Scientists Create Life?
FREQUENTLY over the years scientists have made various discoveries or developed certain theories that give rise to expectations that life will be or has already been created in the laboratory.
Note some of these newspaper headlines: “Day Hailed When Men Build Virus” (Vancouver Sun, August 16, 1962); “U.S. Scientists Are Urged to Recreate Life” (New York Times, September 14, 1965); “Creation of Life in 5 Years Seen” (New York Times, January 18, 1966); “Laboratory Creation of Any Life No Longer Dream” (Buffalo Evening News, December 7, 1970); “Chemical Basis to Life Found Plentiful in Space” (New York Times, November 23, 1973).
But have scientists in their work with viruses and chemical molecules actually created life in a test tube, as it were?
In the 1974 Encyclopædia Britannica, French microbiologist Rene Dubos takes up the matter in the essay “The Mysteries of Life.” Note what he says regarding claims that scientists have produced life de novo, or anew:
“A fully developed virus, which had been naturally produced by a living organism, was separated into its component parts by chemical procedures. When these separate parts were tested for biological activity, they were found to be inert, that is, they were unable to multiply in a susceptible organism. This biological activity was restored, however, when the parts of the virus were chemically reassembled in the test tube under the proper conditions. Spectacular as this achievement is from the chemical point of view, it does not constitute—as has been claimed—the production of life de novo. Since the virus first had to be produced by a living organism, and since its reassembled parts showed activity only when introduced into a living susceptible organism, all the biological machinery essential for its reproduction had to be provided by preexisting life.
“In a completely unrelated kind of experiment, several complex molecules similar to those found in living things have been produced in the laboratory by exposing simple chemicals to the kind of radiation that probably existed in the primitive atmosphere. But this chemical feat does not constitute production of life de novo because the molecules so produced have not been assembled—organized—in a way enabling them to duplicate themselves and to develop. An organic molecule, however complex and similar to the kind found in living things, still belongs to the realm of inanimate matter if it cannot reproduce and evolve.”
Thus, despite many sensational newspaper and magazine articles, the fact remains that man has not created life! And, interestingly, the Encyclopædia also observes: “As far as we know now, life exists nowhere else in the solar system, its origin is still a mystery, and its effects on our planet have been little short of miraculous.”