Diehm, Restitution, Restoration, and Reviving Extinct Species

1.      Summary

         a.      Looks at 3 versions of argument for de-extinction (=DE) (each of which fail) based on obligation to make restitution to

                   i.       Individuals

                   ii.      Species

                   iii.     Natural systems (ecological restoration)

         b.      Criticizes DE

                   i.       Facilitates inattentiveness to bio and eco boundaries

                   ii.      Fosters managerial mentality toward nature



3.      Enviros often warn that extinction is forever

         a.      May prove to be wrong

4.      Examples of de-extinction

         a.      Succeeded in cloning a wild goat (“bucardo) gone extinct several years earlier; it only lived a few minutes, but member of extinct species brought back to life

         b.      Plans to sequence genes of passenger pigeon (=PP)

                   i.       “Genetically and reproductively manipulate” an existing relative to bring it back

         c.      Australian researchers have plans to bring back the thylacine, the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times, which went extinct 60 years ago

5.      Justice/restitution argument for DE

         a.      “We killed them. We have the power to revive them. We have a duty to do so ”

         b.      Not only morally acceptable, but possibly morally required

         c.      Matter restitutive justice

         d.      Restitution definitions:

                   i.       The act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, lost, or surrendered.

                   ii.      The act of making good or compensating for loss, damage, or injury

                   iii.     A return to or restoration of a previous state or position.

6.      To what or to whom are amends to be made via DE?

         a.      Compensating individual organism

         b.      Righting wrongs done to species

         c.      Restoring ecosystems in which extinct species was once a part



8.      To the very individual killed in act of extinction?

         a.      Not possible as they are dead.

         b.      Even if we created a clone from their genes, that is a distinct individual (being genetically identical is not being totally identical–consider genetically identical twins)

9.      To other individuals that have suffered because of the extinction (e.g., family member or friends/associates)

         a.      But they too are likely gone

                   i.       E.g., the individuals that preyed on the passenger pigeons are also dead

         b.      But might the trees the pigeons used to fertilize still exist? If DE pigeons now fertilized those trees, it would be restitution to individuals

                   i.       We could fertilize them directly w/o DE.....

10.    To genetic relatives and ecological associates?

         a.      Like finding a long lost brother (or business associate) and benefitting them, even though did not suffer any harm

         b.      Is this restitution?

         c.      Would helping rock pigeons (genetic relatives) be appropriate?

                   i.       Would DE help any genetic relatives? Might harm them?

         d.      Would helping long lived plants that existed in ecological context of PP be restitution for extinction?

11.    Deihm rejects DE as restitution to individuals:

         a.      “Species revival projects do not enable individual organisms that we harmed to resume pursuit of their own good”



13.    Controversial that species themselves count morally (or could be benefitted)

         a.      That species themselves are morally significant (called holism) is rejected by lots of env philosophers (lots also accept it) thought the vast majority of environmental scientists accept it

14.    DE compensates species driven extinct?

         a.      Re-animate organisms as a way of re-compensating forms of life they embody

15.    Problems

16.    Genetic divergence: Organism created will have different genetic profiles

         a.      Because use biological surrogates (proxies?) must piece together a genome from fragmentary sources

         b.      Examples

                   i.       DE of Passenger Pigeion will produce hybrid between PP and Band-tailed pigeon; will   have most of phenotypic traits of PP but some genotypic traits of latter

                   ii.      DE Wooly Mammoth: likely to have an elephant modeled after a mammoth

17.    Learned, cultural divergence: Differences in learned behavior, as revived species have no parents

         a.      Restored PP will have different migratory pattern, will need to be trained by homing pigeons

18.    Overview of differences:

         a.      “Revived individuals would not have the same epigenetic makeup, microbiome, environment, or even ‘culture’ as their extinct predecessors”

19.    DE is creating (engineering) new species not resurrecting lost ones

         a.      Bio-patents on DE species: Some law journal articles have argued DE species could be patented


20.    DE as approximate restitution to species?

         a.      Just because can’t right past wrongs completely does not mean we should not do our best and create these “proxies” of lost species

         b.      Problems

                   i.       DE species invasive exotics: Like releasing a genetically engineered organism into environment



