De-extinction as Artificial Species Selection

Philosophy and Technology 30 (4):395-411 (2017)

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This paper offers a paleobiological perspective on the debate concerning the possible use of biotechnology to bring back extinct species. One lesson from paleobiology is that extinction selectivity matters in addition to extinction rates and extinction magnitude. Combining some of Darwin’s insights about artificial selection with the theory of species selection that paleobiologists developed in the 1970s and 1980s provides a useful context for thinking about de-extinction. Using recent work on the prioritization of candidate species for de-extinction as a test case, the paper argues that de-extinction would be a form of artificial species selection in which humans influence which species persist vs. go extinct. This points to a serious gap in our ethical theory: Much work has been done to clarify the value of biological diversity, but we also need theoretical guidance for decisions that amount to species sorting, and that will shape the macroevolutionary future.
Keywords Artificial selection  Conservation paleobiology  De-extinction  Extinction selectivity  Macroevolution  Resurrection biology  Species selection
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DOI 10.1007/s13347-016-0232-4
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