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Perspective Making De-Extinction Mundane? Carrie Friese1*, Claire Marris2 1Sociology Department, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom, 2Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom This Perspective is part of the Public Engagement in Science series. Introduction The use of new technologies to bring back extinct species has recently become a topic widely discussed in the media, partly as the result of a TEDx programme on de- extinction  at the National Geographic Headquarters, timed to coincide with a National Geographic cover story in April 2013. Two weeks earlier, Stuart Brand, a key proponent of de-extinction, gave his own TED talk . These public events were followed by high-profile conferences at Cambridge (UK) and Stanford Univer- sities [3,4]. These events have begun to shape the contours of ‘de-extinction,’ by defining the relevant techniques (cloning, genome editing, back breeding, stem cell manipulation) and also the actors that can legitimately participate. Thus, de-extinction is currently crystalizing into a field that in- cludes not only bioscientists but also, to varying degrees, the popular press, bioethi- cists, conservationists, and scientists from otherfields (forexample,synthetic biologists). De-extinction has raised a number of ethical and political questions: Will it divert resources from other tried-and- tested measures for conservation? Will the resurrected animals be classified as members of the extinct species? Are conservationists too pessimistic and scep- tical about cutting-edge science to em- brace its potential? How will we ethically care for the animals used in and produced by these techniques? Are there hidden commercial interests at stake? What is striking, from our perspective, is that many of these debates have been held before: the tropes regarding de-extinction are remark- ably similar to those used in debates regarding cloning endangered animals. In this paper, we explore the relevance of previous debates and argue that impor- tant insights can be gleaned from them as de-extinction moves forward, and that there is another set of questions that has not yet been adequately addressed. In line with the arguments of Marris and Rose  in the opening editorial for this series ‘‘Opening Engagement: Exploring Public Participation in the Biosciences,’’ we examine how, in the field of cloning endangered animals, the concerns of conservationists have in some cases been the basis for reformulating scientific prac- tices in a way that can be interpreted as a form of ‘upstream’ public engagement. We argue that de-extinction could learn valu- able lessons from these earlier projects regarding how to incorporate contribu- tions from various publics; and demon- strate what a sociological approach can add to the exploration of these questions, in ways that traditional bioethics and ELSI (Ethical, Legal and Social Implications) approaches cannot. Old Debates Concerns raised about de-extinction have included: resource allocation, species identification and classification, and the relationship between technology and na- ture preservation. Here we discuss how these debates have been previously articulated. Conservationists have voiced concern that de-extinction will shift financial and other forms of support from more estab- lished land management practices to biotechnological solutions [6,7]. This was also a key concern at the turn of the twenty-first century when scientists began to successfully clone endangered and threatened animals. Indeed, shortly after the cloning of a gaur (an endangered cow species) was announced, critics of the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) began to argue that this legislation was outdated. They argued that the ESA was no longer necessary because the availability of clon- ing techniques meant that species would no longer go extinct, which is a discourse rooted in technological optimism that environmentalists have long been critical of . The concern here is that funding will move from tried-and-tested preserva- tion strategies to technologies that are represented as a magic bullet but that are still in the infancy stage, and are thus uncertain. For example, after 20 years of research in assisted reproduction, even ‘simple’ techniques like artificial insemina- tion continue to be difficult to use routinely in ex situ species preservation practices . This is not to say that technologies should not be developed, but that their contributions are necessarily limited in the development stage. Questions have been raised about whether or not an extinct animal repro- duced through back breeding, cloning, or genetic engineering would be classified as that species (e.g., a passenger pigeon) or a new kind of species [7,10]. This resonates with debates on the ontological status of cloned endangered animals, which simi- larly rely upon the use of closely related and abundant animals as egg donors and surrogates [9,11]. What we learn from these earlier discussions is that resurrected animals can be categorized differently by different agencies. For example, the The Perspective section provides experts with a forum to comment on topical or controversial issues of broad interest. Citation: Friese C, Marris C (2014) Making De-Extinction Mundane? PLoS Biol 12(3): e1001825. doi:10.1371/ journal.pbio.1001825 Series Editor: Nikolas Rose, King’s College London, United Kingdom Published March 25, 2014 Copyright: 2014 Friese, Marris. