February 18, 2017

"Scientist leading ‘de-extinction’ effort says Harvard team could create hybrid mammoth-elephant embryo in two years."

It won't actually be a mammoth...
“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

The creature, sometimes referred to as a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.
And it's okay to do this... just for fun?
Church... said the mammoth project had two goals: securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant and helping to combat global warming. Woolly mammoths could help prevent tundra permafrost from melting and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

“They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in,” said Church. “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.”
Oh, come on! I can't believe we're even being invited to consider believing that the point of this project is to combat global warming (and by knocking down trees!).

ADDED: I'm wondering what America would be like today if we had been sharing the territory with mammoths all this time, especially if we were also modifying our behavior to be careful to preserve them from extinction. I wouldn't want them rampaging around my neighborhood knocking down trees. And we can punch our own snow.

94 comments:

Sebastian said...

"And it's okay to do this... just for fun?" Okay or not, anything George Church does, he does for fun first and foremost.

David Begley said...

We can see how this project got funded: global warming.

CAGW is the biggest scam. Ever.

rehajm said...

Failed to consider added mammophant methane.

Drago said...

Can't wait for the first Mammophant burger chain.

Original Mike said...

"Oh, come on! I can't believe we're even being invited to consider believing that the point of this project is to combat global warming (and by knocking down trees!)."

Why not? I think they know their marks well. If you believe "the science is settled", you'll believe anything.

dbp said...

Global warming is the catch phrase that needs to be used to win a grant, even if you are doing something pretty unrelated. A couple of decades ago, having HIV in your grant proposal worked the same trick.



rhhardin said...

Small ears is Obama backlash.

jr565 said...

Did these scientists not watch Jurassic Park?

Bob Ellison said...

We need the ivory.

MaxedOutMama said...

I saw this article, and I think it raises all sorts of ethical questions that cannot be answered to the satisfaction of anyone with a real conscience. This type of experimentation would be expected to produce a pretty sick misfit of an intelligent and social animal. That's really rather cruel. What is the big scientific payoff to justify it?

That doesn't mean it is going to be stopped if they can get funding. But who will fund this?

Original Mike said...

I don't get the point of creating a mammophant, unless it's a step to eventually creating real mammoths. If that's the case, I'm all for it. Just for fun.

Oso Negro said...

There is no scam so preposterous that it can't be funded to address global warming.

Murph said...

GMO food is evil, but fooling around with mammal genes is ok?

That needs a Mark Perry Venn Diagram....

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

Outlandish schemes hatched to "save the planet" have always struck me as a far greater threat to humans than global warming/climate change.

Jersey Fled said...

Climate change is the answer to everything. You can use it for anything that you really want to do anyway.

Wonder if any of these geniuses have bothered to calculate how many of these creatures would be needed in how many tundra to reduce global temperatures by 1 degree C. My guess is exactly as many as the government is willing to fund.

Angel-Dyne said...

"...securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant".

Lol.

I guess that, to get funding, you need to appeal to people who read and write phrases like that all day long. People whose brains register nothing beyond "cool animal, endangered", and who will never once ask themselves, "Why do we want/need to do that? What does that even mean?"

Eleanor said...

Scientists should always ask "Should we do this?" before they even begin toying with the idea of how to do it. If the answer is "No", then the process should stop dead in its tracks.

Marty Keller said...

Begley and Jersey tie for best thread comment!

Michael K said...

Grantsmanship at its best.

It's about the Benjamins.

If they say, "It's not about the money," it's about the money.

Ambrose said...

If we recreate mammoths, will we have to allow Native Americans to hunt them into re-extinction?

Susan said...

So how many actual elephants will not be gestated and borne to produce this alternate mammoth/elephant hybrid?

Enough to doom the species?

Bob Boyd said...

Will we be able to hunt them with spears?

mockturtle said...

It's a bit like NASA's rational for some of their exploits. Don't get me wrong, I favor space exploration. But some of the 'reasons' for it are laughable. The truth is that, whatever man is able to do, he will do. Because he can. The justification can sometimes be awkward.

Jake said...

wow.

Mark said...

(1) Mammoths "had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction."

(2) This has very little to do with mammoths and lots to do with playing mad scientist.

(3) This has a little less to do with playing mad scientist and a lot to do with $$$$$ in the pockets of these frauds in an industry of university frauds.

PB said...

