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Resurrecting the Woolly Mammoth

Science, Law, Ethics, Politics, and Religion

By Corey A. Salsberg

The recent cloning of a sheep, “Dolly” (by the Roslin Institute in Scotland), has sparked a great deal of debate on the moral and ethical implications of cloning. To date, such debate has focussed primarily on the cloning of human beings, which no longer seems such a remote possibility. But in the shadow of this debate about the cloning of humans or farm animals, researchers from several nations have been actively collecting tissue from the remains of the woolly mammoth in preparation for an attempt to bring the beast back from ten thousand years of extinction. Though perhaps not as objectionable as cloning human beings, the resurrection of an extinct species raises unique legal, ethical, and religious questions.

The author analyzes the current state of law and concludes that there is little law directly on point, and that what little law exists may yield unexpected, and perhaps inappropriate, results when applied to the cloning of extinct animals. Further consideration of the ethical and religious ramifications of the resurrection of extinct animals leads the author to conclude that such projects can proceed without violating existing laws and ethical standards, if conducted with adequate sensitivity to such concerns, and with certain procedural safeguards in place.

Posted in Articles.

March 11, 2000 Cite: 2000 Stan. Tech. L. Rev. 1