Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Sport 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Monday, 13 December, 1999, 21:46 GMT
Should scientists create life in the lab?




Scientists say they may be able to make an artificial life form out of non-living DNA molecules. They are making this claim because they have found the minimum number of genes that an organism needs to be alive.

Are scientists going too far and 'playing god' in their claims that they can create life, or is this the start of a scientific revolution when we will be able to design new life forms to suit our needs?

Tell us what you think. HAVE YOUR SAY

I don't se any reason why we should not go ahead with the project. We could learn a lot about genes and life from it.
Lenka Otap, Denmark

What is being proposed is more analogous to dismantling a computer, and using some of the various chips to create a new one. But the researchers concerned haven't yet learned how to build the "chips" of life. Only if self-replicating and autonomous molecules could be designed from scratch, would the claim of "creating life" come close to being justified.
David Le Page, South Africa

This will help redefine biology as a quantitative science rather than a descriptive science. It will help us understand the simplicity or complexity of what we call Life.
Ravi Pendkar, India

The idea of creating a bacteria that would clean up oil spills and radioactive waste sounds great. But, what if after it clean up the spill it then infects marine life with some species threatening disease. These are the types of questions that need to be addresses if the project is to continue.
Christine Springer, USA

There is no justification for every minority pressure group, such as ultra-orthodox religious groups, to insist that this be banned. Christianity has an almost perfect record in opposing important scientific advances which improve the lives of people. Astronomy, the cross-breeding of animals to produce better livestock, surgery, organ donation, and contraception, to give a few examples - all were opposed by Christian fundamentalists at the time they were first introduced. Why are they always so sure they're right, given their track record on suppressing important new technology?
Graham Bartlett, UK

A car doesn't start without a key. A robot doesn't move unless you turn it on. They may be able to build it, but how can they make it go? The question is how life starts up, not how it was built.
Brandon Shippey, USA

My vote is for the scientists. If we seek knowledge and figure out the key ingredients to life, we can repair it. Damage includes pollution, cancer, hunger, all of these things could be enhanced with the ingenuity of science. To create life, is to come one step closer to achieving all of these goals.
Gina Miller, USA

Scientists should concentrate on eliminating harmful viruses, which appear to be on the increase. This will enhance the quality of life for many that are subjected to the oppression caused by effects of viruses.
Christine, New Zealand

Yes. The softly, softly, approach being advocated is just to placate the ill informed masses who might knee-jerk a ban on such experiments on religious grounds.
Damien Skracic, Australia

I think it's a wonderful idea and a unique opportunity. Obviously caution must be exercised, as we're dealing with matters we don't fully understand, but how else are we to learn to understand them? Caution, not prohibition, is my response.
Adam Reeve, Australia

I guess there is nothing wrong in trying to create very primitive life forms like bacteria etc, in the laboratory. If that could ever be done, the scientists should stop at some stage. They should not attempt to create higher life forms for it may have disastrous consequences on the ecosystem. It is almost impossible to predict how they would behave.
Vijay, US



God has left the building a long time ago! It's up to us to fill the void! Let's do it soon!
Claude Couture, Canada
In my opinion, I find it fascinating to create life, in that it is the beginning of incalculable possibilities, least of all, of expansion of human knowledge. We have all focused on basic organisms, but...how about a human clone? Ponder about the possibilities... Will "it" or "he/she" have a soul? Intellect? Feelings? What would the Church's position be, just vehement denial based on dogma? Then again, if it is actually an "it" wouldn't that prove the existence of something deeper than mere reason? I can anticipate zealots equating this posture to "eating the proverbial forbidden fruit"... However, science knows of no frontiers, much like the Himalayas, we need to escalate them because "they are there"...
Carlos Dragovich, USA

I must say that even though this idea frightens me - that we can actually do this, I think that it would be a bad idea not to do it. We would be passing up on a great opportunity to learn a lot about our selves and life in general. God created us in his image so what's to say that he would be offended by this?
SeŠn ” Briain, Ireland



Sounds like "The Andromeda Strain" or "The Stand" could be right around the corner if this line of research goes on.
Ray Scheel, USA
Yes, I think scientists should go on and try to create life if possible. What about nuclear weapons? It is already dangerous.
Vladimir Cvjetkovic, Yugoslavia

The information these scientists are uncovering is staggering. Proceed, without undue haste, to unravel the mystery of creation.
Peter Williams, South Africa

"Playing god" is a very emotive phrase. With the hysterical and baseless rantings of the religious taken away, this is a pivotal scientific experiment with very few ethical considerations short of safety.
Dave Lock, UK

Nearly any new discovery has the potential to be abused, but that same discovery has the potential to create great benefit to humanity. To deny science the opportunity to explore this exciting new discovery is intellectually dishonest and perhaps withholds some great advancement from humanity. If people's theology is so shaky that a single scientific discovery can bring it crashing down, perhaps they should rethink their religious beliefs.
Brian, USA

