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BIOCONTROVERSY
The gene machine
BY CHRIS WRIGHT

Two years ago, I interviewed Claude Vorilhon ó a/k/a " Rael " ó about his drive to clone a human being (see " The Clone Ranger, " This Just In, September 8, 2000). Rael, the leader of the Raelian religion, believes the human race is descended from beings cloned by an alien race, the Elohim, as part of a genetic experiment. He assured me that Clonaid, the biogenetic company he formed, would reproduce the experiment by the end of 2001. " People laughed at me when I said cloning would come, " he said. " Now they know it is happening. "

Now, if the Raelians are to be believed, itís happened. Last Friday, Clonaid announced that it had created the worldís first human clone. The announcement caused a storm of controversy, with some observers calling it an ethical violation and others calling it a fraud. The Raelians, meanwhile, are beside themselves with joy. Ricky Roehr ó president of US Raelians ó gushed to the Phoenix from his home in Las Vegas.

Q: This is a big day for you, yes?

A: Itís very exciting. Itís not important that Clonaid was the first to clone a person; itís important that this has been done. Humans will benefit from this. We are one step closer to eliminating all disease, one step closer to eternal life.

Q: Yet the reaction has not been entirely positive.

A: I get asked a lot of the same questions from an alarmed public.

Q: Like what?

A: The word " ethics " comes into play a lot. There is an insane double standard here. Ethical committees are not for the birth of a baby, they are for chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, capitalistic countries killing people, the injury the Catholic Church has done. People have had a terrible reaction ó [worried about] armies of clones and Frankenbabies. Itís all baloney.

Q: Why do you think people react so negatively?

A: A prophet like Rael comes along, and it scares people. Itís the same as when Jesus was here. The Romans didnít care who you worshipped as long as you paid taxes. When Jesus started telling people to think for themselves, they shut him down. People like Rael are always hunted down.

Q: The Raelians have been accused of everything from promoting suicide to having orgies to laundering drug money. Where does this stuff come from?

A: Ha ha ha. A lot of it started in France. Like Jesus said, you canít be a prophet in your own country. They canít throw you to the lions anymore, so they use a little tactical defamation: " Ah, heís a child molester, he gets people to kill themselves. " Itís a complete lie.

Q: Are you ever physically threatened?

A: Yes. People have found my phone number and threatened this and that. People tell me I donít deserve to live, that Iím the Devil himself.

Q: Raelians believe in telepathic communication with the Elohim. Have you done that?

A: No. I felt something a couple a couple times. But they have better things to do than have me tugging on their shirtsleeves.

Q: Howís the Elohim embassy in Jerusalem coming along?

A: The Israelis have not said yes yet, so the aliens told Rael to check other places, other countries, to see if we could get permission. Weíre trying to change the planet. We could build the embassy quietly, but without people knowing what itís for, it would be just an empty building.

Q: Right. So how do you convince people youíre not just another crazy cult?

A: We donít try to convince people. We just present the information. Itíd be insane to try to convince people. Beside that, itís not respectful to try to convince anyone of anything. Thatís where fanaticism starts.

Issue Date: January 2 - 9, 2003
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