Cloning extinct animals

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Aedes
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 11:10 am
Should we?

There's an article on this subject in the brand new National Geographic.

Let's ignore for a moment all the technical aspects which make it unlikely to do things like clone dinosaurs.

I see value in cloning highly endangered animals so as to bolster wild populations to the point where they can recuperate.

I can even see merit in saving recently extinct animals, like the dodo, given that we have enough DNA from different organisms to create a somewhat diverse population.

But remotely extinct animals -- why would we? What ecosystem would they inhabit? Would we clone one to be a specimen for a zoo, or would we clone many so that sabertooth tigers can roam the earth again?
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 11:39 am
@Aedes,
This is but another example of our fiddling with evolution, our fiddling with nature. I'm not sure if you saw the science link I posted, but one scientist postulated we are 'outgrowing' the homo sapian and are becoming a new species of hominid: Homo Evolutis. This species "takes direct and deliberate control over the evolution of its species and others".

I can see the merit, but for some reason all of this just turns me the wrong way. The lines of nature are beginning to blur, and then what will we be left with, what will every organism be left with? A deliberately created world by humans with which to live? A world where we have direct control over a majority of factors, even down to the microscopic level (bacteria engineering)? Nature is but an aftertaste in our vocabulary.

That doesn't seem like a dream to me, but a nightmare.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 11:40 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:

But remotely extinct animals -- why would we? What ecosystem would they inhabit? Would we clone one to be a specimen for a zoo, or would we clone many so that sabertooth tigers can roam the earth again?


Yeah this is the real issue. The primary reason why animals go extinct is their environment changes and they no longer have the fitness required to exploit it. There just isn't enough steppe land to support a Wooly Mammoth etc... This may even be the argument against cloning current endangered species. Where are we going to put a bunch of bengal Tigers that doesn't endanger humans in the areas that the tigers could inhabit.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 11:46 am
@Aedes,
I don't know, Zetherin, I'm not especially concerned with the ethical implications of "fiddling with nature" or "fiddling with evolution" as such. The plastic flotsam that washes off of Pacific shipping vessels fiddles with both nature and evolution more than our tinkering in a genetics lab ever will.

I think our ethical obligation comes down to responsible uses of our technology and responsible goals, as opposed to principled use or abandonment of a technology just because it feels viscerally like we're playing god.
 
Icon
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 11:48 am
@Aedes,
I have mixed feelings about this topic but let me say this: Mankind is not mentally or emotionally developed enough to be playing with these technologies. The one thing that strikes me comical about man is that we have technology far beyond our maturity and we still insist on playing with it. We are still a young species when you really think about it and we have a lot of mental and emotional growth to undergo before we start "playing God" if you will. We have not even fully explored our own planet and yet we are worried about populating others. We have not even fully understood our own DNA but we are playing with the DNA of other creatures. It just seems to me that we need to finish some projects before we start on something new.

As far as the specific animals which might be cloned, I am sure we could conrtol the population but the animal is extinct for a reason and most of them are not extinct because of mankind. Their place in the cycle of life was revoked. They were given their pink slip from nature. Let them die out. If we are truly so concerned with this prospect then perhaps we should start by cloning animals which we currently trying to save.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 11:49 am
@Aedes,
When it comes to cloning animals, I keep coming back to a should/should-not gradient. I think that it would be acceptable to clone animals (given for the purposes of the discussion that the practical issues of cloning are not an issue) if they became extinct within a close time frame to ours. The majestic dodo is a perfect example. Would the dodo have gone extinct if humans had not played a part in thier destruction? I don't know, but it seems unlikely though. But suppose that the dodo was destined to die fifty years down the road, but human interference killed it before its time (dodo predestination???) I think this would be a legitimate use of cloning, but then again that seems to be the issue behind evolution though. But still, I would give the dodo another shot.

