Synthesis of life in a laboratory is intelligent design:
Synthetic biology is liberated from the considerable burden of doing biochemistry under primordial conditions. Now laboratories are free to use whatever means they have available to construct living matter! Indeed, there is considerable optimism that synthetic biology will finally accomplish the “holy grail” of biology, the production of an artificial living cell. Accordingly, a concluding remark of a relatively recent review article on the subject states: “The synthesis of a living artificial cell from components will open the door to many more adventurous lines of research…” However, a more cautious reviewer of the subject states: “…it is important to note that minimal life has not yet been achieved in the laboratory. Does this mean that it is in principle not possible? I do not believe so, although as a scientist it is always good to have a bit of doubt (perhaps we missed something important in our theoretical analysis)”.
This communication points to just such an oversight, the underestimation of the essential nature of the “out-of equilibrium” state of living matter.George T. Javor, “Synthesizing Life in the Laboratory: Why is it not Happening?” at Geoscience Research Institute (July 26, 2021)
But using intelligent design only means we’ve left the world of fantasy (“it all just sort of happened a long time ago… ”). Here’s an example of a typical real problem: Living cells cannot reach equilibrium because their metabolisms would stop.
Multiple such equilibriums would kill the cell. However, in live cells there are no isolated reactions and the problem of equilibrium is avoided. Rather, chemical events are linked into pathways, so that the products of reactions do not accumulate, but immediately react with another substance.
The end products of metabolic pathways are either utilized immediately or they are secreted from the cell. Moreover, regulatory systems such as “feedback inhibition” help maintain homeostasis.George T. Javor, “Synthesizing Life in the Laboratory: Why is it not Happening?” at Geoscience Research Institute (July 26, 2021)
Javor notes that you can kill a cell in such a way that all the components are intact but it is lifeless. “In live cells, superimposed on all of the necessary biopolymers is the steady state non-equilibrium dynamics of all chemical events.”
So life consists of dancing as fast as one can while the music is still playing. It’s very difficult to make all this work in an artificial cell.
You may also wish to read: Jim Tour’s Wild West challenge: Go ahead. Make a cell. Make a cell, win the Nobel…