8 December 2003

Should the Thylacine be cloned?

What are the moral implications of cloning an extinct species as opposed to an existing species?

MIKE ARCHER, DIRECTOR OF THE AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM: I'm not big on cosmic morality, believing it to be very much a personal and subjective matter, often culture-specific. But in this case, most people agree that the 'immoral' act' was extermination of the Tasmanian Tiger in the first place; to bring it back, if we can, would be to me a moral imperative aimed at undoing that black act. Most churches agree. Even a poll run on the internet in the United States, a country traditionally conservative about things like genetic engineering, was highly supportive of the Tasmanian Tiger Project with more than 75 percent of respondents in favour. Some Biblical fundamentalists have accused us of 'playing God,' a view which I reject utterly for the reasons just noted. In contrast, other more mainstream theists draw attention to the fact that the teachings of Jesus are about giving life, not taking it away. There are even Biblical comments that could be cited as encouragement for this project such as The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (New Testament, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15, verse 26).

What will the social impact be in bringing the Tasmanian Tiger back to life?

ARCHER: For the Tasmanian Tiger's social life (because if we can bring back one, we can bring back a population - there are other specimens), it will be one heck of a stimulus!� But what social impact will it have on us?� Enormous I would have thought. To name just a few, tourism to Tasmania would massively increase, if the project against all odds is successful and Tasmania is where Tasmanian Tigers are re-established. To actually reverse extinction, even if it is in just this one special instance, would be the biological equivalent of the first walk on the moon - something thought to be way beyond dreams. And, like the moon walk, it would do extraordinary things to kids' brains. They will be far more inclined to look beyond present limits, beyond prohibitions, to dare to try things that may result in equally awesome leaps in human capacity.

The world is a poorer place without Tasmanian tigers. Let's make it richer.

No comments: