According to an AP report, scientists are one step closer to artificial life. At least that's what the headline would have us believe.
In reality, what J. Craig Venter and his team of gnome-mappers have done is to create a strand of synthetic DNA and place it inside one bacterium to change it to a different type of bacterium. No small accomplishment, I'm sure, but not the creation of life, per se. One might even say, "Not even close."
What I found most interesting about this article was not the content, but the comments attached to it. Particularly one by a woman named Jen, who said, "The religious nutjobs in this world will definitely be chiming in with their nonsense. They have to make all cool things seem evil."
Such "nonsense" was not long in coming. The Vatican's leading bio-ethicist, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, reportedly responded to the new procedure by saying, ""We look at science with great interest. But we think above all about the meaning that must be given to life. We can only reach the conclusion that we need God, the origin of life."
Italian Bishop Domenico Mogavero adding, perhaps, some clarification to what Fisichella must have meant, said: ""Pretending to be God and parroting his power of creation is an enormous risk that can plunge men into a barbarity. [Scientists] should never forget that there is only one creator: God."
Nonsense, indeed. God's hegemony in the realm of life creation couldn't possibly need their protection. Such an idea is a contradiction, an oxymoron.
Certainly, this sort of bio-technology could create major problems, akin to those associated with the transplanting of non-native species of plants and animals, which wreck havoc on fragile eco-systems. But beyond that, it appears the Vatican is concerned that one day science will be able to create Frankenstein's monster--actual life itself.
Perhaps a more appealing tack for the Vatican or any other purportedly spiritual organization--one that might win the respect of commenters like Jen--would be to defiantly reassure its adherents that there is nothing to worry about because science will never be able to produce the miracle of life from scratch, one of the obvious indicators of God's existence, because science doesn't even understand what life is.
But apparently, the Vatican is unsure that this obligatory tenet of faith is true. The church's nose has been bloodied by science before. Better just to cover up and wait this round out, I suppose.
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Photo credit: Scott's Catholicism Blog