Team:CIDEB-UANL Mexico/HP/Philosophy


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Some philosophic questions

Synthetic Biology

The human has evolved in a way in which he chooses changing everything around him to make his living more comfortable. Medicines had helped people to avoid serious diseases, increase life expectancy and have a better living. Synthetic Biology is a science defined as “the use of living organisms by humans, [… it] manipulates the genes of organisms and inserts them into other organisms to acquire the desired trait, traditional biotechnology harnesses the potential of processes performed by living organisms”1. This science has provided a wider knowledge of the microorganisms present in the world. Some of these organisms are bacteria. The same bacteria that my team and I are working with in order to genetically modify it to quantify metals. A good aim, the same good aim researchers have when dealing with these microorganisms. Even though Synthetic Biology has been the answer for medical, environmental and industrial issues, it leads to philosophical discussion. To what extent can we modify organisms without affecting nature? Is there an order that we may be corrupting? Are we affecting evolution?

There are some philosophers that have approach the idea of a metaphysical order in nature that controls everything. Schopenhauer established this idea giving it the name of: the Will. This idea is what Kant called the “thing in itself”. It is used to think that humanity is the responsible of damaging the world but for Schopenhauer, it’s the other way around. The nature itself generates the evil in the way of its effect on the people because, in a cosmos where the Will reigns, there is no good or wrong denomination because there is no neutral parameter. The Will doesn’t have any criteria. Somehow it can be thought that this Will is the chaos itself and not an “order”. In this way, the nature is the “evil” because it does what it wants with us. The Will is the answer for our well, for our sickness, for the bacteria being harmful for us…but is the Will responsible of people working with microorganisms and changing its genetic material in order to transform them into a specific biological machine that responds to our needs? Are we evolving in nature or are we making the world evolve?

In some way we know the natural world by science, by a method that limits us to the physical world. Heraclitus calls Logos to what cannot be known by science, but most importantly, this Logos, he claims it to be the “ruler” of the cosmos. According to his philosophy, everything is in a constant change. Therefore, how can we be defined by something if we aren’t the same all the time? Who can judge? He sets a ruler (not the same theological of Descartes or Thomas de Aquino) like the nature itself being behind everything and keeping things together so that an order can be kept.

The Christian belief will surely set God as the dealer of everything. It is everything being everywhere, and it’s not just an unknown force, the Christians set it as a careful and lovely God. But, working with Biotechnology is questionable in this belief too. If God created everything, it can be thought that we are going against him. Although by manipulating bacteria we may be saving thousands of lives and we will be doing something good, a common good that I think God will not disapprove. In this way, we may be going against “destiny”; those thousands that the biological discoveries may save were maybe the ones who should die. If God decides who lives and who dies, it may seem we’re playing God’s role. Are we modifying the microorganisms? Or is it God in us doing so?

These are the same questions so far. Heraclitus may be from the Pre-Socratic era (544– 484 a. C), while the Christianity started much later with the twelve apostles, and in the 18th century Schopenhauer rose with its philosophy. The need to set an order has being there and it has been defined in many ways. If we, the humans, deal with natural living things by changing their “purpose” or their nature, according to Heraclitus, we would be just part of the change, a result of the Logos taking place and not a corruption factor in nature. According to God, we may think we are not harming the nature; we are just saving the people.

For Christians, destiny is already established; it can be considerer that all the actions are directed to what God determinate. According to the philosophers whom didn’t follow a theological path, there’s no destiny or something written, new conditions came out as new needs were presented. Following Heraclitus’ ideas, It can be taught that we are against the natural order by altering microorganism’s nature but, as Schopenhauer states in its philosophy, it can be considered that we are just being part of life. It is not me; it is the Will in me doing so. In this way, more questions arise… are we free?

Call it the Will, or Logos, or God, I think that the major problem isn’t the fact of altering the “natural order”, but to think that we, humans, researchers, Biotechnologists, iGEMERS, can actually be that order.



Gaarder, J. (2004). El mundo de sofía. (p. ). México: Grupo Patria Cultural.

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March 25, 2012


Back in the early nineties (yeah, i'm old) i was tripping ballz on acid one night with some friends.

class="date"> March 26, 2012

Headline II

At some point one of us got the brilliant idea to test out our clairvoyant abilities under the influence and we set up a nifty experiment where one of us would take a random card out of a playing deck and would try to 'send' the card telepathically to one of the others. When me and my best friend at the time were up, I ended up calling the exact card three times in a row.

March 27, 2012

Headline III

Pretty much left the room speechless. The weird thing is, when we talked about it later on we both sort of knew beforehand we could do this and couldn't stop smiling during the whole ordeal.

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