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: Claire Marris has been supported by an award from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/G036004/1). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. * E-mail: C.Friese@lse.ac.uk PLOS Biology | www.plosbiology.org 1 March 2014 | Volume 12 | Issue 3 | e1001825 cloned banteng—another endangered cow species that is now on display at the San Diego Zoo—is considered a hybrid by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and is therefore not considered part of the banteng population. However, the Species Survival Plan, organized by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in order to breed endangered species in captivity, considers this same animal a banteng and includes him in their studbook. The lesson from previous experiences with cloning endangered animals is that onto- logical debates within de-extinction could be better understood within the institu- tionalized practices through which species are managed. De-extinction risks being framed as a two-sided debate, between technologically enthusiastic and optimistic scientists who seek to master nature versus depressed and technologically sceptical environmentalists who focus unduly on possible unintended consequences. This is a rather longstand- ing frame , and is also how the recent Cambridge meeting was portrayed . A better way of pursuing discussions regard- ing the future of de-extinction, which takes a more sociological perspective, is to ask: What kind of nature does de-extinction seek to make? Whose interests (human and otherwise) are met through making this kind of nature? Whose interests are not met? How are resulting disparities ad- dressed? This would allow de-extinction to be considered in context, in a manner that learns from previous engagements be- tween conservation and technology. Public Forums One of the striking features of de- extinction is that, even at this early phase, public outreach has been proactive and extensive. The far-reaching coverage of this effort in National Geographic, through the TEDx programme and other TEDx talks and related media coverage of these, and academic conferences attest to this. This public outreach has indeed helped to establish and define de-extinction as a scientific field and topic of public interest. Meanwhile, discussions on cloning endan- gered animals have, in contrast, been more conventional, largely occurring in the context of professional conferences, within zoological organizations, and in journal commentaries. Despite the seemingly more ‘public’ nature of de-extinction, we argue that cloning endangered animals has, at times, engaged with ‘public debate’ in a manner that de-extinction could usefully learn from as it moves forward. At least some cloning experiments involving endangered animals have taken up and addressed the concerns of their critics by changing their scientific practices. For example, different kinds of cells and animals were used in different cloning experiments so that the resulting animal did not simply show that it was possible to clone, but also how cloning could be of value to species preservation efforts. After the gaur died, the San Diego Zoo decided to clone a banteng instead because he was consid- ered more genetically valuable within contemporary ex situ preservation prac- tices [9,13]. In other words, the concerns of conservationists have been the basis for reformulating the experimental practice of cloning endangered animals. This raises the question: how might future de-extinc- tion experiments be designed in order to address the concerns that have been raised over the past year? As Marris and Rose noted , ‘upstream’ public engagement seeks ‘‘to enable a range of actors, including lay publics, but also the widest possible range of people who might be interested or affected, to help shape the trajectory of innovation.’’ The TEDx programme and Stanford conference show that a range of actors have been brought together in order to discuss de-extinction. This is a laudable opening, which can now take on the challenge of bringing such diverse groups together in the conduct of de-extinction research itself. The Ethics of Using and Making Animals in Science One area of sustained concern has been the ethics of using and making animals through the scientific practices associated with de-extinction. First, there are con- cerns about the welfare of cell donors and surrogates used to reproduce de-extinct animals. Second, there are also welfare concerns regarding the de-extinct animal itself. One example comes from cloning, where resulting animals often die in a painful manner and shortly after birth due to birth defects associated with somatic cell nuclear transfer. The cloned Spanish bucardo is often used as an example of this. This is the only animal of an extinct species to be brought back to life through de-extinction, and the animal died min- utes after birth in acute respiratory distress. Third, there are more long- ranging concerns regarding where and with whom animals produced through de- extinction will live. Will the animal live in a zoo? Will it be reintroduced into a (re)wild, park-like region? The early de-extinct ani- mals will not have any conspecifics. Who will these animal live with, whether it be in a zoo or a park? If the animal is social, what will the consequences of this be? There are, however, another set of questions regarding making animals that arise from a social science perspective as opposed to the above bioethics and conservation perspectives. Who will take care of the newly born, de-extinct animal? Is there a group of professionals who have the knowledge required to rear the de- extinct animal? Are professionals of this group available and willing to engage in such work for de-extinction? How will they be involved in the experimentation? In this context, it is important to note that the death of the cloned gaur was raised as an example of the health problems associated with cloning at the Stanford conference. However, this animal actually died be- cause of husbandry problems. People involved in the experiment simply did not know how to hand rear a gaur. This was another reason why the San Diego Zoo decided to clone a banteng instead of a gaur in the subsequent cloning project . Zoo keepers at the park had experi- ence hand rearing this species. A social science perspective on work and employ- ment is able to translate some of the more abstract ethical concerns regarding the lives of animals produced through science into more tangible, organizational ques- tions. Questions regarding animal care need to be understood as a crucial part of de-extinction experimentation, rather than downstream concerns. Political Economies of De-Extinction A wider range of actors are involved in de-extinction for a variety of reasons. Those with commercial interests are at times viewed with scepticism, which can have ramifications for de-extinction more generally. For example, Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) was a key figure in cloning both the gaur and the banteng and is now pursuing de- extinction. ACT had commercial interests in cloning endangered animals; it was a means for the company to prove the principle of interspecies nuclear transfer as part of its human embryonic stem cell research programme while also gaining positive public relations because reproduc- ing endangered animals is often considered an indisputably positive thing to do . One question raised at the Stanford conference was why de-extinction is being pursued. While altruistic purposes may be highlighted, there was the clear assumption PLOS Biology | www.plosbiology.org 2 March 2014 | Volume 12 | Issue 3 | e1001825 on the part of some participants that there was a commercial component to this research venture. Jake Sherkow, an expert on patent law and bioscience regulation, noted that ACT had patented the use of interspecies nuclear transfer to clone extinct animals in 2001. There is a widespread belief that commercial inter- ests and altruism are mutually exclusive, a belief that we question. Moreover, some observers will, and indeed already have , argued that altruistic conser- vation motives are used as ‘greenwash- ing’ to advance commercial interests in agribusiness and human reproduction. Regardless of the validity of such accu- sations, de-extinction will need to address this prominent impression. Here there is an important lesson again in past experiences with cloning endan- gered animals. Some zoo scientists saw the mass media’s positive portrayals of tech- nology as a means to bring new forms of funding into the zoo from wealthy bene- factors who are excited about the potential of new technologies . To generate this kind of funding, the animals chosen for these experiments are those that are most likely to receive positive media attention. This process is also seen in de-extinc- tion, where the charismatic animals used to support ‘cool,’ new de-extinction tech- nologies include the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon, and the saber-toothed cat. The concern in the context of cloning endangered animals was that this funding at times drove the science, rather than species preservation itself . The lesson for de-extinction is that financial interest is not the only political economy question that needs to be addressed. Rather, funding itself is constitutive of how exper- iments are designed. In cloning endan- gered animals, alternative funding