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SCIENCE TO THE LIMIT OF POSSIBLE


transhumanismo@sapo.pt

Transhumanism = Scientific current trying to improve Man's Intelligence, and Happiness.

Quarta-feira, 25 de Novembro de 2009
SYNTHETIC LIFE

Rui Barbosa, PhD (U. Grenoble, France), Founder of the First Humanity+ Portuguese Chapter, transhumanismo@sapo.pt.

 

Many scientists try at all cost make what they call "life". Let's look a little more about this concept that has been often used ("such a Scientist is at the point of creating life"). In the begining, there was the Inorganic. Teilhard de Chardin, Palaeontologist, said that, from the strictly phenomenological point of view, it hapened, much time ago, a tenuous passage from the Inorganic to the Organic. Acording to the Catholic Encyclopedia, present Science doesn't have an explanation for that passage and only says that the passage was not tenuous (instead it was fracturing) and that the principle which distinguishes the Organic is what it calls "vitality" (the Organic is definitely SOMETHING ELSE, with one dynamism which is absent from the Inorganic). "Vitality is the only philosophical principle that characterizes the passage from Inorganic to Organic". So, when Scientists produce "artificial Life", they are solely SIMULATING SOME ASPECTS of Life.

 

There are, so, lives which are different from that one given by God.

 

We already approached in previous chronicles Artificial Life (1) (2) (3) “that looks for the simulation of the living systems by means of computational algorithms, from the presupposition that the essence of life would not be in the material of which it is constituted, but its singular logical process”. We saw, inclusively, that nothing seems to hinder that “robotic cells” come to aggregate themselves in bodies of humanoids. Susana Dias (2) reports that, in an interview to the BBC News, at the beginning of the year, a Biologist (4) insisted in distinguishing the expressions “artificial life” and “synthetic life”.

 

Synthetic life

 

With synthetic life, solely chromosomes, which are a very important, if not determinant, part of the development of the Body of the living beings, are redesigned; no new system of artificial life is created; the important element is the DNA molecule and, from it, but changing its composition, the scientists intend to create never seen beings, without equivalents in Nature. Cristina Caldas (5) says that Norman Packard, Steen Rasmussen, John McCaskill and the philosopher Mark Bedau, at a point, had decided that it would be the moment to work in this important, ambitious and challenging project: to create a genuinely new alive entity, without the habitual biological ingredients as the DNA, the conventional bio-molecules and the nucleus, among others. The result, six years passed, was the structuring of a series of institutions and nets of research with eyes directed towards Synthetic Life: (6) (7) (8). Steen Rasmussen (9), presented the idea of proto-cell as a minimum alive entity composed by 3 structures:

 

1. A “container”,

2. A metabolic primitive system and

3. A new type of genetic material.

 

We know that the last attempt to make synthetic life was stopped by the lack of an energy that could put everything to function (Craig Venter); therefore, it seems that the essence of life is not in the nature nor in the organization of the materials, but in its dynamic principle, that the scientists consider to be of energetic nature: My question is therefore: Wouldn’t such energy be the physical image of the “Spirit Who gives Life” of Catholicism…?

 

According to Cristina Caldas (5), “consensus does not exist on what life is … To be considered alive, the organism needs to reproduce itself, evolve and to have an active metabolism… But a person who does not leave descendants is considered alive?… And all the organisms that do not multiply, are not living creatures?…

 

Cristina Caldas cites Regis in the book “What is life? Investigating the nature of life in the age of synthetic biology” (10) that concludes: “The metabolism is an unavoidable characteristic of all the live entities, since the minimum until the maximum living ones.”

 

According to Junqueira, Luis (11), “the new synthetic organisms could have the function of producing energy, providing food, processing information and allow the production of new drugs, among others”.

 

In contrast of  Science, that intends to dissect Life…, Religion simply affirms that God… created the living beings.

 

Totality of my chronicles: Transhumanismo Portugal

 

References

 

(1) "Vida" artificial informática; Rui Barbosa; Capítulo Português da Humanity+ (Associação Mundial de Transhumanistas)

(2) “Vida artificial e sintética: aposta na substância”; Susana Dias; http://www.comciencia.br/comciencia/?section=8&edicao=39&id=475&tipo=0

(3) Tese de doutoramento; Nina Velasco e Cruz; Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro http://www.cipedya.com/web/FileDownload.aspx?IDFile=168107

(4) Hamilton Smith, que trabalha no Instituto J. Craig Venter, o laboratório que sintetizou o genoma da bactéria Mycoplasma genitalium

(5) “O que é vida?”; Cristina Caldas;http://www.comciencia.br/comciencia/?section=8&tipo=resenha&edicao=39

(6) Consórcio internacional Pace (Programmable Artificial Cell Evolution, liderado por McCaskill),

(7) Empresa ProtoLife (Packard e Bedau) e

(8) ECLT (The European Center for Living Technology)

(9) LANL, Los Alamos National Laboratory

(10) “What is life? Investigating the nature of life in the age of synthetic biology”; Ed Regis; Editora: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 198 páginas; 2008

(11) “Biotecnologia e Inteligência Sintética”; Luis Junqueira; http://www.comciencia.br/comciencia/?section=8&edicao=39&id=471


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