Human Cloning with the Raelians
The subject of Human Cloning has been hotly debated throughout the years. From the moment thecheck here cloned Dolly the sheep, cloning stepped out of the realm of science fiction and into the light of day. At that very moment, the moral, ethical, and legal implications of human cloning entered public debate.
In March 2005 a non-binding United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning was adopted. Nations including the U.S., Australia, and the European Union have adopted strong statements against the cloning of human beings. As of January 2008, 15 U.S. States issued laws banning either the practice itself or the funding of the practice. Although a complete ban has been proposed before Congress several times, it has ultimately been met with opposition, as questions are raised about what a ban on reproductive human cloning would mean for therapeutic research, including research into stem cells.
While the minutia of the debate lingers, most agree that actual reproductive human cloning raises too many concerns, and there is not enough sound science to lift existing moratoriums. This is not to say that there are not still loud dissenting voices. New York University bioethicist Jacob M. Appel says that “children cloned for therapeutic purposes” such as “to donate bone marrow to a sibling with leukemia” might someday be viewed as heroes.” Bioethicist http://www.altsystems.com/ of the Hastings Center argues that “it is absolutely inevitable that groups are going to try to clone a human being. But they are going to create a lot of dead and dying babies along the way.”
One of the most persistent proponents of human cloning is also one of the most bizarre. Not only are they advocates, they claim to be active practitioners of human cloning.
Clonaid is an organization founded by a man who calls himself Rael, along with a group of investors. According to the Clonaid Web Site, “during the year 2000, Rael decided to hand over the CLONAID™ project to Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, a Raelian Bishop, in order for her to start working on actually cloning the first human being with a team of well-trained scientists. Dr. Boisselier has PhD degrees in physical and biomolecular chemistry.”
Clonaid and the Raelians claim to have been the first to clone a human child, who they call “Baby Eve”. Upon announcing their accomplishment, the news media feverishly attempted to gain access to the newborn, and demanded some sort of evidence. No evidence was released, however, in an apparent effort to protect the privacy and safety of “Baby Eve” and her family. Since that time, Clonaid claims to have continued to successfully clone babies.
From a Clonaid press release:
“We’ve helped almost 100 families who were desperate to have a child,” Boisselier said. “Our reward has been to see a number of cloned babies growing up normally, like any infant born through natural reproduction or through in vitro fertilization.”
“We can give hope to infertile and homosexual couples, to people who’ve lost a beloved family member and to single men and women who want a child created exclusively from their own genes,” Boisselier said. “And we can also help those who suffer from ailments that can be cured with their own stem cells.”
So, who is Rael? And who are the Raelians? What do they believe, and how does cloning fit into that picture?
The Raelian Movement was founded by a man named Claude Vorilhon, a former French race car journalist. He changed his name to Rael after he claims to have been visited by extra-terrestrials. These human-like beings, called Elohim, told him that they were the creators of life on Earth, and are the real inspiration for all major religions.
In 1974, Rael held a conference in Paris, France where he founded his movement. Today, Raelianism is considered to be the largest UFO based religion in the world. Followers are expected to denounce all other religions, and undergo a “transmission” ceremony. They also must swear off the use off all recreational drugs.
Raelians believe in a universal ethic, highlighting the secular and hedonistic. Although classified as a religious movement, Raelianism consists of no metaphysical god. The creators, or Elohim, are physical beings, and they believe that nothing exists outside the physical. While they do not believe in the soul, they do uphold a concept of “mind transfer”, and thus a form of eternal life is possible. They believe that through human cloning and “mind transfer”, it would be possible for identical human beings in both mind and body to exist, although not at the same time.
Women are a minority in the Raelian Movement, however, they do play an important role. They generally belong in one of two categories; the Order of Angels or Rael’s Girls. The Order of Angels calls for an increase in femininity amongst all humanity. It is believed that Clonaid director Dr. Brigitte Boisselier is a member of this order, where members are expected to provide sexual pleasure for Rael, as well as donate eggs for the cloning projects. According to cult specialist Mike Kropveld, these women also promise to defend Raël’s life with their own bodies.
Rael’s Girls is even more controversial. This group of women stands for the pro-sex femenist ideals of the Raelian Church. All of the women who are members of Rael’s Girls are either exotic dancers, prostitutes, or in some way involved in the sex industry. In 2004, they were featured in an issue of Playboy Magazine.
Although their beliefs and practices seem strange and offensive, they seem to have gained many followers from the various fields of science. It is claimed that scientists are drawn to Raelianism for their openness in scientific exploration as well as their denouncement of a metaphysical life source. It is from this apparent scholarly interest that Clonaid claims to be thriving.
Although the international media has been fascinated with the Raelian claims of human cloning, few people believe that their clones really exist, or for that matter, that Clonaid even truly functions as a scientific organization. That said, Clonaid and the Raelians have been featured in Time Magazine, on 60 Minutes, and 20/20.
A video featuring Rael discussing his book, Yes to Human Cloning
Clonaid claims to have invented a cell fusion device that aids in the cloning process. And in a December 2008 press release, they claim that they are ready to provide concrete evidence of their cloning capabilities. “As of now, the Clonaid and Stemaid teams are ready to facilitate the cloning of one or more additional individuals at a reduced rate, provided they would agree – under contract – to go public after being cloned,” Boisselier said. “We believe this is the right time to show publicly what we can do and offer the proof people wanted after the birth of Baby Eve.”
Beyond cloning, Rael and his followers remain active in many aspects of international affairs. On the Raelian News Web Site, Raelianews.org , one will find links and commentary on all of the groups activities. One interesting project they are working on is called Clitoraid. This apparently involves the clitoral regeneration of African women who’ve suffered from genital mutilation. The procedure will take place at The Pleasure Hospital in Burkino Faso, Africa. The site claims that over 200 African women have already signed up for the procedure.
In fact, if the above mentioned web site is to be believed, Rael has been incredible active, releasing statements on everything from Middle East Peace to an official statement on orgies.
Whether or not the Raelians and Clonaid have in fact managed to beat the rest of the scientific world to the creation of successful human clones, questions as to whether or not they should be allowed to do so will rage on in both the spiritual and academic community. The Vatican called Clonaid’s aims a “brutal mentality”. while Susan J. Palmer, a sociologist from Canada who has spent years studying the Raelians claims that the movement intentionally stirs controversy to maintain membership.
If Clonaid is able to deliver on their promise of forthcoming evidence, we will then know the true reach and limits of their capabilities. Until then, the Raelians stand behind their claims, and opponents continue to denounce their claims as sensationalism and media baiting.
With or without organizations like Clonaid, the battle over human cloning is likely to be ongoing, and not easily settled amongst nations, cities, or neighbors. The future of cloning remains to be seen, but one thing is certain; In some capacity, the future will involve cloning.