• Wayfarer
    13.6k
    $15 million funding has been raised to re-animate a version of the extinct woolly mammoth.
    Proponents say bringing back the mammoth in an altered form could help restore the fragile Arctic tundra ecosystem, combat the climate crisis, and preserve the endangered Asian elephant, to whom the woolly mammoth is most closely related. However, it's a bold plan fraught with ethical issues.

    The goal isn't to clone a mammoth -- the DNA that scientists have managed to extract from woolly mammoth remains frozen in permafrost is far too fragmented and degraded -- but to create, through genetic engineering, a living, walking elephant-mammoth hybrid that would be visually indistinguishable from its extinct forerunner.

    "Our goal is to have our first calves in the next four to six years," said tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm, who with Church has cofounded Colossal, a bioscience and genetics company to back the project.
    CNN

    Essentially what they're proposing is creating a genetically-engineered hybrid species. Woolly mammoth v2.0, you might say.

    I have to say this prospect fills me with dread. I can't quite put my finger on why. I do recall about five years back, there was some discussion of re-animating an extinct hominid species, which I thought objectionable, on the grounds that this being would be brought into a world with which it had nothing in common and none of its kin, which would be a hellish experience, I would have thought. Plus it would be created without any way of being asked whether it would want to live in these circumstances.

    I remember someone saying on this forum a few years back, that Craig Venter, who is one of the leaders in the field of genetic engineering, being asked if he could be accused of 'playing God'. 'We're not playing', he was said to have replied.
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    ChurchCNN

    Church?!! Oh, the irony!
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    I remember someone saying on this forum a few years back, that Craig Venter, who is one of the leaders in the field of genetic engineering, being asked if he could be accused of 'playing God'. 'We're not playing', he was said to have replied.Wayfarer

    It was you who said it. Search your feelings Luke Wayfarer.
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    As for this project of bringing to life an extinct species, even if only a hybrid, it's a technology demonstration/proof of concept, giving us a taste of the future, what it can be like.
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    I have to say this prospect fills me with dread. I can't quite put my finger on why. I do recall about five years back, there was some discussion of re-animating an extinct hominid species, which I thought objectionable, on the grounds that this being would be brought into a world with which it had nothing in common and none of its kin, which would be a hellish experience, I would have thought. Plus it would be created without any way of being asked whether it would want to live in these circumstances.

    I remember someone saying on this forum a few years back, that Craig Venter, who is one of the leaders in the field of genetic engineering, being asked if he could be accused of 'playing God'. 'We're not playing', he was said to have replied.
    Wayfarer

    From the Cambridge Dictionary

    Speak for yourself: something you say to someone to say that the opinion that they have just expressed is not the same as your opinion

    Example:
    "We had a really boring trip."

    "Speak for yourself! I had a wonderful time!"

    Bringing long-extinct animals to life, in this case a mammoth and that too just a hybrid, is a wonderful achievement for science but, for better or worse, it's a gateway through which similar experiments can be conducted on humans themselves, not just archaic humans but even modern ones. Are we prepared for that I wonder?

    Notwithstanding the slippery slope fallacy, I feel we have good reason to protest - Camel's Nose Story (Arabia)

    The camel's nose is a metaphor for a situation where the permitting of a small, seemingly innocuous act will open the door for larger, clearly undesirable actions. — Wikipedia
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    In principle I am totally on board with this. We have used technology to create the biggest and most devastating mass extinction in the history of the planet, so I'm all for using it to undo it too. In practice though, this kind of tech will most likely be used in ways to pursue more profit while accelerating exploitation in some manner. Which of course is how Jurassic Park ought to be read: not as an indictment on Prometheanism, but an indictment on capitalism.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    It was you who said it.TheMadFool

    True, but I had read it on this forum, or actually the previous forum. In fact I even remember who said it, but he's not around any more to ask.

    In practice though, this kind of tech will most likely be used in ways to pursue more profit while accelerating exploitation in some manner.StreetlightX

    They say they're not in it for the money. " 'There is "zero pressure" for the project to make money', Lamm said. He is banking on the endeavor resulting in innovations that have applications in biotechnology and health care. "
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    He is banking on the endeavor resulting in innovations that have applications in biotechnology and health careWayfarer

    And who runs biotech and health care?

