Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Are we to become gods?

2 December 2014

Genetic engineering and our ability to "tweak" organisms to suit our specific needs has made dramatic progress in recent decades.

Now it has been reported that scientists have begun making enzymes from artificial genetic material made in the lab.

This is seen as big news, since it paves the way to creating more complex molecules that could be the precursor to new life forms constructed completely from scratch.

Of course the mere thought that we could build an organism from scratch must strike fear into the heart of those who believe there is only one God and that only God can be the "creator" of life.

This BBC story reports on the activities of the group who have made these significant breakthroughs.

I find it interesting that there is no mention of ethics committees or other oversight that you would expect to be involved in anything that has the potential to create totally new life forms from scratch.

Right now, the researchers are focusing on how these "XNAs" can be used in the treatment of disease but the obvious elephant in the room is the fact that we are getting awfully close to creating real, living organisms from nothing but the raw materials found in nature.

I wonder, given the ongoing pressure on the planet's resources and the need to sequester carbon at a rate that will mitigate climate change, whether the quest for a synthetic life-form that can achieve these goals will become a priority.

Imagine coming up with a moss or plant-like form of life that was able to self-replicate (ie: reproduce), sequester carbon and also act as a viable food source -- whilst thriving in even the harshest environments of drought or extremes of temperature. Such a synthetic organism would have the potential to right the wrongs of the past and ensure that our species could continue to grow and thrive right here on Earth.

Unfortunately, such a goal would be fraught with peril and risks.

What if the organism had some unforeseen side-effect?

What if it mutated "in the wild" and became too good at sequestering carbon, effectively staving the rest of the planet's plant-life of the CO2 it needs in order to survive?

What if, through some natural evolutionary change, it became poisonous -- perhaps as a survival mechanism that would protect it from its greatest threat -- us.

Think of all the issues associated with genetically engineered organisms and then multiply that by a very big number.

So, should we become Gods? Or should we be content to know our place in the universe?

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say in the Aardvark Forums.

PERMALINK to this column

Rank This Aardvark Page


Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines



The EZ Battery Reconditioning scam

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam


Recent Columns

What about my complaint?
Some time ago, I laid a complaint with CAA regarding an incident in which a drone was knocked out of the sky by a group of trampers throwing stones...

Why are we teaching kids to be racist?
What has happened to the world?...

Is this really sensible?
New Zealand stands poised, ready to return to a virus-free status...

The ghost of Trevor Rogers lives
I suspect there are more than a few Aardvark readers who have been online long enough to remember...

Haters love to hate
I got a friendly call from CAA yesterday...

Horrific racism
Let me say right from the start, I abhor racism in all its various shapes and forms...

Stuff-all change?
After a protracted period of uncertainty, where its major suitor were the owners of the NZ Herald, Stuff has been sold...

A four day working week?
For part of my working life, I operated on a 4-day working week...

Good brand, bad product?
A couple of days ago the old sheila's washing machine decided to stop working properly...

Good days, bad days
I don't often grumble about the challenges that life throws at me...

Did I miss something?
So the big-chance budget has come and gone. Surely I missed something...