22.    DE as a way of compensating for human degradation of natural systems by restoring them

         a.      Goal to revitalize natural systems by reviving extinct species

         b.      Assumes ecosystems valuable in own right

23.    Two goals of restoration

         a.      Reproduce species assemblages, structural reconstruction: Fidelity to historical assemblages and components of ecosystem types

         b.      Functional integrity: Concern for ecosystem functions like biological productivity, evolutionary potential, capacity for self-renewal

                   i.       “Revived woolly mammoths, for example, should be able to convert parts of the northern boreal forest and tundra into ‘mammoth steppe’ grasslands, as they once did.”

         c.      Note: Might get functional identity w/o same species

24.    Problems

         a.      Don’t know how extinct species interacted with their environments

         b.      Don’t know how environments have changed in their absence

         c.      How could revived species take up old ecological role in old habitat?

                   i.       Neither old role nor old habitat is well understood

                   ii.      Recreated organisms may be ill-suited to both

                   iii.     Systems they once inhabited may no longer exist

                            (1)    But perhaps DE species could recreate those systems?

         d.      DE not ecosystem restoration but engineering new ecosystems:

                   i.       “DE looks much more like a grand experiment in engineering natural systems than a morally sincere attempt at making restitution to them.”



26.    DE may undermine the belief we need to save endangered species

         a.      Fosters “the expectation that biotechnology can repair the damage we’re doing to the planet’s biodiversity…,” and fears it may lead people to think there is no need to save endangered species since we “can simply keep their DNA and put them back in the wild later.” (Stuart Pimm)

27.    DE prevents us from changing our problematic life styles and instead we change nature to be able to handle them

         a.      DE “fits into a contemporary narrative in which getting things straight with other forms of life is not a matter of decreasing human excesses, but of artificially enhancing nature’s ability to withstand them.”

         b.      Instead of stopping polluting a river, we engineer the fish to withstand the pollution

28.    DE is a “technological fix” response to env problems

         a.      Response to anthropogenetic extinct is not a less intrusive manner of engaging with nature, but more effective methods of mastering it

         b.      Other life-forms don’t need less of our impact, but more of our ingenuity and know-how

29.    DE is part of the problematic “Anthropocene Discourse” (Crist)

         a.      Technology (risky, centralized and industrial scale) should be embraced as our destiny and salvation

         b.      Major tech fixes needed, including engineering climate and life

         c.      Path forward is humanity managing earth

         d.      Extending “humanities totalitarian regime on Earth

30.    What we need is not re-assemble and re-animating other life forms but a change in our form of life

         a.      But pull back, scale down, limit our numbers, economies, habitats for sake of “more inclusive freedom and quality of life.”



         a.      A Hettinger suggestion.....

32.    DE is not de-extinction, but un-extinction

33.    It is not making up for a wrong, but making it so the wrong did not occur

34.    If extinction is forever, then if DE is successful, it is not the case that humans drove those species extinct

Questions on Diehm, Restitution, Restoration, and Reviving Extinct Species


1.      What is the major reason for de-extinction (=DE) that Diehm examines and criticizes? That is, proponents argue for DE because we have a duty to make _______________ for our wrongs.

2.      Diehm considers restitution to three different entities. What are they?

3.      Do you think DE is a kind of restitutive justice? Why or why not?

4.      Discuss to what extent DE might be seen as restitution to individual organisms. Which individuals? What problems does Diehm see in this?

5.      What problems does Diehm see with the idea that DE is restitution to extinct species? Does DE recreate the same species?

6.      Should DE species be subject of bio-patents?

7.      How might DE be seen as restoring natural systems? Why is Diehm skeptical about this?

8.      What are some of Diehm’s overall criticism of DE? Why does he think DE is troubling? What should we be doing rather than DE?

9.      Diehm sees DE as a supposed “technological solutions” to env problems. Why does he oppose such a solution? What is he worried about?

10.    Explain and evaluate Hettinger’s suggestion that DE is not restitution for a wrong, but making it the case the wrong did not occur.