Science is out of control. It's creating artificial organisms, foods, etc and messing with genetics in a manner that is unpredictable. If there isn't a very specific, very necessary reason to modify something, say to cure a specific disease or such, than man shouldn't mess with genetics at all.
Steve Kenney, USA

I wouldn't say this is man "playing God". This is man being man. A naturally curious and ambitious animal. Many people approve of the destruction of some kind of life in some way, so what is so bad about creating life? I believe one of the greatest threats to life is disease, so the scientists should be extremely careful with these experiments. But I don't see why the scientists should let "religious leaders" opinions matter.
Richard Smart, Britain

Yes, yes and yes!! By taking on this endeavor, we not only increase our knowledge of ourselves, life here on our planet, but also take a step in discovering what other life may evolve elsewhere in the Universe. History has proven that if there is any benefit from doing something, then our path will ultimatly lead that way.
Rick, USA

Why not? Humans have a horrible habit of thinking they are 'special'.
Ernie Stephenson, Britain

Definitely. There isn't anything wrong with finding things out and extending knowledge. It's what's done with that knowledge that's important, how you *use* the tool. For example, a kitchen knife can be used as a lethal weapon, but you can't ban them from the kitchen for obvious reasons...
Benjamin, UK



This discussion is irrelevant. History has proven that if we can, we will. That applies to just about everything.
Sam Provencher, USA
The scientists are not creating life they are putting together a jigsaw and looking at what is created. Splitting a Picasso into lots of pieces and then putting them back together again does not mean you have created a Picasso!
Tony Harris, UK

I think that the possibility of creating life is terrifying. The risk of natural mutation is dangerous enough but even worse is the possibility of creating life to serve humankinds often dangerous motives. Much scientific research, for instance, is latched onto by the military - how long would it be before the 'ultimate fighting being' was developed somewhere in the world? Its important that the end results are thought about carefully, fascinating as the process of developing this genetic technology may be.
Bevan Lewis, New Zealand

The reasons for doing this are clearly expressed in the article. We could learn a lot. But what are the possible unexpected consequences? We should go ahead, but be extremely cautious. We as a human society are very immature still. We have more pressing and urgent problems to solve as the tremendous growth of population, environment, famines, wars and what not. But it is almost impossible to stop a line of research once its theoretical possibility is a reality.
Salas, Hector, USA

There are substantial benefits to the base of valuable knowledge to be gained from this work. However, the one thing that the history of life on this planet has clearly demonstrated is its mutability. I am extremely guarded about any attempt to create and release any exotic organism into the environment. This work should only be conducted in tightly controlled and secure facilities. While as a species we may build an organism to perform a specific task, we can not test every possible scenario for its escape, survival, mutation, or interaction with the free-living species on this planet.
Randall P. Linke, United States



Absoutely NOT! Life is a gift from God, not a toy for man to fool around with. If we begin doing this, where do we go to next? If some form of control is not there to stop us.
Stacy, USA
We should because we can. But that does not mean we have to forget the risks and consequences of our actions
Mark Sargeant, UK

I think that it could be very dangerous. We don't have control of many problems that we have been creating in our existence on earth: social-inequality, war, diseases and a big immaturity in some acts concerning the conquests of science (in some cases, of course). Often, we don't have ethical values to guide our steps and then we do selfish things. What would the man create? Would we use that ONLY to solve our problems and create better conditions of health in the world?? I don't think so. Probably it would be use for dirty works in science and the government. We have been losing our humanity and creating a post-modern society without true values. We need juridical laws to guide those steps and not do what we want and not care about the consequences.
Hans Michael Anselmo Hess, Brazil

Yes, I think they should! I think it's a very important way to find solutions to problems we have now. It seems to be a very important research that will help the scientists to understand many things like genetic diseases. Although, I think that this research couldn't disturb the natural development of life, because, if that happen then humans will be created just in labs and not naturally. And humans will seem like machines because they will be more resistant against diseases and others natural facts. The scientists must research, but a commission of many people, including civilians, public servants must control this research, and all reports must be made public. We can't stop the development, but we can take controlled and safe steps.
Thales, Brazil

We can create life in a lab, of course. Why not? We have to increase the medicine and science for fighting against to all diseases we have (aids, cancer, etc...) and other diseases that are coming for the next 50 years. We're destroying the earth and, one day, we'll have to reconstruct it. It's the price we'll have to pay. It's the price for the forests, oceans, animals, we've destroyed over the last centuries. While we've wars, diseases and hunger around the world scientists can't stop the searching for answers.
Marcelo Prudente, Brazil

