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Sect leader: Cloning is just the beginning

Ex-French journalist Claude Vorilhon, leader of the Raelian movement, calls himself
Ex-French journalist Claude Vorilhon, leader of the Raelian movement, calls himself "Rael."

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CNN's Miriam Falco had special clearance in July 2001 to attend the Raelian's 'White Ball' at their compound outside Montreal, Canada (December 30)
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CNN's Carol Lin talks with 'Rael' -- founding member of the group that backs human cloning efforts. (December 30)
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Founded:  1973, France

Founder: Claude Vorilhon, who took the name Rael; his book is "The Final Message."

Basic tenet: The old Hebrew phrase Elohim -- usually translated as a name for God -- should have been interpreted as a reference to non-Earthlings "from the sky."  These entities are, Raelians say, responsible for the creation of life on Earth.

Membership: The organization says it has some 40,000 members worldwide, with the highest concentrations in France, Canada and Japan. Outside researchers have suggested the membership may be smaller.

Source: University of Virginia's New Religious Movements source

(CNN) -- The company that claims to have created the world's first human clone says the baby girl will return home Monday and will undergo testing to verify her genetic makeup.

Clonaid, a firm founded by members of a religious sect called the Raelians, said Friday it has developed the first human clone -- a 7-pound baby girl named Eve. Former French journalist Claude Vorilhon, who now calls himself "Rael," is leader of the Raelian movement, which professes human life began with extraterrestrials.

CNN Anchor Carol Lin talked to the Raelian leader Monday about the cloning claims.

LIN: First and foremost, I want to find out if the baby Eve has actually arrived here in the United States. Has she?

RAEL: I don't know. ... I want to be very clear, the cloning company, Clonaid, led by Dr. [Brigitte] Boisselier is completely separated from the Raelian movement. Of course, I initiated the project; I launched the idea, if you want. I inspired her to create a company, but there is absolutely no link between the cloning company and the Raelian movement, but we support her spiritually, philosophically and religiously.

LIN: In what sense? Do you have similar beliefs about cloning and the origins of humankind?

RAEL: No, the origin of humankind, humanity, was created scientifically using DNA and genetic engineering a long time ago by Elohim, a very advanced civilization, which came on Earth a long time ago. And cloning, as they explained to me, is a way to reach eternal life. That's why we support human cloning.

LIN: All right, so you must be as interested in this DNA testing as the rest of us. I mean, do you believe Clonaid's claims they've actually cloned the first human being?

RAEL: Dr. Boisselier has been one of our bishops for a long time, and I have no reason to doubt her. I think so much is at stake for her company that I doubt she would do something which could hurt her reputation in the future, and so I have no reason to doubt her claim.

LIN: None of the several bioethicists or competing companies and researchers we have spoken to for the last 72 hours believe that Clonaid has actually pulled this off. I want you to hear something that Alta Charo, a [University of Wisconsin] bioresearcher said to us earlier [Monday] morning.

CHARO (via a video clip): I think it is an act of medical malpractice to do human reproductive cloning at this time, when animal data shows how very risky it is, how high the frequency is of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth detects and even late-in-life problems with other species, when we've been unsuccessful at doing this in our closest animal relatives, the primates.

There is no excuse for experimenting in the human species before we have adequately understood the problems and created safeguards through research with animals.

LIN: Experimenting with the human species, Rael, that is exactly what you, your group and Clonaid is supporting and claiming to have done.

RAEL: The cloning company, yes, they claim to have done it, and what she says is that the baby is perfectly healthy. I think opponents to cloning are more afraid of a healthy baby than of a handicapped child. They would be so happy the child will be handicapped, saying, "Look, this is terrible, they are creating handicapped children." Their utmost fear is to have a healthy, smiling baby, because then the public opinion will change completely and everybody will say that's beautiful.

LIN: But you have the power and the authority to the influence the parents as well as Clonaid to say, the world does not believe you, you must present this baby physically -- photographs, the baby itself, the parents; the world wants to know and needs to know whether this is a legitimate science here.

RAEL: I don't have this power because it's a private company. And for me, the most important thing is not so much the interest of the world, but the future and the well-being of this little girl. If there is a baby -- [we need] to protect her from the media, to protect her private life and her future, because this is a child. It's not a circus exhibition.

LIN: But you get something out of this, Rael. You get something out of this. I mean, you can't pay for this kind of publicity, and people who have covered you for years, who visited the Raelian camp and compound and participated in your ceremonies, have said this is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

RAEL: People believe what they want, but from 30 years ago, I have been talking about human cloning coming, so this is not new. It's not something we take like a rabbit out of a hat, to say, ah, we find something.

From 30 years ago, I have been saying human cloning is coming. It will give us eternal life. Then the next step will be to discover accelerated growth process, which is coming soon, then we will be able to live eternally from a body to another body, and download or upload our memory and personality in the cloned body when we die, so we are alive forever.

LIN: So what are you most interested in doing here, Rael? It sounds like [what] you're trying to do is re-science human development. What are the long-term implications? Where is this going?

RAEL: The long-term implication, and this is my mission, is to give humanity eternal life. Cloning is the key to give us eternal life and to cure all disease on Earth, but eternal life is the ultimate goal. This is just the first step.

... Right now, we can take a cell from your body if you want to have a cloned baby, but it will take nine months in the womb of a mother, then 18 years to have an adult copy of yourself, who will not be you, but somebody else, because of different education, different environment.

By step two, when we will discover accelerated-growth process, in a few hours, you can have an adult clone of yourself, which is still not you. And by downloading, uploading, transferring all the data in your brain, which make you who you are in this new cloned body, you can continue to be alive after death. That's the goal.

LIN: Rael, what we know about your organization, and you've confirmed it, because you've described it yourself -- you and your followers actually believe that beings from outer space came here and created mankind. Frankly, that doesn't really add to your credibility in terms of what you're able to do and what you're able to do down the road.

RAEL: You know it's very funny because it's not alien; it's Elohim. ... the Bible explains that you don't have the word "God" in the Bible, but "Elohim." In Hebrew, it's not written "God;" it's written "Elohim." That was wrongly translated by the wrong God. ... There is no God in the Bible -- Elohim. These people from space came to Earth, created life, created human beings, very much like the Bible explained. So this is not some funny alien people coming from Mars; it was the Elohim of the Bible who created us in a laboratory.

LIN: Rael, I think I've learned a lot today, but I think frankly I'm going to trust the scientific independent results of the DNA testing on Eve just a little bit more. We'll be looking forward to those results.

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