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Q&A with Zain Verjee


ReligionNewsBlog.com • Friday January 3, 2003

CNN, Jan. 3, 2003
http://www.cnn.com/
Aired January 3, 2003 – 12:30:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAEL, FOUNDER OF RAELIAN MOVEMENT: But from 30 years ago, I have been talking about human cloning coming, so this is not new.

JIM CLANCY, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It may not have been news to the founder of the Raelian movement, but it was news to the world when a company founded by those Raelians claimed the first human clone had been born, a seven-pound girl named Eve.

ANNOUNCER: The news was met with skepticism, legal action, and moves by government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Our offices in South Korea were stormed by police, and there was a lot of trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We’re obviously very concerned about there being a backlash against the legitimate medical applications.

ANNOUNCER: An appeal was made for the child to be taken away from the mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you have a child, an innocent child, that might be exploited, someone needs to do something to look out for the child’s interest.

CLANCY: Clonaid says a separate cloned baby is going to be born somewhere in Europe in the next few days.

ANNOUNCER: And now, a statement from the head of the Raelians, taht the doctor in charge of the project did not perform any DNA tests on the child.

CLANCY: On this edition of Q&A, not only cloning, but your questions for Rael.

RAEL: The goal, to become (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLANCY: Welcome to Q&A. Is she or isn’t she? Baby Eve, described by the first human clone by the group who announced her birth a week ago.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: John Listhe (ph) and the scientific community are demanding DNA evidence before they lay any credence to that claim.

CLANCY: Those DNA tests were to be conducted, but there’s a snag right now. Attorneys in Florida say that if baby Eve is really a clone, then she should be in protective custody because in fact, in that case, Zain, she wouldn’t have any legal parents.

VERJEE: Exactly. We’ll get to that in a minute, but his Holiness, Rael, who says he has advocated human cloning for 30 years, since meeting with beings from outer space. He joins us now.

Hello and welcome to Q&A. Your Holiness, which you’ve asked us to call you, and we’ll get to that in a moment — I want to begin at the beginning. Tell us when and where you met beings from outer space.

RAEL: That was in 1973. Good morning. I was in France. I was journalist in the race car magazine at this time, and publisher of the most important race car magazine in France. I was on my way to my office and I was guided, if you like, telepathically to a volcano about 10 kilometers from the city of Clairmont-Feront (ph) when I saw a very big UFO coming from the sky, a small human being coming outside, and that was the beginning of the story, and the meeting with these people, the Elohim.

CLANCY: Now, what do they look like?

VERJEE: And what did they say?

RAEL: They look like us. And because they created us, like the Bible say, in their image. They are what everybody in the world calls God and pray. The Bible explain what they did. The description of the creation of life on Earth by a very advanced civilization. These people came on the Earth a very long time ago and mastering DNA and genetic engineering created all life on Earth, including men, in their image. Then there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the Bible you have the first day, God did that, the second day — it’s not God in the original Hebrew bible, but Elohim, which mean in Hebrew those who came from the sky.

VERJEE: So, do we look like the aliens?

RAEL: Can you say it again?

VERJEE: Do we look like the aliens?

RAEL: They are not alien, this is a word I will never use. It’s not respectful of enough. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) beings, but people call God, and they are the Elohim, so they deserve a lot of respect. And yes, we look like them. They are human beings like us.

CLANCY: Well, but they gave you a message, a message about cloning, a message about genetic engineering, really, and that leads us into our other story. But tell us about that message.

RAEL: OK, the message explain that they — of course created, like I said before, all life on Earth, using DNA and genetic engineering, and they also explain that was in 1973, that soon we will discover the same thing and be able to do the same thing. As you may know, there are recently some scientists on the earth created the first synthetic virus, and they say though that so that soon we will be able to clone a human being, which is a key to give ourself eternal life. And that’s my mission, is to help humanity to reach eternal life through cloning.

As you know, now, human cloning — if you want to have a clone of yourself, we take a cell from your body and you need nine months in the womb of a mother and you need 18 years to have an adult clone of yourself, copy. But it’s not you. This human being will have a different personality, different education. When we reach step two, and step three, of cloning, through accelerated growth process, it will be possible to create in a few hours an adult copy of yourself, and to download, upload. You can do it like a computer. Transfer all the data and information which make you who you are in the new adult clone of copy of yourself.

If you do that just after dying, you can have eternal life through different bodies.

VERJEE: OK, your Holiness, you’ll appreciate there’s an enormous amount of skepticism about what you’re saying. There’s a lot of e-mail coming in as well.

Hans from Germany says, “What extraordinary feature distinguishes Rael from humans? For instance, is his blood green, or none at all, or just water?”

RAEL: These human being are — the Elohim are like us. They look a little bit more like Japanese people rather than European people, but they are human beings. And in the history of humanity, they proved by having sexual intercourse with human beings, and having children with human beings, that they are exactly genetic — compatible genetic code.

CLANCY: All right, so even though you — you have special powers, you have a special way of doing things. You have this knowledge and you are a direct descendent — is there anything, and this is from one of our other viewers, Karen (ph) in Malaysia, asking what can you do, right here in front of us? Can you do anything that could convince people that you are, in fact…

RAEL: No, our philosophy believe in science and only in science. I have no supernatural power at all, and we don’t believe in supernatural. We only believe in science, and we explain that life was created in a laboratory using DNA, genetic engineering, and then, thanks to cloning we will reach eternal life without anything supernatural. We are here to destroy any belief in supernatural.

VERJEE: A baby is claimed to have been cloned by Clonaid. The baby’s name, apparently, Eve. What prove is there that Eve actually exists? We haven’t seen any, and we’re not getting any.

RAEL: First of all, it is very important to say that it’s completely separated. The cloning company is made by Dr. Wesley (ph), who is one of our members, but the Raelian movement is absolutely not involved in this company. It’s completely separated, and I am like you expecting proof one day to come from the cloning company directed by Dr. Wesley (ph).

CLANCY: But you at the same time have said that you don’t think that can come, and you are intervening, telling the parents that if there’s any risk that attorneys are going to take charge of this child, or give the child to the state for protection, you say, “Forget the proof.”

RAEL: In my opinion. That’s my advice to Dr. Wesley (ph), because, you know, between the — the world reputation, and the wellbeing of a child, and the separating a child from a mother for no reason — I think this is absolutely revolting. For me, I said to Dr. Wesley (ph), no problem if everybody doubts you ever did it, but the interest of the baby, of the child, is more important than anything else. That’s my opinion.

VERJEE: Do you believe that that baby’s been cloned?

RAEL: I believe. I have no reason to doubt…

VERJEE: You don’t need proof? You don’t need proof? You already believe the baby is there, the baby’s cloned.

RAEL: I trust Dr. Wesley (ph), I know her for a long time, and I don’t think she will damage her reputation by claiming false things. You know, she has a long history of doing what she said. She is a wonderful woman and powerful woman. As you know, a few months ago, she launched on the market the first cloning machine and some — many laboratories in the world bought this machine. And so she’s doing what she say.

CLANCY: Were you involved at all in the cloning process? Is this child your daughter?

RAEL: No, absolutely not. And I don’t know — I know nothing about this company. I don’t know where is the laboratory, I don’t know the family, I don’t know the scientists, and I don’t know the name, even, of the company. Because Clonaid is just the name of the project, but not the real name of the company.

VERJEE: Are you and the good doctor exploiting this for publicity, because a lot of people are looking at this and saying, “There isn’t any proof, they’re coming no and telling us all sorts of wild things and not showing us any evidence. It’s just to get a little publicity, or a lot.”

RAEL: People can believe what they want. For me, I know I am just very happy that she’s doing it, because we supported it psychologically, philosophically, spiritually. We think it’s a good thing, many good things will come from that, and I find particularly shocking now that people in the world react so angrily. Not everybody, because we receive a lot of support. The media show only the negative aspect, but as CNN prove in the recent survey, 25 percent of people are in favor of human cloning, 75 percent against

But 25 percent is a lot of people, and it’s improving because your channel, CNN, did the same survey a few years ago, and it was only 10 percent in favor. And I can guarantee you, if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Dr. Wesley (ph) had showed to the world a smiling baby with a happy family, this will jump to 60 percent in favor. And that’s what people against cloning are afraid of.

CLANCY: All right, you know, from the cradle of civilization in the Middle East, May (ph) writes to us from Syria. And she asks one of the fundamental questions, and we’ve seen several of these, asking, “If Rael says that his friends created mankind, did they also create the universe?” Others write in to say, do these space beings, as you would rather have them called, do they believe in God?

RAEL: They explain — can you hear me?

CLANCY: Yes, we can hear you.

RAEL: OK — just — they explain clearly that they are what we call God, because they created life on Earth. But there is no God, supernatural God.

