Artificial Life: Ready or Not Here It Comes
by Dr. Fazale Rana
A number of scientists are trying to create life in the lab, specifically artificial cells. They hope these synthetic cells will provide useful biomedical and biotechnology applications. They also hope the manufacture of these cells will shed light on the origin of life question. Many scientists conclude that once life is made in the lab, it will demonstrate two things: (1) that there is nothing special about life in general and; (2) that it is much more realistic to believe chemical evolution could generate Earth’s first life-forms. New work by a Japanese research team brings scientists closer to making artificial life in the laboratory. But careful analysis of this work reveals the opposite conclusion—life cannot originate without an intelligent agent.
“Ready or not, here I come” is the familiar cry of children playing hide-and-seek. It also describes the reality of synthetic biology, the discipline focused on creating artificial life in the lab.
Given the complexity of even the simplest cell, many people struggle to believe scientists could ever generate life. Yet researchers are close to generating artificial cells in the laboratory—and with this feat come many questions and concerns. Ready or not, here it comes.
Many researchers believe creating protocells will shed light on the origin-of-life question by providing evidence for an evolutionary explanation for life’s origin. New work by researchers from Japan brings synthetic biologists one step closer to the laboratory assembly of protocells with life-like properties.1 Careful examination of this latest attempt to create artificial cells indicates, ironically, that apart from the work of intelligent agents, life cannot come into being.
Synthetic Biology and the Bottom-Up Approach to Artificial Cells
Some synthetic biologists attempt to create artificial cells with the so-called bottom-up approach. These scientists begin with simple molecules, using them as building blocks, and combine them into increasingly complex arrangements until a supramolecular complex (called a protocell) results—a system that bears many of life’s properties and characteristics…
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