Resurrection Science - Do We Resurrect Extinct Species Or Not?

Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things - M.R. O'Connor

Resurrection Science by M.R. O'Connor takes a look at current conservation movement and it's possible future.  This book is written in an engaging manner that doesn't bog the reader down with too much heavy science.  Personally, I would have liked to read more science, but that isn't the focus of the book.  

The author delves into the history of the conservation movement, exploring a handful of species facing imminent extinction via the thought-provoking, often sad and almost always futile stories of the men and women trying to save these species.  Each chapter deals with a different species of animal that raises a different question regarding the course of conservation and extinction.  Should species be protected/saved if it is detrimental to the human community around it?  At what point does a hybridized species stop being what it was originally?  If human interference is largely responsible for the differences between a species that has been fragmented, are they still the original endangered species?  How can we protect endangered species that we know very little about?  What if breeding a species in captivity results in erasing the behaviors that were the defining features of that species?  Would artificially reviving a species produce the same species, or would it be different, with different behaviours?  Is on the ground conservation more feasible than storing genetic material/data?


Ms O'Connor discusses the complex ethical issues behind conserving, modifying and resurrecting species in what appears to be a balanced manner, taking into account economics, ethics, science and the nature of humans.  De-extinction is the process of creating an organism, which is either a member of, or resembles an extinct species, or breeding population of such organisms, with cloning or selective breeding being the proposed methods.   There is significant controversy over de-extinction, with critics asserting that efforts would be better spent conserving existing species, and that the habitat necessary for formerly extinct species to survive is too limited to warrant de-extinction.  There is also the conflict between nature/animals and the developmental needs of humans - in essence, determining what a species is worth.   The author also takes a look at genetic conservation.  This involves gene banks containing millions of tissue samples of extinct and still living species, stored in the hopes that future generations can use the genetic material to bring back extinct species.

This book is a well-written, interesting and thought provoking look at the science and ethics of current and future conservation  efforts.  The author asks uncomfortable questions and raises troubling points that should be considered.