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Science

Is Extinction Only Temporary? 255

Posted by timothy
from the my-kids-will-be-my-clones dept.
Logic Bomb writes: "A group of researchers at a privately-owned Massachusetts company are trying out an experiment that could help solve some of earth's problems with endangered species. An article from the Washington Post details their project to create a cloned Asian Guar using a good ol' American cow as a surrogate mother. The new guar, 'Noah,' is due to be born next month -- in other words, the project is a success. The company sees great possibilities for earth's wildlife, because as long as an appropriate surrogate mother can be found -- of the same or another species -- there is hope for any endangered animal. The next project is to bring a species of Spanish mountain goat back from extinction(!). Giant Pandas are on the schedule too."
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Is Extinction Only Temporary?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    There's something else here that might be overlooked: A lot of species transmit information from generation to generation in two ways. There is the DNA information path that everyone is talking about, but also many species learn behaviors from their parents. This is very obvious in humans (how close would a human, cloned from DNA samples and then raised in an alien environment be to the humans we see running around today?) but it also applies to many other animals. Those who most strongly rely on learned behavior (for feeding, communication, shelter) are going to be impossible to restore to anything resembling their state before extinction. It's like recreating hardware without any software, you will lose a tremendous amount of information in the process.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    i'm sorry, i'm all for protecting animals from accelerated extinction due to man's activities, but once those animals get to the brink of extinction, it kinda means that they really don't have much place on earth anymore. if you look at giant pandas, they really should be extinct with their poor reproduction rats. i say let them die.
  • Evolution has no intent and no concept of good and bad outcomes. There's nothing in evolution or natural selection which says whether or not a species should survive. (In the moral sense of the word "should" -- the predictive sense is another matter.) Evolution is quite useless as a basis for making moral judgements or deciding what to value. It simply doesn't address -- or allow -- questions of what should happen or what was planned.

    (weren't cut out to is a curious choice of phrase -- suggesting that species were made using a cookie cutter, a fabric pattern, or by some analogous process. It strongly suggests an intentional act of creation and hence an actor.)

    Humans who chose to do resurrections like this cannot make this choice based on some value system derived from evolution. There's no evolutionary plan for them to help or mess up. They make the decisions for the same reasons all animals make all their decisions -- either they want the result or they want some expected consequence of the result.

  • Sure, we know what all the large mammals are, and we have some remnant of most of them we could extract DNA from. But entymologists estimate that 90% of the currently living species of insects aren't yet known to science. Similar numbers hold for most groups of invertebrates, plants, and microbes. That makes it mighty hard to collect the necessary samples.
  • Posted by polar_bear:

    Heh... Good point. I bet we only try to save cute and furry species. No one is going to try to save any extinct variety of mosquito or jellyfish.
  • What is to say that is was meant to happen? I assume that by "X was meant to happen" you mean "X should happen." The sense of "should" used here is moral, e.g., you should be nice to your neigbors, not predictive in the present of incomplete knowledge e.g., when I drop a glass it should break.

    Though there are reasons why any species went extinct the question of should they have gone extinct is open. It is up to a moral agents, such as humans, to reason about the goodness of a species becoming extinct.

    Perhaps the extinct species would have produced an enzyme that would have lead to an AIDS vaccine. Perhaps the extinct species would have caused every species of bird in the world to become extinct.

    There aren't many other species around with a moral faculty. We humans, as a consequence of possessing this faculty, have the obligation to fix things that we believe to be wrong. Being fallible, we may come to the incorrect conclusion of the best fix. That however, does not imply that we shouldn't try.

  • I've got the desktop (fvwm with xterms, mainly), the web site (slashdot lite, for example), a newsgroup or two (but they're clearly a secret), and the keyboard (veteran of a cream soda, which made the keys stick, because they were sticky).

    Can't help you with the others...
  • Great, now I'll ruin some karma... How about
    "European regulators"?

    Or

    Socialists?

    But that's redundant.
  • Might you be on a cable modem or the like?

    Maybe we could bring back the understanding that not everyone has broadband, those that have it will still be in the minority (25% or so) for a while yet.

    The main problem is that some web pages seem to be designed such that the page can't be rendered until the entire file and all pictures are downloaded, for those with modems, that can be a while.

    This site used to take forever but I think it has been improved some lately:

    Wildcoast DVD Animania [wildcoast.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There is also the question of whether the ecosystems have adapted to being without the extinct species for so long, that reintroducing that species will have the the same potential for messing up the ecosystem as introducing an alien species.

    Why don't Sci-Fi movies ever cover this? If you went back in time 75,000,000 years to see dinosaurs, you'd probably die within a day from some long extinct bacteria or virus you're totally vilnerable. What's more, you presence would likely spread a wave of death over the entire eco system from bacteria and viruses you brought from the future.

  • One thing most people don't realize is that current cloning technology uses an anucleated egg from the "host" species, in this case, a cow. The egg has had the nucleus destroyed or removed, and replaced with the "donor" species' nucleus. BUT, the nucleus isn't the only source of genetic material in the organism!! Each cell has hundreds of mitochondria, each of which has a small amount of genetic material. This DNA produces proteins used inside the mitochondria for critical metabolic processes.

    If you replace the nucleus of a cow with a guar, you don't end up with a real guar which is identical to the extinct animal...you end up with a guar/cow hybrid, where 99+% of the DNA is guarian (?) and the rest is bovine. Since cows are presumably very closely related to guars, the cloned offspring may be nearly indistinguishable from a guar. But it isn't really a guar; there will never be a real guar again.

    In a hundred years, if man isn't careful, we'll have embryo banks of cloned and preserved rhinos, tigers, pandas, elephants and guars, and every twenty years or so, we'll thaw one out, and put it in a cow, and create a new baby that will live in a cage in a zoo until it dies and it's time to thaw out the next one. Is this really better than putting up a sign that says: "White Rhinos: Made Extinct by Man in 2035?"

  • By that logic, we shouldn't have endangered species lists or protection laws, either; if the little critters can't handle us strip-malling their habitat, it's their own damn fault.

    Nothing in what I said implies any of this. If you claim to have "logic" on your side, produce an argument. In an ideal world, we wouldn't cause extinction at all. In the real world, we do what we can. It would be much better if we had had the foresight to stop destroying the gaur before the last one died. Since we didn't, we do the next best thing, which (I would assume) would include restoring their habitat to the best of our ability, giving the resurrected species places to live in the wild.

    And you totally ignore my point. When it's gone, it'se gone. You can't recreate the gaur's environment at all, because the gaur's environment had gaurs and/or their ancestors bearing, feeding and caring for their young. If you "succeed", you'll get something that's not the same. You're introducing a species, not reinstanting one.

    And, in any case, we're talking about one concrete action: a company is making a cow give birth to a gaur clone, nothing more. If this were accompanied with some serious attempt at recreating the natural environment of the gaur (which I still would oppose), we'd have one thing. But nothing of the sort is going on. It's just a publicity stunt by a corporation that wants to appear "ecologically friendly"; it is absolutely unviable, but is packaged to promote their products and research, in particular, to distract attention from the dangers genetic engineering involves, not to mention the sheer unnecessity and utter greed driving it.

    It would be much better if we had had the foresight to stop destroying the gaur before the last one died. Since we didn't, we do the next best thing, which (I would assume) would include restoring their habitat to the best of our ability, giving the resurrected species places to live in the wild.

    RevAaron and mine's argument is that the "next-best thing" is not doable. You can do something which, if you don't think about it, seems like you did that, but you really can't do it. Species don't exist in a vacuum; they're not just gene pools, they arise naturally in a very specific, irreproducible context. Once the species is gone, it's gone.

    Sure, it isn't perfect. Neither is medicine. Do you think surgery is a bad thing because it doesn't always work and causes problems of its own? Or medicines - are they bad because of their side effects?

    Strawman argument, wherein you try to paint me as a Luddite. Still, I can answer in the following way: suppose that by means of free, universal preventive care, we could stop a huge number of infections that nowadays kill people, using a minimum of medicine, with only mild side effects.

    What would be the ethical thing to do, in a world where many people died from disease? To concentrate your resources on developing further and further advanced treatments for advanced illneses, or to provide the preventive care that would minimize it?