I believe that some experiments are very dangerous, and sometimes it does not make sense. In my opinion there are things more important: like discovering the cure for cancer, aids and other diseases like that.
Fernanda Silveira Ribeiro, Brazil

Depends how you define "life". Ethical implications aside, some scientist, somewhere will do it anyway. Once the knowledge is in the scientific domain, it will be applied. You can't put the lid back on the box.
Lesley Spittles, UK



No. I am all for science and research etc etc. But this really pushes too far. Can anyone say Frankenstein?
Tim Gerwing, Canada
This is frightening news but not unexpected. Scientists will continue to delve into all aspects of knowledge. It was bound to happen and it has. Eventually great good or great harm could come from it. Not too long ago we had the sheep cloning news - so far no repercussions. Earlier we had the GM food fiasco foisted upon the US population with an attempt to do the same to us here in Europe. We have resisted it because we feel, not so much that it is inherently wrong, but that we really don't know all the ramifications of the technique. Already there are some problems arising from GM food production. We really should do very controlled studies set up by an international organisation. Monsanto checking Monsanto or Tigr checking Tigr is just not good enough. There is no way to stop all this research. If not carried out publicly, it will be done clandestinely. The question should not be "should they attempt to create life?" They will. The question is how can we be assured that only "the right kind of Scientist" will engage in the project. The answer is -WE CANNOT.
John Hallewell, Wales - UK

If we do go ahead and try to sustain the minimum amount of genes required for life and then try to create life then yes we will be considered as gods, thus the foundation of religion of our lives will have no meaning to us anymore. But the idea will be a good one to explore the creating of life itself and may someday answer the mystery being life itself scientifically
Lohita Barani Naidu, Malaysia

Yes, absolutely! Scientists should definitely attempt to create life in the lab because of one simple reason: evolution is all about possibilities. It does not matter if life is created through humans or through chance. The bottomline is the possibility of creation and if humans can do it, that's one step up the evolutionary ladder for them too! From creation to creator -- I call that a major evolutionary step forward for us humans. It's a matter of delight, not debate.
Adnan Rehmat, Pakistan

I believe the research should go forth, and I hope it finds public support. As for the ethical\moral aspect, this research is no more "playing God" than taking the basic dog and turning it into the Chihuahua and German Shepherd. The animals and plants that we put on our table have all been carefully produced through the careful breeding of those varieties having the characteristics that we desire. Genetic research and engineering have led to treatments that fight disease. In other words, we as people have been manipulating the genetic makeup of life for many years. Of course, the proper safeguards should be developed and implemented, but fear and guilt should not put a damper on our progress.
Roy Ellis, USA

Well, if they do it, it should be a small-scale project and they should maintain it that way. There would be nothing worse than competing (in any way) with a species we created.
Pat, Canada

Without knowledge we can't make progress. Without wisdom we can't make the right decisions. So yes, we should, but we should know why and for what purpose.
Robert Culver, USA

Yes I think we should. Doing so will give us a better, truer understanding of how we came about.
Eric Hollobaugh, USA

Should they? It's their duty to do so! Humankind must continue to increase scientific knowledge. Should we play God? Well, God or the creator, if there is one, hasn't been here to do so in thousands of years. It is up to us to better our lives and that of our descendants.
Hugo Alejandro, USA

We should absolutely proceed with such experiments, particularly in a public way. Someone, somewhere will follow this course regardless, therefore, it should be of paramount importance that the experiment proceeds in the public eye.
Adam Ackerman, USA

I think this could possibly be a huge benefit to the human race. As long as we do it correctly. We must make sure there is a safety precaution for every possible scenario. This could be very important to helping to heal ourselves, as well as heal the world we have so carelessly started to destroy.
Steve Klein, Canada

Scientists should absolutely be allowed to create an artificial one-celled organism. It will significantly advance the knowledge of genetics. It may lead to new cures for disease as well as provide means for a cleaner environment.
Dennis Evans, USA

These experiments must be done as some time in the future because they are there. Someone will carry them out at sometime so it is better to be open but cautious than restrictive to the point where the unscrupulous and less cautious get the opportunity to meet the challenge.
Peter Christie, UK

Yes we should attempt to create life. The idea that God created life therefore nobody else should be able to do this is absurd. There is a chance (far fetched as it may seem) that life on this planet started out in a test tube somewhere else in the universe and ended up on Earth!
Kevin Henriques, UK

I think this debate is very important. Morality should be decided by the public. Scientists work within the framework designated by society. We should however get away from the cliche 'playing God'. For many ethical scientists and others, such an accusation is vacuous, since they reason that there is insufficient evidence that any everlasting being such as a God exists. It is more helpful to ask about what mighy be the potential benefits and dangers, anticipated and unforeseen. That this research is carried out by a private company, whose greatest concern is profit, concerns me. Ethical issues in their hands are more likely to be resolved in whatever direction maximises profit. This has obvious dangers. This work is better carried out at an independent University.
Derek Scholes, USA

