Can, and should, we bring species back from extinction? Advances in biotechnology may enable us to revive the passenger pigeon, the great auk, and even the wooly mammoth — and help restore biodiversity and genetic diversity in the process. But critics say that de-extinction efforts distract from important conservation priorities like combating habitat destruction and saving existing species. We discuss the issue.

Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke professor of conservation ecology at Duke University
Ryan Phelan, executive director and co-founder of Revive and Restore, a project within The Long Now Foundation
Hank Greely, law professor and director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University

  • Rorden Gamsay

    So long as they don’t clone dead people, it should be all right to bring back some animals such as the auk, Dodo and perhaps the less dangerous dinosaurs. But the higher priority is dealing with the barren wasteland that the oceans have become, and stopping further destruction of the environment by companies engaging in fracking, deep sea drilling, and trawling. To do that, we must recognize that we are witnessing an environmental Holocaust. Our economic and political systems are set up in a way that is killing the planet. Our system rewards psychopathic CEOs.

  • tannervea

    We are currently experiencing 1,000 times the historical rate of normal “background” extinction because of global ecological destruction. It’s not the extinction we need to fix. It’s the environment. A live animal in a dead ecosystem will be dead again soon enough.

  • Brett Stephens

    A few years ago, the Canadian Gray wolf was reintroduced to the American West. In the years following, these wolves have nearly bred out the local wolf populations, and run in packs of 20 or more, they have no fear of humans and are wreaking havoc on cattle and wildlife. Also, they have killed babies and small children. These monsters have caused more problems environmentally in a few years than we ever could have expected. De-extinction is a bad idea and just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it.

  • Jon

    Why is no one addressing the underlining problem: There are too many people on the planet.

  • geraldfnord

    I think we should do this because it could be cool.

    I also think that, having been done, it could be a benchmark, something about which to say, ‘If we can do that, what excuse do we have for not doing ?’—‘If we can put a man on the Moon….’ has been retired, because at least in popular imagination we can’t.

    Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
    Or what’s a heaven for?

    More practically: we should work on this now, so that later if we decide to do it in quantity we’d be able to do.

    • There are lots of things in science that are cool but we don’t do them for practical or ethical reasons. To do something that is pointless to serve as a benchmark for what is important just doesn’t make sense. With limited resources for biological research and conservation, let us begin with what is most important, such as preventing extinctions in the first place.

  • Kristilinamarie

    Please think about the individual animals and the potential awful lives we might be subjecting them to. We had a successful reintroduction of wolves in the West only to watch them be massacred–mothers, babies, and entire packs–in the past two years by state and federal “wildlife” agencies and ranchers. What’s the point?

  • Brett Stephens

    I am on the side of the ranchers. As a farmer myself, every calf killed by these predators is $1500 to $10,000 of revenue that I wont be able to earn from sale for beef or breeding purposes. These wolves have attacked people, pets, and livestock. Introducing them in the wild, hundreds of miles away from people is one thing, introducing them into ranch and farmland is quite another. Timber wolves are virtually extinct now thanks to introducing the gray wolf back into the West. Humans are incapable of modifying the environment without screwing something up.

  • iris fleur

    I’m curious about the unforeseen circumstances.
    For example, will reanimated creatures also bring diseases? How will they eat if their primary food is also extinct or has morphed into something less nutritious for them? How will they socialize or
    Is it humane to bring them back just as a scientific curiousity?

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor