Something that periodically comes up, both in popular culture and apologetics, is whether it is possible to bring back extinct organisms. The popular ones are wooly mammoths and dinosaurs, but other organisms are discussed as well from time to time. This article will explain why it may be possible for some organisms but not for others to, as it were, return from extinction.
Let us first ensure we have an appropriate foundation. If we look at this from a Biblical perspective, we realize there are two different categories of extinct organisms. There are those which are members of extinct kinds and those which have members of the same kind living today. For those like the mammoth, which is likely a member of the elephant kind, there is a simple, straightforward solution to bringing them back. That solution is selective breeding. Consider that in the past few centuries humanity has bred hundreds of varieties of domestic dogs starting from wolves, with potentially genetic input from a few other members of the dog kind. Breeding mammoths from living elephants seems feasible. However, given the slow rate of elephant reproduction and their world status of conservation, it seems highly unlikely anyone will go this route in the near future. Never-the-less, this method could work for extinct organisms that have living relatives with rapid rates of reproduction and which are not endangered.
For organisms, like the mammoths, whose living relatives are unsuitable, for whatever reason, for selective breeding, other mechanisms must be used. Cloning is the most common mechanism. This is what most people think about when they think of resurrecting extinct organisms. Cloning would require harvesting numerous reproductive cells, usually unfertilized eggs. These would then be infused with DNA harvested from dead mammoths before being placed inside a female to grow and develop. This process is far from simple. Further, it is questionable whether the DNA of extinct organisms could survive in large enough quantities to form a full genome. A full genome would be needed in order to clone an exact copy of the extinct organisms. In the case of mammoths, for example, it is possible, though questionable, that the elephant genome could potentially be used as a framework to build a functional mammoth genome, but this comes with a lot of its own problems.
Dinosaurs, on the other hand, and other organisms which, according to the Biblical kind concept, likely have no living relatives, present their own problems. Selective breeding will not work. There is nothing to breed from. Cloning would seem the way to go. However, this presents significant challenges. Dinosaur DNA is very rare. So far as I am aware, no full genome exists. What does exists is very fragmentary and is broken up across multiple dinosaur kinds. This makes it impossible, at least at present, to even consider cloning a dinosaur.
There are other problems inherent with cloning which makes the prospect of bringing back the dinosaurs unlikely. Cloning requires the reproductive cell of a member of the same kind. Since the dinosaurs are extinct, it is impossible to obtain a reproductive cell to use to hold the DNA, even if we had it. Thus, until a new technology is invented, I do not think it is likely we can bring to life extinct creatures that have no living relatives.
Evolutionists may counter that birds are dinosaurs’ closest living relatives and thus it could be possible to reproduce using them. This is, however, spurious. There are simply too many differences between the cold-blooded reptilian dinosaurs and the warm-blooded avian birds to even attempt to compare the two, let alone clone one from the other, even if perfect DNA copies existed.
Bringing back extinct creatures has intrigued the world for decades and the Jurrasic Park/World movies have etched the idea indelibly into the public consciousness. However, based on what we know at the moment it seems unlikely that we will be able to do so. This could change as our DNA sequencing tools get better and as we develop new technologies. Until then, Jurrasic World/Park or even bringing back things as obscure as the mammoths seems a goal best left to the future. However enjoyable, however exciting the prospect, we must be constrained by the limits of reality to realize that bringing back the extinct simply is not feasible at present.