Wednesday, May 30, 2007
So, the hype of Web 2.0 has spilled over into biology, and the synthetic biology (now using the even sexier acronym SynBio) crowd is positioning itself as Life 2.0, referring to non-engineered life as "Life 1.0." In a recent Newsweek article
, Tom Knight of MIT's Artificial Intelligence lab goes so far as to say "The genetic code is 3.6 billion years old. It's time for a rewrite."
Unfortunately, the criticism of SynBio is represented as religious and moralistic in nature, making it a "man playing God" argument. Environmental reactions, via Greenpeace, are merely represented as a kind of secular, almost pagan, compliment to the Judeo-Christian resistance to biotechnology, and the SynBio proponents portrayed as merely crass materialists. This is why the notion of "bioethics," as it is practiced in the US at least, is absurd.
For some critical reflections on bioethics, see these texts (all links to PDF files):Intellectual Capital and Voting Booth Bioethics: A Contemporary Historical CritiqueCritical BioethicsBioethics: a Tentative Balance
Of course there are lots more texts to consider, but these are free and accessible online.