Ethics & Artificial Life

From the Journal of New England Technology: George Church creates building block for ‘artificial life’

he man who mapped the human genome is now doing a major follow up by creating the components of synthetic life, offering potential biotechnology breakthroughs but also creating worries over the related ethical, safety and religious consequences.

Harvard University molecular geneticist George Church, the founder of the Human Genome Project, has led a research team to create a self-replicating ribosome. While ribosomes were reconstituted 40 years ago, this appears to be the first time it has been done succesfully and synthetically. Exactly where the research will go isn’t certain, however.

And the ethics part?

…with this step forward comes a new set of ethical considerations, say experts. “We need to be critically aware of the profound implications of creating synthetic life,” said Karl Giberson, director of the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College in Wenham. “I don’t think this is something to be scared of. I don’t think Mother Nature is being violated in some egregious way. But this is an area of science with important ethical considerations, and religious sensibilities and higher priorities need to be on the table, under discussion.”

But having such a concern isn’t a matter of religious zealotry. “We are intruding into areas of nature that transcend us, and we need the ability to make informed and appropriate decisions,” he said.


About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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