Ron Sandler ’95 hadn’t set foot on Denison’s campus for 17 years when he came back to talk to the philosophy department about woolly mammoths — and the pros and cons of bringing them back to life. Now an environmental ethicist at Northeastern University in Boston, he jokes that giving a lecture with many of his former professors in attendance felt like “being tested one last time.”
“I just wanted to make sure I got it right — especially the things that I learned from them,” he said with a laugh.
His topic: the ethics of de-extinction. As both species’ extinction rates and technological advancement increase rapidly, scientists have discovered that it’s possible to reassemble genomic sequences so as to create individuals with high levels of genetic similarities to species that no longer exist. Unfortunately, some species have been extinct for so long that we don’t have enough of a DNA record — so, spoiler alert … no dinosaurs.
Still, it’s pretty exciting to think about being able to go to the zoo to see a dodo, a sabre-toothed tiger, or a woolly mammoth. Sandler’s concern though, is whether or not it would be ethical to do so. Check out the video to hear more of Sandler’s thinking on the subject and to catch a glimpse of his lecture sponsored by the Spectrum Series, the Titus-Hepp Lecture Series, and the Department of Philosophy.
And weigh in on the debate in the comment section below.