This past May the scientific world rocked with the news that Craig Venter and his team had created the first “self-replicating synthetic cell.”    The result of a 15-year-quest and 40 million dollars, Venter describes the achievement thus:   “This is the first self-replicating cell we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”   Venter is well-known for participating in mapping the human genome a decade ago.

According to science writer Logan Ward:

To make the manmade distinguishable from the natural, they imbedded DNA sequences that “watermark” the synthetic genome. Venter would not reveal the secret behind the code, but hinted that “this is the first species to have its own website encoded in its genetic code.” Other watermarks spell out complete sentences, including a quote by the physicist Richard Feynman: “What I cannot build, I cannot understand.”

Details of this achievement are outlined in a press release from the J. Craig Venter Institute.

Scientists agree that Venter has achieved a brilliant  technical feat in synthesizing the largest piece of DNA so far — a million units in length — and in making it accurate enough to substitute for the cell’s own DNA. According to Venter: “We created a new cell. It’s alive. But we didn’t create life from scratch.”

Dr. Stephen Meyer, Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, has produced a simply beautiful video explaining the role of design in creation and the role of DNA in Venter’s work.

Link to Stephen Meyer’s interaction video as mentioned in the above clip.

As Bill Gates says, DNA can be compared to a software program in that it contains information. What Venter has done is produce an intricate DNA software program which works when inserted into a living cell, much in the way a downloaded program will work in your computer. He has not produced the computer.

It might be well to add that not everything downloaded into your computer is beneficial. Some software has been well-tried by time and does what you want it to do. Other software is appropriately labeled “malware” because it wreaks havoc. The Vatican has urged caution in this area and even Venter has urged government regulation to oversee the fast-developing synthetic biology industry.