If you want to protect the Asian elephant, there are easier ways to go about it. How about breed some on a protected preserve with the research money spent for protection?

The best way to preserve wildlife it to allow private ownership of the wildlife.

Mark said...

NASAs mission long ago changed from space exploration to providing NASA staff with a lifetime job, plus pension.

The Godfather said...

If you turn an unborn Asian elephant into a mammophant, how does that "...secur[e] an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant"?

robother said...

"Securing a future for the endangered Asian Elephant" by using its genes to create an entirely new species. Wow. That is some high grade BS, worthy of a Carnival barker. Throw in some vague claim of curing Global warming, and this medicine wagon is ready to roll.

EDH said...

...would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood.


I'm thinking the Harvard scientists could sharply increase the likelihood of government funding with a slight tweak in the genetic diversity of their hybrid.

Fernandinande said...

small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood.

I think I know that guy.


Bob Boyd said...
Will we be able to hunt them with spears?


Chase 'em off cliffs with ATVs, like the early Amerindians did to wipe them out.

Mark said...

How about giving me a continuing research grant for me to study over the next 20-30 years how I spend my time, the house(s) I buy, the car(s) I drive, what I eat and what I buy?

Original Mike said...

OTOH, do we have the right to bring the mammoth into a world ravaged by Catostrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming?

Darrell said...

Drago said: Can't wait for the first Mammophant burger chain

Or a meatloaf that anyone would proudly order.

Darrell said...

Still preferable to "Syrian" refugees and Mexican illegals.

buwaya said...

Mockturtle is right.
The stated justifications are silly.
The correct justification is purely because it may be possible.

Its cool.
Thats why some people play with explosives or design silly bicycles.

More realistically, this sort of project would be more of an engineering effort, a proof of concept project, serving probably to solve the practical problems of its use in some some more practical goal, or a host if them, should it become a practical technology. Engineering a more efficient cow or chicken perhaps. Or, eventually, a superior human being.

To get to that point one has to find and solve a great number of detail issues. Thats what engineers do, through testing, trial and error. Making a viable embryo is going to be much harder than splicing DNA, and making a viable beast harder yet.

bagoh20 said...

What is it about aging that makes doing things for fun such a terrible motivation? It should be just the opposite. Perhaps people having fun makes some of us imagine they aren't working hard enough to support our aging asses as they diminish in value.

I say doing things for fun, especially if they are challenging and expand our knowledge, is better than a purely altruistic motivation. The world could use a little more joy fascination and curiosity. I love seeing people having fun with science and discovery. This is also probably why some dislike space exploration. Isn't the real motivation with space travel mostly for fun? In that way science is the highest art form. A form of expression that requires cooperation, curiosity, learning and growth, often with incredible payoffs for everyone. You don't get as much of that with other arts. A genius sits in his room painting a still life, and then people enjoy it. Woopie doo.

AllenS said...

Great, mammothzilla.

damikesc said...

I guess humanity changing nature is OK in this case.

LYNNDH said...

The wolf packs and different bear types will love the meat.

tcrosse said...

We demand that the mammophant be created in such as way as to address the needs of women, minorities, and the LBGT community.

Bob Boyd said...

"Chase 'em...with ATVs"

They'd punch a lot more helpful holes in the permafrost that way. Damn things are expensive. Can't have 'em just standing around.

Bob Boyd said...

I'd enjoy a mammoth wool sweater, I think.

LordSomber said...

This will bring more diversity to the Proboscidean Community, and diversity is always good.

Plus, we can use their furs to keep warm when Climate Change.

Mark said...

The world could use a little more joy fascination and curiosity.

Kind of like soma, the feelies, and orgy porgy enjoyed by other creatures engineered and bred in artificial wombs.

BN said...

This is not about changing elephants into mammoths. It's about changing humans into gods.

Sam L. said...

"Oh, come on! I can't believe we're even being invited to consider believing that the point of this project is to combat global warming (and by knocking down trees!)."

Your imagination is lacking. Severely lacking. Thar ain't NUTHIN Global Warmin' cain't do!

The Toothless Revolutionary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Yes. Trees will stop global warming.

A stable atmosphere though? Forget it!

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Tundra trees, at that. There are so many of them.

I thought the denialists said that if there's too "little" of something then the effect it has is insignificant?

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

https://twitter.com/rebleber/status/832625693460553729


Gahrie said...

