Not to ruin anyone’s Christmas, but this story bothers me on several levels. It seems that some ardent amateur scientists have decided that breeding new creations in their homes is a really great idea.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.
Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories……
…..Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog organization, warned that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage.
“Once you move to people working in their garage or other informal location, there’s no safety process in place,” he said.
That, in a nutshell, is the problem. These folks working in their dining rooms or garages have no containment, no safety procedures, no way to stop a release of something unfortunate – or really, really bad – as a result of their experiments. They have little or no actual scientific training and most will have no actual ability at what they are attempting. Most of these folks are, frankly, merely dilettantes who will accomplish nothing other than to stink up their garages or dining rooms and will soon lose interest and move on to their next hobby.
But there is a real possibility that someone, having just enough knowledge gleaned from the interwebby to be dangerous, will make a mistake. The ethical implications of all this are a whole other discussion.