E/RS program hosts guest speaker

By Marty Dubecky, Digital Communications Manager

On Feb. 20, Dr. Lisa Sideris gave a talk in Kennedy Auditorium entitled “The Ethics of Extinction and De-Extinction.”

Xavier’s Ethics/Religion and Society Program (E/RS) features a Distinguished Speakers Series. From 2021-2024, the series theme is “Imagining the Human Future” featuring “visionary, innovative presenters from within academia, government and industry,” to speak to faculty, staff, and students. The 2022-23 academic year theme for these talks is the Environment. 

Sideris is currently a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Before teaching at UCSB, Sideris taught in the Religious Studies Department at Indiana University, the faculty of Religious Studies and Environment at McGill University in Montreal and the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Pace University in New York City. She came to Xavier to discuss the monarch butterfly population and the ethical and moral implications surrounding its burgeoning endangerment. 

In her talk, Sideris spoke about the sheer importance of monarch butterflies. Sideris prompted the audience to think about extinction and what it means for a particular species to go extinct. 

The implications around the death of the monarch butterflies would be more than just an environmental impact, she noted. 

Photo courtesy of xavier.edu

Dr. Lisa Sideris joined Xavier’s Ethics/Religion Society last week for a lecture on the Ethics of Extinction and De-Extinction.

Sideris began the talk discussing the spiritual and religious connection that people have with monarch butterflies. She noted the irony in the monarch being a symbol of rebirth and resurrection, considering the topic of her de-extinction talk. This connection is so important, she explained, because of the lasting effects of climate change and environmental crises. Sideris told the audience that the monarch butterfly population has declined by 85% in the last two decades.

The discussion of monarchs and their decline led the talk into the explanation of de-extinction and the ethics of cloning. Sideris explained how trying to bring a species back after it has gone extinct seems to be more along the lines of passion projects for very wealthy people instead of an actual effort to keep these species alive.

Michael Archer, an Australian paleontologist involved in cloning research, was criticized by Sideris for attempting to “play God”. He uses Biblical references to justify his work in genetic testing and cloning of extinct species, references that Sideris deems inappropriate and more destructive than productive.

After the talk students and faculty asked Sideris questions about death, genetic cloning for extinct or endangered species, how Eastern and Indigenous spirituality plays a part in everything, and how we can cope with these environmental crises and impending extinctions.

She concluded the talk by plugging the Xerces Society where anyone can learn more about and join the effort in preventing monarch butterfly extinction.