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Earth Biotech Science

If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We? 299

Posted by samzenpus
from the gone-for-a-reason dept.
retroworks writes "Rebecca J. Rosen interviews experts in this edition of The Atlantic, to ask about the ethics and wisdom of using cloning, backbreeding, or genome editing. Over 90% of species ever to exist on earth are no more. The article ponders the moral and environmental challenges of humans reintroducing species which humans made extinct."
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If Extinct Species Can Be Brought Back... Should We?

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  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lightknight (213164) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:09AM (#41187153) Homepage

    Wonderful ethical question, but if the human race is known for anything, its the non-subscription to the magazine which ponders over such things.

    Someone will attempt to bring them back, now argue about how it should be done.

    1.) Any species we bring back is going to share the Earth with us for the foreseeable future.
    2.) Humans tend not to mix well with other species unless it's already fairly capable on its own. That's why rats, cats, and dogs thrive, while wolves, various forms of trout, and spotted owls are getting kicked in the teeth.
    3.) Chances are they will end up in a zoo. That sucks. Safe for human beings, ease of observation, but it's like never being able to move out of your parent's house.
    4.) We have no idea if they can even eat / process the food currently available. Bringing back the equivalent of the panda bear or koala might be great for entertainment, but we know nothing about their habits.
    5.) The only species we are likely to bring back are those which we consider 'interesting.' So the slug-like Macedonian newt, which squirts pus out of its eyes, probably isn't going to make it (made up species).

    If we really want to bring them back, it's going to require like a dozen Earths, one for every few hundred million years. We only have one at the moment. Perhaps we should wait until time-travel is in vogue, thus saving us a lot of work.

  • by AntiBasic (83586) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:10AM (#41187155)

    If we exterminated a species, we have a moral duty to bring it back and eventually, reintroduce it to it's former natural habitat.

  • Obligatory Carlin? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xelios (822510) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:10AM (#41187159)
  • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nova77 (613150) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:13AM (#41187165)

    My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!

  • by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:17AM (#41187183)
    No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:28AM (#41187223)

    I guess it might be feasible to bring some species of Homo back to life if there is DNA of sufficient quality available. However, we can never reconstruct their culture. Cro-Magnon was biologically identical to current man, but it's society would probably be quite different and would be the more interesting part.

  • Re:That's easy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:47AM (#41187297)

    "My personal theory is that we killed all mammoths because they were delicious. Can't wait to taste one!"

    Which might actually be a decent reason to bring them back.

    More seriously: we have had bad enough experience with invasive species. Re-creating them, and re-introducing them, are two very different things.

    I don't see a lot of harm in the former, as long as precautions AND good isolation techniques are put in place. But I don't think, at our current level of technology, that the latter is even close to a good idea.

    Crichton's books were not anti-science; they were intended as warnings. We need to know a lot more before we attempt such things.

  • by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday August 31, 2012 @03:58AM (#41187339) Homepage Journal

    No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

    Mother Nature isn't some fucking primitive fertility godless, its a bunch of organisms living together. There is no conscious mind directing a divine order for things. If you want to being back something extinct, go do it. Don't give me this bullshit that 'it wasn't fit to survive'. We change the environment whenever we feel like it.

  • by Lotana (842533) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:15AM (#41187405)

    Is it even practical to bring back an extinct specie? I am wondering how many individuals with varied genetic code is required to avoid the issue of inbreeding.

    Lets say I found two perfect genetic samples: One male and one female. I placed them into my magical DNA-To-Fertile-Adult(tm) machine, so now have two organisms set to reproduce. But then we run into a problem: Even if those two have 30 offsprings any further mating will result in genetic deterioration due to inbreeding.

    So we need to have quite a bit more samples. What is a minimum population count that we need to hit in order to avoid this? Could we possibly have that many different samples of an extinct organism to fulfil such a quota?

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday August 31, 2012 @04:16AM (#41187417) Journal

    No, if we, as natural animals, cause the extinction of another species it is because it was unfit to survive and should be left extinct. Human beings are not outside nature and its methods of determining which species are worthy of survival.

    Tell that to the North Atlantic Cod
    Or the Southern Atlantic Jack Mackerel
    Or the Atlanto-Scandian Herring
    Or the California Sardine
    Or the Pacific Yellowtail Flounder
    Or about 20 other species of fish who have been driven to the brink of extinction by overfishing

    It's one thing to drive a species to extinction by accident, it's entirely another thing to do it on purpose, out of naked greed.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:27AM (#41187687)

    If we really want to bring them back, it's going to require like a dozen Earths, one for every few hundred million years. We only have one at the moment. Perhaps we should wait until time-travel is in vogue, thus saving us a lot of work.

    You didn't even have to RTFA... you only had to read the summary. The article is about "reintroducing species that humans made extinct".

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jandersen (462034) on Friday August 31, 2012 @05:30AM (#41187701)

    I think there are more fundamental problems: epi-genetics or genomics or whatever the term is now is a very major factor in what makes up the traits of a species - the same set of genes can be expressed in many ways depending on how they are regulated, so it may not be as simple as reconstructing most of the genes of a species; perhaps they need to be 'booted up' in the right way too?

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2012 @06:18AM (#41187917)

    Wonderful ethical question, but if the human race is known for anything, its the non-subscription to the magazine which ponders over such things.

    Someone will attempt to bring them back, now argue about how it should be done.

    1.) Any species we bring back is going to share the Earth with us for the foreseeable future.
    2.) Humans tend not to mix well with other species unless it's already fairly capable on its own. That's why rats, cats, and dogs thrive, while wolves, various forms of trout, and spotted owls are getting kicked in the teeth.
    3.) Chances are they will end up in a zoo. That sucks. Safe for human beings, ease of observation, but it's like never being able to move out of your parent's house.
    4.) We have no idea if they can even eat / process the food currently available. Bringing back the equivalent of the panda bear or koala might be great for entertainment, but we know nothing about their habits.
    5.) The only species we are likely to bring back are those which we consider 'interesting.' So the slug-like Macedonian newt, which squirts pus out of its eyes, probably isn't going to make it (made up species).

    If we really want to bring them back, it's going to require like a dozen Earths, one for every few hundred million years. We only have one at the moment. Perhaps we should wait until time-travel is in vogue, thus saving us a lot of work.

    Wolves and other predators are generally not having issues because the don't do well on their own, they have issues because the directly compete with humans, and they did not develop firearms. Wolves are among the most adaptable predators ever, but if people shoot them because of their fear or hate (due premature livestock harvesting). That's hardly a case for deficiency on the wolves' part and more a case for humanity's wanton destructive capacity.

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