Over the last couple of years there has been discussion and tentative action to bring back an extinct animal known as the woolly mammoth. A conversation that seems to have been taken straight from a movie script like Jurassic Park, yet is instead our reality. No stars are here to save the day, just scientists claiming that by engaging in a process called de-extinction, they can save our entire environment. So what can possibly go wrong with such good intentions? In short, many say everything. Is this the proper use of funding sources for scientific research or are there legitimate ethical concerns?
Playing God or God-like particularly in the science community is something that can elicit pushback from those who question the morality of the issue at hand. In this scenario, de-extinction, the process of bringing back an extinct species, is at the crux of the debate. Some scientists may argue that the benefits of what we can learn from bringing back an extinct species far outweighs the many risks. They argue that in the age where the climate crisis is destroying our planet, bringing back some extinct animals can actually help this out of control trajectory. Scientists on the other side of this debate argue that the dangers are real. There can be many risks, including bringing back a species that is not used to this environment or the risk of activating extinct diseases that we are not equipped to handle in today’s modern times.
As with most new discoveries, there is a certain amount of skepticism to be expected. Every person’s good intentions can be undermined by those with more nefarious ones. There was recently a story of a scientist who generated a meatball using meat from a woolly mammoth. Why? Simply because they could. They may be able to demonstrate the useful significance this has on society, however, some may say it is wasteful behavior. Just because something is possible, does not always mean it should be done. Often mankind takes the liberty to experiment but runs the risks of doing so for intentions that can lead to doing more harm than good.
While we do not know where this debate will land, we do know that things like this should be public knowledge. Additionally, there should be more oversight from the science community to ensure ethical lines are respected. Bringing back species that were extinct can bring a level of unpredictability that no one is prepared for. No matter how much of a controlled environment scientists think they may have, some feel it is impossible to control the outcome when experimenting with unknown factors. Those same skeptics may believe that no matter what the good intentions are, it is virtually impossible to control the outcome of all life as we know it. As the character Dr. Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”