The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

Within a few decades, scientists may be able to bring back the Dodo bird from extinction, a possibility that raises a host of ethical questions, says Stanford law Professor Hank Greely.

Twenty years after the release of Jurassic Park, the dream of bringing back the dinosaurs remains science fiction. But scientists predict that within 15 years they will be able to revive some more recently extinct species, such as the dodo or the passenger pigeon, raising the question of whether or not they should -- just because they can. In the April 5 issue of Science, Stanford law Professor Hank Greely identifies the ethical landmines of this new concept of de-extinction. "I view this piece as the first framing of the issues," said Greely, director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences. "I don't think it's the end of the story, rather I think it's the start of a discussion about how we should deal with de-extinction." In "What If Extinction Is Not Forever?" Greely lays out potential benefits of de-extinction, from creating new scientific knowledge to restoring lost ecosystems. But the biggest benefit, Greely believes, is the "wonder" factor. "It would certainly be cool to see a living saber-toothed cat," Greely said. "'Wonder' may not seem like a substantive benefit, but a lot of science --such as the Mars rover -- is done because of it."

Source: Science Daily
Images: Dodo, mammoth, argentinosaurus

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