IS IT RIGHT TO CREATE NEW LIFE FORMS?

Look at it this way. During the Bush administration, scientists weren’t allowed to use a majority of stem cells to research potentially life-saving therapies because the president objected to using embryonic stem cells on moral grounds. The policy, since overturned by President Obama, limited researchers from using embryonic stem cells beyond the 60 cell lines that already existed at the time, effectively tying their hands when it came to important biomedical research.

Now, however, Fox News is reporting that the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has given the thumbs up to a scientific investigation into creating man-made life forms. The move came after the release of the conclusions of a research project in which a new artificial organism was created by inserting laboratory-made genes into an existing bacteria cell.

Confused? Let Fox break it down for you.

“Man-made forms of life are just fine in Uncle Sam’s book, a new federal study into synthetic biology concludes,” the news network reported on Thursday. “No, that wasn’t a new form of life, the panel cautioned — but it sure did raise some interesting issues.”

Among the questions raised by Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, who did none of the research, is, “Is it ethical to create new life forms? What are the religious concerns?”

As scientists are hard at work creating similar new life forms, Caplan told Fox that there’s little oversight into this emerging field and, brace yourself, “at some point these critters will come out of the factory and into the real world to do things — and we don’t have any rules at present.”

The bottom line is that the man behind this swan dive into artificial life, genome pioneer Craig Venter, did indeed build a microbe from scratch, but not, his detractors said, a new man-made form of life. That, Caplan said, is still a “remote” reality for the foreseeable future.

So, essentially Caplan wants to see more government oversight into something that isn’t remotely possible now, but could be in the distant future … if scientists can figure out if it’s even possible. Sounds reasonable. Perhaps they can get to the bottom of the “War on Christmas” next.

What do you think the government should for research on creating artificial life forms?