J. Craig Venter was born in Salt Lake City, Utah–the global center of Mormonism. His father was an excommunicated Mormon who had drank and smoked himself to death by the age of 59.
As is the case with most scientists, Venter is an atheist. When asked by “60 Minutes” interviewer Steve Kroft if he believed in God, Venter quickly replied:
No. I believe that the universe is far more wonderful than just assuming it was made by some higher power.
Venter has a habit of calling DNA the “software of life.” And as the first scientist to actually create a living organism out of a computer-generated genetic design, it’s not surprising. He just considers himself a software writer.
Regarding an afterlife, Venter has said:
We have one chance to live [life] and to contribute to the future of society and the future of life. The only ‘afterlife’ is what other people remember of you.
Politically, Venter is most concerned with getting his research either funded or past government regulators. And with this much more likely with a Democrat in the White House, we can assume he supports that party more than the Republicans. We all remember the dark days of the Bush era when stem cell research was illegal.
However, even President Obama launched a Bioethics commission investigation into Venter and his research after he synthetically created life and Venter did admit that it could be dangerous if taken into the wrong hands. In the end, the Obama administration and Venter have been working together to come up with an ethical framework for this type of science and Venter applauded the commission for its open-mindedness and wisdom.
A man like Venter seems to have a political/societal view that transcends party politics. His work is for the betterment of society and the future of humanity. He regularly cites the fact that there will be close to 9 billion people in the world in less than 50 years and that we are having trouble feeding the 6 billion currently here, saying:
We are a society that is 100% 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.
Much of his work involves genetically engineering algae to create a substance that can be refined into gasoline in hopes of addressing the energy crisis. He says:
I consider myself fundamentally more of an environmentalist than many of these environmental groups. We have to come up with new sources of food, new sources of water, new sources of energy. Trying to ignore leading-edge science and technology as a means of getting there is an ostrich approach of burying your head in the sand.