, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 165–178 | Cite as

The Ethics of De-Extinction

  • Shlomo Cohen
Original Paper


“de-extinction” refers to the process of resurrecting extinct species by genetic methods. This science-fiction-sounding idea is in fact already in early processes of scientific implementation. Although this recent “revival of the dead” raises deep ethical questions, the ethics of de-extinction has barely received philosophical treatment. Rather than seeking a verdict for or against de-extinction, this paper attempts an overview and some novel analyses of the main ethical considerations. Five dimensions of the ethics of de-extinction are explored: (a) the possible contribution of de-extinction to promoting ecological values, (b) the deontological argument that we owe de-extinction to species we rendered extinct, (c) the question of “playing God” through de-extinction, (d) the utilitarian perspective, and (e) the role of aesthetic considerations in the ethics of de-extinction. A general feature arising from the paper’s discussion is that, due to de-extinction’s special character, it repeatedly tests the limits of our ethical notions.


De-extinction Environmental ethics Bioconservation Biodiversity Species rights Respect for life Genetic engineering Cloning 


I wish to thank Uri Eytan, whose interest in de-extinction prompted me to embark on the research that led to this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael

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