According to a recent New York Times article, scientists are proposing reviving certain extinct species — such as the wooly mammoth and passenger pigeons — by using advanced biotechnologies. Revive & Restore, a leading organization in the field, is looking into engineering and ultimately de-extincting these extinct species. This process involves splicing genes and integrating extinct species’ genes with those of matchable modern animals. Of course, some people question whether such efforts should be seriously pursued, considering there are significant costs that go well beyond just money. Although plans to bring back long-lost species might sound appealing to some, the de-extinction of certain species would be atrocious on not just a financial level, but also on a moral level.
Because these species have long been absent from the food chain, they won’t be able to survive in the wild and only money will keep them alive. To ensure that de-extinct species are properly cared for in a safe environment, scientists would need to spend tens of millions of dollars until they can be fully integrated into the food chain. Additionally, it would be expensive to bioengineer them in the first place, and when considering the number of animals that scientists wish to bring back, those millions add up quite rapidly. This money could be used to do substantial work with the endangered animals we are already losing, rather than with animals that have been dead for decades, even centuries. Scientists are making a moral decision to value the lives of the extinct species more than the species we have now.
How much more important can those extinct species be than the ones we are on the brink of losing today? Not important at all. In choosing to continue research on how dead species can be revived, scientists are simultaneously allowing current species to die off. Even though modern biotechnological tools have advanced far enough to be able to put serious thought into the revival of species, there is still a moral argument that is important to address: simply because we have the tools and means available to us to play God, it does not mean we have to utilize them.
Email Adryan Barlia at [email protected]