The resurrection of M. capricolum

Nobody really knows whether Jesus rose from the dead, but here’s a resurrection that you can know happened. PZ Myers explains what geneticist Craig Venter hath wrought:

The experiment involved creating a strand of DNA as specified by a computer in a sequencing machine, and inserting it into a dead cell of M. capricolum, and then watching it revivify and express the artificial markers and the M. mycoides proteins. It really is like bringing the dead back to life.

Bringing the dead back to life. In other words, the husk of a creature—the bacterium M. capricolum—was quite literally made to live again, housing and expressing new characteristics (artificial markers and M. mycoides proteins).

I’m sorry, but that sounds downright theological. M. capricolum died as one creature and was revived as something new.

Here’s a bit more from PZ Myers:

The end result is a circular bacterial chromosome that is, in its sequence, almost entirely the M. mycoides genome…but made from a sequence stored in a computer rather than a parental bacterium.

Stored in a computer. Perhaps a mother will one day tell one of her children something like this:

Before you were in my womb, and implanted there, the mind of a very powerful computer knew you. You were chosen to have very specific features and for very important purposes. You are very, very special.

O brave new world that will have such synthetic men in it!

In some distant future, will the mass of people conceived in the traditional way—“the naturals”—consider it immoral to terminate the pregnancy of a “synthetic,” or will it be considered a moral virtue?

And isn’t the implication of Venter’s achievement a form of cloning? If the DNA sequence for building a living thing is stored in a computer, then doesn’t that mean that to do the feat again would result in an exact replica of the first synthetic organism?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to The resurrection of M. capricolum

  1. You’ve done it again! Amazing read!

  2. santitafarella says:

    Thank you, Hattie.

    —Santi

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