Re: [asa] What is life?

From: Christine Smith <christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com>
Date: Tue Aug 21 2007 - 00:23:45 EDT

Hello all,

Thanks for your perspectives--just as a point of
clarification, I was not so much arguing for one thing
or another, more just raising questions of interest.

In that same spirit...

I'm not sure that the premise of our "dominion" over
nature and and our creative capacities apply to this
circumstance. When we take a piece of wood and create
a chair, when we selectively breed a crop, or we
create a new human life, we are taking something in
its existing form (living or non-living), and
reshaping it so it becomes something different, yet of
the same living or non-living form. But in the case of
synthesizing life from lifelessness (if indeed it can
be done without the intervention of God, which I am
skeptical of, yet nevertheless I entertain the
possibility), you cross that line, taking something
which was non-living, and making it living. You are in
essence, starting an entirely new and distinct
evolutionary tree. Is this still within the bounds of
our charge as stewards and participants in creation,
or does this take us beyond that to making ourselves
God?

If you grant that it is within our charge of
stewardship (which I suspect most on this forum
would), here are two points to contemplate--

First, nowhere in science (to my knowledge) have we
observed or discovered through evidence, that life has
arisen on this planet more than once; even in the
related article which I posted, one of the scientists
notes that "When these things are created, they're
going to be so weak, it'll be a huge achievement if
you can keep them alive for an hour in the lab,".
Collectively, this seems to lend support (though
certainly does not prove) to the notion that the
generation of life requires a very hands-on approach
(i.e. intervention by an intelligent agent) in order
to get it started. I wonder if the quest to
demonstrate that life could have evolved without
"intelligent design" will lead us to conclude that
"yes, it's possible, but in order to duplicate that
process, we had to become an 'intelligent designer'
ourselves"?

Second, from an ethical point of view--the quotes I
posted in my original email were concerned less with
the idea that we could create life, and instead were
concerned with the REASON we are creating life.
Specifically, as some of the scientists in the article
would have it--the purpose is so that it can perform a
useful function--for us. Yet, I don't believe that
that is the example that God would set for us. Did God
create the His creatures and humanity just so we could
serve a useful function? Or did He create for the same
beauty as a gardener seeks when he plants, the same
joy as a pet owner receives from his pet's
companionship, and the same love as a parent would
conceive a child? (and please don't say that beauty,
joy, and love are useful functions--yes, their is a
benefit for the Creator involved, but I mean "useful
function" in its more utilitarian sense--i.e. to eat
up toxic waste more quickly) Suppose one day (far in
the future) this new life that we create in the lab
were to evolve into something conscious--what would we
as its "god" tell it when it asks us, 'why was I
created?' and 'what is my purpose in life?' Surely we
must have a better reason than "we needed to clean up
a toxic waste dump more quickly, and you're just the
by-product of that process"

Anyway, just some food for thought. Best be off to
bed--good night everyone!

In Christ,
Christine

--- "Terry M. Gray" <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu> wrote:

> Christine,
>
> I have to concur with George and David. Most of this
> comes under the
> cultural mandate, where, indeed, we are called to be
> God's stewards,
> exercising our "dominion" over the creation (and for
> the creation)
> for His glory.
>
> Is synthesizing new forms of matter "playing God"?
> Is building Mount Rushmore "playing God"?
> How about paving most of the farmland in the Chicago
> suburbs? Is that
> "playing God"?
> How about making eye-glasses or performing Lasik
> surgery?
> How about treating disease? (There are some
> Christian traditions who
> say that God alone heals and that medical
> interventions are a sign of
> unbelief.)
>
> I'm not convinced that biology is any different.
> Animal/plant
> breeding for agricultural purposes has been going on
> for millennia.
>
> Of course, this is not to say that we shouldn't
> reflect seriously on
> the ethics of what we do or try to do. I think
> that's what Bedeau is
> saying (even without knowing his philosophical or
> theological
> perspective) when he calls us to "playing God"
> responsibly.
>
> TG
>
> On Aug 20, 2007, at 7:01 AM, Christine Smith wrote:
>
> > I found this article
> >
>
(http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/tech/news/5067435.html)
> > in the Houston Chronicle very interesting,
> > particularly some of the following quotes:
> >
> > "We are doing things which were thought to be the
> > province, in some quarters, of God — like making
> new
> > forms of life," Bedau said in a phone interview
> from
> > Venice. "Life is very powerful, and if we can get
> it
> > to do what we want ... there are all kinds of good
> > things that can be done."
> >
> > On its face, this seems to me to be
> > unethical--creating new life forms so we can make
> it
> > do what we want? Sounds like we're on a power
> trip?
> > Isn't the value of life not found in its utility
> > (although every lifeform does something useful),
> but
> > in its very being/existence?
> >
> > "Playing God is a good thing to do as long as
> you're
> > doing it responsibly," he said."
> >
> > Is it? And if so, can humans conceivably be
> trusted to
> > do it "responsibly", given our belief that
> humanity is
> > sinful by nature? Should we avoid pushing this
> > envelope of R & D until our wisdom and/or laws has
> a
> > chance to catch up with our knowledge?
> >
> > Just some questions off the top of my head--back
> to
> > work for me!
> >
> > In Christ,
> > Christine
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, send a message to
> majordomo@calvin.edu with
> > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the
> message.
>
> ________________
> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
> Computer Support Scientist
> Chemistry Department
> Colorado State University
> Fort Collins, CO 80523
> (o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801
>
>
>
>
> To unsubscribe, send a message to
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Received on Tue Aug 21 00:24:17 2007

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