Daily Archives: October 31st, 2007

Darth Venter

From Red Ice Creations :

Few Branches of science are as emotive as genetics, and few scientists have stoked the flames of debate quite like Craig Venter. For a decade or more, the American geneticist has regularly acted as a kind of lightning rod for the hopes, fears and arguments that surround research into the building blocks of life, especially human life.

Venter, with his corporate backers, was the man who competed, and tied, with the publicly funded US effort to map the human genome seven years ago, which earned him plenty of plaudits but also the moniker “Darth Venter” and reportedly comparisons to Hitler by double-helix pioneer and Nobel laureate James Watson. It turn-ed out the DNA Venter sequenced was mainly his own, and just last month he followed this up with the publication of his full six-billion letter genetic code, a world first. Now he says he’s on the verge of creating a brand new life form in his Maryland lab using synthesised genes, and has applied for a patent for the manufactured bacterium. The critics are already squaring off: one Cambridge biochemist has dismissed the science as facile reductionism, while a Canadian bioethics group says no patent should be granted, warning: “for the first time God has competition”.

I have commented briefly about this subject in an earlier post. At that time Dr. Venter hadn’t yet perfected his process enough to apply for a patent. In the rest of this article the impression is given that he is applying for a patent, so he must be pretty confident about his process. Is this the potential Frankenstein Monster foretold by Mary Shelley over two hundred years ago?

Or is Venter a modern Prometheus, bringing Humanity Fire and Light? The symbolism is all over the place on this.

One such symbol is an event in Venter’s life when he was a young medic during the Vietnam War. The most defining moment in his life it turns out.

Read the rest of the story, you won’t be disappointed!