    Of course, this is not a hypothetical example.

    Should cancer victims be left to die, or should we give them highly unnatural and uncomfortable treatments in the hope that we can return them to some semblance of their former selves?

    Apart from the fact that here you attempt to make me look like somebody who could potentially be responsible for the premature death of cancer patients, it's ironic you pick the example of cancer. Cancer is so widespread today precisely because of our advanced medicine, and the many carcinogens we release into the environment.

  • I saw "we" simply because i truly did mean we as in mankind. Don't start witht the petty "you can't speak for me" BS. I know that. So does every intelligent reader. That's a given. I don't know where you took rhetoric classes, but I've never taken one, and using we was simply what came out of my head, not some planned out "trick."

    Which means that you have internalized the propaganda.

    I am sure they want to do some research on their own, thats what companies do! So RedHat or MS do soemthing cool and demo it at InterOp or something, do we (there's that we again!) automatically view their motives as sinister simply becvause they can benefit from it? Thats a bit simplsitic don't you think? Why shoudn't they pick a endangered species?

    Where did I say they had "sinister motives"? I just said they were giving the impression of doing something which, in reality, is patently hopeless and useless, in the hopes of looking good while they were at it. Pure PR.

  • We are doing to it to correct (at least TRY to) a past error.

    First of all, are you a representative of Advanced Cell Technologies, Inc.?

    No? Then why do you say "we"?

    This is a common rhetorical device in propaganda, referring to one's ideas, plans, interests, etc., as "ours". For example, in the US, corporate interests have been presented as "our" interests. (If you complain that you meant "we" as in "mankind", the reply is that you don't represent humanity either.)

    So, leaving your petty rhetorical trick aside, I think it is fair to ask: what is this company's interest in doing this? My guess is that they are doing research they want to do anyway, and picked the endangered-species thing purely as a form of PR.

  • It is very different for a stray bird to wander into a new environment than for us to put it there. The first case does not involve any ethics-- it is simply something that happened, without our intervention. The second involves our agency in an essential manner, which is why ethics becomes very relevant.
  • So a new colony of Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers is established, but they don't know how to build their nests right. They build friggin cirucular holes in the trees instead of rectangular holes. And the song they sing is all wrong. Man, that would suck.

    First of all, you provide a very optimistic example.

    Second, birds and mammals are very different creatures. The gaur is a mammal-- it has a much larger brain volume, and a correspondingly higher potential for learned behavior.

    And anyway, your point does not in any way contradict any of what I said. You don't "restore" a species when you insert clones of it in a different environment, since a species occurs in a particular environment. You end up with something different.

    Even if you considered a case like this to be something worthwhile to do, you'd delude yourself if you thought you had reproduced the exact same thing that had disappeared.

  • I refuse to believe that in the few thousand years since humans started being "civilized" that we have caused more animal species to become extinct than in the few million years before that.

    Whatever the answer is here, the fact remains that we are now conscious participants in environmental change, which brings along ethical considerations that weren't in the picture ever before.

    To counter your point, I think one can evidence that "modern" "civilization" *is* threatening to make far more species extinct than anything ever before, if it hasn't already. My examples have mostly to do with agriculture, e.g. the push to use a few varieties of high-yield cash crops attacks, to the detriment of local varieties, threatens local crops.

    Essentially, our species consciously understands and manipulates the environment in ways that go very far beyond any other species ever has. At least this point is undeniable and decisive here.

    I do have moderator points today, but I couldn't find an appropriate way to moderate your inflammatory, shortsighted post. Any negative way I moderated it would not explain the reasons that I have for believing your post should be moderated down.

    You show yourself to be a bad moderator . What was "inflammatory" from that post, apart from the fact that the you disagree with it?

    People like you, with your "troll == disagrees with me" attitude is why this place has gone to hell.

  • Elsewhere in this thread, konstant replies: "Haven't you ever wanted a second chance after you made an idiotic mistake? This is one way of mankind making good on incredible errors after the fact." netstorm2000 says: "We are doing to it to correct (at least TRY to) a past error."

    Can't they get it? When a species is extinct, it is GONE. Period. The species itself was an essential part of the environment ito which it was adapted. Period. You can't bring that back at all.

    Kudos to you and Black Parrot who get it. This is just a further example of the arrogance of non-sustainable "modern" "civilization" and its "we are the masters of nature" attitude.

  • The inflammatory aspects were that it blamed all of the readers (assuming they're all human) for the extinction of animals and then questioned their attempts to rectify the situation, while ignoring the other benefits of genetic research.

    You use a strawman argument to justify your ad hominem attack? Gee.

    Point out where the original poster "blames all the readers". He put the cause on "civilization" (and he enclosed it on quotes). It is one thing to claim that each human being is directly and individually resposible for X, and another to claim that the modes in which our species is organized is responsible for X (in the latter case, each individual is responsible indirectly at the most).

    And as for your "ignoring the other benefits of genetic research", this article is about a specific application of genetic research, and the poster was discussing that application in particular. Nothing he said has any obvious implications on any other application of genetic engineering.

    Please do us all a favor. Go to your user preferences, and choose "Not willing to moderate", and stop rationalizing your impulses to mod down somebody just because you disagree with them.

  • Eh, whatever the point of this current exercise I would like to mention that survival of the fittest is an EPIPHENOMENON! It is not a freaking Moral Law- honestly, people behave as though this were some religious issue (usually when _they_ reckon they are 'fit'), carrying on like 'But aren't unfit things _supposed_ to die and get out of the way?'

    No. No, there is no justification for that attitude- in fact I daresay many of these people are posting from the USA- which was established on a political _repudiation_ of 'survival of the fittest', which is why it is a republic and not a just-count-up-all-the-votes democracy.

    With regard to extinct species, I can think of nothing about making clever simulations of them (in new contexts- gee, sounds like 'evolution' or something) that is so bad as this notion that there is a _moral_ basis behind extinction. How do you know the guar doesn't have some amazing biochemical thing to learn from- perhaps _not_ the guar but specifically the 99% guar 1% cow that will be brought into the world? The bottom line is that _we_ are part of nature, like it or not- we are not nearly so ingenious as to foresee and control the results of all our tinkerings, and not nearly so clever as to take on the force of Darwin and claim it for our own. We _cannot_ truly survive as if we are an entirely outside force to nature- nor can we act as if nature is completely beyond us and never to be tampered with. We and our actions are a part of the ecosystem, like it or not. We're going to continue to use our cunning little monkey brains to do all sorts of things- it is right that we should take an interest in the genetic diversity of the planet but let's not fool ourselves about the role this places us in. As we start to experiment in these areas we continue to be part of nature and if we screw stuff up it's not some moral punishment for hubris- nature tends to be unpleasant to humans in arctic temperatures without warm clothing, or to moths whose protective coloration can't adapt fast enough to soot-blackened trees- or to humans who invent uberdiseases with genetic engineering. If by messing around with extinct species we develop the skill and experience to not inflict the equivalence of brush wildfires on ourselves (i.e. push nature too far and it snaps back at you and then moves on), that will make it all worthwhile.

  • Posted by polar_bear:

    This is great, we'll find a way to bring back animals from extinction...after they've been killed off because we keep expanding to fill all the available habitats on Earth and ruin their ecosystem and...so - what happens when we bring them back? Keep a few choice samples in zoos and preserves so we can pretend that we've done something wonderful by recreating a species just for our own amusement?

    Fact is, if we don't get our stuff together, the numbers of animals going extinct is going to rapidly increase until we end up being the one going extinct - and no other species of animal would be willing to bring us back, even if they could. (Except maybe dogs, we've been pretty nice to them overall and they're generally forgiving. But they just don't have the technology, so forget it...)

    In any other species, when the population overruns the food supply then some of the population dies off and the cycle continues - generally the species reaches homeostasis. They become part of their environment, and too many or too few create an imbalance. Predators or lack of food (or both) work to make sure that overpopulation doesn't last long. Similarly, if an animal is being preyed on too much, eventually some of the predators die off and then they can repopulate. Before humans start coming on to the scene, extinction is rare. Not unheard of, but rare.

