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Clone Wars

December 7, 2011

"I'm really sorry my species got in the way of burning fossil fuels, and really hope someone cares enough to clone me in the future."

So it’s come to this: an argument that instead of going to the trouble of preventing species’ extinction we are better off just preserving DNA for future cloning. Check it:

Our planet benefits from biodiversity, and there can be a large “option value” to helping an endangered species live another generation. We can change our minds at some later date and no longer try to prevent a species’ extinction. But it would seem impossible to change our minds in the other direction — once a species is gone, it would seem too late to decide that we wish we had protected it.

But technology may be changing the option-value calculation, because scientists are learning how to clone extinct animals. The time will come when scientists will produce living versions of previously extinct animals. With enough time, they would probably be able to do so cheaply.

To the extent that cloning will someday be possible, the option value of preserving an endangered species is a lot less. In some cases, it may be cheaper to save some DNA, and let a future, richer and perhaps more enthusiastic generation make its own copy of the species.

The arrogance, anthropocentricity, and shortsightedness combined in this argument is simply staggering.

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