Is de-extinction a good idea?

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Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by Eman on Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:08 pm

Is de-extinction a good idea?

The possibility of bringing back extinct life has long held a certain fascination for people. How many of us saw Jurassic Park and wondered if, one day, it would really be possible to bring species back from the dead? While we'll never resurrect the dinosaurs, technology is reaching the point where we can soon bring back some of the species that went extinct within the past few tens of thousands of years. But should we?

Though dinosaurs are absent (we have none of their DNA to work with), the list of candidates for de-extinction does include some iconic species. Among more unknown species like the Cuban red macaw, passenger pigeon and Xerces blue butterfly are famous beasts like the woolly mammoth, sabre-tooth cat and the Tasmanian tiger (or thylacine).

Proponents state there are great benefits to de-extinction. They argue it will restore diminished ecosystems and help recreate fertile environments such as the "Mammoth steppes" of Siberia. The techniques developed for de-extinction will also aid the conservation of endangered species. As well as this, they argue we have a moral duty to bring species back if we can - especially if we helped drive them extinct.

However, others have severe concerns. De-extinction could take emphasis off conservation, depriving endangered species of much-needed attention. The moral argument might make sense, but as Brian Switek argues we could be repeating our mistakes in bringing a species back without thinking about its future. Another issue is where these animals are going to live, as well as how we will protect them. There may be little sense trying to bring back mammoths when we're failing to protect the elephant species we already have.

Photo credit: Jonathan S. Blair/National Geographic.

This is only a brief summing up on some of the arguments. The sources and further readings are essential to understand the arguments of both sides:

Extinct Species that could be brought back: http://bit.ly/1076Tjh

The Case For Revival: http://bit.ly/Wx0xtJ

The Promises and Pitfalls of Resurrection Ecology: http://bit.ly/WR58YK

Bringing Them Back to Life - Is It A Good Idea? http://bit.ly/1076c9V

Why De-Extinction is a Stupid Idea: http://bit.ly/YlSPyF

Will we ever bring back the woolly mammoth? http://bit.ly/Wx1p1m

Bring Back the Shasta Ground Sloth: http://bit.ly/YjB3PL
I think it's a cool idea, especially when you think of all the extinct animals that are only gone because of the presence of humans, but if we do it, it should be done carefully and gradually.

What does the goallegacy community think? Are you for or against de-extinction? hmm

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by CBarca on Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:58 am

How do you bring back these animals and put them back into the wild without then destroying the habitat the animals there are living in?

These animals have adapted to the changes without this extinct animal...if it just comes back, all of a sudden you've got another change in environment the animals that have adapted need to overcome.

And sometimes, they can't do it.

I can't see how this is possible without disrupting the equilibrium of the habitats these animals live in. That's assuming the animals we bring back even have a habitat to live in (mammoths, sabertooth cats seem, and I might be wrong here, like they have habitats that are long gone now).

This seems like trying to correct something we've wronged, when really we're just making the same mistake again.

I certainly think it's a badass idea though and how amazing would it be to see a real live mammoth! What a sight.

Anyway, I wouldn't say I'm for or against it, especially since I just read your quote and one of the articles and I'm not well versed enough in the material, but I don't see where it's plausible. Way too many problems that would arise imo. I hope I'm wrong, though.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by Jack Daniels on Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:26 am

No dinosaur no party..

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by free_cat on Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:08 am

It would be awesome to clone a mammoth.
A Neanderthal could also be cloned, but in this case I don't know if that would be OK ethically, as a Nenadertal is a kind of human too.
Although once he is born, he would probably prefer to live, so making him alife in the first place, doesn't seem bad. However, psicologically can be pretty bad to know you are the only one of your species.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by free_cat on Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:16 am

Woah, just read the National Geographic article. It would be just awesome to bring back Moas and wooly rinos.
I've always wanted to see a living Moa and Mammoth.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by BarcaKizz on Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:45 am

Its a really interesting idea and while its a very weird/artificial thing I think if we have researched the technology enough and really studied the ramifications of what we are doing it could work.

I think the most likely to be the first thing we bring back is the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) in Australia (Tasmania). And that would be pretty cool for us.

Why? Firstly its one of the most recently extinct animals worldwide (1935 or something). It wasn't really forced into death by anything other than hunting because farmers didn't want them eating their animals. The ecosystem in Tasmania is pretty much unchanged, and while I'm no expert I think a reintroduction would not imbalance anything. They'd feed off predominantly introduced pests like rabbits and rats as well as roos etc.

