According to an issue of The New York Times from this week, geneticists have now decoded the genome for an extinct mammoth, and if given a $10 million grant, they now have the ability to recreate a mammoth:
There are talks on how to modify the DNA in an elephant’s egg so that after each round of changes it would progressively resemble the DNA in a mammoth egg. The final-stage egg could then be brought to term in an elephant mother, and mammoths might once again roam the Siberian steppes.
I post this here because this is wondrous, fascinating, and certainly shouldn't be ignored. The mammoth has long held a special place in the Western imagination. Larger than any living elephant, with tusks arcing toward an ice age sky, and reeking of pine and spruce.... The thought of these animals lumbering across a winterland brings to mind all of our past century's hero myths about the cave man triumphing over adverse nature in a world without city lights or roads.
But what would it mean, to engineer things so that an elephant mother birthed a mammoth infant? Would this be a beautiful thing? A horrific thing? Playing God? A gift to the earth, bringing back something it had lost? A means of restitution for our extermination of so many species, a potential key to turning back the clock on the demise of biodiversity? An ecological absurdity? A triumph? What are your thoughts?
Additional food for thought: according to The New York Times, the same genetic procedure is theoretically possible -- indeed imminently possible -- with the Neanderthal. As the Times columnist remarks dryly:
...but there would be several ethical issues in modifying modern human DNA to that of another human species.
That said, what would it mean, to be able to bring back another human species out of extinction? They are gone. Completely. Never did we or anyone we can remember have the chance to converse with one of them.
Suppose geneticists did bring back the Neanderthals. What kind of world would they have, to live in? What would it be like for a human mother to raise a neanderthal child?
This boggles the mind. My own thought is that it is far, far too big for us, and that some things -- such as extinctions -- cannot ever be truly undone, without causing greater wreck. But I may be entirely wrong. The thought of where genetics could take us in the 21st century is indeed too big for my mind to grasp. Someone else here must unriddle this mystery.