The ethical implications of cloning don't especially phase me that much as long as they are reasonable. Clone a million Andy Dick's and that is extremely unreasonable... and from what I am aware of, the earth will split in two from the occurrence, not because of the cloning mind you but from the world choosing to end its existence rather than live with a million Andy Dick's. The dodo seems to me a reasonable use of cloning technology. Now the farther back you go, thats when the issue gets hazy. Should we clone the sabertooth tiger? No lie, that would be awesome. I am fully prepared to pay top dollar for a deathmatch between a sabertooth tiger and a woolly mammoth anyday... as I would imagine 99.9% of the worlds children ages 3-8 would as well (just kidding... anyone would want to see that) LOL! But like you had asked in your initial post, what kind of ecosystem would they inhabit? If you put a sabertooth tiger back into the ecosystem, you are going to throw off a very delicate balance. And in many respects, isnt that even more problematic than the issue of reconstituting a dead species... the potential destruction of another/s? But then alternative is no better... to reconstitute a species only to be held captive indefinitely? That seems a bit cruel.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:02 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
I think our ethical obligation comes down to responsible uses of our technology and responsible goals, as opposed to principled use or abandonment of a technology just because it feels viscerally like we're playing god.


Surely plastic from the shipping vessels 'fiddles', just as a plethora (if not the majority) of our other advancements could be seen to, but I feel there's a differentiation to be made here. It's in the visceral feeling of playing god where we will see the abuse in genetic engineering -- The direct, deliberate, instantaneous (or near), and monumental changes that can be made on a whim. Having direct control over evolutionary patterns is different, in my opinion, than indirect changes in evolutionary patterns due to a number of different factors (which I'm sure we can list). When the human achieves near instantaneous gratification from evolutionary changes, I don't foresee the ethical obligations you propose. In fact, I only see abuse. Also, I'm not entirely sure your statement:

Quote:
The plastic flotsam that washes off of Pacific shipping vessels fiddles with both nature and evolution more than our tinkering in a genetics lab ever will.
is correct. I've come across some pretty wild theories regarding our genetic engineering capabilities. Our capabilities seem to dwarf the plastic flotsam Wink

That said, I don't know if I'm for or against this. It turns me the wrong way, but that's not really saying much.

Icon wrote:
Let them die out. If we are truly so concerned with this prospect then perhaps we should start by cloning animals which we currently trying to save.


Personally, I don't understand the reason why people think they have to "Save" anything. Species die -- let them die! Are we so arrogant to believe we have to "Save" animals, the planet, the o-zone layer, etc. The planet and animals will be here long after we're gone. Love you, Carlin!
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:09 pm
@Aedes,
Naturally many species go extinct on their own, but there are many that we've hunted or crowded into extinction and their natural habitats still exist (sometimes for the worse) without them.

As for the plastic flotsam, this is not a trivial matter. There are millions of tons of plastic floating in the Pacific, and there is no natural process of any kind that breaks it down, other than just mechanically being pulverized smaller and smaller. It's been found inside marine organisms as small as diatoms.

It will almost certainly be the case that bacteria will evolve metabolic pathways to break down plastic (which calorically and chemically is fairly similar to fats). And this is actually one of the holy grails of genetic engineering -- to create a microorganism that can metabolize plastic. Read "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman if you're interested in this topic.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:13 pm
@Aedes,
VideCorSpoon wrote:
When it comes to cloning animals, I keep coming back to a should/should-not gradient. I think that it would be acceptable to clone animals (given for the purposes of the discussion that the practical issues of cloning are not an issue) if they became extinct within a close time frame to ours. The majestic dodo is a perfect example. Would the dodo have gone extinct if humans had not played a part in thier destruction? I don't know, but it seems unlikely though.
Does it matter if we played a part in the animal's extinction?

I understand the arguments behind this, but for some reason it always fascinates me. It's as if we separate humans from nature, because of our greater intellect. A part of me wants to say, regardless of how the species died, even if it's because of us, it's still natural. I know that might strike some as odd, but I find it just as odd to separate our actions from natural.

