Thursday, January 09, 2003

Life Imitates Satire 6: The most widely publicized senselessness of late is the Raelians claim of have produced a cloned human through their research company called Clonaid. (Word is that Willie Nelson showed up one day volunteering to play. Bada-bing! Thanks, I'll be here all week..) That these whacked-out nut cases would pull such a stunt is to be expected; the real stupidity is in the press, who reacted with breathless journalistic pseudo-prose to this Watershed Event That Would Challenge All Our Cherished Beliefs To The Very Core. Funny isn’t it, that the finest scientific minds have been struggling with cloning for a long time - they've done mice; they managed to get a sheep done, but it didn’t work out all that well. But wait! - they missed something important: cloning humans requires detailed instructions from extraterrestrials on the planet Moron. Reporters fell for it, including one malletthead in particular who guaranteed verification. What a story! Front page above the fold! Of course, when it came time to actually verify the claim, the lights were out, the blinds were drawn and nobody answered the door. Lo and behold, it seems, we've heard that song before.
A specialist on the Raelians said she would not be surprised if the entire cloning episode was a stunt designed to attract new members and money.

''The only way they can succeed in that is to court the media,'' said Susan Palmer, religion professor at Dawson College in Montreal.

Palmer, who completed an 80-page report on the Raelians for the Vatican library, said swelling membership rolls is crucial to the sect's success.

The Raelian movement claims 55,000 members, mostly in France and Canada, though Palmer said active members number far less. All members must turn over 3 percent of their income, said Palmer.

Clonaid is no stranger to questionable claims. In 1998, the group made waves by boasting it would create a cloning lab in the Bahamas. It later admitted the entire operation was a publicity ploy never amounting to more than a post office box.

''For a minimal investment, it got us media coverage worth more than $15 million. I am still laughing,'' wrote Rael about the venture in his 2001 cloning manifesto, ''Yes to Human Cloning.''
Did it not occur to anyone the Rael is not quite real?