We’ve been waiting for this one. It’s from the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids), and posted at their blog. The title is Has Craig Venter Produced Artificial Life?
For this important subject, the Discoveroids are deploying one of their major intellects — Jonathan Wells. We’ve written about him a few times before. For background on this Moonie-creationist, see Discovery Institute: The Genius of Jonathan Wells. Here are some excerpts from Wells’ blog article, with bold added by us.
First he quotes some reactions from the rational world, for example:
According to University of Pennsylvania philosopher and bioethicist Arthur Caplan, “Venter and his colleagues have shown that the material world can be manipulated to produce what we recognize as life. In doing so they bring to an end a debate about the nature of life that has lasted thousands of years. Their achievement undermines a fundamental belief about the nature of life that is likely to prove as momentous to our view of ourselves and our place in the Universe as the discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus, Darwin and Einstein.”
That sounds pretty good! A tad overblown, perhaps, but Venter has done something amazing. Let’s see what Wells has to say:
Whoa! Wait a minute!
What Venter and his team did was to determine the sequence of the DNA in one of the world’s simplest bacteria, use the sequence information to synthesize a copy of that DNA from subunits sold by a biological supply company, then put the synthetic copy of DNA into a living bacterial cell from which the natural DNA had been removed.
Oh. Is that all? Wells continues:
In contrast to Caplan’s exaggerated claims, CalTech biologist and Nobel laureate David Baltimore said that Venter has “overplayed the importance” of his results, which represent “a technical tour de force” rather than a scientific breakthrough. Venter “has not created life, only mimicked it,” Baltimore said.
Mere mimicry of life. That’s nothing — the Discoveroids do it all day long. Then Wells quotes from an article in The Economist:
“Pedants may quibble,” the writer complains, that “the researchers had to use the shell of an existing bug to get that DNA to do its stuff.”
Pedants and Discoveroids. Here’s Well’s stunning conclusion:
Shell? But oh, what an amazing shell it is! And from that shell of life, what discoveries may come? Ay, there’s the rub.
You see, dear reader? The mystery is all in the bacterium’s shell — that’s the new holy grail. Venter hasn’t accomplished anything. He hasn’t even laid a glove on the creationists. As the Black Knight said, “It’s just a flesh wound!”
But we’re left wondering — is that the best the Discoveroids can do? Probably it is, but we expect to hear more from them anyway. They really can’t afford to leave this alone.
Related post: See Nature Doesn’t Need To Think.
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