Finally, they actually have a preserved Thylacine foetus which they've pretty much been waiting to use for this exact purpose. I'm not sure whether they have such extensive DNA samples for many other animals.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by The Black Sheep on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:02 am

Personally against this as it comes across to me as humans playing the role of god. We must allow the universe to takes its natural course and this to me is not right. Keep in mind that I have a soft spot in my heart for animals, but I would feel the same way about bring back lost loved ones.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by free_cat on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:05 am

ranDOM 10 wrote:Personally against this as it comes across to me as humans playing the role of god. We must allow the universe to takes its natural course and this to me is not right. Keep in mind that I have a soft spot in my heart for animals, but I would feel the same way about bring back lost loved ones.

Considering most of these animals went extinct because us, that kinda contradicts your "playing at God" argument, doesn't it? I mean, getting them alive again would just be undoing ourselves playing at god.

Probably, many of them it's just not feasible to reintroduce them as wildlife, but it would be great for scientific and enterteinmanet purposes to bring back all of them to life.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by The Black Sheep on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:14 am

Ehh, I disagree. Sure these animals went extinct because of us, but that was due to neglect and hunters. That comes down to ignorance and such, not people actually going out with the intent to wipe out these species. Could we really study and anticipate all of the ramifications that could come from this? Humans are playing god everyday and that is one of the reasons our world is deteriorating before our eyes. Are we really in any position to bring back animals that have been extinct. While I am not a big fan of Darwinism is this day and age, is that not an example of what has happened to these animals?

Do you think we should go back and undo all of our past wrongs?

Edit: Rushed that post out as I am getting ready for work.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by free_cat on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:24 am

ranDOM 10 wrote:Ehh, I disagree. Sure these animals went extinct because of us, but that was due to neglect and hunters. That comes down to ignorance and such, not people actually going out with the intent to wipe out these species. Could we really study and anticipate all of the ramifications that could come from this? Humans are playing god everyday and that is one of the reasons our world is deteriorating before our eyes. Are we really in any position to bring back animals that have been extinct. While I am not a big fan of Darwinism is this day and age, is that not an example of what has happened to these animals?

Do you think we should go back and undo all of our past wrongs?

Edit: Rushed that post out as I am getting ready for work.

I think that if the extinction is recent, caused almost single handedly by humans and the habitat of the animal is still in place, then reintroduction is a good idea. The tiger of tasmania for instance.

The Dodo or the Moa, while they are also recent extinctions and caused by humans, would probably be too much of a cost to reintroduce since predators brought in their habitats would kill them easily again (dogs etc).

Since I don't believe in God, I don't think we can play at it. I don't think there's anything ethically wrong in reintroducing a species if it's reasonably easy and doesn't screw current enviroment too much.
There are only ethical issues about bringing back other human species, like Neandertals (which I read are being considered for clonation).

Finally, "Darwinism" as you mention it, it's not the survival of the strong as you hint. It's a bigger theory of evolution that has been adapted time and again to new findings, so it's not something you can be a fan or not a fan.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by The Black Sheep on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:36 am

If you do not believe in god, than we can call it interfering with the universe, nature or the intelligent design. You seem to have an issue with humans playing a role in the extinction of these animals (which I do as well), but you are fine with us bringing them back. But who is to say that the same pattern will not repeat? And in my opinion that would be quite similar to a form of torture.

Edit: That post was extremely rushed, but you are clearly more educated/knowledgable in the evolutionary science field, so I am definitely interested in your opinions.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by free_cat on Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:02 pm

ranDOM 10 wrote:If you do not believe in god, than we can call it interfering with the universe, nature or the intelligent design. You seem to have an issue with humans playing a role in the extinction of these animals (which I do as well), but you are fine with us bringing them back. But who is to say that the same pattern will not repeat? And in my opinion that would be quite similar to a form of torture.

Edit: That post was extremely rushed, but you are clearly more educated/knowledgable in the evolutionary science field, so I am definitely interested in your opinions.

Everything we do interferes with the universe and nature. That can't stop our path to progress as a species. Bringing back a species to life would be a scientific achievement of great importance. Also, I don't think bringing back a species back to life to later dissappear again is a torture, it's the animal individuals that suffer, not the species as a whole.

The intelligent design notion, obiously as a non-believer I also don't believe in it. Also, I think there are enough scientific evidence to disregard it.

On darwinism, I think that sometime people thinks on evolution like it's a moral code: the strong has to impose itself on the small. While it doesn't have any of these connotations. Darwin proposed for the first time a coherent mechanism of evolution based on natural selection and gradual evolution: those individuals in a species with traits that favoured their survival are more likely to survive and reproduce, hence their species evolve towards those traits. It doesn't necessarily mean that when there's a stronger fish, he'll go and eat all the weaker fishes. Also, in many flaws or footnotes have been found since the original evolution theory that has been updated (like sexual selection, symbiotic origin of cells, gene transfers...). You can't be a fan or not a fan of the theory of evolution. But you could study it and if you think it has a flow, research and prove with evidences that flaw. The theory would then be corrected and adjusted, improving our knoweledge: the beauty of science.