sources have been pursued in part in order to do cloning in ways that have clearer implica- tions for present-day species preservation . Conclusion De-extinction illustrates a more general trend toward promissory communication, where scientists promote their work by talking about things that have not hap- pened yet, and may never happen. Discussions detached from what is actually realizable today or in any near future stimulate ‘speculative ethics’ [15,16]. Pro- ponents and critics alike end up devoting a considerable amount of time and effort to debating the consequences of a science that is yet to be realized. In contrast to speculative ethics, we propose a social science approach based upon the current realities of cloning, genetic engineering, back breeding, and species preservation today. Seemingly mundane questions about matters like husbandry and every- day lab practices are prioritized here, and could be useful to address as de-extinction moves forward. In this context, we argue that social scientists should be included in discussions regarding de-extinction. This would diffuse the spectacle of de-extinction and make it mundane, refocusing atten- tion onto questions about why and how certain species are being resurrected through such programmes and the kinds of lives these animals will be made to live. References 1. The Long Now Foundation (2013) TEDx DeEx- tinction, Friday March 13th 2013 Washington, D.C. Available: http://longnow.org/revive/ tedxdeextinction. Accessed 12 February 2014. 2. TED (2013) Stewart Brand: the dawn of de- extinction. Are you ready? Available: http:// www.ted.com/talks/stewart_brand_the_dawn_ of_de_extinction_are_you_ready.html Accessed 12 February 2014. 3. Wildlife Conservation Society (2013) How will synthetic biology and conservation shape the future of nature? April 9–11, 2013. Available: http://e.wcs.org/site/PageNavigator/Cambridge. html. Accessed 12 February 2014. 4. Stanford Law School (2013) De-extinction: ethics, law&politics,May 31,2013.Available:http://www. law.stanford.edu/event/2013/05/31/de-extinction- ethics-law-politics. Accessed 12 February 2014. 5. Marris C, Rose N (2010) Open engagement: exploring public participation in the biosciences. PLoS Biol 8: e1000549. 6. Redford KH, Adams W, Mace GM (2013) Synthetic biology and conservation of nature: wicked problems and wicked solutions. PLoS Biol 11: e1001530. 7. Sherkow JS, Greely HT (2103) What if extinction is not forever? Science 5: 32–33. 8. Wapner P (2010) Living through the end of nature: the future of American environmentalism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 9. Friese C (2013) Cloning wild life: zoos, captivity and the future of endangered animals. New York: New York University Press. 10. Gross L (2013) De-extinction debate: should extinct species be revived. KQED Science. Available: http://blogs.kqed.org/science/2013/ 06/05/deextinction-debate-should-extinct- species-be-revived/. Accessed 12 February 2014. 11. Friese C (2010) Classification conundrums: cate- gorizing chimeras and enacting species preserva- tion. Theory Soc 39: 145–172. 12. Callaway E (2013) Synthetic biologists and conservationists open talks. Nature 496: 281. 13. Friese C (2009) Models of cloning, models for the zoo: rethinking the sociological significance of cloned animals. Biosocieties 4: 367–390. 14. Shanks P (2013) Should we be trying to bring extinct species back to life? Global Possibilities. Available: http://www.globalpossibilities.org/ should-we-be-trying-to-bring-extinct-species- back-to-life/. Accessed 12 February 2014. 15. Nordmann A (2007) If and then: a critique of speculative nanoethics. Nanoethics 1: 31–46. 16. Marris C, Rose N (2012) Let’s get real on sythetic biology. New Sci 2868: 28–29. PLOS Biology | www.plosbiology.org 3 March 2014 | Volume 12 | Issue 3 | e1001825 itself . The lesson for de-extinction is that financial interest is not the only political economy question that needs to be addressed. Rather, funding itself is constitutive of how exper- iments are designed. In cloning endan- gered animals, alternative funding sources have been pursued in part in order to do cloning in ways that have clearer implica- tions for present-day species preservation . Conclusion De-extinction illustrates a more general trend toward promissory communication, where scientists promote their work by talking about things that have not hap- pened yet, and may never happen. Discussions detached from what is actually realizable today or in any near future stimulate ‘speculative ethics’ [15,16]. Pro- ponents and critics alike end up devoting a considerable amount of time and effort to debating the consequences of a science that is yet to be realized. In contrast to speculative ethics, we propose a social science approach based upon the current realities of cloning, genetic engineering, back breeding, and species preservation today. Seemingly mundane questions about matters like husbandry and every- day lab practices are prioritized here, and could be usef