Minimal genomes, maximal assumptions

This is another guest post by Massimiliano Simons who is a postdoctoral researcher at the department of philosophy and moral sciences at Ghent University. He is also a member of the Working Group on Philosophy of Technology (WGPT) at KU Leuven, Belgium. *** Ten years ago the J. Craig Venter Institute announced the birth of …

Synthetic biology, engineering biology and responsible innovation

Between about 2014 and 2018 I have been involved in the social and communications side of ‘synthetic biology’. I was especially interested in synthetic biology with relation to ‘responsible innovation’ or ‘responsible research and innovation’ or RRI (here are some blog posts). Since then other issues have pre-occupied my mind and I lost a bit …

Gene writing: Between art and nature

In the past, I have written a bit about genomics, synthetic biology and gene editing, from the perspective of language and culture. So, when Matthew Cobb alerted me to a new thing called ‘gene writing’ at the beginning of July, I pricked up my ears. I told myself that I should write a blog post …

Engineering biology? Sure! But which kind?

This is a guest post by Massimiliano Simons who is a postdoctoral researcher at the department of philosophy and moral sciences at Ghent University, Belgium. *** Biology is a mess, not only the natural processes out there but also the science in the lab. Every biological rule seems to have exceptions and all biological laboratories …

Metaphors, machines and the meaning of life

Machine metaphors are ubiquitous in biology, nowhere more so than in synthetic biology, a type of biology that is inspired by engineering and design. This has attracted the attention of metaphor analysts, but also of philosophers and ethicists. Various scholars, both from the humanities/social sciences and the life sciences have grappled with some of the …

New genetics and society: A retrospective

I am in a collecting mood at the moment. When I heard that an article (with Carmen McLeod and Rusi Jaspal) on faecal microbial transplants had finally been accepted by New Genetics and Society, I began to count back and realised I had published quite a few articles in this journal (mostly written in collaboration …

Why we should care about the language we use in science

This post first appeared in the ‘On Society’ blog at BioMed Central and is reposted here with permission. *** Brigitte Nerlich and Carmen McLeod at the Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Nottingham have given ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ a new twist, by focusing on responsible language use. As everybody knows by now, words matter in politics as …

Minimal biology

This morning (3rd November) I saw a tweet by @BrisSynBio announcing “Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology announced @BristolUni & @maxplanckpress partner to pursue game-changing research in the emerging field of #minimalbiology to address some of the most complex challenges in fundamental science”. I became curious and read the whole announcement, balking a bit at the pressreleasish …