Raelians work to clone member list in Seattle

Group believes aliens created humans
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jan. 13, 2003

The space-age religious group the Raelians, which claims alien parentage and, lately, to have cloned a human baby, is capitalizing on its recent fame to try to recruit new members in Seattle.

It’s a small group locally. Karen Heaven is, in her own words, “the lone Raelian” of Washington state.

The Raelians, who believe life on Earth was created by alien visitors in the distant past, shocked the world with their Dec. 27 declaration that members of the religious organization had successfully cloned a baby girl.

The group believes ancient aliens used cloning to produce specific creatures, including humans.

“I don’t think our beliefs are any less fantastic than those who claim some almighty being is sitting up there saying ‘let there be light’ or ‘let there be a creature I will call the cat,’ ” said Heaven, a transplanted Australian who spoke yesterday at University Heights Center in Seattle.

Most scientists think the group’s cloning claim is bunk, given the difficulty of successfully cloning complex mammals. Others say that if it turns out to be true, it would be unethical because of the high risk of creating an impaired child given the limits of current genetic technology.

A Florida court over the weekend subpoenaed an executive with the Raelian-affiliated company, Clonaid, that claims to have performed the procedure for an unidentified couple. A Florida attorney has filed a claim asking that the state force disclosure of the parents and appoint a guardian to the child based on his contention that a cloned child is, by definition, abused.

Heaven, joined by longtime Canadian Raelian Denise Belisle of Vancouver, B.C., attracted only a handful of people yesterday for her presentation. Both women said they are well aware that most people think their group is goofy and the cloning claim is suspect.

“People always make fun of the things they don’t understand,” Belisle said. “We like to shock people, to shake them up.”

“When I first heard about (the Raelians), I thought it was a crock, too,” Heaven said. “But it’s in all our nature to wonder where we came from.”

Both said they consider Darwin’s theory of evolution much more far-fetched than their cloning creation story. Acknowledging that they have no hard evidence to back up their beliefs, Heaven and Belisle asked that people simply consider their theory of creation with at least as open a mind as they would bring to other theories or faiths.

“It sounds like science fiction, but cloning would have sounded like science fiction 50 years ago,” Belisle said.

The few people who turned out for the seminar yesterday watched a brief video outlining the Raelian theory of human origins. A French race-car driver, Claude Vorilhon, said he was told to spread the message after meeting aliens while hiking in 1973. The aliens, who Vorilhon said called themselves the Elohim, renamed him Rael the prophet.

In short, the Raelians — who claim about 60,000 adherents worldwide — say Elohim scientists came to Earth eons ago to experiment with cloning and created life. The video said the scientists had to leave their own planet after making a “mistake,” the details of which were not disclosed. They’re coming back, Belisle said, now that we humans know how to clone.

These aliens, according to the Raelians, live about 800 to 900 years and then clone themselves to start anew. Belisle said the goal of the Raelians is to perfect reproductive cloning beyond the current state of the art, which can only reproduce something like an identical twin. Eventually, she said, we will be able to clone our true selves.

“This is not possible with today’s technology,” Belisle said.

Still, the Raelians may have a hard sell if even UFO and paranormal enthusiasts worry that the alien-origin-of-life group is a bit wacky.

Charlotte LeFevre and Philip Lipson, president and vice president of the Seattle UFO Paranormal Group, were among the small crowd yesterday at University Heights. LeFevre and Lipson expressed concern that the Raelians’ dabbling with human cloning could undermine the whole credibility of the UFO community.

“These are separate issues,” Lipson said. He also said the Raelians weren’t the first to suggest an alien origin for life on Earth.

The established scientific community, in fact, has been saying much the same thing — that life on Earth came from outer space. But this alien visit, according to scientists, appears to have been a collision with a comet or asteroid that was carrying water and complex chemicals. These basic building blocks of life combined, over time, to create the even more complex chemical known as DNA.

A billion years or so later, most scientists believe, the chemicals came together as bacteria. The bacteria got together and, over much more time, ended up creating other single-celled and simple multicelled bugs. Plants started appearing. Life, according to the standard theory, became complex. Eventually, investment bankers appeared on Earth.

“Evolution is ridiculous,” Heaven contended.

It’s so much more appealing to believe we have extraterrestrial parents who will one day return to check up on us, she said.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday January 15, 2003.
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