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synthetic cell

Minimal synthetic cell turns out to be an argument against naturalist origin of life, says biomedical engineer

Rob Stadler: Abiogenesis [random origin of life] advocates claim that life started with "protocells" because extant life is far too complex to have started by natural processes. But, all of our efforts to simplify extant life to produce a "protocell" have shown us that extant life is about as simple as it can be. Read More ›

Gerald Joyce no longer uses the NASA “must show Darwinian evolution” definition of life

Though he helped develop it. Recently, a problem has arisen round efforts to create a synthetic cell.  Gerald Joyce, now of the Salk Institute, helped NASA come up with a very widely used definition of life, “Life is a self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution.” But, as medicl historian Rebecca Wilbanks explains at Aeon, In 2009, after decades of work, Joyce’s group published a paper in which they described an RNA molecule that could catalyse its own synthesis reaction to make more copies of itself. This chemical system met Joyce’s definition of life. But nobody wanted to claim that it was alive. We’d certainly have heard about it if they had. But Joyce no longer seems satisfied with that definition. For Read More ›

“1st International Symposium on Building a Synthetic Cell,” Netherlands, August 28–29

The world-class symposium features several controversies long the lines of 1) Should we build a synthetic cell and 2) Aren’t we really doing that under another name anyway? Suzan Mazur reports at her blog, Oscillations: The late Carl Woese, who was awarded the Leeuwenhoek Medal by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1992), opposed the idea of making a synthetic cell, telling me in a 2012 interview weeks before he died that he thought the push for a synthetic cell was all about “Power” and scientists “thinking they’re God.” … The Dutch conference promo never actually defines life. It does, however, address why the country has decided to build a synthetic cell. It repeats the mantra that the Read More ›