A week ago Craig Venter announced the creation of the first synthetic cell: an organism with a fully synthetic genome. That is, he and his team took more than 1000 preassembled units of DNA, constructed from them the full genetic code of the organism Mycoplasma mycoides, and transplanted this prefab genome into the emptied-out cell of the organism Mycoides capricolum. The latter's protein-building molecular machinery recognized the DNA and "booted up" the cell. In short, it came alive.
"Science has accomplished what was inevitable and finally robbed religion of the argument that life is more than mere chemical processes...that it is some mystical, magical thing for which only 'god' can account...Hopefully this puts religion one step closer to obsolescence...humanity will never be rid of this human scourge that is responsible for so much intolerance, division, war and strife, but little by little, science is removing religious dogma regarding the monopoly 'god' has on life...At long last, religion's final tenuous argument about the mystical nature of life dissolves..."
"To make non-living parts come to life I think is a major achievement. Not only does it open the door toward, as you've been discussing, some of the design of the microbial world to serve our purposes but it also philosophically pushes the notion that some sort of vital force or special force is necessary to understand life itself. I think this achievement kind of refutes that and basically says it is possible to understand what makes life tick in a more reductionist, mechanistic way......When you start to be able to figure out your million base pairs and order them up the right way, and then transfer them into a dead husk of another microbe's cell, and have the thing fire up and do everything that a bacteria's supposed to do, you have in a sense brought to an end maybe 3000 years of debate among philosophers and biologists about what is life. You're basically saying it's something that's under the control of a set of coded instructions. If you have the right chemistry around it, you can make things come to life. That's a pretty amazing demonstration and a pretty important moment in the history of science. So in that sense, understanding life, understanding how it works, seeing that you can even create it and manipulate it - I don't want to push that into the background. That's major...[It] puts you on the road that says we will be able to pull apart the ingredients of life, artificially synthesize the whole thing someday, and that there's no mysterious force out there, no ineffability."