The Paradox Of De-Extinction

An excellent primer on the various ways scientists are trying to bring back extinct species:

Gregory E. Kaebnick wonders how to square de-extinction with the very concept of “nature”:

Defending nature is difficult, and not only because it seems to be giving way on so many fronts, but because the very idea of nature has been under assault. One criticism is that we are often wrong about it. Environmental phenomena thought to be entirely natural are in fact artificial to at least some degree. The Great Plains of North America, for example, were actively maintained as plains through regular burning carried out by the people who lived there. A second criticism is that, according to some thinkers, the idea of nature is just incoherent. The belief that nature must be protected from human activity suggests (hold these critics) that nature is a pristine, pure realm from which humans are excluded – that human activity is somehow unnatural. That seems bizarre. Yet if humans are part of nature, then what is unnatural, exactly, about the human activity that supposedly threatens nature, and why try to protect nature as something apart from humans?

This is the foundational challenge posed by de-extinction. It plays into criticism of the very idea of nature. To preserve nature has mostly meant to restrain or limit human interference with it. But with de-extinction, preservation is interference with nature. Indeed, de-extinction can look like an attempted coup, in which technology overtakes nature and preservation as usually understood is eliminated. Preserve creation? We can recreate it.