A Science & Society Session funded by the Schering Stiftung, jointly organized by the IAG Gentechnology Report and the Annual Theme 2015|16 “Leibniz: Vision als Aufgabe” of the BBAW, and Isthmus S.A.R.L.
Tremendous technical advances have been made in the life sciences in recent years. Scientists are now able to alter and analyze genes with an ease never seen before. Whole genomes can be built from scratch and transplanted into living cells. But has this brought us any closer to understanding life?
Synthetic biology in particular has been heralded as an exciting new field which will allow a deeper knowledge on how living systems "work". Synthetic biologists extensively manipulate organisms at DNA level. Even bringing longlost species such as the wooly mammoth back to life from recovered DNA samples seems possible nowadays. Xenobiologists reach further yet – aiming to create artificial life built out of synthetic chemicals instead of natural DNA.
Such new biologies promise groundbreaking solutions for pressing global problems. However, these possibilities have raised concern about their future environmental and societal impact, and how they might change the way we think about life, biodiversity and evolution. Our interdisciplinary panel brought together renowned experts from xenobiology and the philosophy of the life sciences to explore these and other matters of humanly-created life.