I’m sorry to say that I’m somewhat behind the times when it comes to new discoveries in biology, so it was only today that I read about this: a laboratory in Australia successfully growing embryos of an extinct species of frog.
The team from the aptly named Lazarus project inserted the dead genetic material of the extinct amphibian into the donor eggs of another species of living frog, a process similar to the technique used to create the cloned sheep Dolly. The eggs continued to grow into three-day-old embryos, known as blastulas.
“This is the first time this technique has been achieved for an extinct species,” said one of the project scientists, conservation biologist Michael Mahony.
While the development is exciting scientifically, it is unfortunately impossible to mention reviving extinct species without most commentators likening it back to Jurassic Park, and the “cautionary tale” that it provided against doing this very thing. Now, leaving aside the silliness of taking cautionary advice from a work of fiction written by a man who thought that dinosaurs and grey goo nanites were clear and present dangers to Human civilization but that anthropogenic global warming was not, the question of whether we should restore extinct populations is an interesting one.
I am tentatively inclined to answer yes for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that almost all of those animals which we, as Humans, have even a mild chance of reviving are ones that were personally killed by us within the past few centuries. Now, in general I am opposed to systems of “geo-engineering” as a means of reducing environmental damage, as I think that the consequences are unforeseeable and potentially catastrophic*, but in my (admittedly inexpert) opinion, questions of bio-diversity are fundamentally different from questions of climate, because biodiversity takes millions of years to recover. And, as we Humans are responsible for these extinctions in the first place, and for the disruptions that they have caused, I think that we have a moral (and practical) responsibility to do what we can to correct this damage.
*And also, to a lesser extent, that they are a means of avoiding acknowledgment of the fundamental problems with consumerism.