We, as humans, are still subject to evolution and in thousands of years our species will be different than we are now. But we have the ability to alter the enviroment like none other animal has ever had. Hence, our relations with other species fall completely outside the theory of evolution in the sense that if a species dissappears for our actions, that can't be considered natural selection in my view, hence not "darwinism" either.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by RealGunner on Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:44 pm

@free_cat wrote:

Probably, many of them it's just not feasible to reintroduce them as wildlife, but it would be great for scientific and enterteinmanet purposes to bring back all of them to life.

So you want them back to use them as laboratory rats and entertainment for your own pleasure...

Great.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by The Black Sheep on Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:51 pm

You beat me to it, RG.

I get your point, but it seems you are thinking more along the lines of scientific achievement, while completely disregarding animals and their feelings. If we bring them back only to have them go extinct again, that would only prove that they were better left extinct, no? Science is a beautiful thing, I will give you that, but we should be careful about how far we take it. Technology has definitely advanced far too much in my opinion and it is definitely hindering us as humans, e.g., how many phone numbers did you have memorized as a child? How many numbers do you know off the top of your head now? Limitations and moderation are very important in life and we should be cautious about crossing certain lines.

Animals may not communicate like us, but they most certainly have feelings. Can we really account for everything that will come into play once we begin this process? It is clear to me that we are taking different practices into account, but you seem very focused on the scientific side of things and that seems to be hindering your ability to concentrate on other important factors. I have developed a respect for all principles and we should do our best to value them as equally as possible (not always the easiest thing to do). Do you really think it is fair to put the animals through this in the name of science? That seems a bit sadistic to me.



Last edited by ranDOM 10 on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:13 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by BarrileteCosmico on Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:13 pm

I can see the argument being made for species we have killed off. Why not bring them back to life? It's our fault anyway.

But if they're brought back to life just to be on museums what's the point? the mammoths should be sent to siberia to roam free. Is this likely to happen?

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by EarlyPrototype on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:47 pm

@CBarca wrote:How do you bring back these animals and put them back into the wild without then destroying the habitat the animals there are living in?

These animals have adapted to the changes without this extinct animal...if it just comes back, all of a sudden you've got another change in environment the animals that have adapted need to overcome.

And sometimes, they can't do it.

I can't see how this is possible without disrupting the equilibrium of the habitats these animals live in. That's assuming the animals we bring back even have a habitat to live in (mammoths, sabertooth cats seem, and I might be wrong here, like they have habitats that are long gone now).

This seems like trying to correct something we've wronged, when really we're just making the same mistake again.

I certainly think it's a badass idea though and how amazing would it be to see a real live mammoth! What a sight.

Anyway, I wouldn't say I'm for or against it, especially since I just read your quote and one of the articles and I'm not well versed enough in the material, but I don't see where it's plausible. Way too many problems that would arise imo. I hope I'm wrong, though.

+1

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by Eman on Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:10 am

ranDOM 10 wrote:I get your point, but it seems you are thinking more along the lines of scientific achievement, while completely disregarding animals and their feelings. If we bring them back only to have them go extinct again, that would only prove that they were better left extinct, no?
Perhaps, but I don't think the plan is to bring back any of the animals that would just die out anyway. Those that would be brought back would have it done gradually and eased into safe environments where they could live in peace. The specific species that the scientists are most interested in are the ones that would have the best chances at survival, and a few of them could very well benefit the environments which have grown worse in their absences.

I guess the main point that I'm disagreeing with is the concept that the animals would suffer. In no way would all of the animals be guaranteed to suffer - I mean, they wouldn't even exist if we don't bring them back and if we do, at least in the short-term, they would live protected lives full of all the things they need to survive, and if it just so happened that we couldn't bring an entire race back in the current landscape of the world, then they would die out early due to natural causes. Is the chance that bringing them life could result in death anyway so bad that we won't even try to return them to life if the signs that we can find suggest we can probably do it successfully?

