From Mr P. A. Roby
Sir, — Let us indeed not fall into the delusion that “life” has been created by Dr D. C. Ventry and his colleagues (Comment, 28 May).
The scientists chose 500 genes, which could be enough to enable an organism to survive, from the DNA code of a small species of bacterium. They added a watermark section that would enable them to identify the new molecule and copied it synthetically in short lengths. They could not join up these lengths in the right order, but managed to get some yeast cells to do that for them. The yeast multiplied using the new DNA and making more of it.
Some of the new DNA inserted into another bacterium whose DNA had been removed. This new bacterium was alive; it could multiply only artificially made DNA. It was a modification of a particular species. Was it a sub-species?
It is the synthesising of a new molecule of DNA and the tremendous skill of enabling it to replace the DNA of another species of bacterium which is being rightly celebrated, not the creation of a new life form. To create a new life form you have to be able to create not just the “brain” (represented by the new DNA) of a bacterium, but also its body, which is infinitely more complicated, with its own biochemical pathways, control systems, raw products needed for growth, and so on. This new life form is a modification of a naturally occurring bacterium.
The true complexity of a free living organism, even as small and relatively simple as a bacterium, is so amazing that it causes us to wonder how such a “beast” could arrive on this planet by itself, without the inspiration of its Creator.
Advances in technology in all branches of science are now escalating at a phenomenal rate. We humans have to remember that the more we discover, the more we find there is to know. Whose single brain can wisely take in and use the vast expansion of scientific data? Can wisdom and spiritual understanding to employ it be assessed by rational analysis? Do we not have to consult our Creator as to how rightly to use this knowledge?
P. A. ROBY
5 Powis Mews,