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August 27, 2007

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>>“Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they’re getting closer.”

I love it. They should celebrate by baking some biscuits from “scratch.” Moo.


With all the thought and work that these folks are putting into it, sounds like they have some purpose in view.

I know it's easy to ridicule this project, but it has its merits. Particular experiments called Selix experiments can make catalytic RNAs that can make RNAs that are longer, shorter, better at making other RNAs, better at catalysis etc. The goal is to see if secunded catalytic RNAs that are surrounded by a makeshift biological membrane can approximate a living system. Like anything else in the lab, my guess is that they will not. Tweeking will be necessary, but if this can work, maybe such a system can be used to make hammerhead RNAs that are clinically useful.

The problem with this experiment is not the work - it's the overblown interpretation of the work. After all, even if it does prove to work to some extent, it still took some pretty ingenious lab engineering and trouble shooting to get it to work - just like any other experiment.

The practical use of the experiment is a "different animal" from the claim that, “Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they’re getting closer.” If they are not "starting from scratch" it is intellectually dishonest or ignorant to claim they are.

I don’t really understand the rub.

Even if the ultimate dreams of the scientists are realized and they are able to build a machine that, given a textual genome input set, will generate a totipotent cell as the output (to be rendered in a host womb), and hence brought to fruition as a new creature, - how would this effect the Christian world view?

I think such a machine will exist in a few decades, but so what?

A more curious question to ask is where is the line at which god’s people starts and god’s people ends? For example, chimpanzees are not god’s people, but greg koukl is. So if we create a creature that is kinda like greg koukl and kinda like a chimpanzee, how do we ascertain if this creature is worthy of the rights bestowed on “god’s people”?

This is not a pithy question. As it will one day be quite possible to create ape like creatures with an intelligence similar to a child. Such creations could be used as “slave labor” for picking fruit or clearing mind fields or working in factories. So are we to treat these creations as “beasts of burden” or “children of god”?

In case you think this is all just fantasy science fiction, you might want to read these articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geep

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/26/AR2006022600932.html

If the question is whether or not they are starting from "scratch" then a "proposal" to use active biological material to accomplish this does not seem to have lived up to the claim. Also, if they are claiming to "create life from scratch" this would seem to imply a lack of necessity for God. How could that not affect the Christian worldview (other problems not withstanding, they are still using God's sand)?
"So if we create a creature that is kinda like greg koukl and kinda like a chimpanzee, how do we ascertain if this creature is worthy of the rights bestowed on “god’s people”?" From a secular position it does not seem as though "we" have a problem answering the question as "slave labor" and "second class citizenry" has already been evidence in the human condition for as far as history has been recorded. Would not the idea that we have created (as close as practicable) ex nihilo only make more certain our narcissism? If we "created" in our own image then why be bothered with asking the question of "are we to treat these creations as “beasts of burden” or “children of god”?" at all? If we are children of God and know that we are accountable to who created us but have a potential for sin it seems more than reasonable not to allow ourselves to be put in a position of where we are trying to where His shoes.

If I were God, and I saw my creation making life, I would go... Hurray!!!

Because it means the creation has advanced which is something the creator would want I would say.

Just because man can create life, doesn't mean he does not need our lord and savior Jesus Christ. It just means Mankind has advanced a little bit more.

"Just because man can create life, doesn't mean he does not need our lord and savior Jesus Christ. It just means Mankind has advanced a little bit more."

This presumes that God put us here for other than relational reasons. Before we claim that creating life is "good" and "advanced" we should ask what does "advancement" mean and how this improves our relationship with God. The claim also does not address mans tendency to attempt to act in His stead. Slavery, among other things requalified who was fully human and who was not. The Nazis took on this illegitimate position as did many other groups in history who redefined humanness to suit their own purpose. If we could create life "from scratch" then how would someone argue that God is necessary without also redefining Him as well?

Tony,
the thing that makes us In the Image of God isn't that we are higher apes. It's that we have the capability to choose good and evil. Dogs can't Hitler's dog loved Hitler and we don't fault the dog.

If a chimp-Koukl existed we would have to see if it could understand right and wrong at some level. From the time my children can first understand the social structure of our family they exhibit good and evil traits.

I also think that once one chimp-koukl shows traits of Imago Dei we would bestow human rights on ALL of them in the same way that some humans my be retarded and incapable of discerning good and evil but we afford them humane treatment our respect for their potential and ideal capacity to know good and evil. It's kind of like the respect we offer our fallen soldiers. We don't retrieve dead marines from the battle field because the dead body has some intrinsic value, but that the body is human...we honor the Divine Spark it once had.

Doug,

Could you write down the method by which Doug T could ascertain the existance of this "divine spark".

You seem to think chimps don't have it. But did you test them yet?

"You seem to think chimps don't have it. But did you test them yet?"

Tony,

What is the point of your question?


What is implied for the role of humans in the universe if we could create life from scratch? Does it demonstrate that God is not necessary? Does it demonstrate that intelligence is necessary to create life?

It seems to me that it could only demonstrate that intelligence can create life. It doesn't demonstrate that time & chance could perform the same operation.

