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Comptes Rendus Chimie
Volume 14, n° 4
pages 372-387 (avril 2011)
Doi : 10.1016/j.crci.2010.06.013
Received : 17 November 2009 ;  accepted : 22 June 2010
Synthetic biology, tinkering biology, and artificial biology. What are we learning?

Steven A. Benner a, , b , Zunyi Yang a, b , Fei Chen a, b
a Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, PO Box 13174, Gainesville, FL 32604, USA 
b The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology 

Corresponding author.

While chemical theory cannot yet support an engineering vision that allows molecules, DNA sequences, and proteins to be interchangeable parts in artificial constructs without “tinkering”, progress can be made in synthetic biology by pursuing challenges at the limits of existing theory. These force scientists across uncharted terrain where they must address unscripted problems where, if theory is inadequate, failure results. Thus, synthesis drives discovery and paradigm change in ways that analysis cannot. Further, if failures are analyzed, new theories emerge. Here, we illustrate this by synthesizing an artificial genetic system capable of Darwinian evolution, an ability theorized to be universal to life.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Keywords : Nucleic acids, Synthetic biology, Philosophy of science, Paleogenetics, Mars exploration, Tinkering, Biobricks

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