[ Wed. Nov. 17. 2010 ]

Dr. Craig Venter talks to Steve Kroft and takes him on a tour of his lab on "60 Minutes," Video [4]

(CBS) The microbiologist whose scientists have already mapped the human genome and created what he calls "the first synthetic species" says the next breakthrough could be a flu vaccine that takes hours rather than months to produce.

...KROFT: "There are a lot of people in this country who don't think that you ought to screw around with nature."

VENTER: "We don't have too many choices now. We are a society that is one hundred percent dependent on science. We're going to go up in our population in the next 40 years; we can't deal with the population we have without destroying our environment."

KROFT: "But aren't you playing God?"

VENTER: "We're not playing anything. We're understanding the rules of life."

KROFT: "But that's more than studying life, that's changing life".

VENTER: "Well, domesticating animals was changing life, domesticating corn. When you do cross-breeding of plants, you're doing this blind experiment where you're just mixing DNA of different types of cells and just seeing what comes out of it."

KROFT: "This is a little different though, this is another step, isn't it?"

VENTER: "Yeah, now we're doing it in a deliberate design fashion with tiny bacteria. I think it's much healthier to do it based on some knowledge and a better understanding of life than to do it blindly and randomly." .

KROFT: "You know, I've asked two or three times, 'Do you think you're playing God?' I mean, do you believe in God?"

VENTER: "No. I believe the universe is far more wonderful than just assuming it was made by some higher power. I think the fact that these cells are software-driven machines and that software is DNA and that truly the secret of life is writing software, is pretty miraculous. Just seeing that process in the simplest forms that we're just witnessing is pretty stunning."