For decades, conservationists have worked to minimize human impacts and restore landscapes. Today, global climate change threatens the efficacy of their efforts, prompting them to consider interventions that many would have deemed heretical—and technologically impossible—only a generation prior.
De-extinction, the proposed revival or re-creation of extinct species using synthetic biology, has recently become a focal point in these debates. On April 23, 2014 the UCSC Science and Justice Working Group will host a symposium, “De-Extinction: Building Future Worlds with Extinct Organisms?” Panelists include Beth Shapiro (Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC and National Geographic Emerging Explorer) Oliver Ryder (Director of Genetics and Kleberg Chair, San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research), Paul Koch (UCSC Dean of Physical & Biological Sciences, Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences), and Brian Switek (science writer, National Geographic blogs) and Allen Thompson (Oregon State University, Philosophy). Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita, UCSC History of Consciousness Department) will provide closing commentary.
Proposals for de-extinction have sparked many conversations in bioethics and conservation science. Our hope for this symposium is to deepen the discussion by engaging questions of science and justice. We will consider the fundamental principles that shape our visions of a flourishing future for all species on the planet, and re-examine longstanding questions about the constitution of and proper relations between science, technology, and nature. The question at the center of our discussions will be: What kind of future world(s) do we want to make, and what role, if any, should engineered species have in it?
In the first panel, “Conservation and Biotechnology: For Whose Good?” speakers will explore the role of biotechnology in conservation efforts. While conservation historically has focused on the well-being of non-human species and systems, biotechnology mostly has been directed at advancing human ends. Yet many conservationists are now eager to adopt new biotechnological tools to aid their scientific research and conservation agendas, including some who favor de-extinction and possible spin-off techniques. We will discuss what challenges may arise as conservationists make use of scientific infrastructures and ethical concepts that mostly have been directed to the betterment of humans.
The second panel, “Science, Media and Spectacle: How Does Media Support, Threaten, or Change the De-extinction Agenda?” will explore the powerful imaginaries of de-extinction that have animated the public conversation. Media spectacle is central to de-extinction. The question for the panel will be: relates to scientific practice, policy and funding.
De-extinction has captured public attention in a way that other conservation topics rarely do. The past year has seen a proliferation of media coverage of the topic, including cover stories in the National Geographic Magazine and New York Times Sunday Magazine, a TEDx conference, and is the subject of a vibrant twitter discussion (#deextinction). Such attention and excitement brings in funders and participants, but also may generate conflict with other conservation research, practices and goals. Excitement generated by this coverage often overlooks the central question: Which values, research agendas and techniques should guide conservation practices and our collective multi-species futures in an age of extinction?
The symposium builds on a series of ongoing Science & Justice Working Group conversations about justice in a more than human world.
2:15-3:30 Panel I: Conservation and Biotechnology: For Whose Good?
Oliver Ryder (Director of Genetics and Kleberg Chair at San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research; Adjunct Professor of Biology, UCSD)
Paul Koch (Dean of Physical and Biological Sciences, UCSC)
Beth Shapiro (Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCSC)
3:45-5:45 Panel II: Science, Media and Spectacle: How Does Media Support, Threaten or
Change the De-extinction Agenda?
Allen Thompson (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Oregon State University)
Brian Switek (Freelance Science Writer and Author, Phenomena-National Geographic)
Jake Metcalf (Assistant Director, Science and Justice Research Center, UCSC)
Donna Haraway (Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness, UCSC)
Wednesday April 23, 2014 | 2:00-6:00 pm |Engineering 2, Room 599
A UCSC campus news article appears here.