While many religious groups are debating the ethics of cloning, one new religious movement is taking action, pioneering in the technology.
Nova Religio (October), the journal of new religious movements, reports that the Ralians, a group mixing UFO teachings with genetic engineering concepts, founded the first biotechnology firm dedicated to the goal of human cloning. The 35,000-member group holds that space aliens visited the earth some 25,000 years ago and created life using advanced DNA technology.
Through the guidance of world religions and a final prophet Rael (born Claude Vorilhon), humans gain enlightenment and will eventually achieve immortality through cloning. Clonaid, the new cloning firm the group started in Switzerland in 1997, is currently offering a service where for $50,000 a person can preserve their cells cryogenically (deep freezing). The company plans to offer human cloning services (at about $200,000) to homosexual and sterile heterosexual couples.
The most well known figure to support Clonaid has been Richard Seed, a retired Harvard physicist and self-taught reproductive scientist who gained fame for his promise to create the first human clone. The Raelians’ attempt to fuse”anti-evolutionism and biblical literalism with progressive morals,” has put them far outside the religious mainstream. Writer John Bozeman concludes that they have now set themselves further on the fringe by becoming the first religion to make cloning a religious imperative.
(Nova Religio, Seven Bridges Press, LLC, 135 Fifth Ave., 9th Fl., New York, NY 10010-7101)