    However, we've been breaking the laws of nature by producing more and more food and more and more people. It is a cycle that cannot last - we are not above nature just because we are "smarter" than other animals. Yes, I said "other" animals because we are, like it or not, part of the animal kingdom. We're not exempt just because we have tools and written language and bank accounts and other things...we're still animals. And, if we don't change our ways and learn to become part of nature again, we'll be an extinct animal.

    To quote George Carlin "Save the planet? How arrogant! The planet doesn't need saving. The planet is fine. The people are f@#$ed, but the planet is fine. It'll be here long after we're gone."

    Want a different perspective? Check out http://www.ishmael.org/ and get hold of Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael" or "Story of B" or "My Ishmael" - they should be required reading in second grade.
  • Posted by polar_bear:

    Refreshing indeed.

    I realize that everyone has a different perspective, and I respect yours. I don't take your reply (rebuttal?) as a personal attack in any way. It's easy to see that we could probably exchange reasons for/against using new technology all day - but my main reason for posting is not to argue we should stop using new technologies - only to actually take the time to think before we deploy them and actually take the time to think whether we need them or not.

    Also, no - I don't think we should freeze culture at any point. That's not what I'm trying to say - what I am saying is that our culture had changed very, very slowly throughout history - and still does. However, our technologies are advancing far faster than our culture can. The concepts of "generation gaps" are really unique to the last 150 years or so. Some of the cultural constructs we've come up with are great - like childhood. (If you look into it, you'll find that our culture's idea of childhood is quite novel and didn't exist several hundred years ago. The idea that children should be innocent of things like sex or work until a given age are very new, historically speaking.)

    The main problem is this, to hold on to the car example, we introduced a major element of change to our society and no one realized until 50 years later (or so...) that it had this enormous impact on our society. Great, we can get away from an abusive home overnight or get someone to the hospital and save their life - but the car has also fostered an attitude in our culture that didn't exist 100 years ago - namely that if you completely screw up your life in an area, why you can just move and re-start. That used to be a huge undertaking. Now it's trivial. (Okay, moving's still a pain in the butt, but trivial compared to 150 years ago.)

    Finally, I don't believe that we can only proceed from prior knowledge. It is possible to speculate what the consequences of a technology will be. Particularly now that we can examine the introduction of radical change through technology with other technologies that have been introduced. Granted, there's room for error, but it does give one a start. Simply saying "oh, we're not sure what this will do, so we'll throw it in the mix and see if we were right or not" is irresponsible. Maybe you'll look at something and find that it is a potential mixture of good and bad effects - but you think that the good outweighs the bad, okay - at least you've THOUGHT about it. That's all I'm saying.

    Finally, saying that preventing access to technology could be unethical. That's an interesting perspective, considering you don't seem to feel that the reverse is true - namely that giving access is then ethical. I would say that not thinking about the consequences of an action is unethical - you're basically throwing caution to the wind and saying "okay, here you go - hot new technology! Hope it doesn't make your nipples fall off tomorrow, but I didn't think it through so que sera sera." Is that ethical?

    I have a set of beliefs, and I try to live by them. I consider that ethical - my belief is that I have to do what I believe is right, and I have to think about the consequences of my actions - at least as far as I can reasonably predict. For me, it would be unethical to do any less. And, if I had invented something that had great potential for change, I would have to think about its possible effect. If, having thought about it, I decide it may be more harmful than positive, it would be less than ethical to go ahead and make it available. It's much harder to recall existing technology that people ingrain in their lives than it is to simply not release it. Think about the car again - if we were to decide that "Hey, cars are screwing up the environment, they're messing up the family unit and generally costing us too much - let's get rid of them" hoooo boy. What are the odds you'd be able to get rid of them without massive outcries and general chaos? Not good, I'd expect.

    *whew*

    Okay - off the soapbox. Sorry for the lengthy reply, and slight rambling, but this is an issue that I've thought about a lot - and it just happend to spring up on Slashdot of all places. :)
  • Posted by polar_bear:

    Oh, please, save us from precautionary thinking!

    Granted, you're right - "you cannot conclusively prove that any new thing will do no harm" and often you can't prove that it will, either.

    However, our technology has so far outstripped our culture that it's not funny. We're still arguing about whether or not it's okay to have abortion (and some about birth control) while we're freezing embryos and working on same-sex parenting and genetic manipulation and cloning and...well, quite a few technologies that we've barely paused to examine the ethical and practical complications of. Frankly, we haven't even dealt with the invention of the car from a cultural perspective. Think about it - how fragile the nuclear family is now that you can be in another state by nightfall and across the country in a day or two.

    We have an insanely bad habit of doing something just because we can. Is it great that we can clone sheep? Yeah, it's really cool. Is it something we should be practicing...um, I dunno. I really don't, and I doubt that anyone else really does either. But we are. Should we be cloning extinct animals. Maybe. Should we be worrying about why they're extinct in the first place? I'd say so. I bet it has a lot to do with the fact that we didn't stop to think of the consequences of our actions.

    It's imperitive that when we as humans invent a new technology that someone ask the question "is this going to help or hurt us? or both?" This should happen before the technology has been spread all over the world and then someone notices - "oh, look, all those exhaust fumes doing massive damage to the ecosystem" "oh, bother, all the lead in discarded computer monitors is polluting the water table." "Hmmm...that's funny, all those women who took thalidomide (sp?) for morning sickness are having babies with birth defects..." Get the picture?

    Would it be that terrible if we invented something, and then said "yup, it's neat, but we're not quite ready for it yet. Let's shelve it and come back in five years." By all means, we should do research, but you have to consider the consequences of inventions as well as chugging along and spewing out new technologies.
  • Not everything was "unfit" lots of these species would still be around if man hadn't hunted them

    But doesn't that count as a chnage in the environment that they were unable to adapt to?

  • I wonder if there is any frozen passenger pigeon DNA around? I somehow doubt it. They were extinct in the 1930s, long before the prospect of making new life out of genes was considered.

    There are a lot of contemporary "passenger pigeons"... Species which become extinct before we have ever been aware of their existence, for example.

    So, Beware The Techno-fix!!! Nothing whatsoever will replace pollution reduction, habitat preservation, and hunting controls, though some will try to say that this innovation renders such commonsense conservation efforts redundant. Do not believe them. (The movie "Silent Running" shows the logical endpoint of such thinking.)

  • A species goes extinct, whether it's as a result of our encroaching on nature, or simply natural selection, what is to say that it wasn't meant to happen?

    Nothing whatsoever is "meant to happen", at least from a scientific perspective. Natural selection, like gravity, describes what happens not what ought to happen. If people decide that saving species X from extinction is worth it to them, then that's just fine.
  • If species X is extinct, there is a reason for it.

    There are only reasons in the sense that there are reasons which led to the event, not in the sense that the event had a higher purpose.

    Bringing back that species might in the end harm the environment.

    But there is no objective definition of the term "harming the environment". Sure, bringing back a species may have consequences, but whether these consequences are good or bad is entirely dependent on one's point of view.

    I don't like using this example, but would you support bringing back the dinosaurs because the dumb population finds it a good idea?

    Sounds like you aren't a big fan of the democratic process

    Do you know what that would do to our planet and or society?

    No, but the effects of not bringing them back are equally as unknown.
  • I'm sorry, I thought that species went extinct for a reason...

    This is a prime example of humans assuming that they can 'fix' everything. A species goes extinct, whether it's as a result of our encroaching on nature, or simply natural selection, what is to say that it wasn't meant to happen?

    Sigh....
  • Lighten up. Sit back. Enjoy the ride.

    How about bringing back customers who understand that the purchase of a PC _does not_ mean a lifetime of coddling and hand-holding?
    You, sir, are bitter. The fact is that there has been a marked decline in the quality of techies at retail stores and a similar decline on technical support lines. It's a documented fact, one that I have had to deal with in a number of different ways. That being said, I know full well that most computer users are technically incompetent. That, however, doesn't change the fact that this problem exists. Customers, stupid or not, need a certain level of service.

    A good many customers may well be willfully ignorant or abrasive, but the fact remains that there are plenty of customers that have legitimate cause for complaint. That, if you did not notice, is a complaint, and a well deserved one at that. I do not pretend that it's a solution or a full description of the problem. It is a casual, accurate, and fair comment. Your response, on the other hand, is none of the above. Your response sounds more like the whining of a malcontent techie.

