Russian zombie plants resurrected with help of squirrels

Published by adviser, Author: Dan Gladius - Rocket Contributor, Date: March 22, 2012

Now that I have your attention with that admittedly misleading headline, allow me to explain.

Recently, some Moscow scientists succeeded in bringing back to life samples of a small white flower called Silene stenophylla after 32,000 years at the bottom of a pre-historic squirrel burrow.

Admittedly, this is a less sexy endeavor than the title implies, but it still holds vast moral ramifications for the future.

Should scientists have the ability to resurrect past life, and do the possible benefits of ‘messing with genetics’ outweigh the possible moral questions that arise therein?

The answer, emphatically and on both counts, is yes.

As with all scientific experimentation, there is a risk that something will go catastrophically wrong.

One only needs to look at the long history of close calls and missing limbs in science to prove that point.

However, with developed safety measures and an increase in the consciousness of scientific standards among scientists throughout the world, it is easy to suppose that the potential benefits enormously outweigh the drawbacks.

For instance, some interesting questions may help be answered by this particular case of pre-historic flower arraigning.

The Silene stenophylla species actually still exists in modern form in the cold of arctic Russia and the mountains of northern Japan.

However, when this modern flower is compared to the newly-recreated ancient variety, there are some very small, yet still perceptible differences.

As BBC correspondent Richard Black puts it, “The scientists suggest in their […] paper that research of this kind can help in studies of evolution, and shed light on environmental conditions in past millennia.”

Surely, any legitimate evidence added to the evolution debate will add to its eventual acceptance by a more enlightened world and thus it is worth the price of some zombie plants to do so.

What the Silene stenophylla resurrection does emphatically do is open the door to the possibility of reviving other ancient creatures whose DNA has been found, such as the baby woolly mammoth discovered some years ago completely intact in, unsurprisingly by now, the plentiful Russian permafrost.

If science were able to recreate these creatures, they could be better studied and understood by the scientific community.

Benefits from this could range from medicinal cures, insights into animal behavior, even up to solid proof for the theory of evolution that even the most ideological creationist would be forced to accept.

In all, the future of species revival is wide and largely untread. In this writer’s opinion, the potential benefits, some of which we have yet to even conceive of, far outweigh any risk in the more rigidly careful scientific world in which we live.

Genetics and reviving extinct species has very little to do with ‘acting god’ as some claim, and instead the world should focus on the good in restoration-genetics instead of the bad.


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