus points out above, life is a development that was driven by processes with no ability to consider right or wrong and occurred without the observance of an entity capable of questioning the morality of the creation of life. Similarly a phenomenon driven by evolution, speciation, created the diversity of life we see before us.
    There is nothing unethical about the creation of life. In fact the idea of morality as we know it can only arise from a progressive increase in complexity that eventually leads to human beings. So by all means create life, but it is important to make ethical choices regarding organisms that are capable of comprehending themselves.
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    Sep 9 2011:
    This link proves for me that we can create beautiful stuff. If we aren't ready I believe we won't be given the opportunity to create other forms of life. In today's dynamic world there are hardly any regulations so it's up to us - we shall decide what to do.
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    Sep 9 2011: Yes.
    Same question was there when Hippocrates wanted study human body and regulation didn't allow , but if he has not broken regultion , where could we stand in medical scien right now?
    Regulation only follows innovation unfortunately it evolves at slower rate than innovation , so we miss lot of time before getting full benefit of innovation.
  • Sep 9 2011: Yes. There is no universial "right" and "wrong". Whether we please to. No. No.

    I am thinking primarily of mechanical life forms here, but there should be nothing wrong with biological as well.
  • Sep 9 2011: Yes! I think we should create life under certain circumstances such as growing livers and other organs. There are other cicumstances where I would say no, such as creating a species to serve us. All in all I say let's cross that bridge when we come to it as there will be huge debate on the matter.
  • Sep 9 2011: Yes! It's always going to be a big issue but we've never, as human beings, had much a problem ending life whether that's squashing a fly, farming animals or even sanctioning the death of members of our own species. By creating life, we will undoubtedly understand it better but where we go with it should not be a big concern at this point. Most developments, like life itself, have evolved in terms of use without great foresight at the outset. The ethical debate can be had on each use as required when the need arises.