Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology. More than 2500 people filled ASU Gammage Auditorium on Saturday, February 12 to listen to this remarkable collection of scientists whose particular perspectives range from the cosmic to the microscopic. “The Great Debate: What is Life?” was sponsored by the ASU Origins Project in partnership with the Science Network, J. Epstein Foundation and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The evening followed on the heels of its successful inaugural debate in November 2010, “The Great Debate – Can science tell us right from wrong?”
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Scientist and entrepreneur Craig Venter made headlines in 2000 when he was one of the first to sequence the human genome.
Now, he’s announced another big step: the creation of synthetic life in a laboratory – a bacterium with a cooked-up, man-made genetic code.
The breakthrough could eventually lead to tailor-made organisms and big benefits in medicine, energy and beyond.
But what about the ethics – and the risks – of making life in a lab?
Synthetic biology hit the headlines when Craig Venter recently announced the creation of Synthia – the first organism with a computer as a parent. JCVI-syn1.0, as the artificial microbe is officially known, will become a poster child for synthetic biology. But it was created from known genetic sequences. Roland Pease looks beyond Synthia, at the work of biologists and chemists hoping to recreate life from scratch.
Synthetic biology can sound kind of bland. Like polyester pants. Nylon stockings. Synthetic – no big deal.
But think about it. Synthetic biology. Biology fully, deeply, maybe radically remade by man. It’s well underway.
Re-engineering biology to make food, fuel, medicine. Seeds that grow into houses. Stronger, smarter humans. Maybe even bring back the dead. The extinct
My guest today has written about finding an “extremely adventurous” woman to give birth to a Neanderthal. And he’s not kidding.
This hour, On Point: synthetic biology creating new and very old life.