From Catholic bishops to a UFO-related organization to dedicated
scientists and concerned ethicists, the debate on cloning has many
As a congressional subcommittee heard testimony this week on whether
America is ready to enter the controversial world of human cloning,
various proponents and opponents of the widely criticized scientific
procedure have elbowed their way into the national spotlight.
Panos Zavos, an in vitro fertilization specialist, has teamed with
Italian doctor Severino Antinori to provide infertile couples with
children who are clones of either parent, according to a March 28
New York Times article.
Another frontrunner in the human cloning race is a religious group
called the Rael movement and their company, CLONAID. Brigitte Boisselier,
a chemist and leader of the self-proclaimed largest UFO-related organization,
wants to offer infertile couples and others a way to have children.
In a March 28 CNN.com article, Boisselier, whose religious group
believes life on Earth was genetically engineered by extraterrestrial
beings, said 50 members of the movement have already volunteered
to carry the clone of a dead 10-month-old boy.
Both Zavos and Boisselier testified before the congressional committee
The human cloning question has also garnered opposition from other
scientists and religious leaders.
"It is not responsible at this stage to even consider the cloning
of humans," Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist at MIT who has cloned
mice, told CNN.com. Jaenisch was one of many scientists who testified
before the House committee, arguing that human cloning is not safe
at this time.
Since Scottish researchers cloned a sheep named Dolly in 1997, scientists
have managed to clone worms, mice and cattle using the same methods.
However, the failure rate has been alarmingly high at 98 percent,
according to ABCNEWS.com.
In cloning, the genetic material from an unfertilized egg is removed
and replaced with the DNA of the animal to be cloned. The egg is
stimulated to begin cell division through electric shock and is then
implanted into a surrogate who carries it to term.
Ron Green, an ethicist and religion professor at Dartmouth, told
ABCNEWS.com "cloning is a hit-or-miss affair right now."
The Catholic Church has also taken a firm stand against human cloning.
CNN.com quoted Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the John Paul II Institute
for Bioethics, who said human cloning raised profoundly disturbing
ethical issues. Human cloning has also been labeled "grotesque" by
On Jan. 22, Britain became the first country to legalize the cloning
of human embryos, and the United States could follow suit in the
coming years as the issue becomes the topic of further discussion.
The United States does not have an outright ban on human cloning,
although four states have banned it.
USA TODAY reported in a March 29 article that the congressional committee
will push a bill to ban human cloning within weeks.
President Bush expressed his support for a law that would ban human
cloning, according to a March 29 Washington Post article.
"The president believes that no research--no research--to create
a human being should take place in the United States," White
House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, told the Post.
Jodi Mathews is the communications director for the BCE.
Ethics and science are at ground zero of human cloning.
Earlier this year, an ethicist and scientist examined three moral
arguments related to human cloning in a column on the MSNBC Web site.
The ethicist is Glenn McGee, editor of The Human Cloning Debate.
He is also the Breaking Bioethics columnist for MSNBC.com. He serves
on the staff of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania
and has written for BCE.
The scientist is Ian Wilmut, the Scottish biologist who in 1997 successfully
cloned Dolly the sheep.
McGee and Wilmut explored human cloning through three different human
reproduction models: the reproductive freedom model; the pediatric
model; and the adoption model.
The reproductive model relates to "the right to choose one’s
progeny." It is the right to reproductive freedom without state
"The central tenet of reproductive freedom is the fairly obvious
fact that the reproductive life is central to self-identity, flourishing,
and free expression more generally for individuals and families," they
Advocates of this model hold that it would be discriminatory and
inappropriate for the government to restrict human cloning for individuals
and families who are infertile.
Unlike the reproductive model, the pediatric model focuses on society’s
responsibility to care for children, not the rights of procreators.
"Parents ought not expose future children to the sorts of hazards
experienced by the first offspring in animal human cloning experiments," McGee
and Wilmut wrote.
"The litmus test for human cloning, from the pediatric perspective,
is the interest of the clone," they wrote. "If it can be
argued that the human child born through a new reproductive technology
will be significant[ly] imperiled in a preventive way, those who
argue for the interest of the clone will hold that the procedure
McGee and Wilmut argued that "neither the pediatric
nor reproductive rights model speaks to the question of how to regulate
or debate human reproductive technology."
The adoption model recognizes the reproductive rights of parents
and the responsibility to protect children, even future children.
This model "can move the debate about cloning and new reproductive
technologies from its present, highly politicized rancor into a more
constructive arena in which interdisciplinary and bipartisan consensus
may be possible."
Since the process of adoption is a unique way to enter a family (as
cloning would be), McGee and Wilmut maintain that this model "gives
communal imprimatur to the creation of a family."
While McGee and Wilmut support a "short-term ban on clinical
human cloning," their concern in the article was "to argue
for a way in which human cloning restrictions might take shape."
Robert Parham is BCE’s executive director.
Religious folk of nearly every stripe have something to say about
The Raelian Movement is no exception.
Founded by a Frenchman named Claude Vorilhon, the Raelian Movement
is "the world’s largest UFO related, non-profit organisation," according
Raelians believe "life on earth was created scientifically in
laboratories by extraterrestrials whose name (ELOHIM) is found in
the Hebrew Bible and was mistranslated by the word ‘God.’"
Vorilhon claims an alien life form visited him in 1973. The alien
gave him a new name, "Rael," and explained how the human
race originated with the ELOHIM in a process that may be termed "scientific
"We were the ones who made all life on earth, [but] you mistook
us for gods," the alien allegedly told Rael. "We were at
the origin of your main religions, [and] now that you are mature
enough to understand this, we would like to enter official contact
through an embassy."
So Raelians are working to establish an embassy so the ELOHIM can
Rael’s alleged message from the alien is dramatized at rael.org
through an introductory animation. The world, as seen from outer
space, is visited by an alien craft. From this slick pod the signs
of the world’s major religions are jettisoned--the cross, the
Star of David, the yin-yang and the crescent moon.
Raelians also believe the resurrection of Christ was an ambitious
cloning experiment performed by the ELOHIM.
The Raelian site currently includes a link to the "Declaration
in Defence of Cloning and the Integrity of Scientific Research," a
document signed by the world’s top scientists.
Rael and a group of investors launched a service called CLONAID in
1997, "the first company in the world to offer a human cloning
service," according to clonaid.com.
"CLONAID’s funding--reportedly $200,000--comes from an
American couple who wish to clone their dead 10-month-old son, who
died during a botched hospital surgery," reported ABCNEWS.com. "Some
of his genes were frozen before he died."
Brigitte Boisselier, CLONAID’s scientific director, told CNN.com
that 50 Raelians have already volunteered to carry the clone of the
Boisselier said in a March 29 USA TODAY article that CLONAID plans
to perform its first implantation experiment by mid-April.
"Who, today, would be scandalized to the idea of bringing back
to life a 10-month old child who died accidentally?" said Boisselier
at clonaid.com. "The technology allows it, the parents desire
it, and I don’t see any ethical problems."
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.
;-) Visit the Raelian Revolution at http://www.rael.org/