Not only the public debate about science but even the way scientists
conceive their own work is to some extent determined by cultural images. In the case
of synthetic biology, literary figures like the Golem of Prague and its successors, such
as Frankenstein’s monster, seem to suggest themselves. This article reconstructs some
cognitive structures underlying the surface of metaphorical thinking and shows how
talking about synthetic biology as similar to Golem-making obscures important onto-
logical, pragmatic, and ethical differences.