Let's back up a week or so today to have another look at the widely publicized story about the scientists who announced they have created a synthetic cell.
Does this mean they have created life? Even "artificial" life, whatever that might mean? Does it mean that humanity is now (and has been all along, though it didn't know it) capable of taking the place of what religion calls the Creator, God?
And what in the world might it mean for the future? Can we go to a drive-through lab and pick up a child with these or those traits?
So far the answers, I think, are no, no, no, who-knows and no. But that doesn't mean that this new development isn't somehow striking.
It may not surprise you to know that even though I have written about scientific developments of many kinds off and on for more than four decades, I really don't know where the creation of a synthetic cell will lead us or what, exactly, to make of it. I'm not sure anyone knows that.
But I want to link you today to several pieces that I hope will help you think about what all of this might mean and what obligation each of us might have to raise our voices in either support of or protest against what's happening in science labs.
First, click here for what struck me as one of the better explanations of just what J. Craig Venter and his scientists have done and what it might mean.
Next, click here for a rather more skeptical view of the synthetic cell development -- a view that is particularly questioning about such well-known bioethicists as Arthur Caplan, who described the creation of this synthetic cell as a wonderful breakthrough of immense proportions.
President Obama has asked his commission on bioethical issues to study these developments and report back in a few months with recommendations on what, if anything, the government should do. For information about that and a link to Obama's letter to the chair of that commission, click here.
Finally, for the site of the American Journal of Bioethics, click here. There you will find lots of links to stories about the synthetic cell news.
A final point: We as individuals and as a society are responsible for understanding enough about scientific developments to know whether they are ethically worrisome or a wonderful breakthrough (or something in between). The public's voice must be heard in this, but it must be an educated voice.
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MEDIOCRE RELIGION COVERAGE IN U.K, TOO
If you think the American media don't do a good job covering religion -- and, with some notable exceptions, they don't -- how about such coverage in Britain? Even a BBC broadcaster criticizes it. It may take time to change for the better, but media coverage will never improve if readers, listeners and views don't complain -- loud and long and in detail about what you think is missing or what the media are getting wrong.
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P.S.: Time is running out for you to sign up for the weeklong seminar I'll be leading July 12-18 at Ghost Ranch, the national Presbyterian conference center in northern New Mexico. The course is called "Death and Its Mysteries: Writing About the Journey." For more details, click here. My class filled up about this time last year. There still are a few slots open now but probably not for long.