De-Extinction

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“The Mammoth Cometh” by Nathaniel Rich in the New York Times is an article that details the prospect of “de-extinction” and how scientists within the community have been forming arguments about how to best begin understanding what new technologies are capable of. “De-extinction” is the term given to the process by which scientists can bring back extinct animals, such as the wolly mammoth or the great auk, through genetic engineering. In order to ground the analysis of “de-extinction”, the author focuses particularly on the life of Ben Novak, a scientist, who from a young age, showed an incredible passion for bringing back the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon, a once abundant species, was hunted for their meat as well as for sport and sold for their oil and feathers. These practices contributed to the eventual decline from five billion passenger pigeon to complete extinction in a few decades. The last passenger pigeon died in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. The author goes into detail about how obsessed Novak is with “resurrecting” the passenger pigeon and cites a researcher who rejected Novak for a job position at a genetic engineering lab due to his fixation. The scientist, who ran the lab where he applied to work, Beth Shapiro, stated, “I appreciated his devotion to the bird, but I worried that his zeal might interfere with his ability to do serious science.” Shapiro called into question Novak’s interestedness and how it could potentially affect the objectiveness of his future research within the field. Two key scientists in “de-extinction”, Stewart Brand and George Church, hosted a symposium at Harvard Medical School called “Bringing Back the Passenger Pigeon” in February 2012. At this symposium, Church demonstrated his... ... middle of paper ... ... could potentially be given a new meaning and context if it is proved to be reversible. Finally, this article touches upon inappropriate versus appropriate pathos in scientific argument. Novak is considered too invested in bringing back the passenger pigeon, while his most other scientists involved in the field do not feel the same level of attachment. Interestedness is often considered bias, but in regards to “de-extinction”, a field that is so closely related to ethics and morals, is it dangerous to be biased on behalf of bring back animals mankind contributed to destroying? One contrasting argument that none of the scientists in this article touched upon is the desire to completely change the scientific community’s direction concerning the issue of extinction to focus its energy and resources onto preventing the extinction of species struggling to survive today.
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