2000 on wait-list for human cloning

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    2000 on wait-list for human cloning
    By OSCAR CORRAL and JAY WEAVER in Miami
    31dec02
    CLAUDE Vorilhon, founder of the Raelian religion whose followers claim to have cloned the first human, said yesterday its goal was to create eternal life through cloning – and make a lot of money doing it.

    In an hour-long interview, Mr Vorilhon said a company he founded in 1997 had a waiting list of about 2000 customers willing to pay $US200,000 ($A370,000) each to have themselves or a loved one cloned.

    He said he would not profit directly because he had distanced himself from Clonaid since founding it.

    But the French native said he would not turn away donations from the company.

    "It's a commercial company and her goal is to make as much money as possible, and I hope she will make as much as possible," he said of Dr Brigitte Boisselier, a scientist and close associate who orchestrated the cloning.

    Speaking at the home of a follower, Mr Vorilhon detailed his philosophy, the rationale for cloning the baby known as Eve, and his grand strategy for the future. The Raelian leader was dressed in white space-age clothing from head to toe, sporting a knot of hair on his head.

    Mr Vorilhon, known as Rael to his followers, said that within 25 years, group scientists may develop technology to create a full-grown human clone in just hours. The mind of the cloned adult would receive instant knowledge via the "uploading" of information directly from the brain of another person.

    Mr Vorilhon claimed he did not know the identify of the cloned baby girl or the name of her American mother, but said she was born outside the United States. He said he would advise Dr Boisselier not to identify the child until she was an adult to protect her privacy.

    "It's a very beautiful step, but it's just a step," Mr Vorilhon, 56, said, alluding to the alleged cloning of Eve.

    "The ultimate goal is to give eternal life to humanity through cloning. The next step that will be discovered soon is what we call accelerated growth process to accelerate cellular multiplication. So, instead of needing nine months, then 18 years to make an adult, with a special technology you can have an adult clone copy of yourself in a few hours.

    "This adult copy is just a blank tape, empty of memory and personality, just what you call hardware."

    Many of the world's leading religious and political leaders have condemned the alleged cloning birth as irresponsible and devoid of ethics.

    Also, many members of the scientific community have expressed deep scepticism about the cloning claim, some going as far as calling it a possible hoax.

    But Dr Vorilhon said Raelians were at the vanguard of science and philosophy, taking into account the technologies that more established religions eliminated from their equations of faith.

    Dr Boisselier, who is Clonaid's head, has yet to offer hard evidence proving the birth of the world's first cloned baby, but has said that an independent journalist would be provided with DNA test results within days.

    Since its inception, Clonaid, originally registered in the Bahamas, has stirred up hope, outrage and scandal.

    'THE WAY OF THE FUTURE'

    FOLLOWERS of the Raelian movement in Australia say human cloning is the way of the future.

    Spokeswoman Tora Blackman, of the 500-strong Australian branch of the Raelians, said she had no doubt a baby had been cloned.

    "I have no doubt that it has happened . . . I think cloning is exciting and important," said Ms Blackman, 44, a mother and artist who lives near Lismore in northern NSW.

    Cloning is the way "humanity will achieve life extension and eternal life", she said.

    While not involved in Clonaid, she applauded its efforts to clone humans. She said she did not know if there was direct involvement in Clonaid in Australia, as the aim of the Raelians here was to prepare the way for "the messages of our creators".

    Ms Blackman became a convert in 1992 when she heard Rael speak at the Darling Harbour convention centre.
 
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