    How about bringing back literacy skills which include trivial bits of information like the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, what an ampersand is, and that "quotes" around a word are NOT supposed to be typed in?
    Hello, this is slashdot, an _informal_ discussion forum. This thread, in particular, was meant to be mostly comical in nature. So step off your high-horse.

    FYI, I am plenty literate and I could punctuate according to MLA, or what have you, when it behooves me.

    PS: My use of quotes is not as improper as you suggest. For instance, it is common and accepted practice, in academia and business alike, to use quotations in instances where words have a special or ironic meaning. Unless you are omniscient, you could hardly know my meaning with any real certainty. I did, in fact, intend something of a double meaning. If you still can't handle that, then I suggest you lighten up and little more reading.
  • hehe well that is debatable. But the quality in both has fallen substantially. Granted, you never had the best and the brightest at such outfits, but there used to be a time when they could do more than read the labels off the products they sell. My theory is that the demand for technies has outstripped the supply for even the most marginally skilled ones. Each skill level has essentially been pushed up a notch or two, leaving only the equivelent of McDonalds employees to work such jobs (at least in most major cities). Kids with just a little bit of programming experience, can and do land real jobs programming. Whereas many of them would have started out working at radio shack, or something to that effect.
  • There are tens of thousands of species threatened with extiction. The resources wasted on (painfully) cloning a handful of extinct warm-and-fuzzy mammals would be much better spent keeping more species from becoming extinct.

    Besides, it is naive to think that cloning "brings back" species. Species die out when their habitat disappears. Cloning a species isn't going to bring their habitat back. The only way we are going to keep species from becoming extinct is by preserving their habitats, and, more generally, the ecological diversity of our planet as a whole.

  • > With no habitat to go back to, to repopulate, what's the point of bringing them back? Just to say we can do it?

    You're right, and it really surprises me to see posters disagreeing with you.

    I rather suspect that "the point is" that this can be brought up in lots of cases where the ecological impact study for a project returns an unfavorable result. "No problem, we'll just revivify the species later if anyone decides they want it."

    I'm interested in the science involved, and I would like to see lots of species brought back. But face it - they'll have fewer places to live in 10 years than they do now.

    --
  • ...what is to say that it wasn't meant to happen?

    We are! If we are able to change our habits, protect habitats through political influence, or take active measures to protect a species, who is to say that THAT wasn't meant to happen? The whole point of conservation, and wildlife preservation, is that there is a measureable value to it, and the laissez-faire attitude damages our own interests in the long run.

    Now granted, I don't think bringing back species through DNA storage or surrogacy is anywhere near a good solution, but there are good reasons for trying.

    I was at the San Diego Wildlife Animal Park [sandiegozoo.org] about a month ago (a large open space zoo and preserve), and it was mentioned that one of the species of asian animals exhibited there (a Chinese deer of some sort, I believe), has existed solely in captivity for over 700 years! I found that amazing.
  • People can't even agree if light behaves as a wave or a particle. The only coherent explication is that all science is wrong.
  • I'd be interested to see what people have to think about how this relates to the 'survival of the fittest' views on species evolution and extinction. I personally don't believe in evolution (another discussion entirely), but if you hold to that belief, as it seems many or most scientists do, wouldn't it make sense that these extinct species weren't cut out to make it at a certain point in time? (whether it's the fault of man or not)

    What do you think? Are these species being brought back to be put on display only, or are we planning on releasing them back into the wild? If we do release them, aren't they destined for the same extinction as before?

    Micro$oft(R) Windoze NT(TM)
    (C) Copyright 1985-1996 Micro$oft Corp.
    C:\>uptime

  • Extinction is permanent, so if it something can be brought back is it really extinction?

    "No," said the Parrot ", I'm just resting".
  • The first problem you'll have to fight is the groups who are opposed to man playing "God."

    Yeah, the main thing that worries me about that scenario is that people tend to make mistakes. I'm all for technology, and this sounds like one of the cooler applications of genetic engineering, but I don't know where we should draw the line.

    Tech for betterment of humanity is a very good thing.

    Tech because we think we ought to may or may not be. In the end, we may or may not "Get It".

    Saying "nothing will ever go wrong" or anything like that makes me a little nervous- Just remember, this is the same culture that gave us such incredibly amazing things as the Hampster Dance...


    What do I do, when it seems I relate to Judas more than You?
  • Techies at computer stores that actually know anything.

    You've been spending time at Fry's electronics haven't you? The sales people there don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. I should know as I used to work there in the tech department. Component sales were the worst. They would sell a customer a part they knew was wrong simply because that part paid them a higher commission. Finding memory for a particular computer system is as much an art as it is a science. However for the components department it was almost a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

    Fry's electronics, the home of slow, ignorant, hard to find service.

    Lee Reynolds
  • No shite!

    I can't tell you how many people would come into Fry's electronics where I worked as a computer tech wanting us to fix the computer they put together from parts they bought from us.

    The most atrocious experience was with a guy who bolted his motherboard directly onto the chassis, as in without spacers. All the pins on the bottom were sitting right on the metal, something that most people will know is a very bad idea. His excuse? That the component sales department hadn't explicitly told him not to do that.

    Then there are the people who buy a premade system and expect it to be perfect, which usually means that they shouldn't have to know anything to use it.

    I'll tell you, I can fix problems with computers but I can't fix people.

    If the species known as "computer illiterate with hair up ass to buy system and get online but not exert any effort to do it" ever dies out, I'll be VERY VERY glad.

    Lee Reynolds
  • Ah, good. Real debate. Refreshing.

    However, our technology has so far outstripped our culture that it's not funny. We're still arguing about whether or not it's okay to have abortion (and some about birth control) while we're freezing embryos and working on same-sex parenting and genetic manipulation and cloning and...well, quite a few technologies that we've barely paused to examine the ethical and practical complications of. Frankly, we haven't even dealt with the invention of the car from a cultural perspective. Think about it - how fragile the nuclear family is now that you can be in another state by nightfall and across the country in a day or two.
    This is not a personal attack, but it does appear that you feel that 'culture' needs to be preserved at some given point, frozen (or at least slowed) at a given time period. I have an entirely different perspective. Specifically, that individuals change and grow, and will make use of whatever technology that enables them to do the things that they want to, and the culture is merely the collective side-effect of those individual choices.

    A car gives the individual freedom. Yes, freedom to ruin families. Also, freedom to get out of bad situations. Freedom to rush someone to a hospital that's ten miles away, and freedom to get away quickly from the scene of a crime.

    I honestly cannot assign good or bad labels to any of those actions, because I'm not the person who did them. I can only comment on those actions that directly affect my life. I guess my point is that it is the individual who has to make the best choices that they can, at the time.

    We have an insanely bad habit of doing something just because we can. Is it great that we can clone sheep? Yeah, it's really cool. Is it something we should be practicing...um, I dunno. I really don't, and I doubt that anyone else really does either. But we are. Should we be cloning extinct animals. Maybe. Should we be worrying about why they're extinct in the first place? I'd say so. I bet it has a lot to do with the fact that we didn't stop to think of the consequences of our actions
    I agree with you completely that we should be studying why species become extinct, but I think one (of many) useful tool in that investigation would be the analysis of a living member of that species.

    But I have another issue with this statement: I am not a collective. I am not your 'we.' What is right for me is not always what is right for you, and my 'rights' to perform said actions stop where your rights (and life) begins. And on that strict basis, judgements have to be made about what I can and cannot do. But like it or not, it has to be based on what we know. I KNOW that breaking into someone's home and stealing their stereo is theft. There's a very direct set of actions that leads to a given state (your no longer having your stereo), and so we judge that theft is wrong, legally and morally (in most situations).

    But try this on for size: Assume, for a moment, that the most extreme predictions of chaos theory are accurate, on the macroscale. That a butterfly's flapping really can cause a hurricane. Now, that in mind, every single action that I take, or do not take, has hugely far-reaching consequences for all life on the globe. But, we can't tell what actions will cause what results. So nothing much changes. But then one day, we figure out how to predict such actions. Suddenly, the most ethical action is to change your behavior, because now you KNOW what the consequences are.

