I recently asked the question on Facebook whether we should resurrect currently extinct species. With a varied number of responses I thought I would give this a little more thought. The 60th anniversary of the unraveling of DNA was recently marked, which is what sparked the question.
Now some people said that DNA degrades over time so for the sake of this Blog, lets assume resurrection is possible. For the record, some scientists claim that it is possible. De-extinction has been in the works for more than a decade, basically ever since Dolly the Sheep demonstrated in 1996 that mammals could be cloned from cells in a lab dish. Spanish and French scientists worked for years on an effort to bring the Pyrenean ibex back from extinction, by cloning cells that had been preserved from the last known animal of the species. They succeeded only in producing a deformed kid that died 10 minutes after birth.
One of my Facebook Friends (Rebecca Allen) made an interesting observation re Resurrection and Evolution:
I think it is laughable that these same scientists believe in evolution. Why would you want to ‘bring back’ a weak species. Obviously it was weak since it did not evolve to survive the changing environment. Evolution relies on survival of the fittest and natural selection. So these scientists are in fact trying to go against their evolutionistic creed.
In reply Zoe Cornish had a valid point
Not all animals are extinct because they are weak or didn’t evolve. We as a race are pretty good at screwing things up and pushing animals and plants right to the edge and then a little bit more until they are all finally gone. Look at all the animals we have pushed to threatened just in my life time!! I’m just saying I’m sure my kids will miss out on seeing some animals that I saw live and that’s sad.
Instead of spending time working out how to bring them back how about all our smart people work out how to stop idiot humans destroying them in the first place. I’m sick of hearing about science finding new crap in space when we can’t even work out how to look after the stuff in our backyard. Yay we found new planets that could support life. Now we just need to work out how to get there and ruin that too!
Cheers to anyone who read it all.
So here are some of my meditations on the topic.
Firstly we shouldn’t resurrect animals that we haven’t made extinct. This way we avoid a rerun of Jurassic Park. If we have made them extinct, then if science allows us to undo the damage that was done by us, then maybe we should take the opportunity. Wouldn’t it be great to see the Tasmanian Tiger back in its natural habitat.
A consideration in the negative is what impact would the reintroduction of species have on the current environment. Lets say the Tasmanian Tiger was reintroduced into the Tasmanian wilderness, does this represent an ecological disaster to an environment that has adjusted and accommodated life post the Tiger. In other words, do we kill off another species as we reintroduce a previously extinct one.
Another significant issue for the negative is that resurrected species could carry retroviruses or pathogens that the world no longer has and the process could potentially resurrect these as well.
A moral consideration is –Is this playing God? From a theological position – are scientists going too far if they resurrect a species? Along this moral line is – where do you then draw the line? Should we then resurrect extinct people groups? What about couples who cant have babies naturally, should we use the mother’s DNA to bring forth a baby? As a pastor I am strongly against cloning of humans!
Another question would be How healthy would a resurrected animal be? We all remember Dolly the sheep –who was a clone and who died prematurely. The story I shared at the start of this blog where an attempt to bring back an extinct animal created a monster that lived for 10 minutes. This is not fair to the animal.
A blog I read on the topic made this suggestion as a negative alone the lines of a Political reason. De-extinction may change priorities in other fields of science, such as medical research and the conservation of currently endangered species. I think this is a valid point.
Then there is an assumption that if a species is resurrected that it will behave the way it did when it was previously alive. As this is an unchartered area – we have no scientific data to base this assumption on. So this presents a significant risk.
On the positive side, In another Blog, I read the following quote:– In “What If Extinction Is Not Forever?” Greely lays out potential benefits of de-extinction, from creating new scientific knowledge to restoring lost ecosystems. But the biggest benefit, Greely believes, is the “wonder” factor.
“It would certainly be cool to see a living saber-toothed cat,” Greely said. “‘Wonder’ may not seem like a substantive benefit, but a lot of science – such as the Mars rover – is done because of it.”
In conclusion, there are positives and negatives around the ethics of resurrecting extinct species. I am leaning toward the negative side as I think there are significant unanswered questions. However I do think there are some great positives too, so could almost conclude I am on the fence on this one.
Where do you stand?
Acknowledging the Blogs I quoted from