Synthetic Biology - Playing God?

Whenever new technologies arise, such as the ability to genetically engineer biological organisms, one of the classic luddite objections is that such novelty represents human hubris as we attempt to "play God" and do something "unnatural." I've never quite understood such objections, since we run the risk of "creating life" whenever we have a few too many at the local pub and we happen to find an equally hammered partner with whom to engage in all kinds of unnatural acts. True story :)

Still, there is something to be said for the risk of unintended consequences, especially as 21st century advances in science and technology, not to mention their democratization and cheap and easy access, have the potential to produce dangers against which evolution has never had to fight. Some of these innovations are probably inevitable, so while we might not always be able to stop them, we might want to become acquainted with them so we can then start to think about how to manage and regulate them. And to introduce some of these advances, here is Adam Rutherford as he explores some of the truly state-of-the-art advances that synthetic biology is producing, starting with the spider-goat:


Unless by "playing God" people mean that he's the only one allowed to wipe most of life out of the face of the Earth...


There was an interesting interview in The Atlantic recently with philosopher Nick Bostrom on the question of whether we are underestimating the risk of human extinction. He thinks we are, and bases his calculations on what looks to me like an analogy of the Drake equation, so I'm not fully convinced (since the values we assign to such probabilities seem somewhat arbitrary), but the arguments are interesting nevertheless.
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