The Biohackers: mucking about with the stuff of life A growing network of ‘biohackers’ want to get biology out of the lab and into homes, garages and community spaces. It’s about making biology more accessible for everyone. But how big is the movement? And are there any safety concerns?
Tagged with “genetics” (4)
Big science thinker John Brockman asked scientists around the world one question: what breakthrough will change everything? We’ve got their answers.
Jerry A. Coyne has been a professor at the University of Chicago in the department of ecology and evolution for twenty years. He specializes in evolutionary genetics and works predominantly on the origin of new species. He is a regular contributor to The New Republic, the Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. His most recent book is Why Evolution Is True.
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Jerry Coyne talks about extent and breadth of the evidence for evolution and how the reasons for believing in evolution are not as clearly argued in today’s textbooks as they were fifty years ago. He contends that professional evolutionists may take evolution on faith, or on the authority of their intellectual forerunners. He explains how evolution is both a theory and a fact. He details the various kinds of evidence for evolution, including evidence from the fossil record, molecular biology, embryology, the existence of vestigial organs, biogeography, and from bad design. He explores how Darwin discovered evolution by natural selection without the evidence from the fossil record. He explains how sexual reproduction is the key to evolution, and talks about sexual selection. He discusses the Intelligent Design movement and exactly how many scientists are actually proponents of ID. He lists some genuine controversies within evolution, and states that they are indeed taught in the schools. He discusses the relationship of belief in evolution to disbelief in God. And he explains why he feels the need, as a scientist, to publicly speak out in defense of Darwinism.
Synthetic biology will be one of the driving technological forces of this century. By transforming the complexity and diversity of life into a technology malleable by man, it simultaneously offers some of science’s highest hopes and gravest threats. Like splitting the atom, synthetic biology holds a great wealth of power that must be wielded with care.
Bioengineer Drew Endy is the leading enabler of open-source biotechnology. Technology historian Jim Thomas is the leading critic of biotech, based with ETC Group in Ottawa. Moderated by Stewart Brand, they will meet to discuss how the emerging and potentially revolutionary capabilities of synthetic biology can be utilized safely, equitably and openly.
Synthetic biology is swarming ahead all over the world, at a self-accelerating pace far greater than Moore’s Law, with a range of impacts far greater than genetically engineered food crops. Jim Thomas raises the question: "Is Synthetic Biology reckless or wise from the perspective of ‘the long now?’. I feel the synthetic biology community is driven by immensely short term assumptions and motivations, and as a result the medium term prospect for this platform holds both predictable problems and nasty surprises."