Ethics v Science: Saving Species from Extinction

By PVM | Art of Happiness | 11 Nov 2020

The 2020 showed us how fragile the humanity is. The Covid-19 pandemic messed up with our lives and our perception of safety. Can this lead to our extinction?

The human race doesn't face extinction soon, however, 99.9% of all species that ever lived are extinct, and probably the human race will follow the pattern, inevitably heading for extinction. The question is "when?" rather than "if?" 

The humanity used cultural evolution to survive and reshape the environment instead of adapting to the environment. This adaptability can be our worst enemy, because sometimes changing things will change them for the worse and will create new dangers. We are the ones guilty for climate change, pollution, nuclear weapons, pandemics and probably we will be the ones which will be responsible for our own extinction. 0ac2bd996b78e860ed3fdd539582e085136cd88164919d851a0a17e92d33c663.jpeg

The evolution of science

To the above threats and gambles with the ecosystem, a new one has emerged - the de-extinction of long gone species. The de-extinction aims to create populations of healthy, genetically vibrant animals that can be released into the wild where they’ll be able to breed naturally and contribute positively to the environment. If this goes well and the science and technology will succeed, than we may have woolly mammoths in Siberia, or breathing Tasmanian tigers. The developments in cloning and gene-editing technology makes de-extinction look more likely than ever, however how ethical is to bring those species back the dead? How ethical is to play God? Will science become necromancy? 

There is a strong debate regarding the morality and consequence for science and playing God, therefore playing God will face theological and scientific challenges, because it involves the exercise great authority and power. The misuse of power and tampering with matters with which the human species should not meddle can be catastrophic for the whole ecosystem and make more harm than good. We had books and movies which showed us how things can go wrong, such as Frankenstein, the Jurassic World franchise, the Terminator saga, and many more. De-extinction is developing quickly and the first milestone was back in 2003 when European scientists resurrected the Pyrenean ibex, a mountain goat that had gone extinct. Sadly, the kid died a few minutes after she was born, so the poor ibex was not just the first animal to be brought back from extinction, but also the first to go extinct twice.  f012753d1f21e61c5e27a6246e5ab743f4f08d8393be7dd1beac3ddfe86cc5bf.jpeg

What will happen next?

In America, scientists are working on bringing back the passenger pigeon, while the UK researchers are considering whether or not to bring back the so-called ‘Penguin of the North’, the great auk. Meanwhile, in South Africa, scientists are trying to revive the quagga, a bizarre zebra-like creature with a stripeless back. The biggest challenge involves three separate teams, South Korea, Japan and US, racing  to bring back the iconic woolly mammoth. Even if the above projects will be successful, the animals will not be the same as the originals. The animals will have altered DNA, giving them the desired characteristics, such as an elephant with shaggy fur.

The reason of de-extinction will be to balance the nature and to provides a way to enhance biodiversity and help restore the health of ailing ecosystems. Every day, between 30 and 150 species disappear from the face of our planet, and studies reveal that extinction rates today are 1,000 times higher than they were during pre-human times. The human race is speeding up mass extinction, and de-extinction can be the way to undo some of that harm. Sadly, there are limitations for de-extinctions, as DNA disintegrates over time, meaning that we will never resurrect dinosaurs. As a key-study, there are only two northern white rhinos left alive on the planet, both of them female, both too old and too ill to breed naturally. De-extinction will aim to create create a single animal in the lab and then many years later, to release it in the wild. Until then, the northern white rhino is ‘functionally extinct’. ac771b1fcec1d6dc0b067cfcf0542a5816b2f64a3787ffbee3330c1a05f9eddb.jpeg

How ethical is to resurrect extinct animals?

Some will be against de-extinction because it feels unnatural, being scared of genetic modification and accuse scientists of playing God.  The Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul is feeding the critics by regularly producing cloned dogs for the Korean National Police, and cloning pet dogs for £65,000. The pet dog will be a doppelganger of the old pet, but will never be the same as even identical twins will develop different personalities and physical characteristics. Reproductive human cloning is illegal and unethical, and the process carries many risks. Personally I see the point of de-extinction, for the greater good and to balance an ecosystem we voluntary and willingly broke in pieces, however I will never agree with human cloning, even for body parts or organs. 


Links and referrals:

Will humans go extinct?

De-Extinction - Bringing animals back from the dead

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