Question 63: Does the first synthetic bacterium that scientists produced in Craig Venter Institute and its transfer to a bacterial cell of mycoplasma species have anything to do with creating something out of nothing? What is its place in Islam?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer: Craig Venter is the head of the team that showed the genetic array in man. He injected a DNA whose array he changed into a bacterium; and this array was synthesized in the form of a cell in the bacterium.

In fact, this technique is not new. Some viruses with tiny structures are parasites and they can live inside bacteria cells.  Viruses living inside bacteria are called phage. The single-arrayed DNA of the phage sticking to a bacterium cell is transferred to the bacterium cell. After the DNAs of the phage enter into the bacterium, the bacterium biosynthesis mechanism enters the service of the multiplication of the phage and the bacterium’s own chromosome and hence its DNA are destroyed. Certain phage enzymes are first produced by the infected bacteria; after that, phage DNAs and phage filling proteins are synthesized. Phage cover forms around the phages whose genetic structure is completed. Thus, a large number of phages, i.e. viruses, are formed in the bacterial cell. Then, the bacteria wall is softened and the bacteria are exploded; then, mature phages are released.

This event, which takes place in free nature, was also used in laboratory; genetic structures of some substances like insulin were injected into a bacterium and the synthesis of those substances were made in the past. It is understood that instead of the DNA of the virus, some arrays in some parts of the DNA are changed now and a DNA with new arrays is obtained. When that DNA with new arrays is injected into a bacterium, the genetic code of the bacterium is destroyed and that new DNA is synthesized. When the phage covers form around those DNAs, the bacterium cell is torn and new phages, i.e. viruses appear. Thus, viruses with new genetic arrays are obtained.

It is not creating a new living being but cloning a new living being. This study, which Craig Venter did, is a different form of cloning sheep. Another similar way of it is grafting watermelon onto a squash seedling and getting watermelon from a squash plant. Everything in the universe is under the control of Allah’s knowledge and will. With scientific studies, we try to explain and understand the laws and principles He imposed in the universe.

The question is about how this subject can be evaluated in terms of science and religion. The approach of science and the religion of Islam is not different in such issues. In other words, there is no conflict between Islam and science because Islam accepts the entire universe as a book, that is, the book of the universe written with 114 elements. Every spring season seems to be a page of this book; the centuries are like the fascicules of that book. Man is a word in this book. The subject of all sciences is this book of the universe. That is, the duty of sciences is to find and show the structures of all living and non-living beings that fill the realm with stones, soil, air and water, plants, animals and human beings, and the laws to which they are subject.

In a way, sciences interpret, that is, explain this book of the universe book. The existence of a high and deep knowledge, a broad understanding, a vast and infinite thought, a highly sensitive measure and planning, a very compassionate and artistic building are seen in the structure of each being and the laws to which each being is subject, from atoms to galaxies. This book of the universe, which is the work and art of Allah, make Him known.

Can the farmer who sows wheat in the field, waters and fertilizes it say, ‘I make this wheat grow, I give it life, and I develop and mature its cells’? If he says so, it is understood how stupid he is. It is Allah who gives life to that wheat grain and meets all needs of the cells. 

What the Craig Venter team does by cloning DNA is, in principle, like the sowing wheat in the field, watering and fertilizing it. It is Allah who gives life to the living being and who creates its cells. However, it requires a more technical and precise work.

The religion of Islam encourages study and research. It is emphasized in Islamic sources that the more improvement is made in science, that is, the more knowledge is obtained about the beings, the more Allah’s activities, wisdom and domination in the universe will be known, and hence the better He will be known.

What the religion of Islam does not accept and strongly rejects is attribution of the formation of beings to causes and nature, or to individuals, that is, excluding Allah.

Since the world is the world of testing, everything happens based on a cause. Some see that everything takes place with the knowledge, will and power of Allah in this universe behind the causes while others exclude a creator and accept the causes as real doers; they attribute events to chance and nature.

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