I was rather bemused by an article in The Age a few days ago reporting that
Scientists announced a bold step on Friday in the enduring quest to create artificial life – they’ve produced a living cell powered by manmade DNA.
Scientist’s creating “artificial life”?
As the article went on to explain,
this initial step is more a re-creation of existing life – changing one simple type of bacterium into another – than a built-from-scratch kind.
Seriously, I do not expect the day ever to come when life can be “built-from-scratch” in the laboratory, Frankenstein-like.
For me, the existence of life is the greatest “proof” for the existence of a divine creator (or, let us say rather, rational reason for belief in the same). The existence of matter can be put down to the “big bang” or whatever (which still raises the question of what caused it, ie. of the first cause), but no-one can explain the existence of life. We can use the theory of evolution to speak of the development of living organisms, but how did life itself begin in the first place? Scientists and philosophers are both at a loss to explain even what life actually is, let alone how it first began.
The richest aspect of the scriptural creation stories is that it points to God as the source of all life – that first breath breathed into the clay model man according to the second creation account in Genesis. It is something worth meditating on on this Pentecost Monday (still celebrated as a public holiday in some European – both Catholic and Protestant – countries, though sadly no longer in our calendar), that the Spirit who gives life to the Church is the same Spirit that God breathed into creation “in the beginning”.
As we confess in the Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit…the Lord and Giver of Life.” I think I can confidently state (with the confidence of faith!) that the day will never come when we can “build from scatch” a living cell in a laboratory.