To Be or Not To Be: De-extinction

There has been a lot of talk lately surrounding the concept of ‘de-extinction’, or resurrecting extinct species. However, before passing any judgement on the matter, it is important to fully understand the topic. Many people have written about it, so I’ll let you read what the experts have to say.

Stewart Brand gave a TED talk on de-extinction, and there was an entire TEDx conference: TEDxDeExtinction.

Alex Dainis has a great video on the topic at Bite Sci-zed.

The Brain Scoop has two videos on de-extinction: Part I and Part II.

Hannah Waters has an interesting take on the topic, and so does Carl Zimmer.

The editors at Scientific American feel very strongly about de-extinction.

Extinct Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) at Cincinnati Zoo by Ltshears

Regardless of your stance on de-extinction, it raises a lot of questions. Do humans have a moral obligation to resurrect species that died out under our watch or by our hand? Should we instead be focusing on species that are endangered in hopes of saving them from a similar fate? Also, should we be focusing our efforts on ‘warm fuzzy’ big name creatures, such as mammoths and tasmanian tigers, or smaller animals, such as reptiles and amphibians? Should we try to resurrect plants and invertebrates as well? Where is the line?

De-extinction does raise some valid points. It is a good idea to preserve the DNA from living species, particularly endangered species, to ensure genetic diversity. It is much easier to get people excited about resurrecting extinct species than protecting living species that are dying out. All in all, de-extinction is in its infancy and scientists are still debating its ethical and ecological impacts. It is vital to understand how such a dramatic idea could impact the world we live in. The Earth is a living, changing planet and its ecosystems are continuously changing. And remember: science is a powerful tool, so use it wisely.


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