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The spectre of human cloning

Cloning has leapt from science fiction to science fact. Once merely the realm of imagination (a duplicate Elvis, a rink full of Gretzkys, or an army of Hitlers), the science of cloning, for medical advance or for reproduction, has raced ahead of public policy and ethical debate. From cloned cows to UFO cults, for better or for worse, Canada finds itself in the centre of the clone age.

In His Image: The Cloning of a Man is the title of a shocking new book by author David Rorvik that claims a New Jersey millionaire bachelor has had himself cloned. The scientific community is buzzing with speculation about the authenticity of the claim. Amazingly, the discussion is not about "if" human cloning can be done, but "when." Author Jeremy Rifkin tells CBC Radio it doesn't matter whether this particular story is true or not: the world has changed forever.

In his own book, Who Should Play God? Rifkin says science has pushed the world from the age of physics into the age of molecular biology. He tells CBC Radio's Sunday Morning that it's only a matter of time before humans are cloned, and the world must re-evaluate the entire concept of life. Would a clone have full human rights? Who would own a clone? Could it be patented? Would it have a soul?
. David Rorvik's book, In His Image: The Cloning of a Man, was published by J.B. Lippincott Company in 1978. Rorvik, who had been a medical reporter for Time and the New York Times, claimed a millionaire referred to as "Max" had asked him in 1973 to help create a clone of himself. Rorvik claimed an island laboratory somewhere in the Pacific carried out the cloning and that a healthy cloned baby was created in 1976.

. Rorvik's book sold well and was hotly debated in the media. Soon after publication a British scientist mentioned in the book sued Rorvik and his publisher for defamation. The court demanded proof that the cloned boy existed and, when it was not provided, ruled that the book was a "fraud and a hoax." Lippincott paid the scientist unspecified damages.

. The method Rorvik described was the same nuclear transfer technology that eventually resulted in Dolly the cloned sheep in 1996, and the cloning of a human embryo in 2001. Most scientists believe this method could one day create a human clone.
. Jeremy Rifkin has written more than a dozen books about the impact of scientific and technological change on society, the economy and the environment. His subjects include biotechnology, the workforce, hydrogen power, and the beef industry.
Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: March 12, 1978
Guest(s): Jeremy Rifkin
Reporter: Warner Troyer
Duration: 8:29

Last updated: February 17, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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