As we come to the end of the 1900s, it's sobering to realise that every new technology discovered in this century has been used to progress warfare in one way or another. The most horrible weapons of this century originated from benign research. Desperate men will use any means necessary to survive, and if naive scientists give them such tools, they will be turned into weapons. And this time, the missiles will be microscopic and may decide to crawl out of the silos to come after us.
Harry Willer, Iran

I don't think its possible to create an entire new life. Even if it is to some extent, going ahead with it is SICKENING. They are interfering with the system of nature and God and when you do something against nature, there are consequences. Plus who would want a life made up by humans. They have their own lives screwed up, let alone make one. What good will it bring anyways huh? Get a Life!!!!!
Ali Iqbal, Canada

I have a gloomy suspicion that artificial life will be abused the way television was, to produce lowest common denominator junk - cola flavoured diet yoghurt, soap powder with even more miraculous enzymes, barbie dolls with real growing hair... aargh.
Rod Butcher, Australia

Yes, yes, yes. The potential benefits to human kind and to the ecosystem are phenomenal. The philosophical and theological implications are disturbing in their own right. We tend to consider creation divine, but destruction is not so restricted.
We often think nothing of our massive detrimental impact on the environment, but the thought of creating simple life forms which could help us to live more harmoniously with the rest of creation strikes us as inherently wrong. Until we can break free of that sort of thought, our potential to do good will be limited by our own inanity.
Gregory Penn, USA

Knowledge cannot be unlearned. All boundaries will be challenged by someone, eventually. Humans measure themselves by how much they can predict and control their environment. One day we will have to move beyond this island Earth, in order to survive. Control is the key. So, yes, we should do it and be very proud, very cautious, and very afraid.
Richard Green, UK



I don't think we should proceed until we understand much better what we are doing.
Larry McFall, USA
I'm not reassured by this article when it says that there are 111 genes that the scientists do not understand, that this experiment can proceed without unleashing some horrible new species of bacteria for which we would have no defence. The potential benefit is unquestionable, but in this case, so is the potential risk of catastrophe. I don't think we should proceed until we understand much better what we are doing and are better at guessing what will be the end result.
Larry McFall, USA

Maybe we should allow the scientists to proceed, though only on the experimental level. I don't think there will be any harm if the proceedings are within the laboratory. If something that cannot be understood happens, then we can always terminate the new life created.
Raguram K, India (Currently in USA)

The experiments in this direction should continue. One can abuse any finding, any discovery. The good example is nuclear energy.
Shafeev, Russian Federation

I suppose it is alright to proceed as long as they are 100% positive that they will not create some bug that will kill us all. Ethically, they are not creating life from scratch. If they were creating life from just a hydrogen atom that could raise some ethical questions. I do not really believe this can be called creating life.
David E Miller, USA



I think it very "unscientific" to call this "creating life".
Joseph Kramer, USA
The idea that scientist can "synthesise an artificial bacterium in the lab - for scientists to create life from non-living chemicals" is hogwash. Scientist would be recombining DNA from living beings not inert chemicals and I laugh at the implied sense of immediate success. While there is no doubt of science's ability to modify life to useful life forms (witness the mule) I think it very "unscientific" to call this "creating life".
Joseph Kramer, USA

Sounds like a clever idea, which might well work. I would go for it.
Dr. C Suter-Crazzolara, Germany

Why not? The sooner, the better. Even if a God does exist, then by allowing this to succeed he clearly approves.
Tim van Erven, Netherlands

As a physician intent on saving lives I fear for creation of life forms which may destroy lives.
David bass M.D., Israel

The implications for such technology are staggering. When used for good this technology could perform wonders for society, used for ill the consequences would be nothing less than horrific. While I find the notion of being able to create organisms conforming to our will and need a worthy goal, I think steps are needed to assure the worst uses of this technology never see the light of day.
JT, US



They are also playing god if they choose NOT to follow a path that could lead to human benefit.
Darren, UK
Without a doubt the research should continue. A good point raised regarding "Scientists playing God" on an afternoon debate show hosted by Nick Ross - they are also playing god if they choose NOT to follow a path that could lead to human benefit.
Darren, UK

We need to go forward with these genetic experiments. There may be great benefits in treating diseases such as cancer if we learn the true fundamentals of cellular life. For those who are religious, it could strengthen their sense of the mystery, after all, the fundamental building blocks came from where? The vacuum of space?
Bill Dodge, USA

Their efforts are a waste of time and money. They will never in a million years be able to recreate life, for the simple reason that there is only one creator, and he resides in heaven.
Randy Zupa, USA

By all means, the potential benefits are staggering, It should not be hindered by people's personal religious beliefs. When and where is the line drawn? And by whom?
Bill White, USA

