23 May 2010

The March of Science

The latest news on biochemical engineering is fascinating and, to my mind at least, quite disturbing. Here's the BBC account.

Apparently, the scientists took the genome of one species of the bacterial genus Mycoplasma and sequenced it. They used that data to produce the same sequence in vitro. They injected this DNA into the cell of a different species of Mycoplasma, creating a hybrid.

In a message board, someone has offered me the following analogy, "You take a Ford V8 and tear it apart, make measurements and draw a blueprint of the engine. Then you go into your home foundary & machine shop and builld your own copy of the Ford V8.

"Then you put that Ford V8 in an old Chevy and drive it around the block.

"You haven't even designed a new car, let alone invented the automobile, but it is a pretty impressive bit of engineering for an amateur."

That's what worries me. Even if the significance of this step has been overstated in some of the coverage, it does seem that our species is getting depressingly impressive at engineering the basics of life.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.