Sunday, November 30, 2008


Thomas Riggins

The 12-5-08 issue of The Week has an interesting news report, "Bioethics: Should the Mammoth Live Again", detailing how scientists have just completed putting together the genome of the woolly mammoth, last seen on Earth around 8000 B.C. [except for a pigmy island subspecies that lasted a few thousand more years, into historic times.]

Thomas Jefferson thought the mammoth, known to him from bones alone, could not have really gone extinct and would probably be run across by Lewis and Clark. Sadly, they found no mammoths but scientists today could be planning to recreate this extinct species. The Week quotes biochemist S. Schuster: "It could be done. " It may take 10 or 20 years of research but it is within our grasp, but "should we do it?"

Well, it would be quite some scientific coup to pull off. In reality we don't seem to be able to preserve the whales and elephants we already have-- both of which are predicted to soon (within a century or so) become extinct due to our insistence on remaining capitalists and destroying the atmosphere and climate of the earth.

One writer thinks (tongue in cheek) we have a moral obligation to the mammoth since "our ancestors....hunted them to extinction in the first place." This was once a popular view but most scientists today think it was ancient climate change that did in the mammoths and the glacial ice age which was their environment.

We do have a moral obligation, however, to fight against the capitalist system whose relentless drive for profits, regardless of the human and environmental costs, will sooner or later, if not overthrown, put us on a par with the mammoth. Maybe we can broadcast our genome into outer space and hope some more advanced species will bring us back again. They will hopefully have more sense.

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