The best way to preserve wildlife is to come up with tasty recipes for it.

FTFY.

Seriously...come up with a couple of tasty recipes for panda...throw in a clever marketing campaign, and in ten years there will be millions of pandas on farms all over the world. Same thing for rhinos and polar bears and.....

Yancey Ward said...

I guess it might matter how the project is being funded. It is entirely possible that the funding comes from some global warming linked monies.

And, yes, tying this into global warming is idiotic- even the proposed mechanisms for halting it are idiotic on their face.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Farms are not wildlife. They're ways of domesticating the wildness out of things.

And then Monsanto comes along, and de-engineers them even further.

With the FDA approving GMO salmon, can't they at least do something useful with the enterprise? Most salmon is farmed in PCB-drenched river estuaries in cages that prevent them from swimming to spawn and attaining the red color to their muscle that should be natural. Instead, they're dyed a pukey orange color to get the consumers interested in what would otherwise be some unappealing gray salmon flesh.

Do something useful with the GMO theatrics, for once. Get the salmon to produce their natural, muscular reddish color - if not from proving their powerful health by swimming thousands of miles than by activating the gene for it. Turning it "constitutively on," as those non-celebrity blogging scientists would say.

But no, our salmon will remain orange - no matter how polluted Environmental Destruction Agency official Scott Pruitt allows the riverside cages they grow in to become.

JAORE said...

Instead of a hybrid animal that can withstand cold, shouldn't they be breading animals that can withstand heat?

Or hurricanes?

Or wildfires?

Or rising seas?

Or...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Ok I guess they get it from krill rather than from swimming.

Mea culpa.

William said...

The fatal flaw of the dodo bird which led to its extinction was that it did not taste good. I have an open mind on the mammophant. If it tastes good and has a lower cholesterol level than beef I would gladly welcome them into our ecosphere. They'd probably be difficult to herd and good luck to those who work in mammophant slaughterhouses.

Roughcoat said...

I want to go on record as an enthusiastic supporter of the de-extinction of mammoths and of a host of other species. I fervently hope before I die that I see two things: mammoths walk the earth, and men walk on Mars.

The idea that we can bring back extinct species is very, very exciting. I also think that the de-extinction process it will lead to many positive and useful applications. But that's not really why I'm in favor of it. I'm in favor of it because it's exciting and, yes, fun. I would absolutely love to see mammoths emerging from the forest preserve near my house and trampling my garden. I would stand in awe of that.

Also, I can't quite articulate why, but de-exctinction strikes as something transcendentally beautiful, even spiritual. An affirmation of sorts. Can't explain why. Does anyone else feel this way?

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

Also, I can't quite articulate why, but de-exctinction strikes as something transcendentally beautiful, even spiritual. An affirmation of sorts. Can't explain why.

Because human-caused extinction is a tragedy and an ugly catastrophe. We should be living according to the harmonious rhythms of nature, not in a way that treats it as foreign. Or as an unmanageable threat. Nature created us, not the other way around. Seeking to replace it with something else is stupidly obnoxious folly.

But Scott Pruitt knew that already, didn't he?

Also, extinct animals are exotic - because we can only either imagine them or experience scientific recreations of their evidence. Of course reviving them sounds fun and pretty. What a shame we can't manage to feel that way about all the ones left, right here in the now, that we're killing off at an even faster rate than ever before.

raf said...

"Securing a future for the endangered Asian Elephant"

I thought the elephant was the way 'nature' secured a future for the endangered (to extinction) mammoth.

Big Mike said...

Just let me know if the guy starts combining T. Rex DNA with turkey or ostrich genes. I'll need to buy one these ASAP.

Gahrie said...

Because human-caused extinction is a tragedy and an ugly catastrophe.

How do you know it isn't nature's plan for us to drive those animals into extinction? We are just as much the children of Gaia as all the other animals....

The Cracker Emcee said...

I'm the opposite of a Luddite but some things just scream unintended consequences even though I can't put my finger on what they might be. The complexity and specialization of modern science necessarily means that there's very few Big Picture scientific polymaths that can recognize why any given pursuit might be a really bad idea.

bagoh20 said...

A tiny T.Rex would make a great pet. It could kill rats. Just think how awesome that would be, and yes, fun.

rhhardin said...

That's a manmoth.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

How do you know it isn't nature's plan for us to drive those animals into extinction? We are just as much the children of Gaia as all the other animals....

