Even before she entered the room where the press conference was being held, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier's assistants placed a small metal device on the table. At first glance, it did not look like anything special. But a few minutes later, it turned out that according to Dr. Boisselier, this metal box was the device responsible for the most important scientific revolution of the early 21st century. According to the Raelian cult, this box produced the electric current that enabled five human babies to be cloned. And the scientific proof that this cloning occurred? Maybe it will finally be presented next week, at a special session of the Brazilian parliament on the subject.
Dr. Boisselier strode firmly toward the throng of journalists awaiting her at ZOA House in Tel Aviv. She landed in Israel five days ago, and has already visited what her cult claims is the first cloned human baby in the world, Eve - who happens to live here. Boisselier had hoped Eve's parents would join her at the press conference, but they canceled at the last minute. According to Boisselier, this was due to fear of the authorities: Israel banned human cloning in 1998. For this reason, the Raelians are careful to stress that Eve was cloned overseas.
Despite the evident skepticism of her audience, it must be remembered that Boisselier's title of "doctor" is not an honorary one. She has earned two doctorates, one of them in chemistry. She is currently CEO of the Clonaid company, which was founded by the Raelians in order to clone human beings.
According to Boisselier, cloning requests have not stopped pouring in since the moment Eve was born in December 2002. "Every day, we receive a great many requests for human cloning," she said. "Many of them come from parents who want to clone a child who died. But in this case, it is important to remember the limitations of science: We cannot clone a baby from a dead person. Cloning requires living cells."
Soon afterward, Boisselier produced the headline of her visit to Israel: To date, she has received 55 cloning requests from Israelis and Palestinians. She attributes this enormous demand to the violent conflict. "We received many requests from Israeli and Palestinian parents who wanted to clone children who were killed in the war. We can comply with only half of these requests, since in the other cases too much time has passed since the moment of death. Because all clones made to date were defined as experimental, we produced them for free. But this is a very expensive process, so from now on, we will need to demand payment. We will publicize the exact fee shortly."
Like Judiasm, Christianity and Islam, the Raelians have a deep connection to Israel. Cult members believe in the creation story recounted in the book of Genesis, but they believe the word Elohim - the Hebrew word for the God who created Adam and Eve - means not "God" but "those who came from the sky," or in other words, visitors from another planet. The first humans, they believe, were clones made by these extraterrestrial visitors, and their deep interest in human cloning stems from the belief that they are thereby imitating the acts of their creators. And once they have assured themselves of eternal life through cloning, the Raelians also plan to build the Third Temple here.
To date, the Raelians have presented no scientific proof of their claim that they have successfully cloned a human being. Cloning is considered an extremely complex process even among lower animals, and many nations have outlawed it due to ethical concerns. To make a clone, one starts by taking a cell from an adult person or animal. The nucleus of this cell is then inserted into an egg cell whose nucleus has been removed, and the implant is cemented with the aid of a small electric current. According to Boisselier, the metal box on display at her lecture is what produced this vital current. "To succeed in cloning human beings one needs a very precise current," she said. "The device that we are displaying here produces the correct current, in terms of both the strength and the amount of time needed to produce the desired results."
The scientific community, however, still has many doubts about the truth of the Raelians' claims. The cult has not yet presented any of the ostensibly cloned babies, nor has it permitted other scientists to compare the babies' DNA with that of the people from whom they were supposedly cloned.
Next week, the Raelians will take their precious device to Brazil for the next lecture in Dr. Boisselier's series. And she, for her part, promises to present "unequivocal proof of the successful cloning of human babies."
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