Thursday, January 18, 2018

[RAELIAN DISINFO] Rael used a Human Cloning HOAX from the '70s

Rael claimed the following in his book "Sensual meditation" published in 1980:
"An American millionaire has already had a child which was produced purely from one of his own cells without the female element modifying his genetic code." (p. 49, Sensual Meditation, e-book 2002)
He was referring to David Rorvik, who in his book "In His Image: The Cloning of a Man" (1978) made the startling claim that the world's first human clone had been born. Rorvik was not just a random eccentric whose claim could be dismissed. He was a respected writer who had worked as a medical reporter for both Time and the New York Times, and therefore he spoke with some credibility. His publisher, J.B. Lippincott Company, itself was a well-regarded publisher of medical books.

According to Rorvik, he had been approached in 1973 by a wealthy American millionaire who wanted to create a clone of himself. The millionaire, whom Rorvik referred to as 'Max' in order to conceal the man's identity, asked Rorvik to manage a research project with this aim. Rorvik accepted the challenge and used his connections as a well-placed science writer to recruit the necessary scientific talent. The scientific team was flown to a lab located on a secret island somewhere 'beyond Hawaii,' where after five years of experimentation they succeeded in creating a viable human egg containing Max's DNA. They implanted the egg into the uterus of a surrogate mother (an island resident code-named 'Sparrow'), and nine months later the first human clone was born.

Human Egg Cell
It's interesting to note that Rael emphasized how the alleged clone "was produced purely from one of his own cells without the female element modifying his genetic code" despite Rorvik stating "a viable human egg [i.e. an ovum] containing Max's DNA" was created. Even with our current cloning technology called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), a donor ovum is required. Ova contain tiny bits called Mitochondria that remain after the cell nucleus is switched using SCNT. This is true even with normal fertilization: the mitochondria of the ovum remains, while the sperm cell's mitochondria is discarded. While it's true the female mitochondria won't modify the genetic code in the cell nucleus, this female element nevertheless will remain. Moreover, mitochondria contain DNA of their own.

Nuclear transplantation in amphibians
using embryonic cells as nuclear donors
Going back to Rorvik's claims, scientists, were skeptical. They argued that Rorvik's claim could not be true because the state-of-the-art in cloning technology was nowhere near the level required to produced a human clone. The cloning technique he described was loosely based on a procedure that had been successfully used to clone a frog in the mid-1960s. However, it was well known that this technique would not work in mammals because of the differences between mammalian and amphibian biology. Moreover, it should be noted that the transferred cell nucleus was not from a somatic cell, but embryonic cells.

Rorvik's book sold extremely well and sparked national debate about the ethics of cloning. However, within months Lippincott and Rorvik found themselves in court when they were sued for defamation by J. Derek Bromhall, a British scientist whose research had been cited in the book. The court asked Rorvik to provide concrete evidence of the existence of the cloned boy. When he failed to do so, the court ruled that Rorvik's book was a "fraud and a hoax." A year later, in 1982, Lippincott agreed to pay an unspecified amount of damages to Bromhall.

Rorvik's motivations for perpetrating the hoax remain unclear. Money might have been a factor, although he lost a great deal of what he earned from the book to legal fees. Alternatively, he might have hoped to draw attention to the ethical issues raised by the startling advances being achieved in the biological sciences. During the 1980s these advances spawned the biotechnology industry and in 1997 allowed the (true) cloning of a mammal, a Scottish sheep named Dolly. In this sense, although Rorvik's story was not true, it was, at least, prescient.

Rael never updated his book to reflect the court's ruling in 1981. Perhaps he took inspiration from it to perpetrate his own human cloning hoax through Clonaid in 2003.

Advocatus Diaboli


Update: In late January, 2018, the first successful cloning of primates has been announced.

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