I’m not a scientist, but I’ve watched enough scientists on CSI shows and read enough Medline abstracts to know it’s getting downright spooky out there. Now that every other genius and his twin sister can clone living creatures, we’ve come to a fork in the road: Which way is toward commonsense and ecological sanity and which way will take us to the Land of De-Stinktion and not the perfumed kind.
Just today Michael Crichton was resurrected. I received a Google Alert with the headline, “Should we even consider bringing dinosaurs back from extinction?” Well,I had never really reflected on it for more than a few nanoseconds; for most adults, that’s not a tough question. But I do know a million or so third-graders who would easily trade their tickets for a Justin Bieber concert to see a tyrannosaurus or two at the San Diego Zoo.
I’m not one of them, however. But I can think of a few other living masses of ectoplasm that would be kinda fun to de-extinct if we had a little of their frozen or flambe’ DNA to mess around with.
For instance, what about Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Alan Poe, Marilyn Monroe, JFK and a host of other people whose lives and/or deaths still provoke enormous controversy? Wouldn’t it be great to zap them back to life and ask them to clear up those lingering questions? We could, for instance, ask JFK if he saw anyone on the grassy knoll before Oswald sliced off his cortex. Or we might email Albert Einstein and ask him if he had to do it all over again, would he go nuclear? Or we could tie Hitler to a tree and interrogate him about all those rumors that his mother was really Jewish and he actually loved gefilte fish and matzoh balls.
Better yet, why not use the old beaker and test tube to put a new spin on archaeology and Mideast relations. Instead of displaying Egyptian mummies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, why not put them to better use?Let’s borrow some DNA from those papyrus-swathed artifacts and then see if the Egyptians might regard Westerners with new-found respect. Especially if we start curating the Met with the “talking pharaohs” exhibit. We could get Ramses and his bro’s to spill the beans on Cleopatra and find out if Moses really was found floating in the bulrushes or did some nympho in the harem pluck him out of a baby carriage parked in front of a kosher bakery.
Then, too, we could bring back a few “creatures from the Black Lagoon.” You know the type, the Abominable Snowman, Godzilla, Sasquatch, Neanderthals. It might be healing to do this. From a psychological perspective, humanity would be confronting its past fears before attempting to deal with possible future life forms on other planets. Once you’ve wrestled a Yeti to the ground, you’re more than ready to take on an extraterrestrial, especially if he in any way resembles the loveable Spielberg ET from the picture of the same name.
The more I think about it, the “de-extinction” trend may prove to be more than entertainment for a few bored scientists and zoo keepers. It might keep hope alive in the human breast that one of these days the Beatles will have a bang-up reunion and sing their new hit single, “Let it Be… De-extinction.”