We play God as much as when we kill animals as when we create new ones. Killing animals has been the norm since the mythic-historic time of Noah, sanctioned by God. To create new life is the order that all creation has been given since time immortal, "Be fruitful and multiply." The idea of new animals is not new, for instance a mule, only the technology differs. This is only cultivation on a different scale.
Nathan Suma, USA

We can't manage the life on this planet now, why would you want to make more?
James Moriarty, USA

Yes, If it's not done openly and responsibly then some one will take it underground. This is already happening in the field of cloning. We can only learn from this.
Doug Sanderson, UK



Do it in space so when this unpredictable mess goes wrong it won't destroy life on Earth.
Danny Teal, PhD, USA
Do it in space so when this unpredictable mess goes wrong it won't destroy life on Earth. Besides, enough is enough.
Danny Teal, PhD, USA

As a tool for understanding the true origins of life, medical research, and furthering our understanding of life, I fully believe that this discovery could be put to good use. There is a potential for this technology to be abused, but provided the technology is monitored and regulated, it should be tested and further developed.
Ed Moore, UK

Yes. I don't see it as dangerous. Bacteria have been evolving for billions of years; it is very unlikely that scientists could create anything that nature hasn't tried already. The experiment can only teach us more about nature.
Paul Stevens, UK



I do not think that they are "playing God", but rather investigating what God is doing, which is a good thing.
Khalid Baheyeldin, Saudi Arabia/Egypt
There should be no limits to exploration, discovery and investigation from the science point of view.
It is the misuse of the findings by non-scientists (politicians and business) that is dangerous (e.g. Atomic bombs from Nuclear reactions) not the explorations themselves.
I do not think that they are "playing God", but rather investigating what God is doing, which is a good thing. By the way, I am Muslim, and do not see this as contradicting Islam in anyway.
Khalid Baheyeldin, Saudi Arabia/Egypt

Attempting to explore the basis of life should not be confused with the fear of possible revelation of facts that religious fanatics won't want to hear.
Bhashwat, Nepal

No. Scientists should not be allowed to create life. Not yet at least. We need to establish a more inclusive, popular, democratic and multi-disciplinary discourse on the subject. Today, this kind of knowledge is in the heads of too few individuals with too much money. First we need to democratise this knowledge, then we can start discussing what to do with it. But it is probably too late...
Stein Inge NesvŚg, Norway

Scientists should attempt to protect integrity of nature but not create life in the lab.
Vo Si Hung, Poland

Sounds to me like the potential benefits are huge and the potential downsides are ... non-existent. Only through research like this are we going to be able to build task specific bacterium from the ground up. The possibilities of such technology are virtually limitless. Imagine engineering a bacterium that hunts and destroys the AIDS virus, or even a retrovirus that replaces the DNA AIDS inserts with its own, non-coding DNA.
Francis Barnhart, USA



Is it possible that an infectious virus/bacteria fatal to homosapiens be the result of the creation?
Harry Nemec, USA
Assuming the experiment a success...what is next??? Before the experiment, that question should be asked and fully answered... Also, is it possible that an infectious virus/bacteria fatal to homosapiens be the result of the creation?...and how is that known and what is the guarantee...
Harry Nemec, USA

Definitely not. I doubt if it would work anyway. Surely it is about time that people learnt not to mess with life.
J. Clark, UK

Yes, the team that made the breakthrough should keep on working in this field. The possible advantages for curing and eliminating disease alone are worth it.
David Thomas, Australia

The obvious parallel here is with Dr Frankenstein; being able to create life artificially would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of humanity. I think it should go ahead - but there must be a globally agreed ethical framework and tough security if the technology is to remain under the control of accountable organisations.
Garret Cummings, UK

Playing "God" or not is not the issue, even if you are religious. Somebody else somewhere on our planet will be the first, then. A more significant argument is that they are actually playing with fire,. What if they created and accidentally released an organism that would make the HIV virus seem like the influenza virus by comparison.....
I think they should learn more about the paths they can follow, instead of stumbling (perhaps fatally) in the dark.
Miklos de Rijk, Netherlands

God created man in His own image. Man is, by Divine definition, creative. If man can "create" some life-form, it is merely an extension of God's creation. I trust that when man has become too presumptive, God will bring an end to it all as He has promised.
Mark Chatfield, USA

Yes, scientists should create life in the lab. They are no more "playing God" than they are playing "Santa Claus", since neither exist.
S. L. Griffith, USA

Mankind should not play God, otherwise the law of nature is broken and the consequence can be fatal.
KF Lee, Malaysia

It is not a question of God, but of ethics. Is this something that can truly be seen as being beneficial to humanity? Is this what our research and technology should be geared towards?
Technology and science should be used for improving the world we live in, not simply as a tool for humanity to conquer nature. I cannot imagine a good enough reason to indulge in this type of activity, other than ego.
P. Menon, USA