CLANCY: Well, who created the Rael…

RAEL: Another civilization from extraterrestrial. And that’s a symbol of infinity I have here, and we will create life on another planet. We are in the process of becoming, ourself, Elohim, and this is an infinite cycle, if you like. No beginning, no end.

CLANCY: All right. Your Holiness, Rael, I’m going to ask you to stay with us, because I know you are deeply concerned about the looming legal battle that’s developing up here.

VERJEE: We’ll try and keep you on the show. If not, thanks for being on it and sharing us your views even though the skepticism, probably still there.

Coming up, the legal battle over Eve.

CLANCY: And what a battle it is, Zain.

VERJEE: Oh yeah.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CLANCY: Welcome back, I should say, to a far-out edition of Q&A. You know, we want your questions to be a part of our show, as they have been in the past.

VERJEE: You can visit our Web page for YOUR WORLD TODAY at cnn.com/ywt and sign up with the newsletter. We both write it, we take turns, and it’s good if you get a chance to read it.

CLANCY: And it gives you some advance notice of what topics that we’ll be covering, day to day.

VERJEE: And also, write down questions, your comments, send them to us by e-mail, Q&A at cnn.com. We’d like to hear from you.

CLANCY: But now, Zain — it may be inevitable that if we’re going to talk about space beings and cloning, we need to make room for the lawyers.

VERJEE: Of course. In fact, proving whether there’s even a human clone on this planet may hinge on a legal case that could take Eve away from her clone mother.

CLANCY: With us from Miami is Bernard Siegal, he’s the Florida attorney who filed a petition for a guardian to be named for Eve. And from Boston, George Annas, professor of health, law, bioethics, and human rights on the chair of the Health Law department at Boston University’s school of public health.

Well, gentlemen, you heard what Rael had to say. You heard his comments about Eve. Who, legally, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Eve. Should there be a legal guardian, or the mother takes over?

BERNARD SIEGAL, ATTORNEY: Well, let me just say something, I don’t know of any child on the planet Earth that needs a legal guardian more than this child. They have inflicted some type of untested medical experiment on a human being and we don’t known in a month what kind of medical safety net that child’s going to require. Where a child is endangered, that child is an abused child, and something needs to be done to protect the child.

VERJEE: George, does the child need a guardian?

GEORGE ANNAS, CHAIR OF HEALTH LAW DEPARTMENT, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Well, we don’t know. We don’t even know if there is a child, number one, and number two, if there is a child, whether it’s, quote, a cloned baby. So I think we need to know a lot more.

On the other thing we know, now that we’ve listened to Rael, is that, to put it bluntly, he’s a fraud. He said, specifically, quote, “The best interest of the child are more important than anything else.” Well, if he’s been involved in cloning, which every scientist in the world has said is dangerous and irresponsible, we know for sure that he does not put the best interest of the child first. Well, he’s just a liar and a fraud.

CLANCY: Yes, but George, and his Holiness Rael stays with us. First of all, Rael, I think it’s time you explain to the audience and all of us, was it the beings from beyond the borders of our world who told you to be called your Holiness, or why do you we address you that way?

RAEL: Because I am, you know, a leader of a movement with 65,000 members around the world, and that’s how they call me. If you invite the Dalai Lama, you say, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like Larry King on CNN, and there is no reason to make a discrimination.

CLANCY: OK, how about these charges that you have been irresponsible and that you have not had the best interest of this child at heart?

VERJEE: And that you are a fraud.

RAEL: This is pure defamation, and I have also attorneys. We’ll sue people who say things like that, because no people prove it. And first of all, I understand that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) attorney want to jump on this bandwagon to try to have a big (UNINTELLIGIBLE) award. And it’s good for a little attorney to suddenly be famous thanks to what we do.

But number two, I am not involved, as I said before, in the cloning company. I don’t even know if there is a baby. I like — just like everybody else, I am waiting for proof.

CLANCY: Your Holiness, wait, I want to give Bernard a chance like that — Bernard.

SIEGEL: How can you say stuff like that? I have your book here. In your book, you say you founded that company, you created that company, and you’re proud of that company. Now you want to disown any connection with us. Both things can’t be true.

RAEL: It’s very simple to explain, very easy to explain. I created a company in Bahamas five years ago which was cancelled by Bahamian government, and destroyed. And then Dr. Wesley (ph) created another company last year with Mark Hunt (ph), an American attorney also. They were associate and partners, then the Food and Drug Administration put pressure on Mark Hunt, and the company was destroyed. And now she created a new company, and I don’t know where it is.

