Cloning/genetically modifying animals? Is it playing God? Is it a waste of time?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

What is your opinion on the cloning/genetic engineering of animals? Is it biblical? Is it playing God? Does that make it wrong? This includes attempts to recreate extinct animals such as the Woolly Mammoth.

‘I’ oppose attempts to recreate the Woolly Mammoth primarily because it will be a waste of time, look up what happened to the Pyrenean Ibex to see what I mean. It died after five minutes. With that in mind I think our time and money is better spent preserving what we have now.

Mammoth-elephant hybrid
(Phil) #2

Good question. Sometimes the benefit is downstream from the science, and cloning/modifying animals may help develop technology that will have benefits in other ways such as medicine, or synthesis of food in tanks without animal death. Franken-burger anyone?
It is hard to think of a biblical reference that would prohibit such, even Jacob tried his had at genetic manipulation
I think the ethics of human experimentation as quite troubling, however. How do we make the separation is a question in the greater world that does not share our same ideas about human life.


Bringing animals back from extinction is called “de-extinction.” I can provide links to a scholarly debate and a lecture if anybody is interested.

(Larry Bunce) #4

Humans have been genetically modifying farm animals since ancient times. We call it selective breeding. It creates animals that are better suited for human use, but many domestic animals could not survive on their own in the wild. Every corn plant grown in America is closely related to every other corn plant, They produce bigger crops, but require heavy application of fertilizer, and any blight that affects corn in one place will affect corn everywhere. There are diseases and conditions that affect each breed of dog.
Altering DNA directly may seem more ominous than traditional selective breeding, since it calls up images of mad scientists in horror movies, but it isn’t really that much different in effect.

(Phil) #5

Which makes me wonder, is genetically modifying plants ethically any different than genetically modifying animals? Why? Are’t the issues basically the same?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

I have absolutely no ‘moral’ issue with it, I just don’t find it to be pragmatic


I think it’s different because only animals can suffer directly from being genetically modified. Breeding extremely aggressive dogs, bulls etc. for the purpose of fighting is wrong. Breeding animals so they reach market weight quickly but suffer ill health is wrong. But the way we raise plants could potentially cause/increase human suffering. For example, making tobacco plants even more addictive would be wrong (and for all I know, the tobacco companies have already done this).

There is a also an ethical dilemma in breeding dogs solely for their looks. For example, the brachycephalic breeds (bulldog, French bulldog, pug, etc.) have trouble breathing because their faces are “pushed in.” Many other breeds have associated genetic problems. Boxers have their own special heart disease–boxer cardiomyopathy.


De-extinction is a serious scientific topic these days. A related issue involves bringing animals back from the brink of extinction, as was done with the bison and the California condor. At at the 2017 Isaac Asimov debate at the museum, a panel of experts from a variety of disciplines convened to discuss the issue. This video is long but well worth watching. Watch: The 2017 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate: De-extinction
(@MarkD You would really find this interesting, as the thylacine is mentioned, and they have a mounted specimen on the stage.)

Hosted by Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the participants include:

George Church
Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard University and MIT

Hank Greely
Director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University

Gregory Kaebnick
Scholar, The Hastings Center; Editor, Hastings Center Report

Ross MacPhee
Curator, Department of Mammalogy, Division of Vertebrate Zoology; Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Beth Shapiro
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz

(Phil) #9

I would agree. There are also some shady areas where turkeys are bred for outlandish sized breast muscles which make them vulnerable and less mobile, all for the purpose of sitting on our Thanksgiving table. And breeding animals to resist infection, so as to make it easier to crowd into pens for feeding.


Genetic modification can increase agricultural yields, and even lead to new technologies. My favorite example is goats who have spider genes that allow them to produce silk proteins in their milk.

One could argue that making a painting or writing a concerto is a waste of time. If an extinct animal could be brought back without causing pain and suffering to the animals, then I think that would be on the same level as a Mozart symphony or travelling to the Moon. We should be able to sequence the mammoth genome to greater than 95%. We have very crude technology, but with a massive amount of effort and money (and I mean MASSIVE) we could reconstruct the mammoth genome. We have already created artificial bacterial genomes, so the technology is there.

At some point, reconstructing a mammalian genome could conceivably be affordable. It took hundreds of millions of dollars to sequence the first human genome, and now that same genome can be sequenced with nearly the same quality for a few thousand dollars.

(Ryan weatherly) #11

I think it’s really much controversy , little substance when it comes to ( non human ) animals
I raised and selectively bred pigeons for several years , there is occasionally a squirrelly bird that needs to be culled from time to time , but that is to be expected .
Phil mentioned Jacob ( Genesis 30-31) selective breeding according to trait , and his methods are still sound today ( max boer goats uses the same methods ) , according to Jacob , God clearly supports it .
As to bringing back the wooly mammoth , I don’t see it effectively repopulating it in any significant application , and it isn’t likely to make a huge comeback , more a scientific novelty …meh …

As to plants , we continue to manipulate genes , some for the better , some for worse …really , in my opinion , splicing is the real threat with plants .
Viral and bacterial applications seems to get sketchy in the wrong hands , but I feel this is due to a lack of moral or ethical foreknowledge.

With humans , it’s hard to say from a detached standpoint , do we attempt to replace natural selection ? we have already greatly reduced its effect on our species through medicine .
Morally i find it distasteful . Who decides what is best for our species ? Do we have the right to attempt to remove genetics we find unsavory ?
Who decides where the limits are ? Sure , removing the genetic predisposition toward addiction sounds great , but then , does it serve a purpose ?a sort of ingrained warning against drunkenness ? What happens when someone with flexible ethics decides a particular race should be eliminated ? A particular mutation ?
Where is the line ? At what point does it damage our uniqueness ? Our Einsteins and Teslas ?

Just my initial thoughts on the topic

(Edward Miller) #12

That sounds like a modern Frankenstein horror show.:laughing:

(Phil) #13

Just saw the new Jurassic World movie. Without spoiling it, the issue of cloning/ genetic modification was prominent. And interestingly, the Dino’s came out relatively unscathed in this one.


I loved it. The dinos had to survive to keep the franchise going!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

Except that a Mozart symphony or a trip to the Moon don’t exponentially reproduce themselves on into perpetuity! We can imagine some Australian musing at some point – “it’s just a couple of cute fluffy little bunnies to have here in the outback. What could possibly go wrong?”

This is not to say it shouldn’t be done. We should just be aware of how much bigger the consequences are for what we do here. And we should also be painfully aware that humanity has rarely (if ever?) shown the capacity to “say no” to something that could be done. So a scientist finding a way to do something is effectively the same as ensuring that it will be done (issuing in our nuclear age). Collectively, we know no self-restraint.


But bunnies weren’t brought back from extinction in Australia. They were introduced to Australia and quicky became invasive.

We have successfully brought animals back from the brink of extinction, such as the American bison.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #17

Good point. Bringing back something that we had just finished carelessly killing off doesn’t seem like it should be as dangerous.


Humans drove them to extinction once already, so that shouldn’t be a problem. :wink:

I guess I have a different view. We have learned from the sins of our past, or at least it seems so. Just in my little world, ethics in research has improved leaps and bounds and I don’t see a day where scientists will return to the old days where there was no oversight.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #19

I saw it today, best sequel in the series.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #20

Did you notice the Biblical imagery? The Indominus Rex’s ‘rib’ was taken to form the Indoraptor?