The Las Vegas Weekly
  Date: January 7, 2003   |  Local time: 1:44PM   |  Weather
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All About Eve

A cloned baby, eternal life and a little something for the Vatican—a trip into the Raelian mind

By Kate Silver • Illustration by Benjamen Purvis

The Revised Book of Genesis, version 1.

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 1:2 With the next six days came everything else: man, woman, light, dark, water buffalo, sharp cheddar cheese. 1:3 On the seventh day He rested. 1:4 And on the eighth day, a group of alien-worshipping scientists threw the natural order of things for a loop and successfully cloned a human baby.

We’ve duplicated the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian pyramid and now, supposedly, “Eve.” Last week, Las Vegas resident Dr. Brigitte Boisselier claimed that the first human clone was delivered in a secret location, by cesarean, to the world, courtesy of the Raelians, a sect that believes life was created by aliens. But depending on whom you listen to, this 7-pound little girl’s origins may be more giant fib than Adam’s (or, in this case, her 31-year-old mother’s) rib.

Boisselier, our resident Raelian bishop and CEO of Clonaid—a cloning company started by Raelian founder Rael—had been talking up the impending birth for months, and two days after Christmas, held the news conference announcing that history had, indeed, been made. Her face took the news channels by storm as CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other major outlets broadcast the proclamation. If this had been something favorable to the religious community, the December 26 birth no doubt would have been termed “A Christmas Miracle.” But to many, it’s “A Christmas Curse.”

We’re pretty tight, the sect and I. I’ve written about the Raelians and Clonaid for the past year and a half, so it wasn’t an enormous shock when the calls and e-mails started coming in from Germany, Italy and France requesting information and pictures. As papers in Ireland, Nova Scotia and Ottawa picked up past stories from the Weekly, and Time magazine called to interview me, I couldn’t help but look at the alien worshippers with a mixture of pride (awww, they’re getting all this attention!) and shock (holy shit, they might have actually cloned a baby!).

Like the rest of the world, I have no idea whether Eve actually exists. Though I’ve always written about the sect as a kind of novelty, I’ve always found that, beneath their shock value, the humanitarian views that the Raelians espouse are fairly appealing. Deep down, I believe the alien worshippers’ baby-cloning claim. I think they have the money, resources and sheer desire to make a human clone. Deeper down, I question my gullibility—am I that easily duped? Either way, we won’t have proof until sometime around January 5, when an alleged independent investigator is slated to present his findings (just how independent he is depends on what you read).

So my Sunday morning interview with Clonaid Vice President and Raelian Priest Thomas Kaenzig felt in many ways like a television season cliffhanger. The Raelians are forever changed—whether Eve is a true clone or a hoax. I found my mind slipping into a flashback format, connecting Kaenzig’s answers with a series of “best of the Raelians” memories that were tucked away. It went a little something like this.

Las Vegas Weekly: What can you tell me about Eve?

Thomas Kaenzig: Eve is doing very well. She’s very healthy and the parents are very happy about having her. It’s an infertile couple, and for many years they wanted to have a baby, and they’re very happy to have it now. And they’re excited, and obviously also concerned about the outrage it has created in some places of the world, and in some people’s mind, so our main concern is obviously the baby’s health and safety, but it’s also the family’s health and safety.


Kindness. Those Raelians are full of humanitarianism, always looking to make life better for others, and to me, that’s always made them likable. I first met the Raelians in April 2001. The Weekly staff was compiling topics to explore in a UFO issue, and the group came up in an Internet search. I assumed they were a group of local kooks, an interesting story. I met with Ricky Roehr, president of the U.S. branch of Raelians, and Nadine Gary, the P.R. flack—both are Las Vegas residents. They were wearing a lot of white and offered me a white plate of perfectly shaped cookies, which were neatly centered on a doily. Nice folks.