This is the biggest opportunity we have ever had to resolve the mind-body debate, probably the most significant question which we as human beings, and indeed as living things, can ask. Can we really justify NOT taking it?
Matt Connolly, England

God created the physical laws that govern our universe. Scientists simply utilise these laws & in no way undermine or challenge this achievement.
Don Leyton, UK



Yes, of course they should go ahead. I just can't understand why they're even thinking of talking with religious leaders. Man created God. Why should that stop him from creating anything else?
Antony Shepherd, UK
Like all new discoveries in biotechnology i.e. cloning, it's not so much the technology per se that presents the danger but the people who are behind the technology and their agenda.
Michael Barker, UK

The ability to do good always carries a counter risk. It would seem that there are no human moral, ethical or religious boundaries that can prevent mankind's constant desire to progress and discover. Ultimately, however, if we do become creators and sustainers, we may venture close to boundaries that only someone who knows the future and has ultimate control over nature can override. Man will continue until he creates a big enough problem for God (if God exists) to intercede.
Chris Thomas, United Kingdom

This is an outrageous time for science. So, we can create life...isn't the whole idea of life to survive? If we invent an organism it's either going to want to survive or it will die (eventually). There is a certain element to this that we cannot control and we should be so sure that we can maintain FULL control of stuff this dangerous. I mean Chaos Theory exists...I just don't want to see news stories about escaped man-made organisms in the future.
Daren, UK



In the hands of experts, the possible applications of such technology are endless. The research team who made this breakthrough should be congratulated, not condemned.
Daniel Soong, Scotland
The fact that modern molecular biology has found the minimum number of genes for the most basic form of viable life is, and will be remembered as, one of the greatest breakthroughs in 20th century science. This will have a massive impact in terms of evolutionary biology and dating organisms using 'molecular clocks'. Imagine the prospects for the pharmaceutical industry if we can engineer an organism with only those genes essential for making a medicinal drug. People may be wary of new technology, but the genes they have found to be essential for life exist in all of us, they can do no more harm than we do to each other. In the hands of experts, the possible applications of such technology are endless. The research team who made this breakthrough should be congratulated, not condemned.
Daniel Soong, Scotland

Some people would argue that only God can create life. We have the opportunity to find the answer now. Even if it doesn't bring any kind of profit, we should do it because it would be not only a scientific, but also a philosophical achievement. However, to be fair, the experiment should be achieved without using any living creature to synthesise the building blocks. We are close to the answer to some very fundamental questions. Interesting times, indeed!
Olivier Houot, France

Whoever is scared about rogue viruses, and bacteria, have really watched/read too many Science Fiction Horror stories. If scientists are going to 'design' an organism, then I think they'll know beforehand whether it is a virus or not! I say go for it!
Russ, England

Do those who object to this because it is 'immoral' of the scientists to try to 'play god' really know what they mean? If it is truly only god who can create life from scratch, then the scientists will fail. If this is the case, why object to them having a go? It looks as if the only objection is based on the fact that if it goes ahead and is successful then it will not look good for those with a vested interest in religion.
Matt, UK

It is not possible for Scientists to create life! The fact is, all these scientists have done is to identify vital gene's within a bacterial system, but not the vital SPARK OF LIFE! All they will end up doing is creating a DEAD version of the bacteria.
Francis Anderson, UK

I have no problems with the idea of creating a life form. The fact that it may be possible already means that we have crossed over the line of acceptability. If we only stopped ourselves from understanding more because of religious reasons we would be encouraging ignorance for the sake of saving ancient held beliefs about the creation of line.
Adrian Stuart, UK



I have no problems with the idea of creating a life form. The fact that it may be possible already means that we have crossed over the line of acceptability.
Adrian Stuart, UK
It is arguable that we have already created lots of things that constitute life (computer virus being an obvious example of a human created replicated), but this would be the first time that we would have created genetic life. I do think it is worthwhile demonstrating that there is no mystery behind genetic life. Genes are only one method for producing a replicating organism.
Gavin Lucas, UK

Genetic research is merely a continuation of humanity's quest for greater control over its environment. The use and development of technology is one of the hallmarks of humanity. Although we must exercise caution in modifying the very forms of life (including our own bodies), there is no reason why we should not proceed with this effort. Think of the possible benefit to medicine and food production. Debate the methods, but don't bar the progress.
Robert Drew, USA



