Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cafe Scientifique returns from the dead

Cafe Scientifique Dubai's latest public science discussion, held the Friday before last at Lila Cafe TECOM , was about de-extinction, and started by dropping an asteroid on pop culture's most cherished vision of someday jeeping around Jurassic Park; at present, we simply cannot get enough intact dinosaur DNA to put together into a workable genetic code.

Rohan Roberts and Raya Bidshahri introducing

But don't lose hope, for we likely can get an Age of Exploration Park up and running, with dodos, sea cows, and other victims of human population expansion put back into the biosphere. Maybe even a Cenozoic Park, full of Ice Age megafauna. And it's perhaps not as exciting for a movie, but we might be able to pull together a garden of recently extinct plants.

Open discussion

There was talk of corporatism, hybridization with extinct lifeforms, extending human rights to Neanderthals, preventing the use of de-extinction as an excuse for further ecological destruction, etc. As would be expected, debates on bringing back dead individuals also erupted every now and then (with broad use of Godwin's Law invoked at one point) until species-level de-extinction was brought back into focus. Basically, the discussions often veered in the direction of bioethics, and while I would have preferred more focus on hows than whys, a fair amount of sci & tech was touched upon collaterally.

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