The Magazine

Clones and Rael-Politik

The Jack Kevorkians of the cloning debate weigh in.

Jan 13, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 17 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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SO THE RAELIANS, who maintain that human life was the product of cloning by space aliens, now claim that their for-profit corporation, Clonaid, has cloned the first human baby, a healthy female named Eve. There is no proof of any kind to verify this, and most of the world is highly skeptical. It took nearly 300 tries before Dolly the cloned sheep was born. While it is true that mammals like mice and cows are now cloned regularly, the failure rates in animal cloning remain very high, and efforts to clone a dog or monkey so far have failed. As for humans, an attempt by Advanced Cell Technology to clone a human embryo made headlines last year, but the embryo ceased dividing at the six-cell stage.

Still, the announcement is a triumph for the Raelians. It has set an important clock ticking. For even amid general condemnation in the media, we already see some people shrugging their shoulders and claiming you can't stop science. Last Thursday, for example, Washington Post pundit Richard Cohen raised the flag of surrender to Brave New World. Stating that he did not want to hear arguments about "ethics" or "human dignity," he opined that both therapeutic and reproductive cloning should go forward or science will be "forced into medical back alleys."

With help from voices like Cohen's, the Raelians are leading the way toward bio-anarchy by pursuing what I call the "Kevorkian strategy." With a sociopath's intuition, assisted-suicide pioneer Jack Kevorkian sensed that the day of the moral outlaw had arrived. He saw that in a non-judgmental age, if he were sufficiently brazen and unapologetic, he could convince people in the mainstream that they had a stake in his deadly plans--and then he could get away with almost anything.

For a time, it worked like a charm. When Kevorkian began his campaign, in 1990, the media flew into high dudgeon, just as they have over the Raelians. Scorn was heaped upon him for assisting suicides, and the light of publicity was shone on his bizarre medical career. This was the crucial moment. Had he wavered, Kevorkian would have been finished and soon forgotten. But he stayed the course. Claiming for himself the mantle of modern rationality and castigating his opponents as superstitious religionists, he turned the tide by his very defiance.

The tone of the coverage changed from criticism to something near adulation. Many, like Andy Rooney, lauded him as a courageous pioneer. Before long, Kevorkian's body dumps became almost routine. Even though most of his 130 or so victims were not terminally ill (and 5 weren't ill at all, according to their autopsies), juries refused to convict him. Before our very eyes "Wacky Jacky," as Jay Leno called him, was transformed from a pariah into a celebrity and, to some, a hero.

Kevorkian stated clearly that his ultimate goal was not to relieve suffering but to gain access to dying people upon whom to experiment: He called his human vivisection "obitiatry." But the more he thumbed his nose at propriety and morality, the more impotent the law appeared and the more popular he became. He achieved his peak the night he was wined and dined at Time magazine's 75th anniversary party, where mega-celebrities such as Tom Cruise rushed up to shake his hand.

But Kevorkian finally took half a step too far. He crashed to earth after videotaping himself murdering ALS patient Thomas Youk and giving the tape to a fawning Mike Wallace for broadcast on "60 Minutes" on November 22, 1998. Kevorkian's megalomania was bared for all to see. A jury sent him up the river, and he sits today in a Michigan penitentiary, a nearly forgotten man.

The Raelians and others who claim to be busily cloning human children seem to have adopted Kevorkian's strategy of defiance. Society's moral revulsion? Irrelevant. The likelihood that a cloned child would have serious health problems caused by genetic defects? Beneath concern. The Raelians and the parents willing to participate in this immoral human experimentation want what they want, the opinions of society and the health consequences be damned. The cult proudly claims to have several other cloned babies in gestation.