It's astonishing how quickly a gullible press, starting with former ABC News science reporter Michael Guillen, rushed to cover the Raelian UFO cult's recent announcement that they had overseen the live birth of a human clone. No peer review, no evidence the cult just made an announcement and the press eagerly spread the word. Not surprisingly, the press soon had to cover the embarrassing news that the cult will not be making the reported clone available for verification by independent tests. All this nonsense is unfortunate, since the science of cloning, in the hands of legitimate scientists, may yet provide valuable medical treatments
The Raelian incident makes me wonder how easily I could pull such a scam. Perhaps the resulting news coverage would sound something like this...
FEBRUARY 1, NEW YORK Freelance writer and cult leader Scott Nybakken announced today in a press conference that he, too, has successfully cloned a human being. Though he did not reveal the identity of the child he claims to have cloned, or its mother, or the location of his laboratory, or any other members of his cloning team, or any aspect of the procedure, Nybakken did state several times, in a clear voice, that he had cloned a human being. He also took the opportunity to expound upon his organization and its reasons for pursuing the goal of human reproductive cloning.
Nybakken, the head of the so-called "Solarian" movement, claims that he was carrying out the explicit instructions of his deity, the Sun. "I was ordered to clone a human by the Sun," said Nybakken, who prefers to be called by his Solarian name, Big Gassy Leader. "Why? Beats me. The Sun commands, and I obey and so should all of you, if you know what's good for you. I mean, it's the Sun! C'mon!"
When asked why the Sun would want humans to clone themselves, Nybakken shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated manner a characteristic Solarian gesture that "pretty much means the same thing as 'Aloha'," according to the movement's website and replied, "Why does the Sun flare up every eleven years? Believe me, you'll go crazy if you try and figure out the reasoning behind every one of the Sun's actions. The Sun's gonna do what the Sun's gonna do, know what I mean?"
Pressed for details about the clone, Nybakken rubbed his hands together and shifted his eyes back and forth several times. "The clone, right...right...Well, it could be anybody, really. Look over there! There's a baby! Maybe it's the clone!" When asked directly if that particular baby, passing by in a stroller outside the press conference, was in fact the Solarian clone, Nybakken admitted that it was not. "But it could have been," he said. "It could very well have been the clone that I, Big Gassy Leader, and my team of dedicated Little Gassies in the Solarian compound have definitely produced in an astounding and potentially highly profitable act of real science. Look, there's another one! Maybe that's the clone!"
After turning around to investigate the second baby, reporters, including this correspondent, heard Nybakken running away from his podium and beating a hasty retreat through a nearby exit door. Nybakken has taken no further questions from the press corps but welcomes large donations.
For a look at the potential benefits from real cloning of a therapeutic rather than reproductive variety see HFAF editor Todd Seavey's piece about the recent "Attack on the Clones."