Friday, December 05, 2008

Pleistocene Park

Margaret Munro of Canwest is reporting that the entire DNA of a Woolly Mammoth has been sequenced and that this could mean a resurrection of this animal. According to the article:

The team, led by Stephan Schuster and Webb Miller at the Pennsylvania State University, describe the feat -- which makes the mammoth the first extinct creature to be sequenced -- in today's issue of the journal Nature.

Resurrecting the iconic creature would not be easy, but scientists say genetic and reproductive technology is advancing so quickly that the idea of bringing the mammoth back to life is not as implausible as it sounds.

As a first step, they say mammoth look-alikes could be genetically engineered by adding genes for giant tusks and shaggy coats to modern-day elephants.

Not dead sure why you would want to do this since you are basically bringing back to life an animal in isolation, without the environment in which it thrived (or didn't) and displacing current animals that have evolved from that population or sympatrically with it. I guess science marches on.

3 comments:

  1. Not dead sure why you would want to do this since you are basically bringing back to life an animal in isolation, without the environment in which it thrived (or didn't) and displacing current animals that have evolved from that population or sympatrically with it.

    My inexpert mind wants to say that since extinction only means a species was unfit for its ultimate environment, and environments constantly change, it's possible that mammoths would be able to survive (thrive, even?) in some modern locations.

    Is this naive? Too unlikely? I can see why organisms from, say, 100 mya wouldn't make it in today's world. But organisms from 10,000 - 50,000 years ago? Seems like they might be able to survive a reboot.

    Anyway, if they didn't, that would be quite the blow to special creationism. If variation in "kinds" is limited, then why is this species so wildly unfit for a young earth?

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  2. One of so many problems that young earth creationism faces. It might survive but be in competition with modern species, which are adapted to the current climate. I wonder how it would do?

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  3. Now here's a nightmare scenario. Scientists develop the capacity to reconstitute extinct species. Some of these species take well to their new environment and go on (for some extended period of time) as a successful part of the biosphere. This goes on for maybe a million years. Mankind (in whatever form it's in at the time) enters a new dark age, and all knowledge of evolution is lost. Then mankind reemerges in an age of science a few centuries later.

    Scientists of the new age happen upon the notion that all living organisms have a common ancestor. Creationists of the new age are skeptical. Fossil evidence mounts, but eventually creationists are able to point to the sudden appearance after tens of thousands of years of species from whole cloth. Explain that with your millions of years, scientists! Clearly these species died out, then were created once more in their previous forms.

    As time goes by and the evidence continues to mount, science is forced to accept that there have been instances of intelligent design in at least some species. Debate continues to rage as to whether the designer was God, a multitude of gods, space creatures from another planet, time travellers, or simply very intelligent hairless apes. Needless to say, most people find the hairless apes thing pretty far-fetched.

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