    The situation is applicable here: If someone invents, say, a very effective stun gun, and all tests show it harmless, but then twenty years later all those who got hit with it develop some strange disease, you would stop using it. But, you never would have found out if you didn't use it in the first place. Is it right to prevent technological progress on these grounds? I don't think so. You may think differently, fine.

    Would it be that terrible if we invented something, and then said "yup, it's neat, but we're not quite ready for it yet. Let's shelve it and come back in five years." By all means, we should do research, but you have to consider the consequences of inventions as well as chugging along and spewing out new technologies.
    Yes. Firstly, because there is no way to judge the unintended consequences of a new technology. If there was, they wouldn't be unintended consequences, would they?

    Second, deliberately preventing someone getting access to technology that could help them better their lives (and realizing they are the only ones who can judge that) is a form of control that I don't feel is really ethical. What if that technology can save lives? You can't know what the consequences are, until it's used.

  • This is a prime example of humans assuming that they can 'fix' everything. A species goes extinct, whether it's as a result of our encroaching on nature, or simply natural selection, what is to say that it wasn't meant to happen?
    And what is to say it was? It's this sort of precautionary thinking that, if followed rigourously, would stifle all technological and scientific innovation.

    The simple fact is that we don't yet have the ability to accurately predict the future, and so we have to make our best guesses in any situation. If those who have the resources want to bring back an extinct species, fine. But it's also their responsibility if anything goes wrong. Plus, in this situation, we also get to learn much more about said species than if we hadn't done anything at all.

    Now, one could claim that bringing back an extinct species could endanger us all. I mean, look at what happened with non-native transplants, like Kudzu. Then again, Kudzu didn't result in the end of all life, either.

    But, however any action turns out, there is this fact: You cannot conclusively prove that any new thing will do no harm, to anyone, ever.

  • In any case, let the fit live, and let the unfit die. It's seemed to work just fine that way for hundreds of millions of years before man was around...

    Yep. And it will continue just as it has in the past for many million years after humans are gone. Which might not be too far away...
  • How was the passenger pigeon unfit for survival, beside not being bulletproof? We're responsible for the majority of recent extinctions, not some grandiose concept of Darwinian pruning. Most large North American land mammals disappeared with the first arrival of human hunters. They were well adapted to the climate of the time and would still be if not hunted to extinction.

    Humans are a factor in evolution just like everything else. Dying because humans hunted you into extinction is just as evolutionarily valid as dying because some other animals hunted you into extinction. Or do you think that humans are not animals?

    What is wrong with trying to repair the damage we've done?

    Nothing. But you can't say that the passenger pigeon wasn't unfit for survival; clearly it was, since we killed it. If it was 'fit for survival' we wouldn't have been able to kill all of them. Sorry, that's how evolution works.
  • I don't think anything like this is feasible, for the simple reason that a healthy species *needs* genetic variation to survive.
    IANAPG, but it's my understanding that the issues with genetic diversity have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, a human with one set of grandparents is probably going to be pretty screwed up... but "birth defects" in humans are probably much more noticeable than birth defects in animals. Who knows how many fingers a Dodo bird is supposed to have, anyway? If it is able to reproduce, it's probably good enough for our purposes.

    Which brings me to the second point... the problems caused by inbreeding tend to breed themselves out after a few generations. The first run of clones from an endangered species might have a very high rate of fatality, but that just accelerates natural selection, so later generations will be much more robust. Eventually mutations would restore normal genetic diversity.

    Then again, you could always spike it with frog DNA.
  • Hear hear for a working pancreas! Injections are annoying.

    Anyhow, it's amazing where different groups draw the line at Interfering With God's Will. For example, having a tooth filled.

    Also, I'm not sure what exectly you mean by "Middle East religions.&quot If you're talking about religions that started in that area, then Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all fall under that category. If you're talking about religions currently practiced there, the same goes.

    I apologize for any misspellings, my fingers are cold and I can't type right. (Damn diabetes again. :-)

  • I thought creationists didn't believe in cells, DNA, cloning, and so forth.

    How can you possibly justify belief in DNA techniques, forming of offspring from parents' DNA, etc., if you do not believe that evolution happens?

  • But it's still not as bad as Best Buy.

    ; )
  • the guar isn't extinct. I recently read an article that some had been seen in the jungles of cambodia. You can read it here [lineone.net].

    //rdj
  • Techies at computer stores that actually know anything.

    How about bringing back customers who understand that the purchase of a PC _does not_ mean a lifetime of coddling and hand-holding?

    How about bringing back literacy skills which include trivial bits of information like the difference between a colon and a semi-colon, what an ampersand is, and that "quotes" around a word are NOT supposed to be typed in?
  • You, sir, are bitter.

    Not even remotely. I am absolutely jovial. I meant exactly what I typed, with no hidden meaning: some customers (not the majority, but many) buy a PC with the apparent expectation that it comes with lifetime technical support. This is an unrealistic expectation on the part of said customers. It unnecessarily increases the workload of already overworked tech support personnel, and often at the expense of those customers who have reasonable technical expectations.

    Lighten up.

    The fact is that there has been a marked decline in the quality of techies at retail stores and a similar decline on technical support lines. It's a documented fact, one that I have had to deal with in a number of different ways.

    This has been the opposite of my experience. If this alleged decline has been "documented," then I will bow to the evidence. However, I would have to read that evidence first, and agree that the evidence supported the conclusion.

    FYI, I am plenty literate and I could punctuate according to MLA, or what have you, when it behooves me.

    FYI, I wasn't questioning your literacy. I was referring to those customers who have to perform some task at the command-prompt and don't know the difference between the colon and the semi-colon. Maybe you are explaining how to use the format command, and they ask you what the colon is when you tell them: "Type format f-o-r-m-a-t space C colon."

    PS: My use of quotes is not as improper as you suggest... If you still can't handle that, then I suggest you lighten up and little more reading.

    Again, I wasn't referring to your use of quotes. I am sure that they adhere to the MLA. I was referring to customers who are confused by written instructions which contain quotes around keywords and mistakenly type them in.

    I suggest that you lighten up and read a bit more carefully before you next respond.
  • So, what am I trying to say? With no habitat to go back to, to repopulate, what's the point of bringing them back?

    Haven't you ever wanted a second chance after you made an idiotic mistake? This is one way of mankind making good on incredible errors after the fact.

    True, mountain gorilla may be on its way out now, but that doesn't mean we won't have a collective change of heart 50 years after they're all gone.


    -konstant
    Yes! We are all individuals! I'm not!
  • If that worked, what would be the point? If it became just like the extinct animal it'd end up going extinct again.
    --
    No more e-mail address game - see my user info. Time for revenge.
  • ...that Richard Seed is never going to become extinct? Crap.
    ----
  • People like you, with your "troll == disagrees with me" attitude is why this place has gone to hell.

    I don't have that attitude. Not only did in actually state that I did not believe that the original posted was crafted as a troll, but I also conciously avoided moderating it as such.
    Furthermore, this place has not gone to hell in my opinoin. (or have I just been trolled? perhaps a meta-troll.)

    What was "inflammatory" from that post, apart from the fact that the you disagree with it?

    The inflammatory aspects were that it blamed all of the readers (assuming they're all human) for the extinction of animals and then questioned their attempts to rectify the situation, while ignoring the other benefits of genetic research.

  • The reason (most) of these species are extinct is a loss of habitat caused by "civilization" moving in and changing it, whether to take resources or to build houses or businesses.

    I refuse to believe that in the few thousand years since humans started being "civilized" that we have caused more animal species to become extinct than in the few million years before that. Unless species are becoming extinct at several thousand times the previous rates of extinctions, this is pretty much impossible. Are you trying to say that we are in the middle of a period of mass extinction that even dwarfs the period in which the dinosaurs were wiped out?

    I do have moderator points today, but I couldn't find an appropriate way to moderate your inflammatory, shortsighted post. Any negative way I moderated it would not explain the reasons that I have for believing your post should be moderated down. It's not really flame bait because you take such a (currently) politically correct tone. It's not really offtopic; quite the contrary. I guess there's always the possibiliy that I have just been trolled. But to me, this post doesn't sound like a post intentionally crafted to troll, it sounds more like you're just confused.

    None of my post here should be construed to represent any opinion I have on the cloning of extinct animals, or on the morality or ethics of environmental damage caused by humans. I'll save those for a more appropriate thread.

