Just as the gap between reality and satire has narrowed recently, scientists are hard at work trying to eclipse science fiction. Step aside Jurassic Park,Â make way for the new and improved woolly mammoth, vast herds of which will roam the Arctic tundra as inÂ millenniaÂ past.
At least, so predicts best-selling author Ben Mezrich. His latest book isÂ âsoon to be a major motion picture,â according to its cover.
Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of Historyâs Most Iconic Extinct CreaturesâÂ (Atria, 272 pp., ** out of four stars) spins this yarn of genetic creationism and scientific derring-do with breathless prose, which in places is indistinguishable from dust jacket fare. The reader will be forgiven for thinking that these big-tusked behemoths will reappear at the same time as the movie premiere. (Fox bought the film rights.)
The hero of this tale is Harvard professor and geneticist Dr. George M. Church, a Dudley Do-Right of high science who wants to use rapidly advancing biotechnologies to eradicate Lyme disease in humans, herpes in Asian elephants, and other scourges.
Lesser characters in this brave new world include Stewart Brand, who published theÂ Whole Earth Catalog, and Peter Thiel, of PayPal fame, who is funding efforts to find the Fountain of Youth. Without a touch of irony, Mezrich (The Accidental Billionaires) terms Thielâs “passionate belief” in using science to attain a âmassively extended life spanâ as âinfectious.â
Long live us, but with so many existing species endangered or going extinct, why would anyone want to bring back the woolly mammoth? The rationale, thin as it is, goes like this: grazing mammoths once kept the Arctic tundra grassy and cooler and can do so again if allowed to…