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Let's Not Imagine Cloning John Lennon Just Yet

Looks like Lennon. Not Lennon.
Looks like Lennon. Not Lennon.
Photo by David Zack

I grew up watching those 1950s black-and-white sci-fi movies where man creates some terrifying abomination from his wayward attempts at science. It's a story as old as Mary Shelley, but as science evolved the ways we could totally screw ourselves by playing God expanded and grew more frightening.

As a kid, I really believed we might inadvertently create 100-foot-tall ants or human-fly hybrids. So, you'll have to excuse me if I am worried about scientists cloning John Lennon.

Recently Canadian dentist Michael Zuk announced he was in the first stages of having DNA labs determine whether enough of the stuff could be extracted from one of Lennon's molars to try this. Zuk bought the tooth a couple of years ago and now would like to turn one of rock's greatest songwriters into music's version of Dolly the Sheep.

As ideas go, this one seems fucking insane, putting it mildly. For one, we already have a John Lennon clone. His name is Julian Lennon. And secondly, go watch a few 1950's sci-fi movies, Dr. Zuk.

The doctor seems like a nice enough fellow. He reportedly does a lot of charitable work in the fight against mouth cancer. So I'll try not to make this a personal attack on someone I've never met. Instead, I'll try to dissuade him from continuing by using the basic elements of a scientific argument.

Hopefully, the case I make will keep the villagers from one day being terrified by FrankenJohn.

Looks like John. Isn't John.
Looks like John. Isn't John.
Photo by hddod/Flickr Creative Commons

Define The Scientific Idea Dr. Zuk is having the molar tested for complete DNA sequencing. He purchased the tooth at auction a couple of years ago when it was sold by one of Lennon's former housekeepers.

Expectations The dentist is hoping for nothing less than the second coming of John. Someone who merely looks like him, but lacks the creativity and talent, won't do (see Julian Lennon).

Observations Apparently, this dentist has never heard of nature vs. nurture. Sure, you may have the right kind of Silly Putty but once it's molded, then what? Are you going to completely discount environmental factors that shape a person's psyche?

Also, where is faux-Lennon going to grow up? Who decides who his parents will be? What if someone chooses Yoko Ono as his mom (or grandmother)?

Even if you could plop him into present-day Liverpool, you have to consider he'll grow up in a different, now-global and technologically advanced society. His creativity could be negatively impacted by the stupidity of the Internet, something he never was aware of in a prior lifetime. He may be more content to share his ideas with the world via Twitter instead of doing the hard work of songwriting. Is that what you're aiming for, Dr. Zuk? Because you barely get the first stanza of "Imagine" in 140 characters.

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You may not realize it, Dr. Zuk, since you have been doing the hard and often underappreciated job of fixing rotten teeth, but the musical landscape has changed immensely since Lennon died. Clone Lennon would likely not be influenced by Chuck Berry and Little Richard. He might go with 2 Chainz and Robin Thicke.

No matter who he chooses, though, your unfortunate exercise opens the door to the most perverse possibility of all: that John Lennon 2.0 might actually hate John Lennon's music. This sounds like the bad ending of a Twilight Zone episode, one that need not be written.

One day, we may actually throw all caution to the hurricane wind and clone a human being. Not just tissue, but an entire person. Those first poor souls will have serious philosophical issues to overcome. Why also doom one to the impossible pressure of having to live up to Lennon's legacy?

In the end, I think Dr. Zuk should hole up with some of those Boris Karloff classics and see what happens when ego overpowers responsible, practical thinking. He was actually quoted as saying, "To potentially say I had a small part in bringing back one of rock's greatest stars would be mind-blowing."

You don't need your mind blown, you need it changed. Please don't make us chase an empty shell of a great man back to your lab with our fiery torches of disappointment and frustration.

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