Genome Pioneer: We Have The Dangerous Power To Control Evolution


Craig J. Venter is the pioneering cartographer of the human genome, the sequence of which he and other scientists mapped in 2000. The WorldPost recently spoke with this modern Prometheus about the promises and perils of being able to read, write and edit the human genome.

You have said that humankind is entering a “new phase of evolution” — from natural selection to intelligent direction. Why is this so, and what does it mean?

Biological evolution has taken three and a half or four billion years to get us where we are. Social evolution has been much faster. Now that we can read and write the genetic code, put it in digital form and translate it back into synthesized life, it will be possible to speed up biological evolution to the pace of social evolution.

On a theoretical basis, that gives us control over biological design. We can write DNA software, boot it up to a converter and create unlimited variations on biological life.

This year is the fifth anniversary of when my team produced the first synthetic cell. To do that, we took the ones and zeroes in the computer, rewrote the genetic code from four bottles of chemicals and booted that up to get a self-replicating cell. That means we now have the power to start controlling evolution.

We’re doing this now in cells that can change manufacturing and create a new industrial revolution by creating synthetic food, chemicals and even building materials. Ultimately, as we begin to better understand our own genetic code, we can edit the human genome — as some Chinese scientists disturbingly did earlier this year.

So we have the power to do it. But we clearly do not have the wisdom to do —> Read More