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Synthetic Biology: Igniting the Wrong Hopes


We often fall for the delusions of Science, failing to recognize the difference between sense-based ‘facts’ and the actual reality of things. It is hard to contest Science when it hits us armed with a barrage of ‘proofs’. Up until now. The latest round of breakthrough scientific discoveries, coupled with the deteriorating social and environmental conditions that threaten to finish us off, shows that Science is getting closer to reaching its acme and exhaustion.

Synthetic Biology that Promises a Perfect Life

In a major breakthrough, scientists have been gaining sure confidence that, instead of just sequencing the DNA (an achievement of the Human Genome Project), they will now be able to slowly write an entirely original DNA. This is expected to empower them to engineer and manufacture life, instead of merely following, mimicking or replicating it (like in existing technologies of genetic engineering, cloning etc.). As a consequence we will be able to change the way we live and eat, indeed, change our very selves and engineer our future generations. Scientists expect that, if successful, this will completely change the face of human life on earth, and surpass all latest discoveries, even Artificial Intelligence.

Scientists promise to manipulate Nature to create a utopia where there will be no food crisis and no crisis of climate change. Everything – right from food to advanced sustainable biofuels – could be manufactured in a lab, simply through DNA writing. Cells could be manipulated to make food in a lab, bacteria could be manipulated to secrete oil and long-extinct species could be brought back to life. The technology promises to make everything that the humans need – in a “sustainable” way, so that our imminent civilizational disaster is averted.

The US and China have already eagerly jumped onto the bandwagon. The US Defense Department is already funneling millions of dollars into synthetic biology companies on projects that can design cells to enable soldiers to not feel the need for food intake, and, to engineer cells in plants such that they can change colour when in the presence of explosives. Besides these, there are various other projects already underway. The ultimate aim of scientists is, of course, to design the human genome itself, enabling a complete transformation of the human body. This, according to the GP-write project established in 2016, would mean going beyond natural and artificial selection to actual, intentional designing of cells.

By their own admission, this will take many years, if not decades. They are still at the stage of simple, single-celled organisms and the human being is extremely complex. But to these scientists, what matters is not the time, but the fact that they think they already have the secret to penetrate and re-design the very code of life.

Science Lays a Further Trap For Us

This thinking lies at the heart of the folly of technologies like synthetic biology. Impressive though it sounds and even though it has ensnared top US investors and Defense establishment, this is a mirage we need to become aware of. The paradox should be very obvious to us. How can we possibly think that averting the present crisis is a question of controlling climate change or solving the food predicament (through whatever technology – synthetic biology or some other) and, yet, continue to feed our greed and our self – and other – destructive propensities which lie at the heart of the problem?

The assumption behind a technology like synthetic biology is that Nature will become irrelevant. Obviously, if are able to pliably manipulate Nature and extract whatever we like, to produce life and life-giving necessities in a laboratory, then clearly the bases of life set by Nature no longer hold any relevance.

In a sense, this assumption challenges the idea that there are fixed laws and creations of Nature that bind us. But Science, operating on such an assumption through the last three centuries, is falling into its own trap by now challenging it. It cannot sustain such an assumption or challenge Nature like this, unless Science itself rises beyond Nature.

And that physical Science is not poised to do – as seen in the unbelievable assumptions of synthetic biology. Scientists will simply end up creating replicated automatons in a laboratory, through engineered or ‘originally written’ DNA. This may or may not be life. But that is irrelevant, because whatever it is, it will still operate within the framework of Nature and develop ‘laws’ of its own.

At its core, manipulations like synthetic biology continue to operate through the fundamental principle that material cells and DNA are the core of life and from such material stuff emerges consciousness. For the proponents of material science, consciousness and soul are nothing but the complex operations of our brain and physiological processes. And the chemical tinkering with these is the large part of the science of Psychology for them. Tomorrow, do not be surprised if claims are made that scientists are successfully experimenting with hormones to control emotions like greed, lust etc.

And because synthetic biology, no matter how high a flight it takes, remains within the confines of matter and Nature, nothing that it does will have any potential to create anything ‘sustainable’ or long-lasting. All these artificial creations – even if they come from biology and not technology – are not life, but automation. And this dangerous automation like a riderless wild horse has all the wrong intentions. It wants to create a utopia with a sustainable lifestyle, while continuing with the present perverted and twisted human nature and hollow consciousness. Carrying this seed of destruction such a society will die before being born.

Recall the story of Atlantis and go to message behind the story. The destruction of Atlantis happened because the earth was collapsing under the burden of her artificial perfection and expanding greed and ego. It is similar to the stories in Indian scriptures, where the Earth implored the Divine to manifest because she was burdened by the civilization of the Asuras. Even the Asuras were materially advanced and perfect. Examples already exist before us.

And even the most ardent materialist and atheist knows that every myth or story is inspired by some already existent reality. We would do well to heed the obvious message and awaken from our fantasies.

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