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PBS: Harvard guest says cloning 'woolly mammoths' would save Arctic ice

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Researchers on an Earth Day PBS broadcast presented by Judy Woodruff hypothesized that cloning can be used to create a Frankenstein woolly mammoth species that would keep Arctic ice from melting.

Some researchers claim that reviving woolly mammoths and other extinct animals could restore vanishing habitats, although other biologists believe cloning endangered species should be the goal, according to PBS associates Gabriela Quiros and Thuy Vu of KQED in San Francisco.

Interviewee Beth Shapiro, University of California, Santa Cruz, made it clear during the show that the movie Jurassic Park is a fantasy, because, to paraphrase, dinosaur DNA pretty much dried up since such beasts have been extinct for more than 65 million years.

Nevertheless, Dr. George Church from Harvard Medical School says researchers are engineering elephant cells with thicker hair and a fatty layer to create a species comparable to the ancient woolly mammoths.

Obviously, someone is paying a good chunk of change for research required to create Frankenstein woolly mammoths that would presumably procreate into behemoth herds that would stomp through rain forests and potentially level small villages in their path. To that end, It seems prudent to ask pertinent questions concerning the implications associated with producing beasts in sufficient numbers to affect Earth's climate.

After the notion that scientists may be “crossing a line they shouldn’t,” was posited, interviewee George Church of Harvard Medical School explained, “these new mammoths could help keep the Arctic from melting because scientists believe that grazing by herbivores like mammoths strengthened the grass that grew on top of the permafrost and protected it from the sun."

While the interview included a philosophical debate over whether it’s more important to clone endangered species or bring back dinosaurs in some form that might resemble their original counterparts. the discussion raised more questions than it answered.

For example, climatologists and environmental scientists from brainiac institutions like Harvard have insisted for many years that cow flatulence and Sunday afternoon barbecues are major sources of air pollution.

Family barbecues aside, if gases released in cow flatulence significantly influence the quality of the air we breathe and contribute to phenomenons like global warming, what would woolly mammoth herds large enough to keep Arctic ice from melting do to air quality?

Additionally, would exhaust from off-road vehicles used by new legions of ivory poachers killing off the Frankenstein mammoths to harvest their huge ivory tusks offset the theoretical benefit of a supergrass that would evolve from mammoth poop to protect Arctic ice as by Mr. Church of Harvard suggests?

While the interview does touch on the philosophical debate over cloning endangered species versus cloning Frankenstein dinosaurs, the quite obvious negative environmental aspects of such cloning is entirely omitted.

It is indeed surprising if not glaringly so that not one of the experienced journalists or academic scholars would question the premise of cloning and breeding enough woolly mammoths to positively effect the environment.

The more practical question, even though it wasn't posed by the experts, is whether tax dollars were wasted on a study for cloning woolly mammoths to save Arctic ice.

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