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Quebec cult promises eternal life through cloning

The Story

Who takes seriously a cult leader who lives in "UFOland," claims he has spoken with aliens, and says he's about to clone a human being? Well, 55,000 followers, for starters -- and now the United States Congress. Rael, leader of the Quebec-based Raelian cult, is asked to testify before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Oversight Panel on the controversial issue of human cloning. His message: human cloning cannot be stopped, and he's going to make it happen. The congressional panel is considering a ban on human cloning. Of the strange assortment of scientists, ethicists, cloning advocates and opponents gathered to speak on the issue, Rael is by far the most noticeable. He believes cloning is the key to eternal life. He also claims to have a secret lab, funding, and the remains of a baby that parents want to clone. "Thankfully, nothing can stop science," Rael says in this clip from The National.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 28, 2001
Guest(s): Arthur Caplan, Rael Rael, Margaret Somerville, Panos Zavos
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Adrienne Arsenault
Duration: 2:34

Did You know?

• Raelians believe that aliens called the Elohim created human beings in their image using DNA and genetic engineering. They believe that through science like cloning, humans can perfect the gene pool and achieve eternal life.
• Their leader, Rael (formerly Claude Vorilhon, a French journalist and race car driver), claims that on Dec. 13, 1973, he was contacted by these aliens and later visited their planet.
• You can hear Rael's predictions for the future of science on The Current.

• The Raelians also advocate a free-love "sensual revolution." They attracted attention in Quebec by promoting free sex and masturbation and by handing out condoms in schoolyards.
• In February 1997 Rael founded Clonaid, which bills itself as "the first human cloning company." Control of the company was given to Brigitte Boisselier, a Raelian, who claims to operate a secret cloning lab with a waiting list of 150 clients willing to pay $200,000 US ($275,660 Cdn) to be cloned.

• On Dec. 27, 2002, Clonaid announced that its first human clone, "Eve," had been born the day before to an infertile couple in an undisclosed location. On Feb. 18, 2003, they announced that five healthy cloned babies had been born, and that twenty more couples were involved in a second generation of cloning experiments. The company promised to "provide the world with proof of its achievement" through an independent expert, but has yet to do so.

• Most scientists doubted Clonaid's claims, but few doubted it was possible. University of Toronto bioethicist Peter Singer condemned the Clonaid announcement, calling it "a textbook example of how not to do responsible scientific research" -- in secret, without rigorous scientific and ethical scrutiny. Like most scientists, Singer believes human cloning would be far too dangerous to ethically attempt. He feared this sort of work would cause a backlash against all kinds of cloning research, including therapeutic cloning of cells.

• American fertility doctor Panos Zavos, who also testified before Congress, announced in 2001 that he was part of an international consortium dedicated to creating a human clone. Zavos and an Italian colleague promised to create a clone in a remote country or on a boat in international waters if the United States imposed a ban on cloning.
• In 2003 Zavos claimed to have cloned a "human embryo for reproductive purposes."


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