Science

Eve's New Year

How can the new "clone" pass the hoax test?

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Baby "Eve," who is allegedly the world's first human clone, is scheduled to arrive home in the United States today. Shortly thereafter, an expert chosen by journalist Michael Guillen is supposed to take DNA samples from "Eve" and her mother. These samples will be sent to independent labs where they will be tested to see if they are genetically identical. If they are, then it will be confirmed that Eve is a clone, the delayed identical twin of her mother. The results of the tests should be available by next week.

In the meantime, many distinguished researchers and fertility specialists, including rival cloner Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori, are highly skeptical that Clonaid could have achieved the goal of cloning a healthy human being. Their skepticism is based on two questions: first, does Clonaid have access to the technical capabilities and training required, and second, given the problems that other more experienced researchers have had in cloning other species, is it likely that a slap dash organization like Clonaid could make this breakthrough?

So, assuming Baby "Eve" is a hoax, how might Clonaid and the Raelians spin it? After all, properly done genetic tests don't lie. First, they could try to create confusion about the genetic sampling, by, for example. handing the expert samples of cells taken from the mother but labeled as being from both mother and child. Of course, the samples would be genetically identical because they would have come from the same person. Presumably, Guillen's expert would blow the whistle if the Raelians tried something like this.

Another strategy might be to declare that Eve's parents have decided that they want their daughter to live a normal life out of the glare of publicity and thus refuse to allow the testing.

Then perhaps the Raelians themselves have been hoaxed. They may actually believe that Eve is a clone, but some desperate technicians, eager to please their bosses, engaged in some hanky panky in the fertility clinic, producing embryos the old-fashioned way by mixing sperm and eggs. Since embryos all look alike, there would be no way for Clonaid executives to know that they were not cloned embryos that had been implanted in the wombs of their customers.

Finally, there's the "Taken" option, modeled after Steven Spielberg's popular sci fi miniseries of the same name. After all, the Raelians believe that aliens called Elohim visited with their founder, French race car journalist Claude Vorilhon, in 1973. Perhaps, the Elohim will spirit little "Eve" away for safekeeping until a more propitious time.

But maybe it's not a hoax; maybe it's easier to clone human beings than experts think. Perhaps we really will know in a week or so.

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