Watch Back from the Dead: The Difficulties and Dilemmas of De-Extinction

Written by: The Exchange

De-extinction, or resurrecting an extinct species, is an intriguing notion. But the science is challenging and the ethics are complicated. On the one hand, it’s exciting to think about bringing back the woolly mammoth or the carrier pigeon or the saber-toothed cat and we can see the way in which these technologies could be used to help existing species adapt to the world’s changing environments. But something this revolutionary demands that we pause to consider the considerable risks and consequences. Jurassic World Dominion screenwriter Emily Carmichael will lead our two experts, evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro and bioethicist Hank Greely, through a provocative conversation designed to expose both the pros and cons of de-extinction.


Henry T. (Hank) Greely is the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law; Professor, by courtesy, of Genetics; and directs the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University. He is a founder of the International Neuroethics Society; chairs the Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues Committee of the Earth BioGenome Project; and co-chairs the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative’s Neuroethics Working Group. He is the author of The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction (2016) and CRISPR People: The Science and Ethics of Editing Humans (2021).

Beth Shapiro is an evolutionary biologist who specializes in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. As Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Santa Cruz and HHMI Investigator, Beth uses DNA recovered from bones and other remains to study how species evolved through time and how human activities have affected and continue to affect this dynamic process. Her work focuses on organisms ranging from influenza to mammoths, asking questions about domestication, admixture, speciation, and pathogen evolution. Her current work develops techniques to recover increasingly trace amounts of DNA such as from environmental and forensic samples.

Emily Carmichael is an award-winning film screenwriter, director and animator. She is one of the few women writing tentpole adventure franchise films. Most recently, Emily co-wrote Universal Picture’s Jurassic World Dominion, the latest installment in the Jurassic World trilogy which will be released in theatres June 10, 2022. Previously, she co-wrote Pacific Rim: Uprising released by Universal in 2018. Emily has written and directed several short films, which have screened and earned awards recognition at film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, South by Southwest, and Slamdance, among others.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.