CLANCY: So many attorneys, so few scientists. Let me try and get to this. Bernard, I got to ask you a question, are you exploiting this for publicity purposes? Are you in cahoots with his Holiness Rael to try to prevent any scientific evidence from coming here. By bringing the suit, you raise all these questions?

SIEGEL: Well, just to the contrary. I listened to these claims and I tried to look at it from a child’s perspective. If you know of an abused child, you need to take action to protect the child. There’s a legal obligation, and a moral obligation if someone knows of child abuse, to take action. Florida law allows a private citizen to take action and file a petition to appoint a guardian where a child is in danger. I didn’t see any government authority doing that.

VERJEE: But we don’t even know if there’s a child, and you’re filing a petition.

SIEGEL: They represented, in Broward County Florida, they could have picked anywhere in the world to do this. They went Florida and said, “This is the case.” If this is true, and frankly, I’m skeptical — but if it is true, they have inflicted a dangerous medical experiment on an innocent child. And a month down the road, when this child has genetic problems, and possibly fatal genetic defects and there’s no medical research to help this child and save this child, then what will the world do? So I took some action.

VERJEE: Bernard, is this the next frontier of medical law and ethics?

SIEGEL: I think it is. I think this is fairly — it is unprecedented to try to determine what legal rights a human clone has. But I think we need to look at it from the child’s perspective…

CLANCY: All right. George, do you agree?

ANNAS: Well, I certainly agree that if they do asexual human reproductive cloning, that that’s child abuse per se. I think that it’s so dangerous and so likely to have severe, permanent injuries to the child that taht should not be permitted, and if it’s done, then children need some protection. But the most important point is that, you know, with all due respect to the circuit court judges in Florida, no circuit court judge can answer this question for the entire world.

We actually do need an international treaty on human cloning to set the boundaries. I think to prohibit it — but we need a worldwide, species wide discussion about this. We can’t let it be decided in Broward County, in Florida, or even in the United States. This is a worldwide issue, and it’s time we took it seriously.

CLANCY: Your Holiness Rael, you would say it’s an issue that goes far beyond this world alone, and all of this, as you sum it up, you know, you’re taking us down a road many people don’t want to follow. Many people don’t even believe you’ve made the first step.

RAEL: What is very important to see — first of all, I agree with what’s said, nobody knows if there is a child. I don’t know, I wait to Dr. Wesley (ph) to prove there is a child. So here is something very funny. They want to create a guardian for a child who has no identity, who is not American, who was not born in America, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they say, we can put a guardian. I think we see that it’s very funny about the law.

CLANCY: All right. I don’t think that we’ve got a real solution here. Final word, George? ANNAS: Here’s what’s funny. The way that Rael says the way you prove your human is to have sexual intercourse with another being and have a child. Cloning is just the opposite. It’s asexual reproduction. It is non-human, and it shouldn’t be done.

CLANCY: All right. Gentlemen, we have to leave it there. We have run out of time. Bernard Siegel, George Annas, and his Holiness Rael. Gentlemen, we thank you. Obviously, this debate is far from over.

VERJEE: Those are all guest views on Q&A. We’re going to be right back with yours, so stay with us.

CLANCY: Welcome back with CNN. I opened up the mailbag, and I’m really disappointed. They’re all from humans.

VERJEE: Well, let’s go to that mailbag. Karen (ph) from Malaysia.

“Cloning humans is scary. What is to stop madmen from cloning people with their traits? Brainwashing people is bad enough, but I just can’t imagine evil being cloned.”

CLANCY: Alan from Germany says, “Claims they have cloned a baby is a scam to get people to join their cult. The group promotes group sex. It probably defines cloning as not being able to identify the father.”

VERJEE: Rady from Indonesia. “Politicians and religious groups should keep away from science and technology. Thanks to their interference, the human race is 500 years behind what it should have achieved.”

CLANCY: And Kevin in the USA says, “Many people in the all-knowing Darwin as the explanation of life on Earth. I am one of the few that believes an outsider started life, and outsider called God. Ever hear of him?”

VERJEE: Just before we go, we want to remind you to send us your comments by e-mail to q&a@cnn.com. Just remember, include your country and your name.

CLANCY: All right, you’re also invited to subscribe to our newsletter. Go to cnn.com/ywt. You can find a subscription link there. Click on it, join and find out what our topic’s going to be each day.

That’s all the time that we’ve got right now.

END

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