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Artificial Life Created

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Postby AstusAleator » Sat Nov 24, 2007 1:37 am

I have my doubts about the bacteria thing

a) how fast could it be pumped out, and on what kind of scale?

b) what are the bacteria eating? How much water and other resources would go into the production of this fuel.


In other words, what's the trade-off? Other than direct conversion or semi-direct conversion of solar power, every other energy source comes at a cost to existing environments.

As to corn being a poke in the eye, I think of it more as a big middle finger. The same concerns I expressed above apply to corn. What are the resources that go into not only growing the plants, but synthesizing the fertilizer and pesticides? There's so many issues with corn agribusiness, it's insane. Read The Omnivore's Dillemma by Michael Pollan if you haven't already. Good book.
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Postby alextemplet » Sat Nov 24, 2007 3:01 am

Astus raises some good points; just because something isn't burning fossil fuels doesn't automatically make it environmentally friendly. And in response to Wolleyy's question about why should science be studied, I would say it should be studied in order to benefit humanity. Unless discovery is moderated by a desire to serve the ethical good of mankind, then it is like a wreckless child who's just discovered the keys to his father's gun cabinet.
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Postby mith » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:37 am

Ideally you would have GM grass or some other organism that uses very little minerals, fast growing and converts water/light to cellulose very fast. You buy the hay, then Venter wants to give you some bacteria that converts that to gas/ethanol. Personally, I see photoelectircs as more of a competitor than oil or ethanol. Couple that with megacapacitors and you pretty have all the energy you need(not to waste).
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Postby AstusAleator » Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:51 pm

alex wrote:Unless discovery is moderated by a desire to serve the ethical good of mankind, then it is like a wreckless child who's just discovered the keys to his father's gun cabinet.


I can feel Ayn Rand turning over in her grave.

@Mith

Yeah, ideally.
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Postby genovese » Sun Nov 25, 2007 8:10 pm

I agree with people's fears about forming new life. Any new change should endure fear - that is a healthy response - which should lead us to make safeguards in our experimentations. But the history of life on this planet has been full of Natural disasters and elimination of species usually replaced by other species. Isn't that how we got here in the first place?

So my question is: why are we more frightened of our intelligent experiments than we are of random Nature's experiments? Is it to do with our vain self importance as a species that we must, at all costs, be protected? Or is it because there are 6.7 billion of us giving a greater chance that one of us might do something crazy, compared to Nature which we think works slowly (colliding asteroids)? What however is slow about the plague epidemics or about the next pandemic flu virus?
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Postby alextemplet » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:53 am

Why am I afraid of our "intelligent" experiments? Because people are corrupt, and greedy, and evil, and stupid; yet we in our vanity dare to call ourselves intelligent.
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Postby genovese » Mon Nov 26, 2007 7:30 am

I agree that people are often corrupt, greedy and stupid but vain or not vain, most wold agree that we are the most intelligent life forms on the planet (at present).

Accepting all that you say and the dangers therefore of experimenting with life - is there not more chance of success when experiments are carried out by humans (whatever their weaknesses) than when experiments are being carried out by Nature all alone and in a random fashion?

And if the some terrible mistake or deliberate criminal action should result from such experiments - leading to mass extinction of homo sapiens - isn't that what Nature has in store for us anyway? So are we left with just a TIME factor? Mass extinction by Nature, we believe (but are not certain) is probably a long way off; but man could greatly speed up the process. Is this Time factor, the only difference which is accounting for our fears? i.e. "I would rather die tomorrow than to-day."javascript:emoticon(':shock:')
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Postby woolleyy » Mon Nov 26, 2007 3:07 pm

I agree that discovery should be mediated, but I do not understand why everything has to be for mankind. We are only one of millions of species on this planet, and as the (to borrow a religious phrase) stewards of this planet, our focus should be on the good of everything on this planet, not just our own survival.
The funny thing is now, even people who only want to benefit humanity, must realise that looking after the planet (be it combatting climate change or boosting biodiversity (wow, check my unconscious alliteration!)) are the best directions to be going in.
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Postby mith » Mon Nov 26, 2007 5:24 pm

Woolleyy, you should lookup Tom Regan and Peter Singer's works on animal research ethics.
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Postby woolleyy » Mon Nov 26, 2007 6:10 pm

thanks Mith, will have a look out for them. I'm a little wary of "animal rights" folk though, there are some pretty crazy folks out there!
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Postby alextemplet » Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:14 am

I agree, Wolleyy, that those who seek to serve only humanity will find common goals with those who seek to serve the entire planet.

In response to Genovese, I would say that human experiments normally are safer than nature's random experiments; however, in toying with a force as powerful as life itself, we must consider that human corruption will also make complete catastrophe much more likely than if nature were acting alone. In some ways it's like letting a known thief into an unlocked bank vault after dark, and then expecting him to act responsibly.

My point is that discovery should never be undertaken purely for its own sake; it must be managed responsibly, with an eye towards the greater good of our species and our planet as a whole, and we must prepare ourselves for the good and bad consequences of both what our experiments produce and how people will use or abuse those experiments.
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Postby MichaelXY » Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:44 am

My point is that discovery should never be undertaken purely for its own sake; it must be managed responsibly,


For the sake of science, what does that mean? Is not science the acquiring of knowledge? Since the dawn of time, humankind has sought for answers and explanations in order to understand the world. Who would be so bold as to judge what should, or should not be studied? Who is so enlightened that they may judge and regulate what research is done?
For the father of science Galilei Galileo who was put on trial for heresy when he suggested that Earth was not the center of the universe. Galileo was not put on trial, the quest for understanding and truth was put on trial, science was put on trial. The final ruling of the Catholic court silenced Galileo, but it did not silence the yearning, or the quest that mankind had for science.
To propose the regulation of research is a return to a time when mankind was just awakening from a long medieval sleep.
Who would be the manager of science? Who is so wise to decide what we study?
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