There are things that could go wrong if not done responsibly, but I wouldn't condemn some of these species to extinction, particularly if we're the only reason they are gone. I believe we have a moral duty. It's our advanced technology that killed many of them, so why not use further advances to bring them back? We already used innovation to put ourselves ahead of other species and cause them so much harm, so we've already played god - why not play god for a bit longer and clean up the wreckage we left behind? Innovation has done some bad things but it has also brought our race to the point where we can now do something about all the terrible things we've done - why stop now when leaving things the way they are will just send us further downhill? Plus, if this technology could be advanced even further, it could be used to repopulate certain species that are dying out right now purely due to human-related complications, like the poaching that is bound to wipe out tigers, rhinos and elephants within our life-time, despite all of these species being under no danger if we didn't exist (although obviously the main goal there should be to make the poaching stop first).

I'm not advocating going 'Jurassic Park' with it and bringing them back just for our own personal gain, but I think not giving them a new chance at life if our best and brightest believe we are capable of doing it is a step in the wrong direction.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by BarcaKizz on Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:33 am

Yeah I don't get the idea that the animals would suffer...

Firstly, they would only do it if they were 100% sure of success in creating one and 100% sure they could either re-introduce it into the wild or give it a peaceful life in some sort of wildlife centre.

Secondly, if natural breeding doesn't work and they just die out... then how is that suffering? We all die...

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by CBarca on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:15 am

If they can do it without disturbing the environment and be successful in creating one, I support it 100%.

I do voice my concerns over the ridiculous amount of problems presented with both of those. But, if possible, I see nothing wrong with it personally.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by Tomwin Lannister on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:58 am

Well if they can do it and introduce the animals back into the eco-system then this would be wonderful. I understand Dom's ethical views but to me, so long as the animals aren't used as lab rats and left to be then it's fine by me.

Humans have wiped out plenty of animals whether it be hunters or whatever else the fact is we've done wrong and re-introducing them is a step in the right direction. In my opinion anyway.

I would travel to see a mammoth, that would be a life memory to behold :bow:

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by The Black Sheep on Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:06 am

I was just raising a few questions, not making any statements, guys. I would be all for this if we could guarantee these animals would be given a proper home/environment, but I fail to see how that is a possibility if we already have other animals who are on the verge of extinction.

@BarcaKizz wrote:Yeah I don't get the idea that the animals would suffer...

Firstly, they would only do it if they were 100% sure of success in creating one and 100% sure they could either re-introduce it into the wild or give it a peaceful life in some sort of wildlife centre.

Secondly, if natural breeding doesn't work and they just die out... then how is that suffering? We all die...

Suffering in a sense that we would be bringing back animals in a situation where they are set up for failure. Sure we all die, but would you have any interest in being revived only to be put in a situation where you will suffer and die? Is there any way to be 100 percent sure and how do you know that these circumstances would be met? It just seems that we are putting a lot of blind faith into these scientists and I still fail to see how this de-extinction process can be guaranteed in anyway (making something out of nothing would have to involve some type of trail and error, no?)

A quote from one of the articles...

"So why do I feel this idea is a damp squib instead of the tsunami of awe Sinclair experienced? Let’s take a look at the first of the proposed candidates for resurrection: the Passenger pigeon. It’s an obvious species for the Revive and Restore project to showcase, given that it is an American bird, instantly familiar, and its reduction from unimaginably large flocks (a single nesting site could comprise over 100 million birds) to complete extinction in the space of a century is a powerful motif for man’s environmental destruction. However, the restitution of the Passenger pigeon demands many more questions than cloning alone can answer.

To start with, remember those hundred-million-strong flocks of pigeons? That wasn’t just abundance. That was their survival strategy. Passenger pigeons were probably the most socially-gregarious bird in known history. They overwhelmed their predators with sheer numbers. Nothing could kill all of them – well, except humans, who put a big dent in their numbers. Big enough that the system became unstable, and the birds began to die out. Long before the last one was killed, the passenger pigeon was already in terminal decline. To pull a handy quote from Wikipedia:

Naturalist Paul R. Ehrlich wrote that its extinction “illustrates a very important principle of conservation biology: it is not always necessary to kill the last pair of a species to force it to extinction”.

Turn that phrase around and you’ll see that the ability to clone two birds in a lab does not make a species un-extinct. And to matters worse, even breeding passenger pigeons in captivity is not a new idea. Attempts during the 20th century failed because – surprise – the birds will only reproduce in large flocks where they feel safe. So you better be prepared to clone a few thousand. Did I mention that Dolly the sheep took several hundred attempts and we’ve not improved or cloning success rate much since?

In fairness, the Revive and Restore page asks these questions. The problem is, it doesn’t answer them. They just sit on the page, as if doffing a cap to the fundamental flaws in their plan is the same as addressing them.

