This superb article by the always-superb Natalie Angier looks at the big picture surrounding Dr. Craig Venter's announcement that his team has created a bacterium run by an artificial genome. That is, they did not build the whole bacterial cell from scratch, but they did remove the genome and replace it with one they had assembled in the lab, copying from a related bacterium, from chemical building blocks. The new genome immediately began to run the cell like its natural predecessor had. Angier reports the scientists did tinker with the genome to the point of writing scientific graffiti in it with encrypted messages, including Richard Fenyman's postulate that “What I cannot build, I cannot understand."
What Angier explains, though, is how far this still is from creating completely artificial life. A cell is not the seemingly roomy affair seen in textbook illustrations. It's jam-packed with complicated components, some of which we know how to make synthetically and some of which we're a long way off from understanding let alone building. So this a big (and controversial) step, but still only a step.