There is nothing wrong in understanding nature. This is the only way to enrich our existing knowledge. What matters is how we make use of the knowledge.
K Raghu Prasad, India
Yes! There is nothing wrong in understanding nature. This is the only way to enrich our existing knowledge. What matters is how we make use of the knowledge. Creating artificial life is not wrong as far as our aim is to learn about nature and its laws. Abusing any knowledge is harmful but no one can blame the existence of knowledge for its abuse. Morality is a human concept. Nature itself does not care about morality. So taking permission from so called guardians of our morality does not arise when we are doing something as noble as learning about nature.
K Raghu Prasad, India

Whether or not a fierce debate will take place is not going to decide whether or not this technology will be used in the future as we all know it will. I belief that the focus should be on ensuring that the technology is conducted in accordance with proper regulations and controls and I hope the governments around the world will put their respective intelligence together to come up with these proper regulations and controls.
Maaike de Bie, England

This will be the greatest scientific step since the discovery of fire. The idea that with a few random chemicals, someone can cause something which is not alive to live. Life is the most precious thing we have and to be able to produce this priceless gift is a cause worth celebrating.
Martin Dand, England

All life has to start somewhere. If people would be happy for this technology to be used for the growing of limbs, then for this to happen we have create life, even if its at its most simple state.
Andrew Bruce, Australia

The creation of a 'new species that doesn't exist' has been happening naturally since life began, and with our involvement for at least 10,000 years. Science cannot progress without experiment. It is right, however, to question the ethics at every new step of our progress.
David Wallis, UK



Humans have made mass destruction weapons to destroy life, why not concentrate on the creation of life? Why limit the human race to certain areas or levels of science. We can not move forward unless we explore the unknown.
Ben Vernon, UK
While being interesting from a Scientific point of view, how can we dare create life when we know precious little about "how to" live. I believe this will be the next "Pandora's Box."
Mr Lucan Baldacchino, UK

This is like the foundation of a building. Done right (or wrong for that matter), the future of human existence will have the basis for cleaning up the mess that we have seemingly got ourselves in. The only real argument against it is the moral standpoint of "do we have the right to play GOD". Personally, I think we have the moral obligation to try. For those that have the faith, it can only bring us a step closer to the creator. And for those of us without, it is merely the next step to ensuring our survival in a really big, mostly cold, and often hostile universe.
Paul Saunders, UK

We are playing with the essence of life, but we do not have the skills, experience or morals to do so. It will end badly
John Stanhope, UK



The genie is out of the bottle now, so let's learn to deal with the issues rather than wasting our efforts on trying to put it back in. If this type of research is banned it will still be carried out...but covertly.
Jules, UK
What's all the fuss about? This isn't the creation of life from first principles at all. If the proteins where specifically designed to perform certain tasks and then from these proteins, genes where back engineered, and their regulation was controlled by new novel means, then I would have some interest in this. Basically these scientists are cutting and pasting what is already out there in the environment. No-one is playing God here, because although they are synthesising the DNA the gene sequence will undoubtedly come from an organism where it has been evolving towards efficacy for several billion years.
Andy Flynn, UK

Yes, I think that it would be the next big step towards understanding how the life on Earth, and as long as everything is under control there should be nothing to fear about further research.
Joanna, Zimbabwe

I think that if new species of bacteria could be designed to perform certain commercial tasks, as mentioned, this would be extremely beneficial. But, as we already know, the public already has their fears about all forms of genetic engineering, the discussion of creating a totally new species is going to increase these fears dramatically. I know that genetic engineering is a good thing as it can answer many of the worlds problems, but the public need to be better informed to try and put their fears to rest.
Mark Almond, UK

Nothing can be created out of nothing, so the concept of 'artificial' is difficult to understand. Frankly, I wish the scientists of this world would worry more about looking after the human life which already exists, and put 'new' life on the back burner.
Josephine Quintavalle, London

I have no problem with the artificial creation of self-replicating simple organic machines as long as they do not escape and interfere with the exosphere - it is no different morally to any other form of genetic engineering. I do see a very serious moral problem with the creation of artificial consciousness - whether in silicon or protein based entities.
John Kirk, UK

How can you answer this question. The potential to help people with this technology is as great as the potential to harm people. I think this kind of technology should and will be used eventually but it should be carefully controlled until a much greater understanding of this science is achieved, so that if it is used to harm people we will not be defenceless.
John Bowers, USA

Of course the scientists should go ahead with it, if they put it off now, they will only be wasting time. As for playing 'god' its hardly God is it? Especially in this day and age.
Jack Flash, UK

Are doctors not playing God when they save a baby that is born prematurely or a person with cancer? Both are changing the natural outcome by artificial means (means which science gave them). Would we have a space programme today if the Church had been able to maintain its medieval ban on looking up at the stars with telescopes? Where is it written that humankind should not create life? We are not in the Garden of Eden and this is not the Forbidden Fruit. Genetic manipulation is the most powerful tool that has ever existed on this world and we should not let fear or superstition keep us from benefiting from all the good it can bring.
David Shueller, UK