See, this whole natural concept: I feel it should be an either all or nothing kind of thing. Our feeble attempts at differentiation just seem silly. And, yes, I understand how I may be perceived contradicting myself :bigsmile:
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:19 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:

It will almost certainly be the case that bacteria will evolve metabolic pathways to break down plastic (which calorically and chemically is fairly similar to fats). And this is actually one of the holy grails of genetic engineering -- to create a microorganism that can metabolize plastic. Read "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman if you're interested in this topic.


Do you happen to know how they are establishing protocols to prevent introduced species from becoming bacterial Cane Toads, Elm Beetles or Nutria or are they just trying to manufacture the bacteria first?
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:25 pm
@Aedes,
They're taking pre-existing bacteria and trying to modify certain enzymes to use the chemicals in plastic as a metabolic substrate.

This has been done many many times for other purposes. Where do you think diabetics get their insulin from? You just plug the insulin gene into a bacterium with a promoter that tells that gene to always be active, and the bacteria will pump out tons of insulin. The same thing is true for factor VIII for hemophilia and other things.

Industrial microbiology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:37 pm
@Aedes,
Interesting, but throw this out into the environment as compaired to a closed system like the body, is it enough? Serious question.. not trying to devil's advocate here.
 
VideCorSpoon
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 12:46 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin wrote:
Does it matter if we played a part in the animal's extinction?

I understand the arguments behind this, but for some reason it always fascinates me. It's as if we separate humans from nature, because of our greater intellect. A part of me wants to say, regardless of how the species died, even if it's because of us, it's still natural. I know that might strike some as odd, but I find it just as odd to separate our actions from natural.

See, this whole natural concept: I feel it should be an either all or nothing kind of thing. Our feeble attempts at differentiation just seem silly. And, yes, I understand how I may be perceived contradicting myself :bigsmile:


I think in the context of the question, it would definitely matter whether or not we played a part in the extinction of a particular animal. If the issue is whether or not to clone an animal, what needs to be determined is the rubric under which we can utilize that technology. If we looked at the barebones ethics without the context of cloning, then we rely on abstract principles like Darwinism and the like to use in our analysis. That would be a different matter in many respects.

Are humans separate from nature? Yes and no, that's a good point. But humans themselves are not so immune to the effects of natural selection. For example, there are species of human that have gone extinct such as the Boskops that went extinct around twenty thousand years ago. We are very much a part of nature, the only thing that happens is we tend to forget just how connected we really are. So I do agree with you in many respects on the aspects of extinction being natural. There are just varying degrees of naturality.

But I think in a general way, what is natural is entirely dependent on the method in question. Under the framework of cloning, we could say that altering DNA is "unnatural." And yet when humans create hybrids of flowers or what not it would under the context of cloning to be considered natural. The take "natural reproduction" into account. Would hybridization be considered natural under the strict rubric of "natural reproduction?" It's all a matter of perspective. But I think digging to the nether regions of the topic, the issue of practicality becomes prevalent.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Tue 28 Apr, 2009 01:10 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;60385 wrote:
Interesting, but throw this out into the environment as compaired to a closed system like the body, is it enough? Serious question.. not trying to devil's advocate here.
Right, therein lies the conundrum. Bacteria will eventually learn how to eat plastic, because there's plenty of it out there and bacteria evolve extremely quickly (with a new generation every 20 minutes for some). But if we do this at an industrial level, we'd probably need facilities to concentrate and cultivate the bacteria and the substrate, and to control the conditions and dispose of the waste products.

God knows what would happen if we cloned some long-extinct species. But if an environment has recently lost a major megafauna (which are more sensitive to human activities than smaller species), then I think we face comparatively few risks by reintroducing that lost species.
 
Kroni
 
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2009 05:10 pm
@Aedes,
I'm not so sure that cloning an extinct animal is any different from the other technical advances humanity has undergone. We have always used animals to further our own needs. We have always manipulated nature. (Broccoflower, pollution, destruction of rain forests) It seems that as humans we need to decide whether we have the right to control nature or not. If we have the ability to do it, then I don't see a problem. One thing we should consider is the consequences our actions will have on our planet or on the species that inhabit it. Usually, we aim to use science to create a positive manipulation of nature. Cloning animals should therefore be acceptable insofar as it allows some kind of benefit for Earth, but unacceptable if it causes harm.
 
