Photo by Brian Dunnette
This sounds like science fiction. But paleontologist Jack Horner of Montana wants to recreate the dinosaurs, using DNA from a chicken. Hasn't this guy seen Jurassic Park? Or any of the sequels? He recently gave a TED talk on the idea, and people didn't start running for their lives, although they do laugh a bit. Does this proposal have merit? The full video is after the jump.
Horner doesn't shy away from the Michael Crichton story in his talk; he was an advisor to Steven Spielberg on the movies. But why would we want to recreate the dinosaurs for anything beyond an amusement park? Should we be messing with nature like this? If anything, shouldn't we be working on recreating animals that we, and not an asteroid or something else, have helped to destroy/drive into extinction? Or maybe even that is going too far, playing God.
Horner has been working on this for much of his career, and put out a book on it a couple of years ago. Should he keep it up? Horner isn't just a wild man with an idea. He's renowned, as they say, and is credited with helping discover the world's first dinosaur embryos. Horner has chosen chickens because they're actually living descendants of the dinos --- avian dinosaurs. Chickenosaurus. Dinochicken.
As for the why: "Actually, I think it's a great way to teach kids about evolutionary biology and developmental biology and all sorts of things," Horner says in his talk.
"And quite frankly, I think if Colonel Sanders was to be careful how he worded it, he could actually advertise an extra piece.
Anyway -- When our dino-chicken hatches, it will be, obviously, the poster child, or what you might call a poster chick, for technology, entertainment and design."
You have to wonder about the dangers, and ethics of this recreation. What happens when the new dinosaurs start hatching? How many chicken experiments will it take to pull this off?
Back in 2009, Horner discussed some of these issues in a Wired interview.
"Wired: Thorny ethical issues?
Horner: If you think we're playing God, maybe. But we're already modifying plants and mice. I don't see a lot of people jumping up and down complaining about better tomatoes."
Also, Horner went on to say that he hopes his work can lead to a cure for genetic defects, since learning more about controlling genes can bring the potential for spinal cord and bone regeneration. And plumper chickens. This guys seems to have a comeback for everything.
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