Wednesday, March 5, 2014

De-Extintion Conundrum

A woodcut from the 1870s shows passenger pigeons
being shot in Louisiana.
I read two compelling articles the other day about recreating Woolly Mammoths and other extinct species. One article was titled De-Extintion: Bringing Extinct Species back to Life and was published by the National Geographic. The other was published by the Washington Post and was titled Scientists look to revive the long extinct passenger pigeon

Can man really play god? Can we make right what went wrong? What about less desirable species, like insects or poisonous snakes?  Even dinosaurs?

These are good questions. 

I have long been fascinated by the plight of the passenger pigeon. Descriptions of the flocks numbering billions of individual birds and darkening the skies overhead are but memories as the last passenger pigeon died in 1914. And now, scientists believe that they can make right what man destroyed. 

Should they?

Is it right to recreate extinct species and place them again on the planet which has changed since they departed? It is a question of Jurassic Park implications. What if their reintroduction becomes a significant problem? What if they must be returned to extinction to for financial or other reasons? 

It is an issue that deserves a lot of thought before investing the millions of dollars to revive a species--even though I would love to see passenger pigeons darken the skies once again or maybe e ben see a woolly mammoth in a zoo somewhere. .

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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