  • Holy shit. Insightful, informative, and almost entirely spelled correctly. Thank you.
    I guess it does sometimes pay to read all the way down to post #324 in some stories.
    Well, I no longer "refuse to believe..." now I just "find it hard to believe..."

    (when are we going to get "spelled right", "used preview well", and "failed to use preview" added to the moderation options, anyways?)

  • ...Giant Pandas are on the schedule too.

    Hey, great. Since we can preserve select Panda DNA, I guess that means their natural ecosystem is saved too, right? Yay, a cure for extinction!

  • I can't believe they'd bring back GWAR [204.249.244.10]!

    Heck, can you imagine delivering those spiny outfits the band members wore? Can you say cesaerian section?

    Okay, slow day. So sue me. :)

  • I say that once a species is extinct, we should leave it that way, as a reminder of our own mortality.

    I am a firm believer that there are some things you just don't fsck with. This is one of them. This is just another example of humans playing god and asking all the wrong questions.

    Sure we *can* do this, but *should* we?

    I mean, I think that the real issue here is not that we are being responsibile and altruistic by restoring an extinct species. I think the real issue is that restoring an extinct species is an excuse to mess around with the planet's genetic heritage and say, "oh, look how clever we are."

    If we were really so concerned about extinction, I think we would be doing more to preserve the species that currently exist. But hell, why bother worrying about that? Once we know how to bring a species back, we can just go about our merry way. Then it suddenly becomes a question of what species do we *want* around. Hmmm? Anybody think of that?

    Oh gee, this rare mountain gorilla is in our way. That's okay, just get some samples and eliminate it. We can bring it back later on when we are done.

    Sounds absurd, I know. But I don't put anything past humans.

    Nothing can possiblai go wrong. Er...possibly go wrong.
    Strange, that's the first thing that's ever gone wrong.
  • The first problem you'll have to fight is the groups who are opposed to man playing "God." (I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. It makes me nervous, because it makes me feel like I, or my DNA, could become the property of a company who desires to produce people with my mindset or abilities. I'm also not comfortable with being 100% sure I'm nothing but cells and tissue, but that's another discussion.)

    The second problem will be those groups that decide the results are "unnatural" and will do anything to stop them. Think I'm kidding? Mess with the Middle East religions and see how serious they become.

    I read somewhere that someone is trying to bring back a woolly mammoth from frozen tusk DNA. It's a great idea, but doesn't it make you wonder? Sure, let's see what a T-Rex really looks like.. but can we make sure "Jurassic Park" doesn't happen please?

    In another way, I'm all for cloning. I'm diabetic; clone me a pancreas, PLEASE. One that works.. :-)

    -- Talonius

  • Folks, their species are dying for a reason, because they can't adapt to the changing environment (most likely the encroachment of man).

    Right, we should let the beautiful creatures die, and keep instead those species that can adapt to the enroachment of man. Like cockroaches, rats, and house lizards.
  • "There is a very hollow echo of a gaur in the birth of that animal to a cow in Iowa," said Kent Redford, an international program scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. "To say that is a gaur is to disrespect all gaurs in all the places where gaurs live. That animal will never live its life in true gaurdom, to wander in the forests of India and frolic with other gaurs and die and let teak trees grow out of it. That's the gaur I'm working to save."

    Have you ever said the word "gaur" so many times it lost all meaning?

    Anyway, on to my real point. This may be a great thing, but there is no way it's going to be used responsibly. As the process becomes easier, people will worry less about extinction, because they'll always be able to bring the animals back. And there will be one less barrier to screwing with the ecosystem. Which is bad.

    Marissa
    I'm not really an elf, I just play one in AD&D.

  • The loss of genetic diversity in Cheetahs is a perfect example of the problem the original poster was referring to. When their range was large, they had genetic variablility. As they were hunted and their habitat destroyed, the genetic variability dropped because of inbreeding. Now the main activity in their conservation is planning matings of cheetahs to ensure that the variability that exists is preserved and increased.

    The low genetic variability means that infants get sick and die, and that if a disease gets into the population, it'll be almost impossible to save any of them.

    I was reading through comments hoping someone would say this so I didn't have to.
  • Brining back a single animal from a sample of DNA from an extinct species is one thing. Bringing back an entire population is another. One imideate problem is the need for variation in the gene pool. Trying to bring back an entire population from 1 or 2 samples would lead to inbreading and the like rather quickly.
    This is a problem for longer exctinct animals where the # samples is small. Animals who died in the last century should have more samples available, we just have to make sure we use a variety of them.

  • I'm not thinking all that quick right now, but I'm not immediately seeing how you don't follow evolution in your belief, but you do follow survival of the fittest?
    I'm not trying to pick a fight, just am curious as what you are getting at. If it is a religious thing, then please don't bother - othersie I am curious.
    ---------------------------------------- ----------

  • and of course all these resurrected animals are now patentable...

    brave new world of greed and destruction.

    kind regards philippe, StopLifePatents.org [stoplifepatents.org]
  • I appreciate Black Parrot's and your sanity and support. Until more people understand this, and get it out of their heads that we are somehow above, aside, or seperate from nature, we'll continue leading ourselves toward the same fate as those species we've helped destroy. The longer we deny it, the closer we'll be to extintion.
  • Haven't you ever wanted a second chance after you made an idiotic mistake? This is one way of mankind making good on incredible errors after the fact.

    True, mountain gorilla may be on its way out now, but that doesn't mean we won't have a collective change of heart 50 years after they're all gone.


    Of course I have, who hasn't. But in 50 years, there's a good change that the environment of the cloned species will have changed so much that it is not accounted for in the cycle of things. Also, lab raised animals tend not to learn survival skills from their parents, like they would've in the wild. There's a good change reintroduction would be a flop.

    As I said in another reply, I did not think about the fact that we maybe able to disect these critters toward creating new medicines or zoo-things for ourselves.
  • I'm not saying we should let the sick die (as in, endangered), but was not thinking in a "how would these species help us?" sort of sense you have. Sure, they may look good in zoos, or provide some insight into our own bodies and medicine. I was thinking more in an ecological sense, where introducing species into non-native environments tends to be a bad thing.
  • I refuse to believe that in the few thousand years since humans started being "civilized" that we have caused more animal species to become extinct than in the few million years before that. Unless species are becoming extinct at several thousand times the previous rates of extinctions, this is pretty much impossible. Are you trying to say that we are in the middle of a period of mass extinction that even dwarfs the period in which the dinosaurs were wiped out?

    I'm not saying that humans have caused more extintions than those that happened by themselves over the millions of years life has existed on this planet. In fact, most (I cannot recall the stat- 99+%?) of new species go extinct, natural selection and all.

    What I'm saying is that our civilization has caused more thna our fare share of extintions. Do you argue that fact? A particular species relies on it's habitat, and when that's taken away, it tends not to be able ot survive without it. Habitat is a term that does not only encompass the structural surroundings, but also all of the plants, animals, geological formations, microscopic life, &c.

    It's fairly simple- when the ecosystem that a species has coevolved with, in and around is changed abruptly or destroyed, the species may or may not be able to adapt to those changes. When it cannot, it often goes extinct. This change can be natural (meteors, earthquakes, floods, and so on), or unnatural. Examples of unnatural change is the tearing down of a forest or prarie for laying down pavement, creating a farm, or growing grass for cows to graze. I admit, I do not like the term "unnatural," as humans are as "natural" as can be, but surely you get my point.

  • Around 1Billion years after this planet materialized the first primitive slime was created in the oceans. About one billion years ago immense numbers of various species have emerged into existence, 99% of them died out, the 1% populated Earth. This shows that existence of any type of life in itself is a very powerful tool for creation of new species. We do not need to preserve anything, even if every single animal (including humans) will die out there will always be slime and the population will repeat after recycling the pollution created by us.
  • We all came from Adam and Eve, and despite all the inbreeding, look how good we turned out!
  • Having a few chimps on display in a wildlife park is not the same as having a sustainable wild chimp population. You need a lot of different chimp communities exchanging members with each other -- otherwise your pool of genetic and cultural resources gets depleted. If you're willing to expend the effort, you can probably keep an isolated chimp community going indefinitely -- but the result is just a glorified zoo exhibit, inhabited by animals that have already lost the ability to survive without human intervention.

