storytelling the future
On De-extinction and other dreams

On De-extinction and other dreams

Hendrik Poinar, a professor in Paleogenetics at McMaster University has some fond memories of his parents (entomologists) spending time uncovering and examining insects fossilized and encased in Amber. What if we could bring them back? what if we could de-extinct dinosaurs and other animals? As a Paleogeneticist, Poinar considers himself a bit of a time traveler. Given samples of extinct Woolly Mammoth recently emerging from unlocked permafrost and the melting of ice in vast areas of Siberia, he and his team were  able to extract portions of Mammouth DNA. While time and the conditions of the animal only allow partial reconstruction of their genes, the existing material is invaluable in reconstructing the origins, the migrations and the causes of extinctions of these animals. Poinar believes that advances in stem cells research might  one day enable us to reverse extinction of a number of long gone animals. Even if this becomes a possibility, which he would very much like to see happen, he is also fully aware that there are ethics  and very careful considerations of the consequences of one such operation. in fact:

Who decides what animal would get to be de-extinct?
Would they survive?
What happens when de-extinct animals  are placed next to non-extinct animals? would the first prevale over the other?
What are the consequence for the environment?

These are some of the questions that are further examined by Britt Wray. Wray collected an impressive amount of interviews and statements from scientists and visionaries about the theme of de-extinction: humans are the curators for this de-extinction. with new advances in science, new techniques are being explored to bring extinct animals back to life. In addition to Poinar’s DNA and stem cell research, cloning and synthetic biology can all assist in de-extinction.

Animals such as the Dodo, the passenger pigeon and other popular species have been considered as possible candidates of de-extintion.


But with all the attempts to bring back extinct animals, one question seems to be left out. Why are we trying to get them back?
because we want to fulfill some kind of Frankensteinian desire to create life? because we feel guilty for our complicity in bringing certain animals to extinction?
because it is cool and we want to build a zoo Jurassic Parc-style?

It seems that any good proposition to prolongue life, bring back life, evoke life from the death etc..  always place human beings at the centre, as if everything revolved around them.