Team:INSA Toulouse/contenu/human practice/ethical aspects/place of synthetic biology



Ethical Aspects

The place of synthetic biology in the our scientific societies

To publish seems to be the landmark of science today. Pushed more and more by a demand of results, scientists have to bow down the politician speech in order to exist in their field. Similarly, any speech given by a synthetic biologist conforms to this communication particularity, which is a bit far from scientific standards. Moreover, in a way reminiscent of the analytical and organic chemistries in the last century, biology is currently slipping from a descriptive science to a constructive one. Synthetic biology is the cornerstone of the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy. That’s why communicate around this field is today speaking both science and economy. For example, when Craig Venter (an American biologist and entrepreneur) presented us the first living form able to reproduce itself with a genome entirely synthesized by a computer, we can ask ourselves whether it is just some ads to interest some providential investors, or it’s really what science needs to go further.

The differences of speeches between real actors and promoters in any science are not only true for synthetic biology. Such a situation is in fact a classic reality and is fully accepted in every scientific field. Also, we are not really surprised when lectures given by synthetic biologists do not reflect the exact reality we can observe in laboratory. Discussions are indeed particularly oriented in terms of design and standardization. For the science writer Roberta Kwok, the synthetic biologists are more do-it-yourself guys than real scientists, since they use cunning tricks to make their project works, a somewhat radically different reality than the one they present to general audience on public hearing. In thus, we can notice that people like Maureen O’Malley (from the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, Sydney) forged the term “kludging” as to present the way by which scientists work in synthetic biology.

However, these conceptions trying to show that synthetic biology would be some sort of makeshift job are not shared by all protagonists. Indeed, they appears to be quite insulting for some people who devoted themselves in understanding Life and the way to modify or improve it. Even if synthetic biology is not as perfect as theory, we can say that results are here. For many of scientists, this notion of “kludging” is more an oversimplification and bad vulgarization for general public. In this regard, if qualifying synthetic biology of makeshift job could have been true at its very beginning, now another level is reached in the laboratory, translate living forms into easier, more understandable, and handle assemblage of biobricks which would correspond to the discourse proposed by its promoters.

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