Are We Playing God?

Via Roger Wolsey
on Aug 11, 2011
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Researchers say they have created the first ever animal with artificial information in its genetic code.

The technique, they say, could give biologists “atom-by-atom control” over the molecules in living organisms.

One expert the BBC spoke to agrees, saying the technique would be seized upon by “the entire biology community”.

The work by a Cambridge University team, which used nematode worms, appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The worms – from the species Caenorhabditis elegans – are 1mm long, with just a thousand cells in their transparent bodies.

What makes the newly created animals different is that their genetic code has been extended to create biological molecules not known in the natural world.

Genes are the DNA blueprints that enable living organisms to construct their biological machinery, protein molecules, out of strings of simpler building blocks called amino acids.

Just 20 amino acids are used in natural living organisms, assembled in different combinations to make the tens of thousands of different proteins needed to sustain life.

Expanded palette
But Sebastian Greiss and Jason Chin have re-engineered the nematode worm’s gene-reading machinery to include a 21st amino acid, not found in nature.

Dr Chin of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology (where Francis Crick and James Watson first cracked the structure of DNA) describes the technique as “potentially transformational”: designer proteins could be created that are entirely under the researchers’ control….

the rest of the article..


So what are we to say about this?

Is this a beautiful and important advance in the field of science that will have the potential to greatly benefit humanity or the world?

or… is this crossing the line by “playing God?”

An implication that comes to mind is the creation of an army of mutant animal or humanish troops.  That’s a long ways from modifying a worm… but… things happen quickly these days. Or maybe, I’ve been watching too much sci fi.



For additional fodder to chew on that’s related to this, here’s a Catholic statement regarding humans and genetics.

And here’s the statement from the United Methodist Church, a relatively liberal mainline Protestant denomination.


Roger is the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


3 Responses to “Are We Playing God?”

  1. Rob Reitz says:

    If you believe in GOD, then you should already know we were made in his image.

    If you believe in destiny, then if we were meant to be gods, then we will be.

    I am not against this scientific curiosity but I sincerely hope that appropriate precautions are taken very seriously so that we don't become the gods that extinguished themselves by creating giant Caenorhabditis Elegans with a taste for human flesh.

  2. Roger Wolsey says:

    On the PLUS side (on a somewhat related note) Genes which cause M.S. determined:

  3. Cynthia says:

    Funny, I didn't really think you meant to imply that you agreed with the "playing God" metaphor…but it's definitely a way to draw people in 🙂

    Thanks, Roger, for *your* thoughtful response!