Science Focus (issue 26)

3 could be a potential, permanent cure. But Archer’s goal seemed simpler. Quote, “If we were responsible for the extinction of the species, deliberately or inadvertently, we have a moral responsibility or imperative to undo that if we can [3].” Over the last century, many species have gone extinct from human activities. Widespread deforestation and global warming have destroyed the habitats of many species, especially very rare ones that are endemic to Australia. Some, including Archer, believe that our responsibility is to restore these endangered species to their natural habitats, and undo the damage we have caused in the past. However, there are ethical issues surrounding this. First of all, extinction is part of nature’s cycle; species regularly fall on and off the earth all the time. By cloning the southern gastric brooding frog and bringing it back to life, we are upsetting Mother Nature. By Archer’s logic, if species died out by human behavior, then we should help restore those species back to the wild. The problem is that species go extinct due to a myriad of reasons; the Australian government, for example, lists the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis as a possible extinction reason of the gastric brooding frogs [1, 2]. This is not to underplay the role of humans in destroying nature over the past century, but what is to say that the species definitely died only by human influence? In this case, why shouldn’t we just let nature take its course? Also, the world has changed since the southern gastric brooding frog went extinct. The current Queensland mountains are no doubt different from the ranges where the frog last thrived over 50 years ago. By sending them back into the wild after hatching in the laboratory, we may be sending them to a second death, as it is very likely that they will not survive for an extended period of time. In this case, what is the point of doing this? More fundamentally, which species should be brought back from extinction? Should humans be playing God? At least, most countries across the world agree that cloning should not be done in humans, making generating alternative organs from individuals currently impossible. Cloning technologies no doubt leave us with many unanswered questions. It is a tool that can be used, and misused; the very thin line between the two will continue to be discussed for some time.