But why let technical barriers stop us? If we threw up our hands at every technical challenge we’d never have got out of the caves. Instead let’s think about what we could do with a De-Extinction box: key in a piece of DNA, and out pops an animal. Auroch, Tasmanian tiger, tarpan, mammoth. Now what? Where are you going to put these animals? The forests that once nested billions of passenger pigeon are now shopping malls and cornfields. The grassland plains that the auroch called home, that once stretched from Portugal to the Pacific ocean, are nothing but tiny parcels of farmland marked out in fence and wire.

And therein lies the rub. The environment wasn’t damaged by the loss of the auroch. The auroch was lost by damage to the environment. The overwhelming driving force for extinction events is habitat loss. Extinction is a symptom of wider environment degradation, and the ability to resurrect species does nothing to counter that.

“Conservation” is an awkward term, because it evokes two daft ideas. One, that natural environments have some kind of pre-human Eden state, which ought to be maintained (and even preserved in the face of non-human impacts).The obsession with restoring lost species is a hallmark of this conservation attitude. But animals aren’t puzzle pieces you can slot back into the environment – the world has changed, and there’s often no room left for that animal.

Secondly, this form of conservation fantasizes that human impacts on environments move them away from a “natural” state. There is no human versus natural environment, there is only the environment. When human activity impacts on an environment, it’s rare that the humans living there are willing to pack up and leave in order to let it return to its previous state. We are the dominant species on the planet. We are going to exploit every bit of it we can. Nothing will ever change that, but we can choose what kind of world we want to live in. This means that conservation will have to be about balancing competing demands on an environment – both human and non-human. One of the criteria for the Revive and Restore selection process is that species ”should be able to take up their old ecological role in their old habitat”. It may well be true that some animals and humans simply cannot live side by side, and we need to accept that."

That is one of the concerns I had even before reading this piece. Cloning does not seem to be an exact science and that process seems unethical to me. As a person who respects animals I understand the want to bring extinct animals back, this process just seems cruel.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the world already overpopulated (even more so than when these animals went extinct). We have only grown in numbers since then, so why is there this assumption that we can make room for more animals when the population of people who caused their extinction has increased. I love animals as much as the next people, so forgive me if I am concerned with their well being. This is in no way an exact science and that to me makes this procedure inhumane.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by BarcaKizz on Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:48 am

But you are talking as if the species has feelings as a whole. Each individual animal won't suffer any more than other animals on the planet. And they aren't aware that they are 'experiments' so they don't have to deal with that weighing on their 'conscience'. I don't think you'll find any depressed Tasmanian Tigers pondering the significance of their existence...

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by free_cat on Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:34 am

@RealGunner wrote:
@free_cat wrote:

Probably, many of them it's just not feasible to reintroduce them as wildlife, but it would be great for scientific and enterteinmanet purposes to bring back all of them to life.

So you want them back to use them as laboratory rats and entertainment for your own pleasure...

Great.

Partly yes. Wouldn't just be amazing to go to Russia and see some mammoths in a natural reserve? Lab rats they wouldn't be, the process of bringing them back to life it's enough experimentation.

ranDOM 10 wrote:You beat me to it, RG.

I get your point, but it seems you are thinking more along the lines of scientific achievement, while completely disregarding animals and their feelings. If we bring them back only to have them go extinct again, that would only prove that they were better left extinct, no? Science is a beautiful thing, I will give you that, but we should be careful about how far we take it. Technology has definitely advanced far too much in my opinion and it is definitely hindering us as humans, e.g., how many phone numbers did you have memorized as a child? How many numbers do you know off the top of your head now? Limitations and moderation are very important in life and we should be cautious about crossing certain lines.

Animals may not communicate like us, but they most certainly have feelings. Can we really account for everything that will come into play once we begin this process? It is clear to me that we are taking different practices into account, but you seem very focused on the scientific side of things and that seems to be hindering your ability to concentrate on other important factors. I have developed a respect for all principles and we should do our best to value them as equally as possible (not always the easiest thing to do). Do you really think it is fair to put the animals through this in the name of science? That seems a bit sadistic to me.


Animals do have feelings. But no animal, except humans, can grasp the notion of being a species and be sad because its species is going extinct.
An animal only suffers if it is inflected pain, or if other animals of its group are killed/harmed.

So, bringing animals back from extinction won't cause them any pscycological damage in case their species goes extinct again, as long as these animals are treated OK.

Only case where there are ethical considerations IMO it's with Neanderthals.

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by marottalad on Fri Apr 19, 2013 2:35 pm

they have probably cloned things before but it would definately be classified info... of course

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

Post by Great Leader Sprucenuce on Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:59 pm

Bring dangerous animals back and expect them to get on with us just fine hmm

T-Rex to work at Maccy D's hmm

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Re: Is de-extinction a good idea?

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