Ricky laid out their beliefs that day, and I realized they weren’t as kooky as I’d expected. Humans were created by an advanced race of people, the Elohim, meaning “those who come from the sky”—aliens. Raelians believe the phrase “those who come from the sky” was misinterpreted in ancient religious texts to mean “God.” The religion officially began in 1973, when the Elohim contacted French journalist Rael, and has grown to about 50,000 practitioners worldwide. Raelians revere technology, which they say is the key to our advancement. They hope that through science we can eradicate disease and make life enjoyable for everyone. Cloning is their ultimate goal, and they see it as the key to eternal life.

Boiled down to the basics, their theology isn’t that different from other religions: belief in a mysterious life-giving entity, a drive to improve the Earth for yourself and those around you, and the pursuit of some kind of afterlife. The difference lies in the terms: God is replaced by aliens and heaven is switched with cloning. The bonuses of their religion: Raelians are big fans of sex and indulgence, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.

LVW: Are you getting any threats with the announcement of Eve?

TK: Yes, many. We’ve received death threats almost every hour. It can be anything from “You should be dead” or “God will punish you” and “May you die,” and anything from the most stupid thing you could read. But I was expecting, we’ve received death threats before. What we’re doing questions mainly conservative religious views of some fanatics and zealots and they are unhappy about it. The world is changing and they can adapt or fall a step behind. That’s their problem.

LVW: If Eve is introduced to the public, I would be afraid religious zealots would kill her.

TK: Yes, that’s why we, at this stage, there’s no question that we would go public and present the baby. We would have probably one of those fanatics walking with a bomb, and especially in the United States, where people put bombs in abortion clinics, you can guess what it will be for cloning. So we don’t want to take that risk at all. We’re interested in helping the people, and if we can show pictures or present Eve and the family, that’s fine. But in the end, that’s their decision, not ours. In the end, their life and their safety is most important, and only they, themselves, can decide that.


It’s not just fanatics, zealots and religious conservatives who take issue with the Raelians and cloning. More than a year ago, I attended a class at the Community College of Southern Nevada where the Raelians made a guest appearance. Roehr spoke about cloning and how, someday, their goal is to clone a full-grown adult into whom they can download a healthy person’s memory and personality, and, eventually, eradicate disease and offer eternal youth.

One young woman in the class insisted that she didn’t want to live forever. Had no desire to go on ad infinitum. Roehr suggested that she was associating living forever with being old and that, through cloning, living forever could be enjoyable. The woman grew emotional, almost teary, emphasizing that she Didn’t. Want. That. The argument seemed to last longer than eternal life itself, with neither budging. Finally, Roehr relented and told the young woman that no one would have to be cloned. It wasn’t a requirement.

LVW: All of the reports in the media talk about the Raelian religion like it’s a silly, farfetched belief system. What’s your response to that? Don’t you view the dominant world religions in the same way?

TK: Oh, of course, yes. In this country, 90 percent of people believe in God. I‘ve never seen God. I think that’s even more far-fetched, but there are millions of people who have seen UFOs, who know that there’s people out there in space, and who ask themselves the questions, “Who are those people, and what do they want here on Earth, and why are they here, and what kind of message are they sending us, and why do we have so many UFO sightings, why do we have so many crop circles?” Somebody comes up with a concept of God and soul, it makes me laugh much more. I’ve been an atheist all my life, and there’s no sense saying, “Oh, it made me laugh to see people believe in something with no proof or indication whatsoever.” That’s fine, may they do so. But when they make a comment about us, they better think twice.


One day, soon after the attacks of 9/11, Ricky was speaking to a small group of Muslim boys about the Raelian religion. “We respect everyone’s beliefs,” Roehr said. “We’re not here to convince you of anything, because that’s not respectful.”

As Kaenzig noted, Raelians are rarely granted the same respect. If you’ve seen any coverage of the recent news, you know descriptions of their beliefs are colored with phrases like “little green men.” Imagine if the Associated Press one day described “a big, imaginary guy who knows everything and judges whether you’re good enough to go float on a cloud or bad enough to grow horns and hold a pitchfork.” That’s how the Raelians think of the Christian concept of God.

