People collect some weird things. I collect books, and tobacco pipes and old bottles. I know a guy who collects guitars, and my late Mother collected bells. I’d think, usually, the things people collect say something about who they are, after all, that’s why they collect those things, because those items speak to them on a personal level and they wish to surround themselves with that feeling.
So when you hear of a dentist who collects teeth, the initial wave of creep that washes over you could be mitigated by an understanding that teeth are what dentists do. Teeth are how they earn a living and in some cases, perhaps, teeth are their entire lives.
Collecting celebrity teeth seems to add to that undefinable creep factor, but even so, there is a dentist in Red Deer, Alberta (Canada) who has, over the last few years, undertaken to collect teeth of various celebrities. Dr. Michael Zuk DDS recently purchased a tooth believed to have once been housed in the mouth of musical genius John Lennon. He apparently paid $30,000 for the chomper, which may seem strange enough, but you just wait until you hear why he bought it.
The tooth, which by all information seems to be genuine, was apparently given to Lennon’s housekeeper, by Lennon himself, in the 1960’s. The woman’s family put the tooth up for sale for the housekeeper’s 90th birthday, and it seems Zuk was the lucky buyer.
Dr. Zuk made headlines in 2012, when he purchased a dental crown previously belonging to the late Elvis Presley, but this time he’s getting press for a different reason.
Zuk plans to clone John Lennon.
Yes, you read that correctly. He openly plans to mine the tooth for DNA with the ultimate goal of genetically cloning the original pop icon, and raising him as his own son.
This story was showcased on Britain’s Channel 4 series Dead Famous DNA, the existence of which seems to mean that there’s more than just this one guy trying to collect DNA from dead celebrities. On the show, which aired April 9, Zuk explained his plans, stating that he would raise the cloned music legend as his own son, getting him guitar lessons and steering him away from drugs and alcohol.
Zuk has denied all efforts by outside parties to test the DNA in the tooth to confirm whether or not it truly belonged to Lennon, though he seems to be convinced that it did.
Apparently the moral implications of such an endeavour are no obstacle for Zuk, he’s stated outright that he believes he can own John Lennon. And when asked about the legal ramifications of cloning a person, Zuk responded:
“Depends where you do these things. If it can’t be done in one country you can do these things in another.”
According to current law in Canada, such a procedure would be explicitly illegal. As would it be in Australia, Denmark, the EU, India, Romania, Serbia and the US, as well as within the United Nations. However, he’s not wrong. There are plenty of places one could take their genetic building material and have the unscrupulous parties in those countries make their clone in no time.
Human cloning, which actually refers to two different ideas – therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning, the latter being relevant here – is a theoretical possibility at present, but as far as we know it hasn’t actually been performed using human DNA…yet.
So what happens if he’s successful? Would the resulting person actually be John Lennon?
No, certainly not. As much as Zuk, or Lennon’s fans even, might like to believe they could truly resurrect the lost Beatle, the truth of the matter is far less certain.
What makes a person who they are? Speaking in terms of genetics, we are the sum of our genotype as expressed by our phenotype. In more common terms, that means that our genetic material makes up our physical being, but it’s affected in a fundamental way by our environment and experiences. It is the combination of our genes and our life’s experiences that make us who we are, and it seems almost silly to have to say, but John Lennon’s clone would not have the benefit of John Lennon’s childhood, his relationships, chance encounters, culture and even his illnesses, therefore the resulting person would not be John Lennon.
If you need even more to convince you, think about this…what happens to us when we die?
John Lennon was shot in the back four times by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980, as Lennon and Yoko Ono returned to their home after a night out. He died on the front steps of his home in New York at 11:00pm (approximately). The living being that was John Lennon ceased to be on those steps, in the arms of his love. His immortal soul, if you believe in that kind of thing, left his mortal coil in the darkness that night. And where did it go? We really have no idea, but we do know that, if it existed, it was no longer trapped within him.
So, if the man were resurrected by artificial means, how could that soul, that part of him that apparently has passed on to another realm, be forcibly reintegrated with another physical form?
There’s more to consider though.
Zuk, by virtue of the comments he’s made, seems to be intent to gain ownership over the legend that was John Lennon – and perhaps even other dead celebrities. We mustn’t miss that loaded word though…ownership.
How, in this day and age, can a person even contemplate ownership of another person? Didn’t we do away with this sort of mentality at some point over the last 200 years? It could be said that we didn’t, what with the booming slave labour and sex slave trade in certain parts of the world. But would not the “clone” have the right to liberty? Would it not be sovereign unto itself? What line of reasoning would deny such a living being the same basic human rights as any other person?
The very idea that Dr. Zuk presents is offensive, but, if he’s truly motivated to achieve the cloning of a rock and roll legend, what is there to stop him? It’s clear that he would not succeed in bringing back John Lennon, as he was, but what life would the doppelgänger have, living in such a shadow?