Evolution Icon Evolution
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

What “Resurrecting” the Woolly Mammoth Would Mean for Darwinism

Image credit: Thomas Quine, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

From the Financial Times, “Wooly idea: start-up’s wild plan to resurrect the mammoth”:

George Church has co-founded almost 50 companies based on experiments in his genetics lab, from tackling age-related diseases to creating pig organs to be used in human transplants.

But his latest project, Colossal Biosciences, is his most outlandish yet. The Texas-based start-up is aiming to spin off businesses and license technologies to fund bringing the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo back from extinction. 

Its plan is to use gene editing to change the embryos of familiar animals until they resemble the lost species and it wants to create its first version of a mammoth — a gene edited elephant embryo born to an elephant mother — by 2028. Church said the timeline was “ambitious” but “not impossible”. …

In 2018, Church travelled to the Pleistocene Park experimental nature reserve in Siberia, where he was working with Russian scientist Sergey Zimov on a plan for the mammoths to eventually be released into the wild.

Colossal believes that bringing back mammoths could help restore the arctic tundra, preventing the thaw and release of stored greenhouse gases.

The project faces two huge challenges in particular. The first is to increase the number of gene edits that can be done at once, a process known as “multiplex editing”, to get as close as possible to creating a mammoth from an elephant embryo. 

The second is to create a system to incubate mammoths in artificial wombs.

Of course, if they do succeed, it will be against everything Darwin told us. Species no longer appear from common descent, but now include designed horizontal gene transfer which should make a mess of inheritance trees and ghost lineages. It shows that speciation no longer has to use breeding, but simply genetic vectors — like viruses — to deliver the novel information. It says that intelligent design can be used to bypass all the glacially slow random ways to modify the genome. In other words, ID becomes the most likely hypothesis to abductively explain the data. 

How will they wiggle out of that one?