LVW: What do you say to people who think this is a hoax?

TK: There’s been skepticism around since the beginning and there will always be skeptics [laughs]. May they think what they want. We’re happy we can help the people and help the families involved. May the skeptics think what they want. We said we will provide proof by an independent expert that the clone is indeed a clone of the cell donor, and if they don’t believe that, well, that’s their problem [laughs].


Dr. Brigitte Boisselier

In October, I met Dr. Brigitte Boisselier for the first time. At the Bellagio, over oversized cups of overpriced beverages, she told me that in April they had implanted 10 women with cloned DNA, and they had 20 more lined up. After practicing on thousands of cow eggs since the company started in 1997, she told me that the first cloned human would be born sometime around the beginning of the New Year.

She addressed people’s fears of cloning, emphasizing that there may be a ban imposed on it by the United Nations, and while it’s not illegal in the United States, the FDA must approve any human trials. Boisselier said that, as with all new technologies, as people grow used to the idea of cloning, they will become more accepting.

“There is the fear and there is the response of people in the government. The public has been educated with very bad Hollywood pictures talking about defects, armies of clones, and that’s what people have in mind when they think about clones,” she said. “They are not thinking about someone who has lost a child and would like to have their baby twin. So the way people are looking at it is because they don’t have the education.”

But as long as the Raelians withhold proof that they’ve actually created a clone, it’s more comfortable—more fathomable, anyway—to think of it as a hoax. Rick Ross, who runs a website documenting the activities of cults and other controversial groups, has been charting Raelian activities for years, and insists Eve is just a cry for attention.

“I will be shocked if this turns out to be anything but a hoax for free publicity,” he writes in an e-mail interview with the Weekly. “Clonaid appears to be little more than another publicity stunt conceived by Rael to promote his name, group and possibly the for-profit cloning company. The only thing that frightens me is that CNN considered this worthy of a live news report and ‘press conference’ that offered nothing but Ms. Boisselier making unsubstantiated claims. It came across like an infomercial.”

Not everyone has taken it so calmly. Politicians, religious leaders, scientists and ethicists around the world are incensed. The Vatican released a statement saying, “The announcement in itself is an expression of brutal mentality, devoid of any ethical and human consideration.” Rabbis and Muslim clerics joined the religious condemnation, while President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac pushed for a global ban on human cloning. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine released a statement expressing their doubt. “We must be sure that clonal pregnancy is, first, possible and, second, safe in humans. Thus far, we don’t have evidence for either.”

LVW: How do you respond when people say this is immoral, you’re making creatures who don’t have a soul?

TK: First of all, it makes me laugh. It’s the kind of answer and comments you get from people like George Bush, who has been throwing bombs all over the planet and killing many people. He’s been putting so many people on death row, and he’s saying cloning is dangerous and it’s unethical. It’s ridiculous. Cloning is pro-life, it’s giving life, it’s a big hope for many people out there. There’s reproduction cloning, which can help many infertile couples, homosexuals, people with AIDS. There’s therapeutic cloning, stem-cell research, providing so many people with artificial organs, it will help people in a wheelchair to walk again one day. … Some people ask us, “Are you playing God?” And I always tell them “Yes, I’m very happy about playing God, if it’s for the benefit of mankind.” Anybody, everything we have today, this phone interview right now, would never happen without science, without technology. Everything in the world we have today is thanks to science, and that’s the only way to progress, to help people and to make this world a better world.


Raelians celebrate at a Las Vegas convention.

The Raelians are pacifists. The aliens will not come visit their children on Earth (that’s us) until we have achieved peace, they say. Soon after the attacks of 9/11, they held a meeting at the East Flamingo Library blaming monotheism for most of the world’s problems. “The truth of the matter is that this belief in a single and almighty God is the very cause of the greatest tragedies that humanity has known,” reads Rael’s statement. “From the colonization of Europe by Muslims through the Crusades, the wars of religion, the Inquisition, Nazism, up until today with the wars between Pakistan and India, Cypress, Ireland, Kosovo, the Middle East, everywhere, it’s always in the name of an Almighty God that people tear each other to pieces and kill one another.” Their solution, to censor from all religious texts any reference to violence, was not exactly viable, but a nice change from the president’s battle cry, nonetheless.

