Once they’re gone, they’re gone

August 19, 2013

John Lennon once got into a good bit of trouble for stating that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus,” but almost 33 years after his death, Lennon now has something in common with St. John the Baptist and the Lord Buddha.

Teeth that purportedly belonged to the two religious figures have become venerated relics, and a molar pulled from Lennon’s mouth in the 1960s that was sold at auction in 2011 for $32,000 is now on its way to Penn State University for scientific study. The owner of the tooth, a Canadian dentist named Michael Zuk, said last week that he hopes researchers in State College can sequence Lennon’s genetic code from the tooth with an eye toward eventually cloning Lennon.

“It’ll be a mark on my headstone that I had a hand in bringing back one of rock’s greatest stars,” Zuk proclaimed.

I think we can safely say that being humble is not part of Zuk’s genetic code. Nor, it seems, is sanity.

Setting aside the moral and ethical questions raised about human cloning, a cloned John Lennon would almost certainly not be churning out songs on a par with “Imagine” or “A Day in the Life.” Lennon’s talents were perhaps a partial product of heredity, but they also sprang from a specific place and time. The same goes for other great artists, both living and dead. To expect that you can take some of Shakespeare’s DNA, cook it up in a laboratory, and have a new Shakespeare crafting sonnets is the domain of fantasy.

Daydream all you want, but we will not be seeing their like again.



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