European Literature Period 4
26 February 2015
No to De-Extinction
Whether it is bringing people back from the dead or resurrecting an entire extinct species, for hundreds of years, scientists everywhere have had the desire and craving to try and reverse nature’s kiss of death. Modern scientists are exploring the possibility of resurrecting species, that we and our ancestors led to extinction, through the process of de-extinction or also known as “resurrection biology”. Scientists believe that this project would not only allow us to redeem our mistakes but also provide breakthroughs in the field of genetic engineering. This concept was first presented to the public in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film, Jurassic Park that also shows how there are much greater repercussions of this experiment than there could be scientific gains. Even though these projects have purely good intentions, similarly to Frankenstein’s experiment, good intentions of a science experiment, which tampers with life and death, often have a greater chance of going south and causing more danger than benefit. Although astounding scientific breakthroughs may come to be as the result of a successful de-extinction project, there are many greater dangers that could develop for the human race through bringing back certain extinct species. While evolution may be cruel, it is never wrong therefore there was a reason for the species to have gone extinct in the first place and the natural cycle of life and death should not be tampered with artificially.
The process of de-extinction or resurrection biology is in simple words, “the process of resurrecting species that have died out, or gone extinct” (Encyclopedia Britannica). While it may sound like a simple idea, it is anything but that. Stewart Brand, a professional environmentalist and futurist who is leading one of the biggest de-extinction projects, explains that there are three semi-successful techniques to de-extinction. The first is selective breeding, which consists of “back-breeding of existing descendants to recreate a primordial ancestor” to create a revival of certain species. This technique was first used as early as in the 1920’s and 1930’s when the interest in this venture began. The second technique is cloning in which “cells from cryopreserved tissue of a recently extinct animal can generate viable eggs. If the eggs are implanted in a closely related surrogate mother, some pregnancies produce living offspring of the extinct species.” And lastly, semi-successful technique is allele replacement. Developed by George Church, “making a hybrid of a living species into an extinct species [as] the new genome-editing technique...If the technique proves successful, it might be applied to the many other extinct species that have left their ancient DNA in museum specimens and fossils up to 500,000 years old” (TEDtalk: The Dawn of De-extinction. Are You Ready?). Thus far, those are the three techniques that scientists are concentrating on perfecting for the possibilities of successful de-extinction.
The curiosity for de-extinction projects has been circling the scientific world since the 1920’s and 30’s but the general public was first introduced to the idea through the film Jurassic Park in 1993. Thus began the scientific craze to make this science fiction idea into a reality. Scientists believed that through fossilized DNA of extinct prehistoric species, they could revive the animals into the modern world. Victor Frankenstein explains this scientific craving for breaking new ground, “None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder” (Shelley 41). Every scientist who has been putting in hours upon hours and millions of dollars into their research on the...
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