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New Life

A growing number of scientists engaged in genetic engineering are now turning to a new field – synthetic biology. This is a new science, born in the late 20th century, made possible by advanced technology that enables scientists to create synthetic chains of DNA and insert them into living cells. With this technology, they can create living systems that operate under the control of a genetic code formed in the laboratory, which can be extended or upgraded at the whim of the designers.

Most traditional biology experiments of the past were conducted by dismantling an organism to its constituent parts and isolating the key enzymes or structures. The innovation of synthetic biology is that it investigates by constructing a new, experimental gene, inserting it into the cell and then watching to see what it will do. This is not science fiction. It is the here and now, say scientists.

We know that the creative power of science derives from just one source – the creative power of G-d. the fact that G-d allows these discoveries to be made now is paving the way for the ultimate Redemption, when there will be an unprecedented outpouring of Divine wisdom. The creative force of G-d with which He created the world will be revealed for all to see, and what we have now is only a foretaste.

Along with the practical know-how for designing new life forms, we also need another kind of wisdom to navigate the inevitable ethical pitfalls. For example, should the fruits of a scientist’s genetic tinkering be his own private property or is it for the welfare of the earth as a whole? Should scientists be allowed to conduct investigations into possibly harmful forms of life, and how could that be monitored or controlled? More than the answers to these specific questions, what we need is an overriding philosophy that feeds our research, that paints the proper perspective from which we can proceed.

And for this we need the secrets embedded not in science, but in Torah. The teachings of Chassidut, in particular, provide us with the framework that allows us to understand how G-d created the world and why. We have a better grasp on our role in this world, that we are partners with G-d in creation, and it is our mission to bring G-dliness to this world, to make it into a place where G-d can feel at home. G-d gave the keys to the universe into our hands – but it’s up to us to ask ourselves, what does He want to do with this power? Through study of Chassidut, we can answer these questions and be prepared for the ultimate Redemption, when G-d will finally descend to dwell in our midst.


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