Ken MacLeod welcomes the creation of ‘artificial life’
More on the creation of “a new kingdom” of synthetic life. Ken MacLeod gets in early with some preemptive answers to ethical questions.
But there are no new ethical problems here. Humanity has been playing God with animals and plants since the invention of agriculture, and our domesticated species are already the most prevalent (of their kind) on the planet. Venter has, in a neat reverse application of the precautionary principle, promoted bioethical debate about each step of his programme well before he carried them out. The dangers – of bio-error or bio-terror – may be great, but not in principle greater than those posed by natural organisms put to evil or casual use. The potential benefits, by contrast, are greater in principle. This at least is the conclusion that the United States regulatory authorities have reached. Their reasoning should not be taken uncritically, but neither should it be dismissed with a “They would say that, wouldn’t they?”