Some other statements they’ve issued recently illustrate their progressive attitude and, uh, unique sense of humor:

• Last August, on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima: “The U.S. government, under the guise of saving lives, killed 300,000 civilians and that, by definition, is terrorism,” Roehr said. “Let a spade be called a spade.”

• In September, Rael suggested that parents give their teens condoms, because they’re going to have sex whether they’re protected or not.

• In October, the Raelians announced they were suing the Vatican for covering up for pedophile priests and paying millions to silence victims.

• And in November, they proclaimed that when Rael dies, he wants his body coated in plastic and exposed at UFOLand (the Raelian theme park in Canada) “naked, half-skinned with an erection, and in a seated meditation position. Rael adds: “I’ve spent my life battling against prejudice and taboos generated by the Catholic Church and I’m delighted to carry on after my death.”

LVW: What’s the next step?

TK: Once everybody’s gotten some sleep, it’s going to be to offer the service on a worldwide basis and help as many people as possible. And the next step is to create adult clones and in the end be able to transfer personalities and memories and have eternal life. That’s still far away. It’ll happen sooner than most people think, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. Right now we focus on reproduction cloning and offer it on a worldwide basis.


They had offered to clone me already. Not in such direct terms, of course, but they’d certainly tested the waters—and my resolve.

“Kate, will you accept eternal life?” It was a fairly complex question, asked by PR rep Nadine Gary at one of their meetings, a little over a year ago. I can still see her looking at me expectantly, as though she was offering me the world. I guess in Raelian terms, she was.

We needed some boundaries. “I’m not so sure how I feel about that,” I whispered back, and the subject was dropped. I continued respecting their beliefs, they continued respecting my nonbeliefs, and I have a feeling that the offer still stands, should I ever choose to take them up on it.

LVW: When that starts happening, and people have eternal life, won’t the Earth be severely overpopulated?

TK: That’s a question politicians should ask themselves now, is once we master eternal life, the technology behind it, who will have access to it? That’s a good question. Maybe we will solve it the same way it was solved by the Elohim, those extraterrestrials who created life on Earth. They also have eternal life on their planet, and it’s only [for] people who did a lot of positives for their society, be it physically or medically or by their invention, who deserve eternal life. In the end it’s a number game. This planet cannot hold an infinite number of people [laughs]. But if you applied a simple rule saying you can have eternal life but you can’t have children, the numbers still match. It will be a personal decision.


Last April, Clonaid announced its willingness to clone Count Dracula’s last known relative (actually, his name is Ottomar Rudolphe Vlad Dracul Kretzulesco, and he’s related to Vlad the Impaler, upon whom Bram Stoker based the original Count Dracula). The good count had recently announced his desire to adopt a child of “noble origin” to carry on his lineage, and Clonaid stepped up to the plate. I asked for an update in October, wondering if the little sucker could be on his way, and was firmly told they were still in “negotiations.”

They wouldn’t let me see Eve, either.

LVW: What else would you like to address?

TK: If we talk about human cloning, don’t think about monsters or Frankenstein, think of the people who will benefit from this technology and think of the big hope that many, many people do have through this technology. I always tell people, if you’re against cloning, that’s fine. But at least let those people who want to have access to it, let them have access to it. That’s really the most important for us.

The Revised Book of Genesis, version 1.1

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 1:2 With the next six days came everything else: man, woman, light, dark, water buffalo, sharp cheddar cheese. 1:3 On the seventh day He rested. 1:4 And on the eighth day, a group of alien-worshipping scientists told an almost Biblical epic of cloning intrigue, only to find that the world’s not ready to hear about genetically altered apples plucked from a manmade tree of knowledge, for fear that they taste rotten.

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