Because there are only so many of them that we can exist apart from and no animal is made to be suicidal on the species-level. And also because evolution produces diversity, not the sort of monotony you'd get after wiping out 90% of them.

But I don't doubt that such an ugly and drab existence might provide retrogrades with the sort of stark, spartan emotional clarity that they crave. Who says that concrete habitats made out of concrete jungles have no value?

madAsHell said...

I think I've seen this movie.

traditionalguy said...

Playing God are they? I can think of no other reason to play around with dinosaur DNA.It's extinction was necessary for mammals to evolve, or so say the Darwinists.

BN said...

Apparently, a bull in a china shop aint shit compared to a mamophant in a tundrascape.

Unknown said...

"And it's okay to do this... just for fun?"
Tut, tut, AA, don't you see you're being anti-science by asking this?

“They keep the tundra from thawing…”
Yes, and it begs the question of why they went extinct in the first place.

Paddy O said...

Great, and next they'll need to create genetically manipulated giants to herd them.

Rusty said...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...
"Ok I guess they get it from krill rather than from swimming. "

GMO krill. I'm applying for a grant.
GMO krill will help prevent global warming.

n.n said...

Another social experiment. Forward!

There is a moral principle in engineering that states: just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

readering said...

Domesticated animals are the product of human engineering. Don't see much difference here.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khesanh0802 said...

Makes you wonder: 1. Don't they have better things to do with their time and intelligence?; 2. who's paying for this?; 3. how many other ridiculous projects are being carried out at "research" universities across the country. Maybe Harvard should take some of this money and reduce undergraduate - and other- tuitions. This kind of nonsense and Harvard's dishonest hysteria about sexual assault, Final Clubs, sports teams, and Trump's immigration order make me happy that I stopped contributing to the place - not that they'll ever notice.

Roughcoat said...

Shut up, half of you. Spoilsports. Killjoys. Debbie Downers.

The notion "they had their shot" is variant of the kind of primitive/pagan Black Forest superstitious thinking my very superstitious German grandmother displayed when she would tell us that if we deliberately crossed our eyes as a joke they would get stuck that way.

The extinction of animals has nothing to do with "nature's plan." There is no "nature's plan." Nature doesn't have a plan. Nature doesn't plan because nature is not a conscious entity. It is not sentient. It is not volitional.

God plans, but you have no idea what His plan entails. Could be that God's plan entails bringing back extinct mammoths.

As for We should be living according to the harmonious rhythms of nature, not in a way that treats it as foreign: what a crock of sanctimonious magical-thinking
horseshit.

n.n said...

Whether we conduct the experiments or not, it is interesting to observe the dynamic between managed and organic, between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life, and the migration between them.

n.n said...

Mother Nature's fitness function deemed that the mammoths were not viable. Should we respect Her Choice to abort them?

Paddy O said...

I actually do think this is an interesting and fine idea, worth pursuing. I'd support bringing back the dodo. Any animal that went extinct in large part due to human actions deserves another shot.

Um, I mean chance, that was a bad choice of words.

Might I suggest starting with a Channel Island pygmy mammoth, there's be a market for those for home menageries.

khesanh0802 said...

A friend of a friend of a friend of a friend told me that Yale is working on a Sabre Tooth Tiger ( there were no pre-historic Bulldogs), Brown is woking on the Giant Short Faced Bear, Columbia is close to recreating the American Lion, the folks at North Carolina State are working on the Dire Wolf (can't let the Ivies have all the fun), and the Clinton Foundation is sponsoring work on the American Cheetah (think of that as a Boston accent). A little imagination and a lot of grant money will get you almost anything!

Fernandinande said...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...
We should be living according to the harmonious rhythms of nature, not in a way that treats it as foreign. Or as an unmanageable threat. Nature created us, not the other way around. Seeking to replace it with something else is stupidly obnoxious folly.


I, too, enjoy living naked in a tree and eating raw monkeys and bugs.

khesanh0802 said...

@Roughcoat You have that wrong. "Man plans; God laughs". Now I have to go out to the barn and shovel some real horseshit!

Fernandinande said...

You know who else tried to bring back extinct species?

That's right: Hitler.

Search Results [nazis bring back extinct animals]:
How Hitler and Goering resurrected extinct species to make 'Nazi ...
The Nazi breeding program that resurrected an extinct species - io9
Nazi super-cows could be brought back by scientists after going ...

