What if… Jurassic Park was real?

Come on, we’ve all thought it at least once. “What if Jurassic Park was real?” If you’re not convinced by the film, Michael Crichton’s book which inspired it, is much more upfront with the science.
Well you need wonder no more. Looks like scientists are working on bringing the wooly mammoth back to life and possibly to a zoo near you.

The other day, I was browsing through my Twitter stream and stumbled across a retweet of this article. It entertained me, and made me think about the ethics behind the idea of what the writer calls “de-extinction” and I suddenly had a feeling of déjà vu.
My thoughts about whether or not it should be done are verbalised so much more succinctly by Michael Crichton and David Koepp in the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park.
The article I linked to above is a blog post hosted on the Huffington Post website by Jamie Rappaport Clark who is CEO and President of Defenders of Wildlife which is focused on protecting native animals and their habitat. She suggests some of the potential positives that could be bought about by a “de-extinction” miracle: maybe the species (and ourselves in some more recent cases of extinction) a second chance. But she also argues that by bringing back an extinct species, would we be more responsible this time around?
This reminds me of an American Dad episode I watched a few weeks ago, when Stan and Francine took in a child they sponsored in Africa. He’s wonderful and greatful to them unlike their own children, but that bores them, so they intentionally lose him. They realise their mistake and they miss him. So they spend the rest of the episode looking for him, and when they do find him and take him back in, they are immediately bored with him again. What’s to say we wouldn’t end up destroying what we recreate again? We’re not a perfect species. Far from it.
“What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.” – Dr Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park)
Jamie Rappaport Clark goes on to discuss whether these animals would be bred to be kept purely in captivity, in zoos or just for scientific purposes, or would they be re-introduced into the wild. She says “In order to bring any extinct species back and truly advance its biological recovery, we would need to reestablish it back in the wild. Otherwise, this is just an economically driven experiment that does nothing ecologically for the species.” It’s simply a ploy to make money, you are ravaging nature to make a few bucks, as Ian Malcom (again) puts it: “you patented it and packaged it and slapped in on a plastic lunchbox and now you’re selling it.”
Rappaport Clark then brings up a thought she has. If you’re “de-extinct”-ing species, “shouldn’t we put an even greater effort into conserving imperiled species in trouble today?”
This echoes a back-and-forth dialogue between Ian Malcolm (he’s a huge sceptic in the film, hence all the quotes!) and John Hammond:
Hammond: “Condors! Condors are on the verge of extinction. If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say about it.”
Malcolm: “Hold on, this isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot and nature selected them for extinction.”
Surely this applies to the wooly mammoth too? They became extinct due to climate change, in the same way that soon, polar bears and penguins will be extinct too. We might be careless as a species and wipe out other species through our carbon emissions increasing climate change, deforestation and other destructive human activities; however species that we have all but destroyed have been gone for decades, if not more. Even in that space of time, the world has changed. Let alone the evolution that has happened since the wooly mammoth. Almost 12,000 years have passed since the wooly mammoth became extinct (that’s what Google told me anyway) even in the past 100 years the human race has evolved beyond anything. 12,000 years… As Dr Alan Grant puts it “the world has just changed so radically and we’re all running to catch up.” How on earth would a wooly mammoth exist in this significantly altered world against what it had evolved for?
I know it sounds like I’m just using Jurassic Park to argue this down, but they have simply articulated my thoughts much better than I ever could! And let’s be honest… We all saw how that film ended. No one wants reality to make the same mistakes as fiction.
What are your thoughts on the topic? Are you already in line for the first wooly mammoth exhibition at your local zoo, or are you deadset against the idea, like myself? Use the comment box below… It’s what it’s there for!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ellensmith3 says:

    I think the only comment I can add here is- just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should!

    1. amyegsmith says:

      Ha I kept this particular Ian Malcolm gem on ice:
      “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

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