    I have no doubt as to the purity of his intentions. He's probably a lovely, intelligent, interesting bloke. Unfortunately this won't be up to him. That's how the world works.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    I see your point, but actually, I'm more suspicious of the genetic engineering angle, than of biotechnology generally. The moral qualm I have about creating synthetic animals, as that they are actually animals, not simply mindless Cartesian machines. They're beings, even if not rational, language-using beings. Not that a re-animated mammoth is going to wonder where the f*** it is, but still, something about it seems sinister to me. Frankensteinian.
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    We have been creating synthetic animals for the longest time; the means have just been different. Our 'best friends' - dogs - are effectively synthetic. So much so that most of them would simply die without humans around. And that's to say nothing about the artificial selection pressure that we've exerted upon livestock like cows, sheep, chickens and so on. Even - and especially - plants. Hell, even the world's approach to Covid has largely been virogenic, an experiment in fielding viral mutations on a global scale, with the lab rats of the greater mass of the human population. Which is itself part of a larger pattern of cultivating pathogens for centuries, a result of our living arrangements. At best this is a question of precision of the 'syntheticness' in question, and not a change in kind. Nature is a freak to begin with. Or: there is nothing natural about nature.
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    but still, something about it seems sinister to me. Frankensteinian.Wayfarer

    More like The Island Of Dr. Moreau

    The Island of Doctor Moreau is an 1896 science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells (1866–1946). The text of the novel is the narration of Edward Prendick who is a shipwrecked man rescued by a passing boat. He is left on the island home of Doctor Moreau, a mad scientist who creates human-like hybrid beings from animals via vivisection. The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature. — Wikipedia

    There's an underlying paradox in this:

    1. We need to undo the damage done by humans (mammoths were allegedly hunted into oblivion by humans). Bring back the mammoths.

    2. There's a good reason why the mammoths went extinct. Mother Nature knows best and she works through us as much as she does through climate, geography, other living organisms, etc. Don't bring back the mammoths.

    3. Bring back the mammoths & Don't bring back the mammoths. [contradiction]
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    Our 'best friends' - dogs - are effectively synthetic.StreetlightX

    Selective breeding is not the same as genetic engineering. Science is creating completely novel life-forms, not variations of existing life-forms. Dogs are all genetically descended from common ancestors, but if you take that genetic code and alter it directly through genetic technology, it's a different kind of principle altogether. Any scientist could in future tell if a dog specimen contained GM technology. Like, if you found a relic in some dig with plastics in it, you would know it had to originate with a technological culture, that it isn't something that could have occured naturally or could have been made a thousand years ago.

    I'm not saying that genetic manipulation is necessarily a bad thing - I mean, I'm completely on board with the COVID vaccine development effort. I know that if I was a parent that was told my child had a genetic condition that could be ameliorated through such means, then of course I would be on board with that, too. But I still think that 'species manipulation' is a different thing and a line that perhaps ought not to be crossed.

    The Island of Doctor Moreau — Wikipedia

    Yes, now you mention it - another example of Wells' prescience.

    I do feel that there's a reason extinct animals died out, or at least, that there might be.

    As for the role of early humans in driving the mammoths to extinction - is that a theory? I thought natural climate change was a part of it. Admit that I don't know, though.
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    Science is creating completely novel life-forms, not variations of existing life-forms.Wayfarer

    Nature doesn't create novel life forms?
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    Aha! But in a very different way. Surely you can recognise the difference between 'artificial' and 'natural' - if you don't, it's not something I think I'd want to argue about.
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    Surely you can recognise the difference between 'artificial' and 'natural'Wayfarer

    Well I recognize it as an artificial(!) distinction that is contextual and useful in some circumstances while not being very useful in others. If there's a use here, I'd like to see it argued for, rather than taken for granted on the basis of some kind of implicit intuition.
  • Caldwell
    521
    The moral qualm I have about creating synthetic animals, as that they are actually animals, not simply mindless Cartesian machines. They're beings, even if not rational, language-using beings. Not that a re-animated mammoth is going to wonder where the f*** it is, but still, something about it seems sinister to me.Wayfarer
    Yes, it is sometimes hard to articulate this notion. My intuition kicks in. Respect and care for animals should be the point.
  • Caldwell
    521
    If there's a use here, I'd like to see it argued for, rather than taken for granted on the basis of some kind of implicit intuitionStreetlightX

    Hah! Like minds! I didn't see your post before I posted mine.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    I’d simply note the etymology of ‘artificial’ which is ‘made by hand’. The distinction with ‘natural’ is that what is not made by hand occurs naturally. And I don’t think it is an artificial distinction.
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    Idk, an appeal to etymology doesn't strike me as particularly convincing. But so be it.
  • Caldwell
    521
    And I don’t think it is an artificial distinction.Wayfarer
    No, it isn't an artificial distinction. There's more to it. Please argue from the organic standpoint of evolutionary theory, where the environment provides the basis of life, which ultimately includes mutation.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    OK then, instead of etymology, just what the words actually mean. I’m saying there’s a clear distinction between ‘artificially engineered’ and ‘naturally occurring’. Yes, there’s already been millennia of artificial breeding via animal husbandry, as you point out, but that doesn’t involve the direct molecular manipulation of genetic material so as to deliberately create mutant strains. So I think a distinction can be made there as a matter of principle.

