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PHL 444- Discussion 1: Release The Mammoths! Or Not.

Aug 29, 2023

Discussion 1: Release the Mammoths! Or not. Jurassic-park-woolly-mammoth B» Once you’ve watched it, you’ll be talking about one or more of these questions:

Would it be ethical or unethical to “revive” a single woolly mammoth? Explain your answer. What extinct animal or plant would you rather see revived (instead of a mammoth)? Explain your answer. Does the motivation behind the revival plan make a difference in the ethics of this project? For example, would it be different if this was only an experiment to test cloning technology? or if this was to provide a new food source (mammoth meat)?

Discussion 1: Release the Mammoths! or Not

I think it would be ethical to bring back woolly mammoths from extinction and might not be such a bad idea because these creatures could assist in the restoration of this ecosystem by stomping trees and bushes, toppling trees, and fertilizing grasses with their feces. The American start-up Colossal Biosciences has announced its intention to save mammoths or creatures that resemble them from extinction and reintroduce them to the snowy tundra of Siberia. According to Colossal’s plan, Asian elephant embryos would be altered to have genomes similar to woolly mammoths using CRISPR gene editing. Then philosophically, these embryos could grow into hybrids of elephants and extinct mammoths that would resemble them in terms of physical appearance and behavior (McMahon & Doyle, 2020, p.7). The true objective of this plan would be to start releasing herds of these mammophants into the Arctic, where they will take up the ecological niche that mammoths previously inhabited. By crushing shrubs, toppling trees, and fertilizing grasses with their excrement, mammoth-like creatures could participate in the rehabilitation of this habitat. This could conceivably contribute to climate change mitigation. Strong greenhouse gas emissions would be released if the Siberian permafrost as it exists today melted.

Grassland could reflect more daylight than tundra and maintain a cold climate, which Colossal hopes will keep the permafrost from melting. Whereas organizations like Revive and Restore have previously talked about the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life, recent developments in genetic modification have brought these hopes much closer to becoming reality. One frequent complaint is that reviving extinct species could disrupt current ecosystems because their ecological niches may no longer be available. However, this objection is ineffective whenever it comes to mammoplasty (Hand, 2018, p.31).  Additionally, one of the biggest moral issues confronting us today is climate change. It is anticipated that the ice melt of the Siberian permafrost will hasten the climate crisis and exacerbate the ecological catastrophe. Since the severity of the issue is so great, even ambitious initiatives with slim chances of success may be morally acceptable. When we consider new technologies and intervention strategies, our moral intuitions are frequently jumbled. However, technologies that initially seemed uncomfortable and out of the ordinary can gradually come to be regarded as valuable. The reversal test is one instrument that is occasionally employed to combat these tendencies. To pass this test, it must be assumed that the novel suggestion to take away the new thing already exists. Observe the Siberian mammophant population, which is in danger of extinction and therefore is vital to the preservation of the permafrost and environment or ecosystems.

It is improbable that any individual would say that saving this mammoplasty will is “unethical”. Therefore if we were to support efforts to keep them in this completely fictional situation, we should support initiatives to bring them into the real world as well. Hence, in light of the reversal test, the main moral issues with Colossal’s project should have more to do with its methods than its key targets (McMahon & Doyle, 2020, p.15).  There are two main ethical concerns related to de-extinction. Firstly, eradicating extinctions might divert attention away from more affordable initiatives to conserve the environment or slow down climate change. The use of resources by the organizations may not be optimal, particularly if they draw funding away from more worthwhile initiatives. It is essential to take into account the opportunity costs of de-extinction. We should never let this vision divert ourselves from more economically sound projects, no matter how exciting it may be to see herds of wild mammoplastywill. But we also should not completely discount de-extinction techniques. Ultimately, the price will decrease (Hand, 2018, p.37).  While waiting, it might be wise to take a look at some incredibly expensive projects. Secondly, it refers to the hypothetical ethical disadvantages that might occur if people begin to think that extinction is not permanent and is a more subtle one. Environmentalists believe that once de-extinction is achieved, the necessity of protecting endangered species from extinction will diminish (McMahon & Doyle, 2020, p.24).  Not all preservation strategies aim to reverse otherwise irreversible impacts, such as de-extinction. Bringing back locally extinct species into an ecosystem they once inhabited is an example of “rewilding.” If we support these initiatives, which we ought to do, then we would need to support creative methods for reintroducing extinct species and healing harmed habitats.


McMahon, A., & Doyle, D. M. (2020). Patentability and de-extinct animals in Europe: the patented woolly mammoth? Journal of Law and the Biosciences, 7(1), lsaa017.

Hand, C. (2018). Reviving Extinct Species. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 

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