Khethil
 
Reply Tue 3 Nov, 2009 07:36 am
@GoshisDead,
Good subject,

Where its possible, I do see value in 'resurrecting' other species as we're able - but only if there's a reason to do so. I think it quite justifiable to make the attempt to add or restore important ecosystem-diversity, help stave-off/fix the damage we've done, gain useful knowledge into our past or simply to bring back something for which there's no need to have lost. Sure; but again, I prefer a pragmatic approach. Because we're able to do some thing is no reason to do it; there should be a reason.

I wouldn't call this a moral imperative per say, nor do I think we can ever correct all the damage human wholesale destruction has caused. But some improvement is better than none, some restoration can well be worth the effort. And of course, because we can't fix or restore everything is no reason to not to take baby steps.As far as the natural argument goes, I believe its important to again stay pragmatic. If you take the view that we, as natural creatures, are a part of that process that's fine, but damage that need not be done can't be justified from this pulpit.

And for the meddling or playing god argument goes; I get it, I understand and can appreciate the caution given. But on this sentiment alone I think it insufficient cause to act or not act. Is it worthwhile? Does it help? Can we gain more than we lost? Are there dangers? Do we have an obligation to restore or enhance for future generations? ... these are the questions that justify, to my mind.

Good stuff guys - thanks
 
Kroni
 
Reply Tue 3 Nov, 2009 04:32 pm
@Khethil,
Let's take a look at the possible cons/dangers of cloning extinct animals:

1. It disrupts the evolutionary process
2. It brings animals into the world that may no longer have an ecosystem
3. It could carry a deadly disease we have no knowledge about. (This one is kind of farfetched, but its still a possibility)

Now let's look at the pros:

1. It allows us to learn more about out past
2. We could possibly get these animals to reproduce more of their kind or mate with another endangered species.
3. If there was ever a food crisis on the planet, this technology would need to be practiced and perfected for our survival. (Another longshot, but worth noting.)

For con number 1, I don't think the evolutionary process is so fragile that one of the species within it could destroy it. Our progess as humans is a part of evolution, and by association everything that we do is as well. Therefore, evolution would not prohibit humans from using their technology in this way, but demand it.

For con number 2, I don't think scientists would just set a previously extinct animal out into the wild to die without its ecosystem. They could keep it in some kind of artificial habit to study or mate with another animal. As long as they keep the animal in a decent environment, I don't see a problem with it.

For con number 3, we should approach new animals with caution. We should undergo any tests necessary to ensure the animals are not diseased or dangerous to humans. This should be fairly simple to accomplish, and is probably not a serious issue.

If I have missed any points please let me know.
 
buffalobill90
 
Reply Fri 11 Dec, 2009 05:03 pm
@Aedes,
There would be great scientific value in cloning extinct species in order to study their behaviour. It would be like the holy grail of palaeontology - being able to actually study the behaviour of ancient creatures rather than having to infer it from their fossilised remains and their possible resemblance to modern species.

However, studying such creatures in isolated lab conditions might prove too limiting; unless they are actually integrated into an ecosystem it could be impossible to understand their behaviour and how they interact with ecosystems.
 
HexHammer
 
Reply Wed 24 Feb, 2010 10:49 pm
@Aedes,
It would be good buisness, zoo's and ritch people would pay millions to get such exotic and rare animals, besides I couldn't see the harm in it.
 
xris
 
Reply Thu 25 Feb, 2010 08:01 am
@HexHammer,
Who among us would not pay to see a mammoth or a sabre toothed tiger? Its a pity we could not bring back those humans we made extinct, like the Tasmanian natives or the west indies, native tribes.

If its posible then humanity will modify their ethics, to allow it.
 
 

 
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