Send in the Clones

The big news this week is that a religious cult led by a man who claims space aliens he met in a volcano told him humans had been cloned from the DNA of extraterrestrial scientists now says a company he started has cloned a woman. This shouldn't be confused with the other big news story of the week -- that for one day every newspaper in the country, including the New York Times, mistook itself for the Weekly World News and prominently ran the clone story, more often than not on the front page.

A clone, for those of you who slept through that day's high school biology class because you'd stayed up late reading the Cliff's Notes of the text book, is an artificially produced, genetically identical copy of a living thing. Think of it as a breathing Xerox copy except you get it at Kinky's, not Kinko's. A clone looks, sounds, feels, and for all intents and purposes is exactly like the original, just like the movie sequels and TV sitcoms the studios and networks keep churning out except for some strange reason those are legal.

Clones have been around for a long time. The most famous was created in 1997 when, after eliminating such potential duplication candidates as dogs, head lice, and Pauly Shore, a team of Scottish scientists cloned a sheep which they named Dolly. This wasn't, as you might think, so they could have the perfect lamb chop, the world's fuzziest wool sweater, or twins to give as a surprise gift at a friend's bachelor party. The truth is, they were trying to create the perfect haggis.

Haggis, for those of you who have never been brave enough to eat a meal that looks suspiciously like Alpo and is made from the ground-up heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, is a traditional Scottish dish that's as disgusting as it sounds. In order to try to kill the taste they mix it with suet, onions, oatmeal and, if it's a special celebration, a handful of fresh maggots. Then they boil it in the sheep's stomach, hopefully after it's dead. We can only hope the Raelians, the cult that claims to have cloned a human, have different intentions. It's definitely a good sign that they don't call themselves the Donners.

The details of how they produced the purported clone have yet to be released, but if they used the Dolly method they took a single mammary cell, made it go dormant, then inserted it into an unfertilized egg cell while sacrificing a white chicken during the waning moon. And sang Oops!...I Did It Again backwards while doing the Macarena on one leg, of course.

Even though there's no proof they really did it, this has raised the hackles of political and religious leaders everywhere since it brings up a lot of ethical questions, including what happens if the clone isn't healthy, is it right to bring a child into this world with that nose, and whether doing the Macarena -- on one leg or two -- should be legal in mixed company. Not to mention that if the clone is in fact an exact copy, would that mean the child is its own parent? And if so, will the family have to move to West Virginia where that sort of thing is not only allowed but a time-honored tradition?

Rael, the founder of the eponymous cult, claims 2,000 people are already on a waiting list to have themselves or a loved one cloned. Some want to do it so they can have the offspring they're unable to produce the fun way. Others think it will grant them a certain immortality. Still others are doing it because they think that by making copies of themselves they'll be improving the species. No matter how you look at it, it's pretty much ego cloning. Unless, of course, you're a Raelian, in which case you're doing it because it's the only way to ensure that there will be a steady supply of gullible people to join your cult.

Before you decide that that cloning is the best thing since plastic wrapped slices of peanut butter, remember it doesn't mean you'll end up with an exact duplicate of the original. While the clone may be physically identical, its brain development will be quite different since it would have an entirely new set of experiences to build on. Thus a clone of Saddam Hussein might turn out to be Mother Theresa's replacement. And Ted Koppel's clone might actually grow up to have a sense of humor, though thanks to genetics he'd still be stuck with hair that looks like a cheap toupee.

This should give you a lot to think about while you're sitting in the waiting room of the You'll Never Walk a Clone duplication clinic reading a three-year-old copy of "Family Circle" with the coupons torn out, hoping that when the nurse finally calls out "Mr. Smith, you're next" everyone including you doesn't stand up. If you walk out and don't go through with it, the only place future generations will see your face is in photographs. If you stay and do it, one day you'll truly understand the feeling of being beside yourself with joy. Literally.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.


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