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40. Should we resurrect extinct species? (Virginia Matzek)

January 2024


As a result of our success as a species, we have been ushering other species toward extinction for thousands of years. The pace of those extinctions increased markedly with the growth of the world’s population since the Industrial Revolution. But we are now within reach of the “Jurassic Park” -type fantasy of being able to reverse extinctions - to bring back species from the dead. On the other hand, assuming we get beyond the remaining technological obstacles, de-extinction is still a very complex topic with conservation and ecological considerations that are not necessarily being considered by those who are most likely to make it happen.

Virginia Matzek is a restoration ecologist and professor at Santa Clara University, who navigates us through this convoluted subject. The first part of the discussion is an explanation of how de-extinction “works”. After that, we get into the various arguments “for” and “against”. Virginia is remarkably even-handed in her treatment of both sides of the argument, and some of her reasons might not be what one might expect.

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