This story was shared by so many regular readers here that I have to talk about it, for they suspect - and I agree with them - that this story is fraught with long-term implications that can only gladden the frigid hearts of transhumanists, bent on their merger of man and machine to create New Transhumanist Man,. in this article from Nature by Davide Castelvecchi:
The article is clear enough on why the non-appearance silicon-based life forms, which would seem to be implied by some versions of evolutionary theory, do not appear naturally, but must be made to appear:
Silicon is all around us: after oxygen, it is the most abundant element in Earth’s crust. So why living beings never incorporate it into their biochemistry has long been a puzzle.
Now chemical engineers have discovered that living organisms can be nudged to bind carbon and silicon together. They showed that a natural enzyme from a bacterium that lives in hot springs can form C–Si bonds inside living Escherichia coli cells — when the cells are fed the right silicon-containing compounds. And by engineering the enzyme, the researchers created a biological catalyst that performs the reaction more efficiently than any artificial one.
The finding could help chemists to develop new pharmaceuticals and industrial catalysts — and perhaps explain why evolution has almost completely shunned silicon.
The actual technique to produce organic carbon-silicon bonding was as follows:
Researchers have learned to bind carbon and silicon together using artificial catalysts. But Frances Arnold, a chemical engineer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, wanted to test whether some of life’s enzymes could do that too, given the opportunity.
By scouring protein databases, she and her colleagues found a few dozen promising enzymes. After some screening, they settled on one from an extremophile bacterium that lives in Icelandic underwater hot springs, called Rhodothermus marinus. They synthesized the gene for this protein and inserted it into E. coli bacteria.
Their guess turned out to be correct: the enzyme could catalyse silicon–carbon bonding — if fed the right silicon-containing precursors. (The enzyme would not normally do this, because bacteria don’t naturally produce silicon-containing compounds). “It’s remarkable that nature is poised to do all sorts of wild things in the presence of this new manmade food,” Arnold says.
So what is to gladden the transhumanist here? Let us allow our minds to speculate freely. Transhumanists have long sought the merger of man and machine, and of course there are those who want to merge man and computers in a direct, cyber-organic union, and silicon is, of course, the basis for much current computer chip technology. Imagine now the fusion of this organic carbon-silicon technology with genetic modification and nanobots designed to produce organically-based "computer chips", and you get the idea. What has been done, in other words, is an essential step in the technology tree toward the transhumanist "vision" of cyber-human interfaces has taken a small and yet simultaneously massive leap forward. And like the GMO, scientists will press ahead with their techniques and technologies, and ignore the significant question of why evolution has not thus far actually taken this step. What do God, or nature, know, that we do not? Nevermind, all will be well; the Potion, Amulet, Talisman and Drug Administration have reassured us there's nothing at all to worry about; no long term environmental or human health consequences here.
We can go further in our wild octane speculations: imagine genetically modified GMOs, call them a "second generation" GMO, "GMO2.0", to include not only carbon-silicon bonded plants, but perhaps even a few nanobots designed to do precisely the above - namely, engineer those organ0-cyber chips - and voila! - one has the perfect vehicle to introduce the whole transhumanist agenda to people whether they like it and want it or not. A handy thing to have around, along with those transmissible vaccines we talked about a few days ago, if you're urging humanity towards "the singularity." "Eat your carrots Johnny and Susy; you'll be smarter and wiser and able to see infrared and ultraviolet in no time at all."
See you on the flip side...