extinction Genetics Intelligent Design

Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne says they’ll never clone a herd of mammoths

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As some, notably Harvard geneticist George Church, are proposing to do, via DNA sequences from mammoths found frozen in permafrost:

What they are doing is making a genetically modified Asian elephant by inserting into its genome a maximum of sixty mammoth genes that they think differentiate the modern species from the extinct one: genes that involve hairiness, cold tolerance, amount of fat, and so on. What they’d get would be a genetic chimera, an almost entirely Asian elephant but one that is hairier, chunkier, and more tolerant of cold. That is NOT a woolly mammoth, nor would it behave like a woolly mammoth, for they’re not inserting behavior genes.

Jerry Coyne, “A mammoth debacle” at Why Evolution Is True (September 14, 2021)

Well, this raises a number of questions:

If it looks like a woolly mammoth, won’t most people just conclude that it is one? So, in a sense, they will have succeeded.

How do we know how woolly mammoths behaved, relative to elephants? And how, exactly, is their behavior related to their genes? Are there actual behavior genes or a complex combination of factors?

Of course, it all sounds crazy, especially when you get to the “artificial uterus” part. But genetic fundamentalism may not be the strongest argument against it.

This is part of a de-extinction drive. Again, one might want to ask, if extinctions happen due to changed environments, do we know enough to risk interfering with that?

It seems we shall see.

5 Replies to “Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne says they’ll never clone a herd of mammoths

  1. 1
    ET says:

    Behavior genes? Really?

  2. 2
    AaronS1978 says:

    Ugh
    Yes behavior genes
    And again the assumption of genetic determinism

  3. 3
    Belfast says:

    Don’t you believe in behaviour genes?
    Jerry Coyne is full of them.

  4. 4
    Dick says:

    Genes code for proteins, but how do proteins produce behavior? Hoe does an array of proteins tell a bird what kind of nest to build, how to court a mate, or when and where to migrate? And if these behaviors are not generated in the genome where and how are they generated? I’d sincerely love to hear an answer from someone like Coyne because I’ve never come across one in the evolutionary literature.

  5. 5
    AaronS1978 says:

    The problem is when they block genes in mouse models It does change the behavior of the mouse even though they do say there’s no one gene for anyone behavior there’s multiple genes for every behavior

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