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Synthetic Life

I have heard time and again the tiresome creationist canard that life can’t be created in a lab. I have heard it again yesterday and it really irritated me to no end. Why was it so irritating this time? Besides being said by the same lady I wrote about in my article Evolution And Speciation, I have written two articles dealing with the subject and was reading a fascinating paper on the subject at the time.In my two previous articles, How Did Life Begin? and Life And The Big Bang I had shown a possible method of life’s origin being mineral in nature and chemically evolving into life as we know it and concluded that life was an inevitable series of purely chemical and physical processes with no need whatsoever for saying goddidit.

The paper I just happened to finish reading a few hours earlier was Chemical Synthesis Of Poliovirus cDNA: Generation Of Infectious Virus In The Absence Of Natural Template. Bet some of you are wondering what this has to do with the subject? A few of you are probably wondering what a virus has to do with life? I will answer that. A virus tiptoes around the edge of life. According to a few definitions of life it simply isn’t life because of it’s lack of metabolism and inability to replicate outside of a host cell. Then again, the two bacteria Chlamydia and Ricketsettia are both considered alive yet neither can replicate outside of a host cell. The reason viruses need a host cell to replicate is that they are acellular so they use the host cells ability to reproduce. Interestingly enough, the two bacteria mentioned both have the same limitation due to acellular components.

As was mentioned in my article on the possible crystal origins of life, one necessity for life is that ‘genetic’ information be passed on. Viruses have many different morphologies but basically they are DNA or RNA surrounded by a protein shell called a capsid. An interesting feature of viruses is that they lead a dual existence. Besides their activity when in a host cell, outside of the host they become totally dormant [no internal biological activity]. This is a clear non-living state and no more than a dormant nucleic acid in contrast to their hazy lifelike state when in a host cell. This state is so different the virus is renamed a viron when this happens. Basically you can call this state a super hibernation where instead of life processes slowing, they stop only to resurrect themselves in a host cell [was Jesus a virus?].

Lost of you are still wondering what the paper I mentioned has to do with all this. That paper was the first time synthetic life was formed in a lab and that was 8 years ago. Makes you wonder about the agenda of certain organizations like Answers In Genesis or the Institute For Creation Research. Why creationists and even some rational thinking people think that life can’t be created in a lab is simply not understandable. My degree is in chemistry, I know this sounds like a contrived story but even as a young boy growing up in the 60s I asked why people believed in creation as the bible claims. Even then as a child under 10 it was clear to me that chemicals only fit together in certain ways, I couldn’t at the time tell you how, but it was intuitive that they did, and life is nothing more than a series of chemical reactions in spite of how wondrous and complex it is. Let’s face the facts, DNA has the four bases adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. RNA replaces thymine with uracil. Proteins are made from 20 different amino acids. Life is complex but nothing out of reach of man’s comprehension. Biggest difference is now in 2010 I can actually write out those chemical processes but life still retains it’s wonder and complexity but as it was when I was a child, it still remains now as a series of well defined chemical reactions.

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