Earlier I mentioned a paper by Lynn J. Rothschild entitled A powerful toolkit for synthetic biology: Over 3.8 billion years of evolution that recently appeared in the journal BioEssays. Rothschild’s paper mostly categorizes and explores “evolution’s toolkit as a way to point to potential approaches for synthetic biology.” As such, the majority of the paper describes mechanisms of evolutionary change as potential methods that might be coopted by synthetic engineers.
The combination of evolutionary with engineering principles will enhance synthetic biology. Conversely, synthetic biology has the potential to enrich evolutionary biology by explaining why some adaptive space is empty, on Earth or elsewhere. Synthetic biology, the design and construction of artificial biological systems, substitutes bio-engineering for evolution, which is seen as an obstacle. But because evolution has produced the complexity and diversity of life, it provides a proven toolkit of genetic materials and principles available to synthetic biology.
Yet I am struck by various themes, briefly raised, that seamlessly tie into the possibility that evolution itself has been engineered in some manner.