I suggest that really there is nothing about this particular research that tells us anything about: "our place in the universe, [removing] one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role.”"

The implied underlying worldview of this report ignores existing Christian answers.

Hubris may be too strong a word to apply to the attitude of the article, particularly when one scientist is quoted: "We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened." They do certainly make rhetorical claims far beyond what the actual science demonstrates.

We have no clue how to get our own dirt, but as Christians we have do have answers to "the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role."

Straying slightly off topic, I believe Tony's question comes down to what characteristics make us human and what if anything is special about those creatures we call human.

I think he would also apply this questioning approach to how we understand the concept of life.

Characteristics of what it is to be human and what constitutes life can be supplied and debated. This is currently important when we debate whether a human being exists from the moment of conception.

For all these things we need definitions which Tony has in the past rejected as pretty much arbitrary, if I understand him correctly.

If we cannot agree on what characterizes being human or being alive we can't begin to address the issue of what we should do with live humans, much less humanchimps. DougT has supplied one Christian characteristic of humanity to start us off.

I think Robert's question is interesting: "If we "created" in our own image then why be bothered with asking the question of "are we to treat these creations as “beasts of burden” or “children of god”?" at all?"

If we create, as Tony suggests: "a creature that is kinda like greg koukl and kinda like a chimpanzee", I would suggest that Christians would consider very carefully that the living being may be as much like Greg Koukl as like the chimp. As Robert says: "we are children of God and know that we are accountable to who created us but have a potential for sin".

Therefore we would apply Christian concepts of what it means to be human and the value of that humanity to the living being.

I would not hold out much hope for the life of this being if a secular world view was applied to the situation.

>> "Therefore we would apply Christian concepts of what it means to be human and the value of that humanity to the living being."

Ya but what sort of method could you compose to test if these "Christian concepts" apply to the resultant creature?

Tony said: "what sort of method could you compose to test if these "Christian concepts" apply to the resultant creature?"

Probably none that you would accept. Perhaps you might like to suggest a method, unless you belive that it is impossible. Do you demand certainty?

If it is impossible to have a method for detemining the humanity of a living being, then are not all our decisions and behaviors in this regard arbitrary?

If this is your position then your question concerning beasts of burden or children of God can be solved, for you, by flipping a coin.

I find it hard to believe that when you face these ultimate questions you would be satisfied with this solution.

Have you not said elsewhere that you really want Christianity to be true?

In a godless universe, determining which rights to bestow on a creature is of course arbitrary – since rights themselves are arbitrarily created and applied.

But even granted the truth of Christianity, I was curious to see how you guys would handle the situation.

You said, “Therefore we would apply Christian concepts of what it means to be human and the value of that humanity to the living being.”

Doug said, “the thing that makes us In the Image of God isn't that we are higher apes. It's that we have the capability to choose good and evil.”

I was just wondering how the Christian engine would go about generating rights for such creatures. I couldn’t really suggest a method, not being Christian. I dunno I guess they’d just pull another Council of Nicaea or something.

Note that, one not need even refer to science fiction here. Simply trying to assign rights to the genus homo would be quite a task.

Homo habilis
Homo rudolfensis
Homo ergaster
Homo erectus
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo neanderthalensis
Homo rhodesiensis
Homo georgicus
Homo sapiens idaltu

I wonder which one of these monkey men, if any, were judged by God at their death.


"I couldn’t really suggest a method, not being Christian."

Aw, come on Tony you can do it. Being a Christian isn't a pre-requisite, you're made in the image of God too you know... :)

Although, the "genus" to which you refer makes it appear as though there is a fairly substantial chain of progressive evolution from a bipedal chimp-like ancestor right through to modern man. But if we were to ignore this and assume a kind of theistic-evolutionary worldview, then I'm sure the task would be challenging.

"I was just wondering how the Christian engine would go about generating rights for such creatures. I couldn’t really suggest a method, not being Christian."
Tony,
This statement seems to presume that "rights" are created arbitrarily. Some people make the mistake (I believe) of confusing individual or social "preferences" with "rights". If we get our "rights" from God then any musings concerning "rights" would have to be measured in the light of what He has provided us pursue questions of ontology and therefore questions of "rights". The "creature" would either have "rights" based on the "nature" of the "creatures" being or it would not. This would be a challenge since the nature of the "creature" (in my opinion) is a perversion of that which was created in God's image by Him. This challenge would seem to come, at least in part, from whatever possessed us to believe such a creation was justified in the first place (i.e. the Greg-ape). That same line of reasoning might bring us to the place where we believe "we" could "create rights" for what is a perversion by our hand. If we accept that line of reasoning then "rights" would be defined in the context individual or social "preference".

"I wonder which one of these monkey men, if any, were judged by God at their death."
This question assumes that they were qualified as men to be judged.