Thanks to scientific curiosity, we have a better understanding of evolution, animal physiology and we gain better insights into medicine as well.
Marsela B., Canada
Yes. Life has got to have started SOMEWHERE, so why not try to find out how it all works? I am sure knowledge like this would come to some very good use once we got past the radical religious folk who think scientists are trying to play god. Of course, if no one is getting any funding to be testing things on human foetuses and trying to figure out how things work in them, I really doubt one will be able to get funding for this. I still think it's a good idea, but I know there'll be a lot out there who disagree.
Anneliese Giovanni, USA

I think that scientists are dealing with dangerous things. If they would produce a new genome then this genome is totally new and if it is a new bacteria then no living organism has any defence against this bacteria. Think what could happen then...
Muxa, Estonia

I have one big concern. If you're creating something new then you don't know how it will act. It doesn't matter how good of a lab it is. What if you make a virus that transmits through the air? If there is a 1 in 1 billion chance that it could get out from the lab then I DO NOT WANT IT, just because someone said we can do it.
Karl Herman, USA

We play god by killing plants, animals and bacteria. Why not create simple bacteria in the hope of furthering our understanding of life and of ourselves? Understanding how to create DNA that codes for a specific function would help gene therapy research. It would also be critical to the commercial and environmental applications that Dr. Venter mentioned.
Reza Shaffaf, Canada



We need to do this. Plain and simple. Do we wish to stagnate? If you do, fine, but how can we go any further?
Ezekial Garrockas, USA
Yes, but first I think we should concentrate on keeping what life is already here alive.
Jason Potter, USA

Yes. I support the experiment. I feel getting a breakthrough like this would be path breaking and transform our understanding. However, it requires a greater degree of maturity from us humans to be able to deal with such a discovery.
Mihir Mahajan, India

Yes. Do not let antiquated fears stand in the way of the enormous potential benefits this research could provide.
Mitchell Gould, USA

If they can use it to help clean up the environment, create renewable/clean energy, cure diseases, or anything beneficial to the environment, then yes, by all means, they need to. If on the other hand they are not careful and create some new kind of thing that makes the ebola virus look like a common cold, then no. Research and caution is key. But if they are certain they can make beneficial organisms, then do it.
Andre Dusette, USA



Science is not religion. God and science can co-exist. It is our destiny to learn and grow. God gave us our potential and we should use it.
Jason, USA
Those who favour evolution as an accurate explanation for the origin of life will see no problem in efforts to understand this process more fully. Creationists on the other hand will be appalled. A fundamental lesson of the history of the last 400 years is the removal of the idea life on earth as unique; but despite this creationists insist on continuing to suffer the illusion of central position. Let science advance!
J.M. Moore, England

You can not run away from basic science and investigation of the "unknown". Research about things considered "useless" has at times become turning points in basic knowledge.
Ed Cooper, USA

I think we can go ahead in this research to invent something that is unimaginable and to show the height of human intelligence.
Devi, India

I think that we should go ahead, science only lends its hand to improve the lives of everyone, and this research will only find practical uses with more research/experiments.
David McTavish, Canada



We play god by killing plants, animals and bacteria. Why not create simple bacteria in the hope of furthering our understanding of life and of ourselves?
Reza Shaffaf, Canada
I feel that the field of genetics has made unbelievable progression in this year alone, opening many new doors that could lead to major breakthroughs in medical technology. But making life in the lab is not something that scientists should even be thinking about, let alone attempting, when millions of people worldwide are dying of cancer, AIDS and other terminal illnesses. Our focus should be on saving the lives that are already in jeopardy, not creating new biological life just to say that we can. I can only hope that in the near future more scientists will focus their energies on gene therapies to treat diseases and other ailments that are genetically based.
Catherine Brinkman, United States

Let us assume for a moment that the information taken from the experiments was to be used for the common good of all people, such as the noble energy sources and dissipating toxic waste. In this perfect world, the answer is a very real and tangible yes. However, in a world such as ours, the possibilities of misuse perpetuate old enmities. Designer bacteria? The next obvious cousin in this growth is designer virus. Perhaps for the right amount of money an assassin could have a virus created to attack and affect only one target. What if the created bacteria is a new AIDS? We have no immunities to fight it off with; it is a completely new life form. If this is not so, how can we be sure that these paths will not be taken in the future? Is there any way to vanguard against sinister perversions of this new science?
Jonathan, USA

Send us your comments:
Name:

Your E-mail Address:


Country:

Comments:

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE

See also:
09 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Scientists look for molecular 'meaning of life'

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


More Talking Point debates
Should it be a crime to be homeless?
Kosovo: Can there be forgiveness?
Do we need more drinking time?
Who can bring peace to Afghanistan?
Are the music charts a joke?
Should there be one official African lingua franca?


Links to other Talking Point stories