    And to re-iterate, the other factor to consider is that the end result of these efforts are sentient beings with the capacity for suffering. Even if they’re dumb animals, they’re not simply inanimate objects or machines.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    Please argue from the organic standpoint of evolutionary theory, where the environment provides the basis of life, which ultimately includes mutation.Caldwell

    Sure. Naturally-occurring mutations are not brought about by direct manipulation by human scientists. Is that what you had in mind?
  • Caldwell
    521
    Sure. Naturally-occurring mutations are not brought about by direct manipulation by human scientists. Is that what you had in mind?Wayfarer

    Yes.
  • Janus
    10.7k
    So much so that most of them would simply die without humans around.StreetlightX

    Actually this is not true if what I have heard from a national parks guy responsible for culling wild dogs is correct. He told me that even seemingly innocuous breeds like cocker spaniels and poodles when left behind in the national park by their "owners" can adapt, join a pack, and become efficient predators very quickly.
  • 180 Proof
    5.6k
    Jurassic Park ought to be read: not as an indictment on Prometheanism, but an indictment on capitalism.StreetlightX
    BOOM. :100: :up:
  • Janus
    10.7k
    Science is creating completely novel life-forms, not variations of existing life-forms.Wayfarer

    I can't think of any "completely novel lifeforms" created by science. You would be referring to new species, not hybrids or modified species, I take it? Wouldn't the mammoth/ African elephant be a hybrid, just as the so-called Tigons or Ligers or mules are?
  • TheMadFool
    11.9k
    As for the role of early humans in driving the mammoths to extinction - is that a theory? I thought natural climate change was a part of it. Admit that I don't know, though.Wayfarer

    A bit of both some say. Double the threat, twice as likely to die out.

    All this reminds me of dear ol' Jesus - resurrection! I hope when this mammoth is finally reanimated, they name him Jesus; it is, in a sense, the Jesus of mammoths.
  • StreetlightX
    7.5k
    Like, it's all there if you look for it!:

    Money moves the plot of Spielberg’s Michael Crichton adaptation at an almost molecular level. Both the arrival of outsiders to Isla Nublar and the escape of the dinosaurs are motivated by cold, hard cash. After a velociraptor kills a worker in the opening scene of the film, his family launches a $20 million lawsuit against parent company InGen. We later learn from the park’s mousy lawyer, Donald Gennaro, that the incident gave the park’s insurance company and its investors second thoughts about backing the project, prompting the hiring of outside experts Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler, and Ian Malcolm to inspect the park. Without the concerns about continued cash flow, our favorite paleontologist, paleobotanist, and mathematician would never have felt a single tyrannosaurus-foot impact.

    The shutdown of park security systems that leads to the escape of the dinosaurs is even more rooted in filthy lucre. The majority of the animal paddocks are brought down by Dennis Nedry, the overworked and underpaid (according to him, and I for one don’t doubt it) computer programmer responsible for the park’s largely automated systems. Nedry is offered a bribe from a rival company to steal dinosaur embryos and sneak them off the island, a bribe he accepts in large part because the park’s owner, Hammond, has refused his request for a raise.

    Hammond rejects Nedry’s entreaties explicitly on the grounds of the moral hazard inherent in paying Nedry more than Hammond feels he deserves. Nedry’s financial problems, Hammond insists, are Nedry’s financial problems. “I don’t blame people for their mistakes,” Hammond says crossly, “but I do ask that they pay for them.” If Hammond had been more concerned with paying people what they’re worth instead of teaching them a lesson about hard work and responsibility, there’d be a few more empty velociraptor stomachs on Isla Nublar.

    But liberals will read this is a morality tale about hubris and human overambition.
  • baker
    2.5k
    $15 million funding has been raised to re-animate a version of the extinct woolly mammoth.Wayfarer

    Some people have too much money. And time.
  • SophistiCat
    1.7k
    I can't think of any "completely novel lifeforms" created by science. You would be referring to new species, not hybrids or modified species, I take it? Wouldn't the mammoth/ African elephant be a hybrid, just as the so-called Tigons or Ligers or mules are?Janus

    Or, you know, pretty much all the animals and plants that we eat or use or live with. All have been created, intentionally or not, by humans.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    But not by direct manipulation of the genome. None of them were 'created by humans', except for in the sense that the breed was selected. Artificial selection, I believe is the term, and in fact one of the sources for Darwin's idea of 'natural selection'.

    I can't think of any "completely novel lifeforms" created by science.Janus

    That's what the article is about. The proposal is to create a new species of animal, based on splicing the genetic material of one extinct species with that of a living species. In this case, there is obviously no chance of creating such a species by interbreeding, because one of the sources is extinct.

    Incidentally, Jurassic Park was the first ebook I ever read, on a work-issued Macintosh Powerbook 170. Excellent read. Also loved the first film, one of the great cinematic experiences.
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