Just because I write about UFOs doesnt mean I think everyone who believes in UFOs is (a) correct about their specific beliefs, (b) honest, or (c) in their right mind. Yes, there are many serious, intelligent, even brilliant investigators who are dispassionate seekers of truth. Then again, there are those who are scientifically speaking kind of crazy.
Enter Clonaid, an organization that claims to have cloned a human baby -- actually two human babies, one in Florida and one in South Africa. As everyone now seems to know, Clonaid is part of the Raelian movement, which is led by a man named Claude Vorilhon (self-named Rael). In public, at least, Vorilhon is fond of wearing Lost in Space costumes and arguing that the human species is the product of an alien cloning project. While I have not studied his organization in detail, it surely looks to me like your basic cult.
If the Raelians were even remotely representative of UFO research, I would never have entered the field. Any "legitimate" UFO researcher (yeah, I know, none of us are really legitimate) undoubtedly grimaces whenever Vorilhons group gets media attention. "No, no!" we all want to say. "WE are not like THEM!" Were marginalized enough for what we actually believe; we certainly dont need to be further marginalized by what we dont. But while Ive never thought much of the Raelians, it still seems to me that the mainstream media has utterly blown it in its so-called coverage of this controversy.
Whatever you may believe about the Raelian claim that humanity was created by aliens, it is a fact that the Raelians have been deeply interested in cloning for many years. The real questions are: did the Raelians actually try to clone a human being, and did they succeed
From my vantage point, admittedly far from the center of the storm, I dont see why not. I admit, I dont have a technical background in the subject, but I also know that genetic expertise is becoming ever-more- widely dispersed. It should be inevitable that, just as with nuclear and biological weapons, at some point the genetic genie will have migrated to places not under strict official control.
Cloning is an important scientific concern. We as a society need to address this topic in a responsible, careful manner. Knee-jerk responses wont do, such as calls for banning future cloning research. Another example of a knee-jerk response is the out-of-hand dismissal of the Raelian claims because "Rael" and his people are, well, really weird. Observe how all this has played out in the mainstream media. Michael Guillen initially reported Clonaids story. He is a former ABC News science editor and has a Ph.D. in Physics. In other words, hes about as establishment as you can get. Guillen offered to help arrange independent verification of Clonaids claims.
A few days after his offer, Guillen backed out and told the media that he "regretted" his involvement with this story because he couldnt get access to the parent donors. Obviously this is important. Therefore, according to Guillen, he suspected that Clonaid was the perpetrator of an "elaborate hoax."
Clonaid responds that the parents are concerned for their privacy, and especially for the possibility that their girl, whom they named "Eve," could be taken away from them. As a parent, I can appreciate this sentiment. It is not hard for me to understand that there are many people who might not want the world to know theyre the first human being to have cloned him- or herself.
And guess what A man named Bernard Siegel is trying to place this baby girl under the guardianship of the Florida court system. What parent would place their child at risk under such a situation I certainly wouldnt.
Clearly, there is more to this than Guillens lack of access to the childs parent donor. What it really comes down to is that he was embarrassed. Embarrassed big time. His colleagues actually wondered if hed "flipped out."
Yes. Forget his Ph.D. in physics, or that he taught at Harvard, or his impeccable credentials. He makes one half- hearted attempt to confirm the Clonaid claims -- after he was goaded on to do it at a Clonaid press conference, no less -- and his friends think he has "gone over to the dark side."
Am I the only one to notice how odd this is How weird. How intensely terrified the mainstream is of even the most indirect relationship with UFO phenomena. Granted, the Raelians are odd, but this remains potentially one of the most significant science stories of our time.
Lost in all this is the possibility that Clonaids claims might be true. Nameless mainstream scientists are continually cited for claiming its all a hoax. The funny part is that, as the controversy started to die down, Guillen conceded that "theres a small possibility that they may have pulled off what they say."
"Clonegate" shows us the rigid social constraints within which members of the dominant culture must operate. Whether or not something is true is only part of what matters, and sometimes its not even the most important part. What really matters is whether youve gone through the accepted channels while making your claim.
Clonaid broke all the rules. They havent made any of their data public and they wont reveal the whereabouts of the children. Plus, they dress funny.
How embarrassing for poor Guillen. He remarked that he was in "a very controversial and dicey situation." His "reputation was at stake."
And, strangely enough, hes right. The editorials have been flying around the country faster than many a UFO. One of my favorites was a pontificating rant by Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post called "Chatting With Little Green Men." In the first place, Applebaum was offended by the "ludicrously straight treatment of the Raelians." Huh Ludicrously straight Now this is a person who just might be from another planet. Applebaum stated that "people should not be allowed to graduate from college -- or to conduct television interviews -- unless they feel intuitive skepticism about a group whose leader has close personal ties to little green men from outer space."
So, does this mean you shouldnt graduate college if you believe in UFOs, or just if you believe in Vorilhon And who exactly in the press were believers in Vorilhons ET beliefs Probably no one.
Applebaums statement reminded me of something Edward U. Condon said in 1969. Condon had led the University of Colorado study that debunked (well, tried to debunk) UFOs. Speaking to the American Philosophical Society, Condon said that "publishers or teachers who teach any of the pseudo- sciences as truth should, on being found guilty, be publicly horsewhipped." His listeners assumed he was being facetious, although not all of them were certain.
Our cultural elite has certain features in common with traditional priestly castes, including a rigid belief structure and strict behavioral rules. It quickly and instinctively closes ranks when threatened by outsiders. And social protocols often matter as much as, or more than, a detached examination of the facts.
In the case of Clonaid, the jury will remain out because Guillen got scared and bailed out. In salvaging his reputation, he left unanswered an important scientific question. The irony is that, despite Guillens concerns for his professional reputation, Clonaid probably gave him a career boost. I assume now that he has made the appropriate contrition, his career will do just fine, boosted by Lord Vader and the Dark Side.
copyright 2003 by Richard M. Dolan. All rights reserved.
Richard Dolan is the author of UFOs and the National Security State and a regular guest on Dreamland radio. To keep up with the latest UFO news, visit his website.
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