Tony got real close. Don't forget, it's evolutionists that are claiming that because man (Homo) is bi-pedal, then man must be evolved from the lower forms.
The problem is, is that there isn't any evidence for it. When an anatomist analyzed 'Lucy', he observed that she was an extinct ape. The feet and hands were more curved than modern apes.
If homo merely denotes a trait such as being bi-pedal, it wouldn't denote ancestry. There are all 'kinds' of four legged animals that have no link. Bi-pedalism and other traits as ancestry is an arbitrary assumption by evolutionists without support in the fosil record. Plus, apes aren't bi-pedal in the same manner as man.
FYI. The R.A.T.E.team at ICR, included a language expert in their research to settle the issue about Genesis being poetry or historical narative. Using statistical analysis (null hypothesis etc.), Genesis is written as historical narative (Thousands not Billions DVD).
Bottom line: only homo sapien is man. Your construction for a case for rights based on being bi-pedal fails on the first point, and goes down hill from there.

From a Biblical perspective only man is made in the image of God. All other kinds have their spirits 'return to the dust' at death. Ross and others are facing less and less room for evolutionary theism regardless of how they twist the scriptures.
Eventually even inteligent design must name Jesus as the designer, or fail the test Biblically. The noose is getting tighter and the heat is being turned up.

The more accurate means for 'Natural Rights' would be DNA. It already has been established as valid evidence in the courts. We are talking about extending state protection to the unborn. If man has God given rights, and DNA determines man from ape, then DNA takes presidence in determining the assigning of those rights. Your assumption fails again. And on and on it goes for the evolutionists ( The dance of " The cat on a hot tin roof.")

P.S.,
None on your list of " ape men " are judged. The animals got shafted in the deal when a man thought he knew better than GOD.
P.S.S.
The test for genus is whether live fertile young are produced. I'm unaware of any such offspring from human/ape crossings (unless of course the National Enquirer has become a scientific journal).
And the cat dances on as the roof gets hotter.

Tim,

>> “If man has God given rights, and DNA determines man from ape, then DNA takes presidence in determining the assigning of those rights.”

So Tim can you tell us the percentage of variation that God has given us by which we can ascertain which genomes are “gods people”, and which are the “shafted apes”?

Cuz no hunk of DNA is equal. Tim’s genome is a little different than Greg’s. But how different is Tim’s sequence allowed to get, until we say, “OK Tim isn’t one of us anymore.”

2% maybe? It’s a nice round number.

Also can you tell me how God conveyed this number to you?

Tony said: "I couldn’t really suggest a method, not being Christian."

I don't believe that it is necessary to be Christian to devise a method by which criteria are assigned and tested to demonstrate and establish a definition of what constitutes a human being.

I am sure you didn't intend to imply that a Christian worldview is necessary to bring understanding to this question although that may, in fact, be true!

Give us a method by which the humanity of a being can be determined and let us apply Christian concepts. You can supply your own criteria and we can then see which one seems most reasonable.


William,

As stated, without a divine communiqué I think any criteria one would bother to scribe is necessarily arbitrary. You are merely asking me to campaign for my own material labeling schema.

It would be like asking the question, “Tony we need to know if Pluto is a planet or a rock. Can you solve this problem for us?”

There is no solution. There is merely the adoption of criteria. Sure I could solve it by saying “Any material body labeled ‘Pluto’ is not a planet”. Now everyone vote on my criteria.

Above, Tim argued that it is actually the genome that determines humanity. It would be nice if, in the back of the bible, god specified how much genetic variance is allowed - before the creature in question is taken off the ‘children of god’ list. This would be the sort of divine communiqué one would need.

But no such luck. Let’s see what Tim comes up with anyway.

And this is why Christians argue the abortion issue incorrectly. They appeal to imaginary lines indicating when a ‘child of god’ starts and ends. But they fail to mention who told them where to draw these lines. But most people are not familiar with the philosophy of biology and won’t bother to inquire in this manner.

Well then as I said: "If this is your position then your question concerning beasts of burden or children of God can be solved, for you, by flipping a coin.

I find it hard to believe that when you face these ultimate questions you would be satisfied with this solution."

You said: "And this is why Christians argue the abortion issue incorrectly. They appeal to imaginary lines indicating when a ‘child of god’ starts and ends. But they fail to mention who told them where to draw these lines."

What makes your criteria for how to argue about the abortion issue any less arbitrary?


Indeed, such questions necessarily don’t have a solution in a godless universe. Just a group of guys that create a taxonomy or a list of standards or conventions.

>> “What makes your criteria for how to argue about the abortion issue any less arbitrary?”

Note that I am only referring to the labeling of matter in the universe. When it comes to the art of logic and argument and mathematics, however, I go with the Platonist tradition…for now.

I would not even attempt to assign rights - which supposedly determine who gets judged at their death? - to the homo genus Tony listed and here's why. I don't agree with the premise.

I guess it could be interesting to assume that the genus is factual and have a crack anyway. But then, I know that holes can be found in my reasoning that accept Tony'd premise, and this can be perceived as a victory for Tony's model, when in actual fact it would be inconsequential to me. (I actually think Tony is correct with his brief rebuttal of the DNA argument and I don't think a Christian can win this argument if they accept the premise Tony has provided)

I think it's clear that human beings have certain rights given what they are, image bearers of God. But, as for the premise provided (i.e. the genus of homo), that is a completely different argument and seems like a bit of a rabbit trail to me..?

Duane,

You won't have to worry about it for at least a few more years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanzee

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