Friday, May 21, 2010

Let there be -- bacteria

Said the J. Craig Venter Institute research team - and there was life.

While the human race, or at least Homo Americanus is preoccupied with destroying itself with it's pet mythologies and peremptory political philosophies and general stupidity, a few of us have been at work actually creating something that constitutes a giant leap for mankind. It's always a very few, isn't it?

A team of American scientists have succeeded in animating a cell with a synthetic genome made out of raw chemicals. The implications of this huge accomplishment are beyond anyone's ability to foresee and I'm not talking only about the ability to design or reproduce life from scratch or even to bring extinct species back from extinction: I'm talking about dispelling another myth, explaining another mystery without relying on further myths and mysteries ad infinitum.

Remember the scene from Blade Runner where the genetic engineer looks at a snake scale to find an identification number encoded in the artificial snake? Perhaps the team who put together a synthetic "replicant" bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides remembered when they encoded the names of the 46 scientists in the project along with the project's e-mail address into its genome.

Beyond being another blow to the "I don't understand how it works so God must have done it" fallacy, the creation of living, reproducing things from bottles of Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine will require us to re-examine the nature of life itself and just when it "begins."

I wonder if looking back at today's newspapers 200 years from now we won't wonder why it didn't make the headlines, but perhaps the reason is the same reason we're in so much trouble right now: 300 million self-absorbed, short sighted, ignorant life forms trapped in solipsistic bubbles ( or tea bags) unable to see much beyond the membrane.


Susannah said...

Hey there, CF! It's your favorite Tea Partier! ;)

Just swinging by to check in w/ you & see how you're doing. (Also, to let you know that your screen name is still on my mirror & I pray for you whenever I see it.)

Btw, congrats to the scientists! They should be awfully proud of themselves. Before they go all cocky on us, though, they should see about whipping up their very own "bottles of Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine" by themselves - out of thin air - I mean - out of nothingness...

Check ya later!

RR said...

Oh man... Was just gonna comment on the post, but have to comment on the comment above: if its not sarcastic.

Believers: I still don't fully understand how they function in the real world. I mean, they obviously are credulous enough to not walk across the freeway blindfolded, but when it comes to an invisible friend in the 5th dimension, they are right there!

Capt. Fogg said...

It's certainly the best way for the ignorant to chastise those who aren't; to condescend to, to giggle at.

I wonder whether, if forced to grow up and live in a world where virtually everyone had an IQ 0f 20 - 40 the average Joe wouldn't get tired of the idiocy of his fellow humans, but in our sad country that's just what it's like for the intelligent and educated.

Oh, Susannah -- Yes dear, those chemicals can be and are synthesized easily and yes elements were transmuted over a hundred years ago and yes, matter matter can and does originate from "nothingness" quite regularly. Life is just chemistry and mechanics and there's nothing special about it and no magic is needed to understand it or create it.

Religion is also the best way to expand one's ego in a fashion that exceeds the hyperinflation of the universe -- because it's all about us and sin, of course. This unimaginably huge universe is all about sex and the obscene need for praise by some entity who precedes time and lives in someplace that seems to get farther away as our knowledge increases.

The US is almost unique in possessing such citizens but then it's almost unique in the ignorance department and its tolerance, acceptance and even promotion of profound not knowing.

And it's getting worse.

Susannah said...

Dear, dear CF. Those insults must've cost you some royal brain function...

It doesn't take but an elemental (get it? 'elemental'...ha!) understanding of science to know that matter can neither be created nor destroyed (Law of conservation of mass, btw). So no, matter does not, actually "originate from 'nothingness' quite regularly" .

"Life is just chemistry and mechanics and there's nothing special about it and no magic is needed to understand it or create it."
Now, see? That's a very sad line of thinking, my friend. It's why I pray for you each & every time your particular mass of 'chemistry & mechanics' fires through the synapses of my brain. (Yep. Go ahead, make up something really mean/nasty about my brain cells...Can you resist?)

...Or maybe that's just a chemical reaction & you're only a puddle of substrate...

Ha! Just havin' a little fun...

Mock me all you all you want, as long as you want, if it assuages your cynicism & eases your loneliness. I will still pray for you.

The God who created this "unimaginably huge universe" full of mystery, wonder & utterly fantastic creativity hears our prayers, even when we don't believe.

Capt. Fogg said...

So were you there when "he" created this tiny world of yours? No, I didn't think so.

Always nice to see the fangs behind the pose of Christian niceness, but of course we all know they have been there since the beginning tearing away at our humanity, dragging us bleeding toward the bestial nature whence we come, toward the stake and the rack.

Elemental? No, evasion by oversimplification at best.

But remember, I didn't come to you, you came to me as though I were some malleable and not too bright 5 year old you could convince of Santa Claus. So if there's any mockery here, it's yours alone and it's been here all along and it's the defense believers need in a world where existence itself contradicts it.

It's silly that you think you're up to the task and more than a bit arrogant although it could merely be a ploy to get me angry so you can declare yourself a winner of some sort. (those atheists are so mean!)

But as I said, I'm used to it. Most people - nearly all - are in a fugue state of denial as concerns their limitations; inherent or acquired.

But remember, you started this.

So I'm sorry to contradict you, but you're really not right. Particles and anti-particles do indeed emerge spontaneously and of course that violates no principle because of the inherent balance between the two. You're aware of the interchangeable nature of mass and energy that Einstein showed us? If you applied your 19th century notions of conservation of matter, things like nuclear power plants would, of course, not work, but it does work. Unlike depending on the goodness of some deity, it does work, doesn't it? It's an observable phenomenon to those with eyes to see and the constant creation and destruction of virtual particles can be experimentally measured and confirmed.

Do you have to believe I'm lonely in order to substantiate your delusion? I'll leave it to Occam to chastise you for creating unnecessary entities like that, but I'm not mocking you; only the delusion you're trying to foist upon me. You in fact, are mocking not only me, but virtually everyone who doesn't believe in an invisible man who rules a universe, an existence you are terrified to understand. You're mocking logic, you're mocking reality while trying to cover up the grandeur of all there is in a thick, soothing gravy of belief.

Explain to me why you believe that a dead Jew rules a universe too big to comprehend and you don't believe in Ammon-Ra or the two sons or Zurvan or Krishna or Hurucan and Gugumatz who created the "world" and then maybe we can have a laugh or two. Meanwhile, please allow that someone just might be - not necessarily me, but someone - just might be a whole lot smarter than is dreamed of in your hermetic religion?

Susannah said...

Yes sir, I did start this...this time; to let you know you're being prayed for. That's all, CF; it's what I usually come by for after all.

"Meanwhile, please allow that someone...just might be a whole lot smarter than is dreamed of in your hermetic religion?"

You're so right here, CF. That 'someone' is God, not to be contained in the finite human mind, whatever great intellectual feats we accomplish, including (but not limited to) the gymnastics displayed here.

That 'someone' is bigger than you or I or any "religion" could ever conceive. And He/She is even big enough to be all that, & still have a passionate love for you, and me.

Capt. Fogg said...

And of course you can know all of this because. . . . well because it feels good. And you know of course that your ruler of the universe knocks up teenage girls who give birth to half men who are also all man and all god and then there's a bird of some sort - you just know that because it's so obvious while all that other stuff about Vishnu and Allah just isn't obvious, right?

Please, this is insulting in the extreme.

I really don't care what fantasies you're into, I just don't like to be talked down to because of it, OK?