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SyntheticHow Life Got Made$
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Sophia Roosth

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226440323

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226440637.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use (for details see www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 18 September 2018

Life by Design: Evolution and Creation Tales in Synthetic Biology

Life by Design: Evolution and Creation Tales in Synthetic Biology

Chapter:
(p.21) Chapter One Life by Design: Evolution and Creation Tales in Synthetic Biology
Source:
Synthetic
Author(s):

Sophia Roosth

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226440637.003.0003

Chapter 1, “Life by Design,” tracks early experimental efforts to model and engineer genetically simplified T7 viruses in the laboratory of Drew Endy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 2000s. Judeo-Christian tropes of creation shape synthetic biologists’ descriptions of this work. By identifying themselves as both agents able to “evolve” life and as animals subject to evolution, synthetic biologists imagine themselves in epistemologically ambiguous territory when they design living systems. Weaving evolutionary tales with biblical ones, they cast themselves as figures simultaneously unnatural, natural, and supernatural. The chapter places this account within the context of arguments over creation and intelligent design that were then prominent in American political discourse, and uses those debates to clarify how synthetic biologists were thinking about what it means to, as they put it, “intelligently design” life.

Keywords:   intelligent design, creation, design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Drew Endy, MIT

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