I was incredulous picking up the Wall Street Journal and seeing the headline, “Scientists Create Synthetic Organism”. Last I checked, scientists were still struggling with protein. Could it be true that we made some kind of quantum leap into being able to produce entire cells? Nope, not even close. As usual, the press’ pathetic drooling worship of the scientific community leads them to not only exaggerate our current progress but expose their own engorging love affair with modern science like drunken slob with lipstick on his pants.
Further examination of the WSJ article (which can be found here) shows the scientists have done nothing more than copy and paste DNA from different bacteria into an emptied cell. Only deep into the article do we see, “They started with a species of bacteria called Mycoplasma capricolum and, by replacing its genome with one they wrote themselves, turned it into a customized variant of a second existing species, called Mycoplasma mycoides, they reported.”
Let’s not forget that scientists still don’t really know how the complex language of DNA actually works. In order to construct a complete DNA strand we have to “borrow” code that already exists from other organisms. At least the BBC did their due diligence in quoting other scientists who realize we are creating organisms without really knowing what they can do:
"Even some scientists worry we lack the means to weigh up the risks such novel organisms might represent, once set loose” - Susan Watts (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10132762)
Of course, being able to “copy and paste” DNA strands together and implant them into a cell is pretty cool (and might be good for creating a vast army of obedient minions), but I think the press should stick to the actual story.
This article was then followed by another gross exaggeration later when the WSJ claimed “Scientists Discover Keys to Long Life” (which can be found here). Of course, as we dig deeper into the article we learn they have really only found 150 common DNA markers that, with a 77% accuracy, share commonality with those living long lives in controlled tests. They don’t even know what those DNA strands actually do, or how they work together: ”Now, we are going to have to find out what all these genes are, what they do, and if there is a way we can affect them…” - geriatrics expert Bradley Willco
Again, it was still a break through, or more accurately a good step forward, but “Keys to Long Life”?!?! Get over it press, and go clean yourself up.