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Home » Is Extinction Permanent: Ronan Taylor at TEDxYouth@NSNVA (Transcript)

Is Extinction Permanent: Ronan Taylor at TEDxYouth@NSNVA (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Ronan Taylor’s TEDx Talk: Is Extinction Permanent at TEDxYouth@NSNVA conference.


I’m here today to talk about the possibilities and benefits of cloning animals that have become extinct. When I first started writing this, I had one rule: avoid Jurassic Park.

I told myself, “Ronan, you’re writing a serious presentation about biology. Don’t write about some adventure film, you’ll be laughed right off the stage.” But then I realized if I had not seen Jurassic Park as a kid, I wouldn’t be up here talking about extinct animals and it just seems inappropriate not to mention the film.

Let me tell you something that’s startling. Over 99% of all life that has existed on Earth is extinct. Just imagine. Billions and billions of species gone forever and there will be trillions more by the time our planet becomes uninhabitable. Extinction is the fate of all species, including ourselves. There’s no getting around it. Everything dies.

That being said, in the past 100 years our understanding of genetics has increased dramatically. It was only in 1952 when the Hershey-Chase experiment confirmed that DNA was a molecule that carried genetic information. Only 12 years ago, we successfully mapped the human genome. As I speak, the biotech company BioViva is conducting the first human trials on telomere extension therapy. We have made some absolutely astonishing advances in biotechnology.

Would it be too much of a stretch to assume we could use biotechnology to clone certain species of extinct animal? If you do a quick Google search you’d believe that cloning mammoths is a huge stretch and if you want to see a dinosaur, well, you’d better cancel those plans. While some believe it to be impossible, the greatest opposition to the concept of cloning extinct animals seems to be moral opposition.

People argue that committing such acts would be playing God. That argument is incomplete because on the other side of that coin, the human race, directly and indirectly, has caused the extinction of countless species. We destroy around 12 million hectares of forest a year, and don’t get me started on climate change.

If you consider cloning extinct animals to be playing God then don’t use your car because every time you start it, you contribute to climate change which is causing numerous species to go extinct. To me, it seems that playing God just means performing actions that have a profound and emphatic effect, which would make us all gods. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t know any gods. Joking aside, this argument does not consider the whole picture.

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