Reverse Extinction

An ethical issue defying the laws of Mother Nature

1st of May 2013 marks the 60th year since biologists Francis Crick and James Watson published their paper on the structure of DNA, the double-helix genetic code of life. One of the most ground-breaking discoveries in the field of bio-engineering, it has offered hope and a possibility for the seemingly impossible feat of resurrecting an extinct species, cloning.

The species is cloned from genetic material teased from preserved tissues, and the reprogrammed egg is implanted in a cousin species. And indeed, this amazing discovery has led to the resurrection of some species in the recent years of study.

For example, in 2009, researchers had triumphantly announced that they had cloned a Pyrenean Ibex using genetic material from the last member of the family before she died in 2000. Though not as epic an achievement as bringing a carnivorous, menacing dinosaur to life, it is irrefutable proof that genetic cloning is a possible feat.

Besides that, scientists from all around the world are also working on reviving other animals like the Tasmanian tiger or the woolly mammoth with genetic data from carefully-preserved remains. However, such experiments still run a high risk of deformity, miscarriage or premature death, undesirable results that are also characteristics of animal cloning today.

“The way it is going now, I can see why people would imagine it (de-extinction) is possible,” said evolutionary geneticist Hendrik Poinar of Canada’s McMaster University.

“I could envision that if there were no laws preventing it and the ethics had been worked out, swathes of land in Siberia repopulated with mammoths and cave lions.”

The main question is, “Is it ethical?”

In my opinion, genetic cloning isn’t an evil that completely kills the meaning of ‘life’s true value’, or something that is utterly defiant of Mother Nature. This practice could, on the other hand, provide genetically identical cells for regenerative medicine, and tissues and organs for transplantation. Organ recipients with their lives on the line may no longer have to fret about the scarcity of organ donors, and treatment for a variety of diseases will be made possible. Then again, is it fair for the human being or animal, to be deprived of their freedom from the first moment of contact with this world, and live out their lives as test subjects, supplier of organs for the lives of others? Is it humane for these people to achieve their main purpose of living, and die for another?

Religious or not, these views cannot be ignored. It concerns potentially the lives of innocent, genetically-manufactured children, who know not a fact of their existence, yet are from a tender age subjected to the selfish greed and desires of others in the bold quest for immortality. It is simply inhumane, and cruel. We cannot ignore this fact even with the possibility of higher chances of successful organ transplants. Animals, genetically manufactured, are also doomed to a life as museum exhibits or test subjects. They have no biological companion, no parents to teach them the basic practices of survival, and they like the previous example, cannot live out freedom beyond the cold steel bars of their cages. Also, we humans no longer feel the need of conserving nature, under the pretext of simply just manufacturing more animals when they die out. Die, revive, die, revive- it is a vicious, continuous cycle that fuels Man’s voracious appetite.

In conclusion, I strongly feel that the ethical and moral issues that revolve around the subject of genetic engineering outweigh the benefits of it. We lose the need to cherish life, and we become greedier. While I myself cannot stop the process of cloning, I believe that scientists should take these matters into consideration as they continue in their future research.

– Calista Io, 1U

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