    __________

  • Don't forget that we can only bring back those species that we have a DNA sample for. For example, the dodo bird was long extinct before we even knew about DNA.

    Also, while we may be able to bring back a species, it will be very difficult to recreate the natural habitat of the species, if that has been destroyed as well. It is one thing to see an animal in a zoo; it is quite another to watch it in the wild.
  • Some years ago there was a lot of hype about the whales, elephants and also the fur coats.
    Now, if these endangered species just happen to be "industrially" renewable, then I am afraid that people will simply consider fur as they consider leather and will just seem to ignore how cruel it might have been to collect it.
    I don't appreciate the idea of solving the consequence of human idiocy. Only the cause needs a fix.

    --

  • At some point, one must stop to consider the terms that one uses in daily life. The words that one chooses to describe something are a great indicator of one's true nature. In this same way, the words we choose to use as a society, as a species, are a great tool for determining the true nature of humanity.
    One area of particular personal interest is what is referred to when you state that something is natural. "Natural" is a word that is often throw about, in advertisements, in politics, and in religion. Advertisements use the appeal of the common (mis)conception that natural is healthy. Many naturally occurring compounds can kill you. The poison that we synthesize is no more toxic than things already here before us. The only real difference is that we are ill equipped to deal with the amount of poison that we are creating. Political debate over moral issues often turns to the common argument, "This action is immoral, it is unnatural". Often there is some reference to God, or the fuzzy concept of "natural law".
    With all the different ways that the word "natural" is being used, it can be hard to focus on what we really mean. It is easy to get tunnel vision. Someone with authority tells you what is and isn't natural. Nature is pushed in your face as a selling point. Political types spew meaningless arguments. What really matters is what nature means to you.
    Let's define natural in a way that make sense and is easy to understand. The dictionary could be said to represent the common understanding of the meaning of words, so let's start there. It defines something natural as, "Something that exists in or is produced by nature."(1)
    That doesn't help much, so the definition of nature seems to be in order, "The material world and its phenomena". Surely artificial compounds are part of the material world, and are synthesized using the material world's phenomena, so even things that we create are also natural. In fact, it is impossible to create anything that is truly unnatural.
    You might argue that such things as emotions are not of the material world. Science repeatedly has proven that emotions are only a chemical reaction, which can be stopped or enhanced using chemicals. Thought, memory, control of your body, are all phenomena of the material world. To argue that anything is unnatural, you must prove that the action or object is not of the material world, and not part of the phenomena of the material world. No such thing exists, therefore everything is, and indeed must be, natural.
    The most compelling example of this is the thought of total earthly destruction. Even if all life on earth were destroyed, even if it was human action that directly caused this, it would still be a natural event. This may seem a little hard to swallow, but consider this: What if we, as humans, discovered a species that existed only on you island. These animals are fighting over the remaining resources of the island, becoming more and more ingenious in their attacks. At you point, you faction discovers that fire can be used to destroy the enemy, and develops methods for using fire. Unfortunately, in the process of the attack, the island catches fire, and all the plant life is destroyed. The animals die.
    Would the human viewer of these advanced animals consider the happening unnatural? No, it was only animals trying to survive. That is the same thing an external viewer of a dead earth would conclude. Just animals trying to survive. Break free from the thought pattern that some things are natural, and others are unnatural. All things are necessarily natural.
    One might think, "If everything we can do is natural, why not do whatever we want." Why be concerned about the environment if nothing we do is unnatural? The distinction needs to be made that natural is not necessarily positive. Natural cannot be associated with being positive, because as we discussed before, nothing truly unnatural can exist, therefore natural cannot be used to describe the nature of an object in this way. There is no positive when there is no negative. There just is.

    (1) American Heritage Dictionary Third Edition, pp 908,909


    -
  • I live in Iowa, and it is amazing that an "Asian gaur, a heavily muscled, humpbacked, ox-like animal native to the bamboo jungles of India and Burma" is being born from a damn cow here somewhere near me.

    Next thing you know my neighbor will be birthing dinosaurs out of his iguana.

  • ...not the mind. Many animal species learn behaviors from their parents. Behaviors are lost forever.
  • I do not think you can entirely bring back an extinct specie. Because even though the ones that are cloned may be the exact same in their genetic pool they *will* be different than the original species. This is because they will act different because they have no role model to copy from. They will act different and will have a hard time surviving, that is until the time they develop new surviving techniques, through natural selection, and then behave like a brand new species
  • Umm... A lot of the behavior that makes an animal what it is and enables it to survive is taught to it by it's mother. i.e. a cat not raised by it's mother often doesn't know how to hunt. I'm not sure quite how they'd get around that... Can a cow teach a guar to be a guar? You could try getting humans to teach the clones, it's been done before with orphaned animals, but I'm not sure how it'd be done with extinct species where we don't know enough about their behavior..
  • as a biologist and biological anthropologist, my focus has largely been in human and societal studies. however, in studying various areas of the americas and west africa, i developed a minor passion in the infamous dodo bird. related to this post, the dodo bird is on tap to be one of the first species (extinct species) to be cloned from their fossilized genetic code. i realize they are not alive to be preserved, but it should be interesting (a little jurassic park action for yeah).

    1. The Meaning of Life [mikegallay.com]
  • wasn't there a point to extinction?

    oh yeah, survival of the fittest/luckiest. but don't worry now, dead species, we'll bring you back even tho you didn't quite cut it the first time.

    honestly, is there anything dead we can't live w/o? aren't there enough not-extinct-yet babies starving? I'd rather see them fed than an anachronism in a zoo. I mean, we're not quite star trek IV yet, are we?

  • Wait a minute they are using cloning. I thought there is a problem with cloning in that way that the cloned animal cells have the same age as the real one when it is born, so for example Dolly the cloned sheep, will have much shorter lifespan than the real sheep. Anybody care to confirm or correct this?
  • While this is rather amazing accomplishment, I question wether this is, or ever could be a true Guar.

    The scientists have managed to clone the nuclear(ie. in the nucleus, not atomic ;*}) DNA, but I doubt they have managed to clone the mitochondrial DNA, indeed my understanding of most mammalian cloning techniques is that they are relying on the donor egg cell having functional mitochondria.

    While the nuclear DNA contains most of the genes that will determine the overall shape, plumbing and wiring of the animal, mitochondrial DNA provides the genes for the enzymes and cofactors that turn sugar into ATP(energy) within the cell, as well as those genes needed to reproduce the mitochondria themselves(yup they're like little bacteria).. What if a true Guar's mitochondria had, and more importantly needed, genes different from a cows mitochondria in order to survive in a much hotter, humid locale, such as the jungles of Asia?

    And then of course there is the question of cytoplasmic inheritance...where misfolded proteins could change an organism drastically. See http://www.eurekalert.org/releases/ucmc-pmp092500. html for an example. Without direct cellular inheritance you could end up with a rather different animal, perhaps only subtlely, but then we are only about 3% different from the great apes. How much does it take to turn a Guar into a Cowguar?

    And of course there is the issue of behaviours taught to a young animal by it's parents or herd, as well as the environment that it grows up in, not to mention the required genetic diversity to sustainably bring back an entire species...

    These animals are not "true" Guars, they are hybrids.

    So yes Virginia, extinction is permanent!

    Tinker23 - Currently taking Biology and Genetics at College.

  • I agree 100% on the keyboard thing. But how about:

    Techies at computer stores that actually know anything.

    Competent and friendly technical support lines.

    "Manly" products that might actually hurt you without any warning labels. As opposed to the watered down, idiotproof, disclaimer'ed products of today.

    News programs on TV that actually have _some_ worth.

    Decent seats on the airlines.

    The unapologetic hiring of attractive waitresses and such.

    .... ;)

  • by the_tsi (19767) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @03:09PM (#722351)
    God creates dinosaurs;
    God destroys dinosaurs;
    God creates man;
    Man destroys God;
    Man creates dinosaurs;
    Dinosaurs destroy man.
    ...
    Woman inherits the Earth.
  • by jetpack (22743) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @01:08PM (#722352) Homepage
    ... this is largely crap. Not that it doesnt work, but the point is more that so many species become extinct every year, we can hardly keep track of them, little less keep up with reproducing them. Not to mention that this doesnt cover all the plant life that becomes extinct.