Nazi super-cows for Trump steaks.

damikesc said...

Because there are only so many of them that we can exist apart from and no animal is made to be suicidal on the species-level. And also because evolution produces diversity, not the sort of monotony you'd get after wiping out 90% of them.

You are aware that the "diversity" evolution brings about is, largely, the off-shoots that failed to reproduce or survive, right? The "monotony" you see is what smart folks call "nature".

Nature isn't pleasant and gives two shits about feelings.


Also, extinct animals are exotic - because we can only either imagine them or experience scientific recreations of their evidence. Of course reviving them sounds fun and pretty. What a shame we can't manage to feel that way about all the ones left, right here in the now, that we're killing off at an even faster rate than ever before.


Funny. We "create" more species by more carefully documenting tiny differences that would not appear in a fossil record in the first place. The rate of extinction is effectively unchanged. The rate of classification is markedly higher. It's why "autism" is more prevalent now --- because we keep lowering the bar on what qualifies and classify the ever-long hell out of it.

Oh, you didn't know that, did you?

Playing God are they? I can think of no other reason to play around with dinosaur DNA.It's extinction was necessary for mammals to evolve, or so say the Darwinists.

You'd think trying to undo Darwinism would be a cause of concern, no?

Jupiter said...

Roughcoat said...

"Also, I can't quite articulate why, but de-extinction strikes as something transcendentally beautiful, even spiritual. An affirmation of sorts. Can't explain why. Does anyone else feel this way?"

Yes. But. Only because it's mammoths. I like the idea of mammoths. And mastodons. Fucking Indians just had to wipe them out. Make Canada Great Again! What do you suppose they eat?

David said...

Fake news about a Fake Mammoth. In tune with the times.

SukieTawdry said...

Wow, there was a danger during the wooly mammoth era that the tundra permafrost might melt? Imagine that.

I've often wondered how it's determined which species we will allow to become extinct and which we will not. After all, up to 200 plant and animal species become extinct every day. Wouldn't saving a species programmed for extinction be just as big an affront to nature as causing the extinction of one not so programmed? And how do you think Mother Nature feels about our bringing back species she's already rotated out? Pretty cheeky even if we are the jewel in the Darwinian crown.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

You are aware that the "diversity" evolution brings about is, largely, the off-shoots that failed to reproduce or survive, right? The "monotony" you see is what smart folks call "nature".

Nature isn't pleasant and gives two shits about feelings.


What's your point? That there's not enough selection pressure on successful stable species and ecosystems so why don't we go ahead like Major Kong and create more! Yee haa! Dumb dumb dumb.

The rate of extinction is effectively unchanged. The rate of classification is markedly higher. It's why "autism" is more prevalent now --- because we keep lowering the bar on what qualifies and classify the ever-long hell out of it.

Total fucking nonsense. If you think species preservation and habitat destruction are compatible, then let me know your address, I'll have eminent domain (without compensation) declared so that it can be knocked down, and you can go homeless and see how well that improves your odds of survival and reproductive success.

You'd think trying to undo Darwinism would be a cause of concern, no?

It doesn't take a genius to know that, 1) Evolution is a fact, and 2) Maintaining as stable a global ecosystem as the one in which our civilization arose over the past 10,000 years, is good for us and good for the species upon which this ecosystem relies. Terraforming is an unpredictable business. Mass extinctions take a long time to recover from. Tens of millions of years.

Most people think better of their progeny than to stack odds like that against them. I can see that you don't.

Roughcoat said...

When I win the lottery or make my pile in the stock market, I'm going to fund a center for de-extinction studies and a chain of no-kill shelters for stray dogs. If you grim American Gothic wet blankets want to fund cancer research or homes for battered women or orphanages or whatever, go right ahead, it's your money. You work your side of the street and I'll work mine.

tcrosse said...

Would it be too much trouble to re-engineer the kind of flavorsome, well-marbled hog that supplied moist, tender pork chops ? I remember many years ago when these roamed the earth.

tim in vermont said...

I think the reasons given are BS myself, but I think bringing them back is great. E

Fernandinande said...

Turns out the MSM article is Fake News.

Kirk Parker said...

Toothless,

"We should be living according to the harmonious rhythms of nature"

Ah, like Krakatoa? Or is the Tunguska Event more to your liking?

" no animal is made to be suicidal on the species-level "

Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa! Why are you trying to sneak teleology into the discussion?