IT WAS predictable that the news that scientists have made an artificial living cell would be greeted with jeremiads about Pandora's box, Frankenstein's monster and geneticists playing God. It also provoked rather a good gag about God no longer being a chap with a long white beard but one with a short white one, in the form of the genome specialist behind the breakthrough, Dr Craig Venter.
What Dr Venter and his team have done is a major technical advance. They have painstakingly taken chemicals, constructed an artificial piece of DNA and inserted it into a living cell to create a new self-replicating entity. It unleashes all kinds of potential developments and could herald the start of an industrial bio- revolution. How real that prospect is has been made clear by the disclosure that the oil company Exxon has $600m invested in Dr Venter's business and BP sits on his board. It could well win Dr Venter the Nobel Prize.
That said, this is not the creation of artificial life. …