    This is nteresting, and in some way good news, but this is hardly a good reason to stop worrying about destroying natural resources.

  • by c=sixty4 (35259) <armalyte@hotmail.com> on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:13PM (#722353) Homepage
    I don't think anything like this is feasible, for the simple reason that a healthy species *needs* genetic variation to survive.

    Imagine the inbreeding problems when an entire population is basically copies from one or a few individuals!

    There is also the question of whether the ecosystems have adapted to being without the extinct species for so long, that reintroducing that species will have the the same potential for messing up the ecosystem as introducing an alien species.

  • No it's not. The project isn't a success until the organism is born and lives to an age where it can breed and pass it's genes on.

    I understand that the goal of this project was simply to birth one extinct animal out of a common animal, but if the almost-extinct-critter doesn't make it to breeding age, then what's the point?
  • As a race, we have pushed further and further along a path away from nature. There are many - for want of a better word - "zealots" who claim to be "for nature" etc. Maybe they are right. Maybe that guy in the article claiming that guars should grow up in guar jungles, surrounded by guar trees and guar babies, maybe he's right. But then he can't see the wood for the trees.

    So, thousands and thousands of years ago some clever homonid decided that a stick was better at braining things than his fist. That was against nature, no?

    Soon after that, another clever homonid found that rubbing sticks together, or banging a rock off another rock, could start fire, making dead things easier and tastier to eat. Was not that also against nature?

    And so on. Man (meant in the non-sexist way :-) has spent all his time since then developing new and better ways to use his surroundings. We have McDonalds, Pepsi, Nike, Ford, etc., all different ways to do the same things we've been doing since before we were we - eating, drinking, getting from place to place. Except now we do it in style.

    We have been farming for many thousands of years. Is that not against nature?

    Time perhaps for some new-age philosopher to step forth from the ranks and announce the radical thought that maybe man was right to develop the stick. Maybe man was right to develop the wheel, even. And fire. And clothing. And multi-storey homes. And alternative modes of transport. At the rate we're going, heck even another place to live would be handy, as we're apparently ruining this planet as a habitat. But the point is we've had some power over nature for thousands of years, and no-one has drawn the line for us yet. Why stop now?

    /prak
    --
    We may be human, but we're still animals.
  • by jheinen (82399) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:18PM (#722356) Homepage
    They've been using surrogate mothers for endangered species for a long time. It goes back at least to 1983, when scientists used a common Eland antelope as a surrogate for the rare Bongo antelope. In 1989 they used a common housecat as a surrogate for the endangered Indian Desert Cat. Cloning has been around for awhile. Cloning endangered and extinct species and then using surrogates isn't exactly a breakthrough idea.

    -Vercingetorix
  • by Mateorabi (108522) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:31PM (#722357) Homepage
    But those weren't cloning I don't think. Those were 'only' endangerd species not extinct ones. I believe that they simply used artoficial insemination. No cloning or anything. And the surogate was so close to the real thing to make things much easier.

  • by AndrewTaylor (126476) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @01:26PM (#722358) Homepage
    There are extant species [utas.edu.au] which have no genetic variation - the entire population is a clone. If you'd prefer a mamalian example, the limited gneteic variation of the Cheetah is well known - but people often forget that until recently it was very successful with a huge range across Africa and Asia - one of the most widespead of all mammals. Andrew Taylor
  • by startled (144833) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:42PM (#722359)
    This is, in fact, new. This has never been done: "Bessie's gaur, named Noah and due to be born next month, was cloned from a single skin cell taken from a dead gaur".

    It may seem like an obvious extension of cloning and surrogates, but it's not nearly that simple. They've been trying to get this sort of thing quite some time. One issue with dead animals is how well their DNA has been preserved-- that's a big issue with cloning the wooly mammoth.

    The coolest new possibility the article mentioned at the end was this: Even if that cloning effort is successful, it will be impossible to re-create a breeding population of bucardos, because cells have been preserved from just one sex. That means a mate will have to be created.... The ACT team hopes to gain permission from Spanish authorities to use recently developed molecular techniques to give some of the preserved bucardo cells a male chromosome taken from a related goat.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @01:36PM (#722360) Homepage Journal
    This is not a new issue. Ever since DNA was discovered, it's been obvious that as long as you had DNA from a species, you could re-create individuals from that species. You might have to wait a long time for the necessary technology, of course.

    But is recreating individuals the same as preserving the species? Absolutely not.

    A species doesn't exist in isolation. It exists as part of a larger natural community. ("Ecosystem" is a hot-button word, so I won't use it.) It preys, and is preyed upon, it has symbiotic and parasitic relationships ... in short, it has thousands of relationships with the rest of the world, most of which science simply doesn't understand.

    Consider the Aurochs. There's no shortage of Aurochs DNA -- you ingest some every time you visit McDonald's. There have even been attempts to create "new" Aurochs by backbreeding from their domestic descendants, the cows. But even if you could create a "real" Aurochs, you'd have nothing but a scientific curiousity that can't survive without ongoing human maintenance. That all you'll have until somebody also re-creates the Aurochs natural environment. That's not going to happen. Even if we had the motivation and the resources (and we can't even supply that for existing environments) we don't know enough about the forests of Bronze-age Europe to recreate them.

    A more modern example is the chimp. Unlikely to go extinct, even without fancy DNA techniques. They're too popular in zoos and labs. But the environment needed by an authentic wild chimp is more or less gone already, and I doubt if it will be fully understood before it is gone completely.

    There's a poignant description of "technically non-extinct" animals in Bruce Sterling's latest (and best) Distraction&a mp;l t;/a> [amazon.com]

    __________

  • Extinction weeds out those species that can't adapt to the current environment. Why should we worry about saving unfit species? Where the hell are we gonna keep them? Preserves? Zoos? Scientific labs? Folks, their species are dying for a reason, because they can't adapt to the changing environment (most likely the encroachment of man). In any case, let the fit live, and let the unfit die. It's seemed to work just fine that way for hundreds of millions of years before man was around...
  • by konstant (63560) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:24PM (#722362)
    We have neanderthal DNA extracted form ancient bones. Anybody want to be the mom of a slope-headed baby?


    -konstant
    Yes! We are all individuals! I'm not!
  • by RevAaron (125240) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <noraaver>> on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:20PM (#722363) Homepage
    The reason (most) of these species are extinct is a loss of habitat caused by "civilization" moving in and changing it, whether to take resources or to build houses or businesses. In most cases of extintions caused by such a situation, the native habitat of these plants and animals are still in the state they're in when the species went extinct.

    So, what am I trying to say? With no habitat to go back to, to repopulate, what's the point of bringing them back? Just to say we can do it? Putting them in a non-native habit will simply change that environment, possibly bringing other species to extintion. Put them in a reserve or zoo? Completely artificial- they would be serving the purpose for which they evolved, so why bother?
  • Here are some suggestions for what they should bring back:

    Desktop environments that don't require a PIII 800 to run smoothly.

    Websites that aren't full of tables, frames, and layers that take two minutes to render.

    Newsgroups that aren't full of illiterates, flames, and spam.

    Those elegant, sturdy, indestructable IBM keyboards that you could spill coffee on and they would still work.

    /. polls that are interesting and enlightening, and actually tell us something about the current readership.

    JennyCam, back when Jenny was naked all the time.

    Local BBSes, back when they were cool and had real geeks on them.

    New Star Trek series that don't suck.

    That's about all that I can think of now. Anyone care to add to the list?

    --
    "How many six year olds does it take to design software?"

  • by victim (30647) on Sunday October 08, 2000 @12:25PM (#722365)
    Great! Now we can destroy most of the remaining habitat for commercially nonviable species and timeshare it. Say something like...
    • 2010-2040: gazelle, lions, elephants
    • 2040-2070: wildebeast, leopards, rhinos
    • 2070-2100: gnus, hyenas, buffalo
    • 2100-2130: repeat...
    I'm sure we can make it a big event, the changing of the beasts. Maybe switch over a different ecosystem every four years, sell tickets to the extermination of the previous tenant species and the release of the new creatures.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert

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