If cloning claim is a hoax, it wouldn't be the first time
Did they or didn't they? The Raelians, that is, and the question is whether the religious sect, through its biological research entity, Clonaid, managed to clone a human being.
Let's hope it's a hoax, just as the first claim at human cloning was when it made international headlines almost 25 years ago. Then a book, "In His Image: The Cloning of Man," was about to be published claiming that an American millionaire had financed a lab on a Pacific island where scientists created a cloned embryo that was carried to birth by a surrogate mother. It took three years to prove the claim false.
Just two years ago, Panos Zavos, a reproduction researcher who left the University of Kentucky to pursue creation of a human clone in Europe, predicted that his team would produce a clone within a year.
Now, the Raelians, founded by a Frenchman, Rael, who says he learned about the origin of life on Earth from a visitor from outer space, claims a baby nicknamed Eve was born Dec. 26 to a 31-year-old American woman and is now home at an undisclosed location.
The race is on
Whether Eve's cloning is real or not, it is clear that the worst thing that could be imagined with something as serious as the birth of a human clone has happened. It has become some kind of bizarre race pursued not by serious scientists, but by fringe groups that have leaped over what should have been a major hurdle -- the ethical question of whether human cloning should even be attempted.
For any number of reasons, the answer to that question ought to be no.
We know from well documented scientific attempts to clone mammals that there were hundreds of failures before there was success. And we know that there has been a pattern of health anomalies and shortened life spans among those mammals that have been cloned. Science has no idea of the effects of cloning over generations.
For that reason alone, the ethical answer to should we clone humans ought to be no. But even if the science of cloning mammals were perfected, there would still be a serious ethical question about whether the fundamental method of human reproduction -- the only method by which any of us is here, the mixing of the genetic traits of a man and a woman -- should be circumvented.
Clearly it should not be done as part of a race to which one sect or another gets bragging rights.