Should We De-extinct Animals?

Should We De-extinct Animals?

Scientists are working to bring back extinct species, using novel DNA editing technologies. But is it worth it?

Throughout history, countless species have disappeared from Earth, driven to extinction by a variety of factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and human intervention. The giant ground sloth, the smilodon, the woolly mammoth, and the passenger pigeon are just a few notable examples of such losses. For centuries, extinction was considered an irreversible fate; once a species vanished, it was gone forever. However, advancements in genetic engineering and biotechnology are challenging this age-old belief, raising the tantalizing possibility of bringing back extinct species – a concept known as de-extinction.

Scientists are working diligently to bring back the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon, using novel DNA editing technologies such as CRISPR. How will that be done? Take the passenger pigeon for example. Scientists are planning on bringing the now extinct bird back to American forests, by introducing its genes to its modern-day relative (the band tail pigeon) and creating hybrids that would be selectively bred until their DNA matches passenger pigeons’.

These ventures still face multiple technological and ethical hurdles, but many researchers are convinced that it will soon be possible to resurrect these lost species. If you dreamed of visiting a real-life Jurassic Park as a kid, you might have to settle for Pigeon Park in the meantime.

Group Activity

  1. Divide the group into several teams.
  2. Pick one of the questions from the list below and let each team discuss it and then present their thoughts to the group; Alternatively, assign each team with a different question, and when they present it to the group ask the remaining teams for their thoughts as well.


  1. Humans killed off many of the earth’s largest animals, do humans also have a moral duty to bring them back?
    To delve deeper, give each team an article from the list below (you can assign all of the articles or choose between them). Ask each team to summarize the article’s main argument(s) and present it to the group. Things to note and address: where was the article published (a magazine? A news website? An academic journal?) Who is the author (a columnist? An academic?). Each team can also turn the article’s core argument into a slogan (“AI deletes the I”, “The solution is evolution”, etc.). Ask each team to present their thoughts on the question to the group.‍ 

  2. Is our fascination with de-extinction driven by scientific curiosity, a desire to rectify past wrongs, or an avoidance of addressing current biodiversity crises? What does this say about our relationship with nature?
  3. In a world where we can resurrect extinct species, who gets to decide which species to bring back and why?
  4. What kind of responsibilities would we have towards resurrected species, especially ones that went extinct due to human actions? Would they have any rights, and how would we ensure their welfare?
  5. We may one day be able to resurrect extinct human species like the Neanderthals. Should we do that? What would happen if we did?

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