Posted by: LucidMystery | March 1, 2014

And Poof! You’re No Longer Extinct!

I should be working, right now. I successfully defended my dissertation Monday (wee!) but I still have plenty o’edits before I can submit the final draft to the university. I can does it 😉

First though, this concept randomly popped back in my head: de-extinction. It’s a very Jurassic Park-like idea to bring back extinct species using the DNA of preserved specimens. Even though I read this story months ago, my head was about to explode with my own opinion. I can see the appeal. Many animals are gone forever purely due to human stupidity. Over-hunting, habitat loss/fragmentation, human persecution, depredation or resources loss from invasive species—there’s quite a list of dumb ways we’ve ruined the existence of wildlife. Still though…I don’t think I can get behind de-extinction. Besides the uber creepy factor, there’s a couple very good reasons that I am not ok at all with this.

1.) If we haven’t taken care of the reason a species went extinct in the first place, what is the point of bringing it back? Same concept as with reintroductions. You can reintroduce an animal into its former habitat; but if the habitat is still fragmented, if pollutants are still afoot, or human-introduced predators are still out and about, then someone is just wasting their money. I have a whole file full of failed reintroduction papers if anyone wants to read them.

2.) The article mentions this, but if we theoretically take away the consequences of extinction, what’s the motivation for preservation? Our society is becoming increasingly obsessed with avoiding the consequences of our actions, and this is just another way we could delude ourselves that our wasteful behavior doesn’t matter. Let’s work on saving what we have now! Pretty please 🙂

3.) Genetic diversity. You’re setting up an army of clones, so to speak, that can easily be wiped out again through some environmental stochasticity. One unfortunately-timed pathogen or drought could ruin decades of work and millions of dollars.

4.) Who’s going to pay for it? Good luck introducing that idea to the average tax payer, and that includes scientists like me. So what about companies? Say a mega corporation promises to pay for de-extinction if they accidentally kill off an amphibian species during the construction of a factory or its ensuing production practices. How many lawyers do you think they will hire to make sure they can “prove” that amphibian wasn’t destroyed because of them?

5.) I’ll lose the science crowd with this, but come on now…we cannot play God. Some species are gone forever, which is a devastating thought; but whether it was through human actions or other actions…the fact remains that they are gone and our feeble attempts to resuscitate the extinct only gives us more absurd reason to feel that we are masters of the universe. That’s a scary notion to have in our heads.

I should clarify that even though the article suggests this idea has a growing backing, it is by no means mainstream. Most of the scientific community is very leery of the idea…so that’s good at least. Shudder.

Ah well…back to my dissertation revisions…cranky rant over…Starbucks is tasty.

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