Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles to living organisms. For example, bacteria can be engineered to produce inexpensive medications and enzymes with a host of industrial uses. Some bacteria are used to clean up oil spills; others produce enzymes for stain removal. Some natural proteins even serve as the basis of advanced supercomputers. It is expected that synthetic biology will play an increasingly important role in the manufacturing of all common household products.
Imagine a biologically engineered bamboo that grows in the shape of a chair... or solar panels that grow on rooftops of their own accord (also known as “leaves”) and supply electricity to the entire house. Imagine bio-engineered bacteria that are injected into the body and selectively consume unhealthy cells. There are countless other applications for biologically modified organisms.
However, with all the promising avenues of research, there is also a great risk. Many fear that once biologically engineered life-forms get loose in nature, they will run rampant and wreak havoc on our ecosystem. There is no telling what a biologically modified plant or bacteria can do in an environment where it has no natural controls or predators. Will it crowd out or kill off every other form of life in its vicinity? Will petroleum-eating bacteria, for example, stop at cleaning up oil spills, or will they penetrate deep into the earth and eat off all remaining oil reserves? The fear is that we have been granted Gd-like powers of creation, but without the wisdom to use it judiciously and productively.
This line of thought calls to mind an event that happened nearly 6,000 years ago, recorded in the book of Bereishit. Gd created the world in a state of perfect harmony. He intended for each creature to perform its unique role, which would enhance and complement the rest of creation. One creature, however, destroyed this perfect unity. The serpent induced Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, bringing evil and death to the universe.
Twenty generations passed, and Adam’s descendant, Abraham, was born. That’s when the tide began to turn. Abraham, by publicizing the truth of the One Gd, slowly began to reverse the tremendous blemish that had come to the universe as a result of Adam’s sin. Today, after many generations of sustained effort, the damage has very nearly been completely repaired. Very soon, death will be eradicated completely. When Moshiach comes, the Glory of Gd, which has gone into hiding since Adam’s sin, will once more be revealed.
Perhaps the miracle of the resurrection of the dead will somehow have an effect on the genetic level. Perhaps the revelation of Gdliness in the Messianic era will ensure that all technological advances will proceed in a wise and productive fashion. What we do know for certain, however, is that Gd has promised us eternal life, and this prophecy will surely be fulfilled.